Are you short-changing yourself in your Christian life? As Christians we agree that Jesus is the only way to salvation and because of Him we have peace with the Father and eternal life. Unfortunately, most of us take our precious gift of salvation and then run off to live a long life of “trying.” We try to be really good and keep the commandments. We try to love the unlovable. As we quickly find out, we just can’t do it. But that doesn’t seem to stop us! We press on, exhausted and joyless. If we are trying to keep the law, then we are ignoring the amazing gift of the Holy Spirit.
God sometimes speaks to me through dreams. Recently, I dreamed that I was shopping in an upscale grocery store and slowly and carefully putting items in my cart. I wondered if I really needed each one and I checked the prices. Suddenly, a lady walked up to me and said, “You didn’t know? You are in the middle of a free shopping spree!” In total shock that everything was free, and aggravated with myself for wasting so much time, I started running, putting as many expensive items into my cart as fast as I possibly could.
Shortly after my dream, the Holy Spirit reminded me of this beautiful prophecy about Jesus in Isaiah:
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.” Isaiah 55:1,2 (ESV)
My Christian life looked a lot like the first part of my dream. Jesus’ death on the cross paid for my salvation and freedom but I was still living like I was buried under crushing debt. I was far from enjoying the abundant life that Jesus promised me.
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” Colossians 2:13-15 (ESV)
Scripture says that Jesus made a “public spectacle” of the principalities on the cross! The word, Gospel, means “good news” for a reason. Do you realize the extent of this good news? As a Christian, in addition to eternal life, you are no longer captive to anything the enemy would try to bring against you here on earth, including guilt, shame, fear, depression, or disease. Whatever situation you are facing, know that the enemy is trespassing, because your bill has already been paid. You are not only debt-free, but a joint heir with Christ (Romans 8:16).
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 (ESV)
We now stand guiltless in this place of victory. We can actually have joy knowing that God’s love for us doesn’t change according to performance. His goodness toward us does not fluctuate as our mood does.
If you received a $25 bill in the mail and had a zero balance in your bank account, then even that bill is a problem. If you get a $1,000,000 bill stamped “PAID IN FULL,” then no problem at all! It doesn’t matter what you have done or what you are facing, because that bill has already been paid. That does not mean that you never walk through suffering or are never tempted. But, if you actually walk in the fullness of the freedom and victory purchased for you on the cross, then your life will look radically different from the world and most other Christians. Your response is one of gratitude and submission saying, “Take it all!” You no longer try not to sin and try to love and serve. You walk by the Spirit so you will not fulfill your old fleshly desires. (Galatians 5:16). When the good news sinks in that you not only have eternity with Jesus but also a life of freedom on earth, your response is, “Lord, tell me what You want me to do. I’ll do anything for You!”
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1-4 (ESV)
Despite what Scripture tells us about our freedom in Christ, many of us have our gaze fixed on the law and our own efforts. God’s law is good, but because of our fallen world, it doesn’t produce life. The law shows us how much we fall short and need a Savior. Ironically, the more we look to follow the law to obtain righteousness, the more likely we are to sin (Romans 7:8-11)! When we take our eyes off Jesus and focus on the law, we will end up in one of two dangerous places: self-condemnation or spiritual pride. If we struggle to keep the law with little success, we feel condemned, hopeless, and beaten up, but if we see ourselves as a good “law-keepers,” then we will become proud, judging others.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising its shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1,2 (ESV)
Jesus is not only the founder, but the perfecter of our faith! When we fix our eyes on Him, guilt, shame, and striving cease. Jesus fills us with His Spirit so we have the power to love others. Why is this simple truth so difficult for my brain? Despite my failings, God is pleased with me, because He sees His Son in me.
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 (ESV)
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (ESV)
Apart from abiding in Christ, we cannot keep the law. We kid ourselves into thinking that just because we are Christians, we can do it. Jesus fulfilled the law for us because we absolutely positively cannot! If we focus on the law, we will keep sinning, but if we look to Jesus we will “accidentally” keep the law! Our love for Him will result in keeping His commandments (John 14:15). Those times we fail, the Holy Spirit will gently correct and guide us on the right path.
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12 (ESV)
“We love because He first loved us.” I John 4:19 (ESV)
Jesus’ commandment for us is to love. How do we love one another? We love because He first loved us! We bask in the love of Christ and the love of the Father who is pleased with us because of His Son’s work on the cross. This radical concept has been preached to me for years, but it has taken my entire life to even start to sink in. God loves me the same on my “good” days and “bad” days, because He is looking at Christ in me. Praise God!
It’s no wonder that so many non-Christians don’t want what we have when we act like we do! We have freedom to love others without judgment. We have access to limitless love and joy. So, let’s bring people to Jesus and let Him do the work in them. Let’s bring ourselves to Jesus and ask Him to finish the work He started in us!
The Christian life is not easy, but it is simple. Look at Jesus and how much He loves you. Fall in love with Him so that His love spills over to the people in your life. Take your eyes off the law and fix them on Jesus’ smiling face. He is smiling at you because the work is finished and you are His.
If I don’t preach this Gospel to myself every day, then I will fall into my old rut of trying. Trying to please God and failing again and again. If you are like me and are ready to walk in new level of freedom, then pray this prayer now:
Dear Heavenly Father,
I thank You so much for Your love for me. Your love is so extravagant that I cannot possibly comprehend it. I want to please You and yet my flesh is so weak. So, I ask that instead, You fill me with Your Holy Spirit and Your love so much that I don’t even have a choice but to spill that love over to others and back to You. Let me abide in You, Jesus, so that the fruit may come.
In Jesus’ precious name,