I believe it is generally understood that freedom is not free. The general trend of patriotism in the USA recognizes the costly price of the lives of those in the military who have defended our country. Similarly, our spiritual freedom comes at a high expense. Jesus gave His own life so that we may die to ourselves and live with Him. We must consider the cost of laying down our own lives in addition to the sacrifice of the life of Christ (though His life is worth infinitely more than ours). And the freedom that we gain is found by submitting to God’s authority, not by becoming rulers of ourselves. Any form of government (except, arguably, a monarchy or dictatorship) persists on the presumption that the subjects are submitting to authority. (In a sense, the subjects have given authority to the government, which is rather paradoxical) Choosing not to submit to authority causes chaos, and choosing not to submit to God’s authority leads to death. Some people like to say that it is because Jesus died that we can live. This is not correct. It is because He lives that we can live. Because He died, me must die too. This is the cost of discipleship, but it is totally worth it!
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1 ESV) For freedom Christ has set us free? This statement sounds somewhat redundant. What is Paul trying to say here? With regards to the law, there are two extremities: irreverent transgression and pious servility. In reality, no one is capable of keeping the law, for to fail at a single point is to be accountable for the entire law. Thus obedience seems futile yet disobedience is facetious. Faith in Christ alone is capable of setting us free from this predicament. We must be reminded that we are no longer slaves to the sin nor to the law. Having been released from the law, we are not at liberty to sin, and having been released from sin, we are not constrained to the law. Both the liberty to sin and the constraints of the law are yokes of slavery, but by God’s grace we are released from both. It is for freedom that we are set free!
I hate myself. It is not what it sounds like. A video on YouTube by Boyinaband of the same title as this post expressed certain fears and insecurities that Dave was experiencing. This talented intellectual musician struck up the courage to announce to the world what he was going through in order to keep himself accountable and genuine. I will now attempt to do the same. Would someone ask me if I struggled with self-image issues or insecurities of that nature, I would not admit to it — not because I am in denial but for the reason that to simply say yes would not nearly encapsulate the reality of my situation. The truth is that I love myself too much to love myself at all. The definition of love that I have for myself is governed my desires lust and selfishness. However, what I want is so often not what is best for me. My choices and actions may bring me transient gratification, but are often detrimental to my health: physically, emotionally and foremost spiritually. I deny the indelible fulfillment of my wants and needs that only God can provide. What He has for me and is to me is not simply better; it is the only solution in existence. The disparity between my knowledge of this panacea and my self-gratifying decisions leads to a cascade of implications. Not only do I devalue the gift of God, I refuse to accept His value for me. It is not possible to attain a higher level of value than what God attributes to us. But as soon as I separate myself from Him, I assume a lesser view of myself, though I may think it better. This very act is hatred towards myself as I denounce the value God has placed on me and withhold the blessings He chooses to give me. My love for others and for myself can only mature in relation to my love for God and acceptance of His love for me.
I identify with Judas Iscariot. Jesus has called me to be His disciple. He has worked in me and through me. I have personally witnessed His power and authority directly in my life. Yet I have decided to exchange Him for a meager thirty pieces of silver. I was so caught up in what He could do for me or give to me; and when I found out that I had to give up control — that I would not see the destruction of my enemies, that I would not have a share in an earthly kingdom — I betrayed Him. I sold HIM! I gave up the most valuable thing in the world for instant gratification of my flesh. Now my own blood is poured out, because I would not drink His cup. He offered His own body and blood for me. He gave everything for me, and I took all I could get. He trusted me with His money, His authority, His life. I should have come running into His open arms of forgiveness as He hung on that tree. Instead I hung myself on a tree, and have cursed myself. I have rejected my place in His ministry and apostleship and turned aside to go to my own place. I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.
When Jesus announced that one of the disciples would betray him, each one asked “Is it I?” in turn. This response demonstrated tremendous humility. Each man did not presume that it was outside the realm of reason that they might be at fault. They recognized that they are sinful and prone to leaving the Lord they love. I long to exhibit this response in my own life. I so easily defend myself and refuse to take blame. I place blame on others and hold grudges while claiming to have owned up for my own wrongdoing. If I cannot forgive others, then I have not received forgiveness myself. Not that forgiveness has not been given, but that I refuse to accept it because of my unwillingness to truly repent. I must become overwhelmed with my sin. I must not feel shame for what I have done, but sadness for being a person capable of doing such things. “Against you, you only, have I sinned…” (Psalm 51:4)
If you have not read the post titled Love Yourself, make sure you do that before continuing to read this. Have you noticed how God always sets the example for us whenever He gives us a command to follow? God has commanded us to love others as we love ourselves. Implicit in this command is the idea that we have to love ourselves. Analogously, God’s love for us extends from the love that He has for Himself. This is quite a remarkable concept to comprehend. God does not need anything external to Himself to define His value or purpose. He has no need for anything from anyone. It is from this limitless love for Himself that He is able to love us through creating us and saving us from ourselves. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10 ESV)
As humans, we strive to know ourselves better – to evaluate our strengths and weaknesses in order that we might grow and improve. This is all with good intent, but it often leads to efforts to improve ourselves apart from the saving grace of God. We are made in God’s image and He defines who we are, or rather who we should be. Learning how to improve does not come from knowing ourselves better, but from knowing our creator and savior more fully. As created beings, we only know ourselves to the extent that we know the one who created us. “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:9-10 ESV)
It is commonly suggested that a person must learn how to forgive themselves. But can we actually do that? Only God has the power to forgive sins. So what does this phrase actually mean? We are held back by expectations and contingencies that we place on ourselves. We stubbornly refuse to accept God’s forgiveness and vainly strive to win His approval on our own. Not only does this lead us to further depravity, but it demonstrates our lack of faith. Oh if we would only believe that God is and does what He said He is and will do! He promised that there is no condemnation for those who are in Him and are called according to His purposes. Lord, we believe – help us in our unbelief!
Jesus said that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves. This sounds simple enough, but why are we so bad at it? Some people might say that they love themselves too much to love others. But what if we don’t even know how to love ourselves? What we desire and pursue so often is not what is actually beneficial to our own well being. We think that we know what is best for ourselves, but our own fleshly desires get in the way of seeking the things that God has for us, which are better beyond comparison. We don’t love ourselves correctly because we don’t love God enough, and we don’t love God enough because we haven’t fully accepted His love for us. We try to earn love, but we as humans can never deserve love. The truth is that God loves us in spite of who we are. And this is where love all begins: love for God, love for ourselves and love for our neighbors.
Father, my heart is so divided. My bifurcated nature is as split as day and night. The diabolic side is rampant with anger, lust, selfishness and pride. Many people have been hurt by the words and deeds of my flesh. For the sake of your Son, make me whole through the washing of His blood. May I be crucified with Him. May my sinful nature be buried and raised to new life. Save me from myself, for I am a wretched man!