Summary: Jesus died to make us free. Jesus breaks the shackles of legalism and perfectionism and enables us to live true, authentic lives.
History is said to repeat itself. When it does, one of the constant truths that it displays is that people have a very difficult time dealing with God’s unconditional love and overwhelming grace. The idea that Jesus Christ died for our sins and that we do not need to do anything for our salvation and a new relationship with God except believe in Jesus (and that faith too is a gift) is beyond our comprehension.
• Jesus had walked among the Jews and Jews were the first Christians to receive God’s free gift of salvation. When gentiles started to convert to Christianity, however, the Jewish Christians decided that they needed to do something more than receive Jesus. The Jewish Christians told the Gentile Christians that they needed to become Jews—the sign of which was circumcision.
• By the 1500’s the Church, which had first experienced God’s grace, had become so corrupt and works orientated—earn your way to heaven—that it needed to be reformed. Martin Luther was one of those who started the reformation with his 95 Theses, or points of discussion on the Church door at Wittenberg.
We daily struggle to live free in the grace that God showers into our lives. As the gospel of John says, “If the Son of God sets you free you are free indeed.” The only problem with that is that few people really live in that reality.
SHACKLES OF EXPECTATIONS
When Jesus ministered to people and preached his gospel, he never told people that they needed to practice the law and to become Jews in order to be loved by God and enter into a new relationship with God. The disciples and those first Jewish converts understood that they were saved by grace and not be works. Yet, when others came into the faith the first Christians placed expectations upon them. The new converts had to keep the law, become circumcised, and follow various Jewish customs and traditions. They would then be saved.
Even today Christians fall into the trap of expecting people to do something than just believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. They expect coverts to refrain from specific activities, to hold various social believes, and even to vote for one party or another.
There are times that I am tempted as a pastor to list some expectations—weekly worship, tithing, personal devotions, small group involvement and service. The moment I do, however, I lose the message of Jesus Christ—we are saved by grace through faith and nothing else.
The reality of the situation is that we live in a relationship with God. The Holy Spirit moves in our lives. The Spirit guides us and ignites within us desires for growth in faith and service.
SHACKLES OF WORK
We not only have a difficult time believing the fullness of God’s grace in our relationship with God, we also have a hard time believing that we live by grace in our daily lives.
We have a fundamental belief, especially in America, that it is all up to us. If we are going to make it, succeed, and be all that we can be, then we will need to work hard and get a little lucky. In the United States we talk about the self-made individual and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.