only the Spirit can set us free

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galations 5:1

This is a more positive way to say what I was trying to get at in yesterday’s post and perhaps a verse you would rather meditate on. The reason I went with the other verse was the impression it made on me regarding the sin of rebuilding the law-based system. Christians often think ongoing sins they struggle with being things like lust, anger, pride, or the classic no-nos of smoking, drinking, and cussing, but I think we less often recognize the sinfulness inherent in our self-constructed pieties. Please understand, I am not claiming that we have been set free to sin, that would make no sense, all sin is bondage, set free to be a slave to sin is self-contradictory. But I am saying that sometimes in our efforts to rid ourselves of sin, we set up law-based systems to make this so, and thereby sin in the very act of trying to rid ourselves of sin.
Because the fact remains that we cannot rid ourselves of sin. We cannot save ourselves from our sins and we cannot improve ourselves either. Holiness only comes through the work of the Holy Spirit in us. The Spirit’s work sets us free from sin, without using a law-based system to do so. Only the Spirit can do such work. Trying to live by laws (whether the OT law or ones we or others invent) impedes the work of the Spirit and according to Paul is sin. And I think one of the sins Christians are most prone to.
There, I’ve gone and made yesterday’s point all over again. Not sure why I’m on about this at the moment, seems someone needs to read it. Hope this helps.

Monday meditations Gal. 2.18: choose freedom

“Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down.” Gal. 2.18

It is difficult to speak or write much about this without leaning toward the twin dangers of legalism and lawlessness. Theological debates can go on without end and frankly I have no interest in them as they never seem to help anyone.

I present this little verse to you because in your ongoing relationship with Jesus, he has/is/will be setting you free from things in your life, remnants of old systems of religion or self-help, various ways of trying to please God and/or improve yourself. Jesus is teaching you that he is always and already pleased with you – totally passionately in love with you. The Holy Spirit is growing and maturing you, accomplishing what you could never do tugging on your own bootstraps.

And yet there is something within us that has a tendency to try and refurbish those old ways. Often it comes in the form of bad teaching from those who (perhaps unwittingly) would saddle us with the same bondage they themselves are under (as Peter was doing in the story Paul relates in Galatians). It might come from impatience with the Spirit’s pace or order in growing us, or with dissatisfaction with where we are in life. Self-help is an attractive way to put ourselves together and gain success as the world defines it. But success as the world defines it is often what God calls failure.

When you came to Jesus, he began to tear down the old system of law that had you in bondage. He is in the process of setting you free. Reflect and pray on this verse this week and make sure you are living into that freedom as fully as you can, that you are not rebuilding what was knocked down.

One warning: living in freedom sometimes means making hard choices, ones that go against the grain of what our sinful culture would deem wise or prudent. I have seen people lose their freedom entirely because they would not give up the security and comfort of where they were, even when God was very plainly telling them to leave it and follow him. There are many reasons our sin nature craves the system of law, like all lusts of the flesh, it must be resisted. Freedom is a harder choice, one you have to continually make, but it is also the choice the Spirit of Jesus is always calling you to make. Choose freedom.