Some day, I hope to retire from where I work now. That day is probably a ways off, although it is probably closer to the present than the day I started work.
Retirement is a fun thought – the freedom of no longer having work-related challenges hanging over my head, or having to get up at a fixed time each morning. Before retirement, maybe there will be a cake and a couple of speeches. A lot of paperwork will need to be signed, and the contents of my desk will need to be sorted into personal effects for me to take home, and company property that must remain on-site. (If you ever saw my desk, you’d probably find a third category: things I hang on to that should probably just be thrown out.)
However, imagine what it would look like if I didn’t let go of my current job after retiring from it. What if I continued to get up in the morning, pack a lunch, and drive to the office each day? If I could somehow get past security, and sat down at my former desk each day (probably without a computer, or even an account that I could log in with), my friends might greet me at first and ask questions. Eventually, though, I suspect that the novelty would wear off, and they would probably start to pity me for holding on to something that was no longer part of my life1.
In the first part of this series, we considered the concept of living in freedom through having accepted Jesus’ payment for our shortcomings. We asked the question, “Do we live as free, or do we keep living as those under the law?”.
Let us look at one more question for those who have entered into the freedom of a life with Jesus:
Do we live as free, or do we keep serving sin?
The life of freedom in Jesus is a life to enjoy – appreciating our blessings, and sharing blessings with others. However, just because there’s no longer an accounting of our sins (piling up against us), that doesn’t make a life of selfishness and pride any more desirable.
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Galatians 5:13 NASB
(see also 1 Peter 2:16)
In my own words, following Jesus doesn’t free us to sin, it only frees us from the consequences of sin. While the ultimate penalty of sin (i.e., death – see Romans 6:23) has been paid by Jesus, the more immediate consequences of choosing to sin (pain, sickness, broken relationships, guilt, disappointment, and loss) still remain in effect. There’s no joy in abusing our freedom in Jesus to live for ourselves, and it’s a waste of our limited time on earth when we don’t step up to opportunities to serve Him and others. There are just so more blessings to be found in being part of active and healthy relationships. (Why would we even want to remain in the tiny world that – in our mind – orbits around ourselves? After all, the population of that “universe” is 1.)
Of course, if you’ve ever met a Christian, you have probably observed that they aren’t perfect. That’s perfectly normal! (It’s not ideal, but since our sinful nature sticks with us while we live on this earth, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that mistakes still occur, misunderstandings happen, and misguided words still pop out of our mouths sometimes.) In fact, more mature Christians will tell you that – even with the Holy Spirit’s help – we’re still human, and that we lose battles with temptation from time to time. Stumbling while living in the freedom that Jesus provides doesn’t make people any less part of His family; it just means that we are still working on living as Jesus directed us. Like the quip about a doctor still “practicing”, Christians are still practicing their righteousness (trying to get better), while practicing righteousness (actually doing good things).
So, if you are following Jesus, live free in Him. Celebrate your freedom and use it to enjoy the life of love (for Him and for others) that He has already lined up for you. On the other hand, if you aren’t following Jesus, well, I hope that you find your way out of your chains (because I think that we all feel them when we are dragged down by our sins), and that you will choose to offload your burdens to Him.
In either case, take it from someone who lived with heavy burdens and shackles – when I didn’t have to – for a long time: It’s better to be free.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.
- Sure, there are those who come back to work as contractors, but if you’re not employed somewhere, continuing to show up would just be weird. ↩