Reflection on the Gospel and bondage

The last few posts have been rather personal as I have been reflecting on my own life in Christ. This morning I took 3 hours to pray and quietly think about life and God’s plans for me. As a pastor I have this luxury and it is one that I cherish but unfortunately haven’t made enough use of the past 2 years. What is coming out of this time is a reality that I have been living in bondage as opposed to freedom.

I have been so focused on my ideals of the devout life (service to the poor, simplicity, adoption, complete trust in God’s promise to provide that we make no plans, nor save for the future…), the problems of the world and a personal sense of my responsibility to correct those errors in myself and others that I have been unable to enjoy the moments that God has put me in. I have been unable to enjoy a blessing or gift from others as I have seen it as a wasteful luxury. I have been unable to see how another person is actually being blessed by this luxury since it goes against my values and therefore their enjoyment and blessing would mitigate and cancel my values and ideals.

In short, I have become so self-focused on saving the world, that I have lost sight of my Savior and his work to set us free from the bondage, not only to sin, but also to other “patterns of living” which hinder us from enjoying all the redeemed world. I have confused working for a Utopian society as the Christian life. I have confused being God’s child with specific actions that while consistent with loving others, is not the sum total of the Christian life, nor even the path that everyone is called to walk.

In 1 Corinthians 6:12ff, Paul writes, “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be mastered by anything…” There is freedom and grace in Jesus Christ. There is the freedom to live unhindered, not being mastered, or controlled by anything except the Lord who owns us. For Paul goes on to remind the believers that they are “not their own. They were bought at a price.” Paul specifically applies this freedom to not be mastered by our lusts, our sexuality, but this would also apply to me. For the freedom of Christ calls me not to be controlled by my thoughts or ideals, by other’s needs or expectations, but rather to be controlled solely by Christ to whom I am united and joined.

Thus when the ‘devout life’ becomes the joyous life and the things we do are done out of obligation instead of from gratitude, the own who masters us is no longer Christ but our ideals and thoughts, or another’s ideals and thoughts. Strangely, almost 7 years ago, I had this realization of the Gospel and the freedom it brings and the joy I have in Christ and the lack of obligation I have to act a certain way, or do certain things to maintain God’s approval, but it has faded and once again I find myself having lived under the weight of a great law which God is opening my eyes to see. There is freedom in the gospel and Jesus died to free us from the law of sin and death. And certainly, a lack of joy in my life as I have lived the Christian life the past few years is death-like. I want to be free again.

So how is God going to release me? Oddly enough, the direction I had this morning from the Lord was to go and buy something nice for myself, my wife and my daughter (whose birthday is today). What kind of freedom is this? It is the freedom to release the grip that my idealized reality of money has on me and which has been keeping me from being able to enjoy the world which God has placed me in. Will I probably struggle with a sense of guilt as I do this. Most likely, for Satan wants nothing more than to oppress me and keep me in bondage to my idealized version of the devout life. But like Jesus, I can say, “Get behind me Satan. For I will love the Lord first and foremost and he has called me to freedom. And in his freedom he is directing me to release my ideals and that tangibly means enjoying the bounty he has provided me.”

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About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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