If you’re a believer and have been in church for very long, you’ve probably heard quite a few messages over the years on sin and how Jesus came to set us free from it. You’ve no doubt heard a lot about repentance and how we should turn from our sin. And you’ve likely been taught certain “rules” whether stated directly or indirectly, that good Christians don’t do certain things. These days, in our politically correct culture, these messages may not be as popular as they once were, but they are still out there, nonetheless. While parts of these messages are true, I believe they are missing the point entirely.
The older I get, the more I have seen in myself and others, and in the world in general, the more I am convinced that what Jesus came to set us free from was ourselves. It is not so much the things we do that are wrong, as far as God is concerned. What matters more to Him are the reasons we do those things. The motives of our heart. If we are really honest with ourselves, we would all readily admit we are selfish; I know I am. We may do good to, and for, others, but deep down in our innermost being, we usually put ourselves and our needs first. Some, who are constantly doing for others to the point of neglecting their own legitimate needs, should put themselves first sometimes. That’s not the situation I’m referring to here, however.
Not only are we selfish when it comes to what we want, but we’re also very opinionated, thinking our way is always right. Our ideas are the best. Our assessments (judgments) of others are always correct. Our interpretation of Scripture is always accurate. What we do is more important than what anyone else does. This even manifests in the Church. If we’re a missionary in the field, we think everyone is called to that. If we are an evangelist, we try to coerce others to do the same. If we work with kids, we think everyone should work with kids. I’m sure you get my point. We even try to shame others into feeling that their calling isn’t as holy, or anointed, or sacred, or whatever… I’m not pointing any fingers here, I know I’ve done the same.
Jesus wants to free us from self. From always looking out for ourselves, defending ourselves, justifying ourselves, taking more than we give, thinking more of ourselves than we do others. Living that way, I’m discovering, is the worst kind of bondage because we tend to be much harder on ourselves than even the enemy is. Can anyone relate, or is it just me? He wants us to see things through His eyes, not our own narrow-mindedness or petty, shallow thinking. Too often we choose our opinion over His, our rationale over His wisdom, our political persuasion over His Lordship, our beliefs over His Word. We magnify the devil by choosing fear over faith, worry over contentment, anger over peace.
This is why Paul said, “I die daily.” (1 Cor. 15:31) Freedom from self means making different choices every day than those we are used to making, by His grace. It means giving Him room to lead us in our thoughts, words, and actions. It really all boils down to one thing – loving Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength; loving Him more than we love ourselves. Of course, we can’t do this apart from His grace, but we have His Spirit within, continually supplying all that we need.