Summary: You are free because you are loved!
Pastor Lee Eclov, from Vernon Hills, Illinois, talks about his first visit to a health club in the 1970s. His friend Frank had invited Lee to go with him, and when they arrived, they entered a room filled with weight machines.
Pastor Lee had never seen those things before in his life, so Frank explained that they would spend a few minutes on each machine, exercising all the various muscle groups as they went along. Frank called it “the circuit.”
Well, there was a muscle-bound guy in charge – “no nonsense, tight T-shirt,” Lee said. He walked the group through the use of each machine, and after his tour, Pastor Lee sat down at the first one, while a few other folks took their places at the other machines. The guy in charge called out, “Two minutes on each machine,” blew his whistle, and Lee started to pull down a set of handlebars attached to some weights.
He had just worked this machine a few minutes earlier, but this time nothing happened. The weight he was trying to lift didn't budge an inch. He tried harder.
Still, nothing happened.
The T-shirt guy yelled at Lee – something like, “C'mon, you overweight daisy!” So Pastor Lee redoubled his efforts, but nothing happened. Pastor Lee thought his shoulder was going to separate. He was “sweating like a coal miner,” he says, until he gave up in shame. He looked down at the machine in defeat.
At that point, his friend, Frank, came over to help him out. Frank looked the thing over and discovered that someone had pulled the pin on the proper weight. Lee had been trying to lift all the weights the machine had – something like 500 pounds! But that was it for Pastor Lee. He gave up. He walked out, because he was exhausted by all the useless effort. (Lee Eclov, Vernon Hills, Illinois; www.PreachingToday.com)
Trying to keep all the rules all the time is a lot like Pastor Lee’s experience with that weight machine. It leaves you exhausted, frustrated and ashamed. There is a better way to live! And if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Galatians 3, Galatians 3, which shows us that better way.
Galatians 3:23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed (ESV) – i.e., faith in Christ.
You see, there was a time when all of us believers were in prison with the Law as our prison guard, keeping us under lock and key. Oh, it was not a prison with bars and barbed wire, but it was a prison of do’s and don’ts. It was a prison of expectations placed upon us that we could never meet. It was a prison of trying to measure up to all the rules in order to feel accepted and loved. But now, because of your faith in Christ, you are no longer in that kind of a prison.
YOU ARE FREE!
When you trusted Christ, God freed you from the need to perform. God freed you from the demands of the law. God opened the doors to any such prison and removed the prison guards. So please, don’t stay in your prison cell any longer. Instead, walk out of that prison of perfectionism. Get out from under those unrealistic expectations, which can only lock you down, and enjoy your freedom.
In the film The Shawshank Redemption, Ellis "Red" Redding spent his prime wasting away in prison because of a reckless act of violence he had committed as a teenager. After 40 years of imprisonment, Red was finally released to enjoy the long-awaited freedom he wanted so desperately.
However, he couldn’t free himself from the habit of asking for permission each time he wished to use the men's room. He had become “institutionalized.” His new life scared him, because he'd grown accustomed to the structure behind bars. Imprisonment had become safe for Red. He didn't have to exercise his own decision-making. Someone else did the thinking for him, and now, on the outside, he faced a prospect more daunting and terrifying than incarceration: freedom.
At one point, Red contemplated various ways to break his parole and return to the security of his prison cell. He summed up his dilemma in one line: “It is a terrible thing to live in fear.” (Graham Johnston, Preaching to a Postmodern World: A Guide to Reaching Twenty-First Century Listeners, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2001, pp. 126-27; www.PreachingToday.com)
People caught in the trap of legalism are no different than Red. They are scared to death of the freedom grace brings, because it is much easier to retreat to our cells of dos and don'ts. It is much easier just to have somebody tell us what to do than it is to make decisions for ourselves, but that’s not what God wants for us. God has freed us from all that.