I chose freedom as my first focus word for change in The Faith Project because although I can’t remember a time when I didn’t believe in Jesus as my Savior, I haven’t always lived in His freedom and I want that to change.
I want to know more. To dig deeper. And to live out that “indeed” freedom Jesus talked about with His followers.
Last week, I took a close look at freedom that comes through forgiveness. But is there more?
I’m free from sin. Am I free from anything else?
Paul spoke about freedom from the Law, but what does that mean?
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1–2
Jesus talked about it in Matthew 12, after His disciples picked grain, crushed it in their hands, and ate it . . . much to the chagrin of the Pharisees.
Am I a Pharisee or a follower?
Pharisees are rule followers. Legalists.
Followers enjoy freedom.
I want to be a follower, but I wonder if I have some inner Pharisee going on too. I’m okay with the Law. I like rules. I’m a rule keeper. Rules keep things orderly and simple. Do this. Don’t do that. Just follow the rules!
Digging deeper into Jesus words in Matthew 12, the truth is bigger than simple and orderly. The truth—freedom is a matter of the heart. (That’s like Jesus isn’t it? Going to heart matters.)
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In Matthew 12:7, Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6:
I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.
Have you ever been that child who obeyed the rules when mom and dad or your teachers were watching but did whatever you wanted when no one was around? Yep, me too. (Okay, so I don’t follow the rules perfectly. I like rules. I’d like to follow them perfectly, but no . . . I don’t.)
As parents, we want our children to obey because they love us and trust that our guidance is not intended to spoil their fun but to help them grow and keep them safe. We don’t want obedience just because they’re trying to avoid disapproval and consequences.
That’s the heart of the heart issue.
Jesus said it this way, “I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.” Matthew 12:7
It’s not about how we worship, but about who we worship.
It’s not about how well we obey, but why we obey.
It’s not about living right, but living with love.
It’s not about avoiding consequences, but about loving the Lord.
That’s why Jesus stressed the importance of acting out our love for God by loving others. If I fail to love, I’ve failed to obey. I’ve missed the point. And I’m not free.
Because failure to follow in love leaves me enslaved to my own selfishness. And obedience without love is blanketed with pride. Ouch!
But freedom wants me to follow out of love, knowing I won’t be perfect and that’s okay. Because the point is trust and love . . . surrendering to freedom in Christ not because of what I’ll get but because of my heart’s desire for the One who loves me so much He gave up everything to make me free.
It’s time for a heart check! An—are you a Pharisee heart check?
Here are some questions I’m asking myself:
- Do I worry more about obeying God when others are watching?
- Do I worry more about getting caught than about what I’ve done?
- Do I act one way with my Christian friends and another with non-Christians?
- Do I get angry when friends “get away” with things I don’t?
- Do I spend more time thinking about “fixing” others than I spend wanting God to change me?
- Do I stop for regular attitude checks about my love for God and others?
- Do I let society and my friends decide what’s sin and what isn’t?
- Do I care more about unrighteousness than I do about self-righteousness?
- Do I worry too much about what people think?
- Do I use myself as the standard for judging others?
- Do I avoid people who don’t think and act just like me?
- Do I keep a running list of all the ministry things I’m doing?
I don’t know about you, but some of these made me squirm a little.
I’m glad. At least, I think I am. I will never change what I don’t admit and face. And change is my reason for The Faith Project.
So, I’m digging into that wide, long, high, and deep love of Christ.
Love that invites you and me to mercy over sacrifice, and love over legalism.
I’m praying for His love, grace and mercy to change me. That’s a good kind of heart check.
What do you think?
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23