I woke up really early this morning thinking about the whole issue of license and freedom. There is a difference. I’m not sure why this was on my mind, but it was. Maybe it was because I spoke with a group of Lutheran Seminarians yesterday about the tension of being culturally relevant and at the same time Biblically faithful. One of the questions they asked me was, “How do we become culturally relevant and not like the culture?” This is a great question. Perhaps I woke up with this issue on my mind because of my own journey. In Writing Detox for the Overly Religious one of the things I discovered was if you are really committed to following Jesus you don’t have to worry about becoming life culture. Jesus turned culture and religion upside-down or maybe it was right-side up.
Saved From Religion
Over the last two years I have done a little repenting of my own. I’ve experienced a new birth. God saved me from religion. That’s right, I’ve lost my religion and rediscovered the simplicity of Jesus and his ways. In doing so I’ve come to identify with the grace by which Jesus has set me free. I no longer have to live up to some standard or meet some institution’s expectation to be approved and accepted by God. I’ve come to realize that Jesus’ work on the cross has completely set me free for now and forever. I will never experience any condemnation from God. Jesus’ work on the cross is complete in me! I don’t have to live up or live down, I’ve simply been invited and received into this wonderful relationship where I follow. Jesus is my leader and I can trust him with my life.
With this lack of condemnation comes a whole new motivation. I mean, if grace is what it is and the work of the cross is complete for my life, then what is to keep me from slipping into a careless lifestyle of sin and disobedience? If Jesus can be trusted with my life, can I be trusted with his life? Paul tells us, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again with the yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). He continues by saying, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love” (Galatians 5:6).
Jesus comes to show us a whole new way. Paul is clear in telling us that the Law (circumcision) and license (uncircumcision) is of no value. This whole new way points us to a completely different motivation, a faith that expresses itself in love. Just a few moments later Paul says, “So I say live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:16).
What keeps us from living a life of license or open rebellion? Can we trust grace? Is grace enough of a motivation or should we lay some kind of additional yoke on people to keep them from sinning? These are all questions the religious ask. Why? Maybe they haven’t experienced the freedom that Jesus offers. Maybe they need to be saved from religion. Maybe their sin IS religion. Maybe they have lost their way and instead of finding the way they have found religion. Maybe we ask them because we need to be in control. Walking in the Spirit is a dangerous and unnerving experience. Can I trust God? Can I trust others to do what God desires for them? Maybe we should all get a life and stop worrying about the moral life of our neighbor and learn to love one another.
All I know is lately I have experienced a new level of freedom that flows out of my relationship with Jesus and this morning he woke me up speaking into my life about these issues. The last thing I want to do is live a life of license. I want to follow him. I mean that’s what he offers, “Come follow me and I will make you to become…” Following him is changing my life completely. Following him means walking in the Spirit. Following him requires understanding his ways, hearing his voice, and seeing his activity.
Here’s what I know, when I walk with him I am culturally relevant because he is culturally relevant. When he saw hungry people he feed them. That’s relevant, if you don’t believe it ask the hungry. When I walk with him my least concern is being like culture.