Christians are gloriously and delightfully free. The law can’t condemn us, Satan can’t accuse us, sin can’t enslave us, and death can’t defeat us. New desires, new hearts, clean consciences, transformed minds. This is who we are. These are the incredible, unchanging realities for every person who has rested on the unchanging grace of God and put all their confidence in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The message of the gospel is a message of amazing freedom.
Yet, oftentimes, we use this freedom to go back to the sins that we have left. We pick up the chains that were broken from our bruised wrists; we sit in the jail cell with the door wide open.
One of the great lies that Satan uses to keep Christians in the cell is legalism. You’re sitting in the movie theater with your Christian friends, and all of a sudden the film takes a horrific turn hellward. You should leave. But then it starts, “I don’t want to be a legalist” You don’t want to be that person that makes the whole group uncomfortable and feel like bad Christians at the movie theater, do you?
The problem with this thinking is that Bible never presents a deep desire for holiness as legalism. It presents it as the normal life of a Christian. Daniel prayed three times a day (Daniel 6:10); Paul beat his body (1 Corinthians 9:27); Jesus prayed all night (Luke 6:12). None of these men were legalists, and all of these exerted significant restraint in their daily lives, saying “no” to a hundred sinful things in order to have the One Great Thing.
“But I don’t want to be a Pharisee!” But what was Jesus’ problem with the Pharisee’s? “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness” (Luke 11:39). The Pharisee’s kept the rules because they thought it made them right with God; Christians keep the rules because they have been made right with God and they want to please their Father. Pharisee’s walk out of movie theaters because they think it will force God to be on their team; Christians walk out of movies because because they’re already on God’s team, and they want to honor the coach.
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). The freedom the Christians have in Jesus is not a horse to ride into the saloon of satan, but is rather a basin where you wash the feet of others. Do you feel bad when you have to correct a conversation? Do you feel like a legalist when you change the channel during a sexually charged commercial? The glorious reality is that you are free not to feel that way. “No” isn’t a cuss word; fleeing sin isn’t legalism. It is when saying “no” becomes your basis for a right standing before God that you become a legalist. It is when you’re identity is found in the movies you don’t watch and the music you don’t listen to instead of Christ when you become a Pharisee.
So, next time you want to walk out of a movie, turn the channel, look the other way when everyone else gawks, don’t feel foolish – feel free. Your identity is not wrapped up in the fact that you are running away, your identity is wrapped up in the one to whom you are running. Let your vision of Him be clear, and let your desire for Him dictate your life. Come out from the dark and into the light; rise from the dead and into life; the chains are broken, the cellar door has swung open, and your once shackled legs are now empowered to walk in the smile of God the Father. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith” (1 John 5:3-4)