Always striving... Always placing one heavy foot in front of another, seemingly running in place and never getting anywhere. The bar of perfection seems to always be ahead of me; it seems with every step I take, it moves forward two. The standard of holiness seems to always be above me; with every vain move I make to reach it, it moves higher another mile.
Always striving... and never reaching. Always running... but never moving. Always trying to please others' standards, others' expectations, others' rules... and never being quite enough.
Always striving... and always failing. Burnt-out and exhausted, I fall to the Throne of Grace where I hear these refreshing words in my ears:
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ..." (Romans 5:1)
Justified. This means that even in my sinful state, the Lord has declared me as righteous in His sight. That means that I have peace with God. Peace.
The truth of these words goes in my ears and into my mind and begins to penetrate my heart as I look up to my Savior and hear these words spoken:
"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:36)
I am free. I am free indeed.
The God of the universe chose to send His perfect, sinless Son to earth to live and die for us so that we could be set free. He died for our freedom. It is for this very reason that I wonder why so many of us live as if we are still in bondage when the Son has died to set us free?
Bondage to others' expectations. Bondage to religious rules. Bondage to a list of "dos" and "don'ts." Bondage to a cycle of sin, confession, and sin because we do not know the true freedom that we have in Christ.
But the Son has set us free! "For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14, emphasis mine)
We are no longer under a yoke of slavery if the Son has set us free. We are no longer "under the law" because we are now "under grace." We are not to live lives of legalism, of strict adherence to a certain law or a certain person's or group of people's list of rules that are most often merely preferences for living, for the Son has set us free from bondage and a yoke of slavery. Let us instead be servants of Christ, for:
"Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10).
As a seminary professor so aptly put it in 1963, "Legalism wrenches the joy of the Lord from the Christian believer, and with the joy of the Lord goes his power for vital worship and vibrant service. Nothing is left but cramped, somber, dull, and listless profession. The truth is betrayed, and the glorious name of the Lord becomes a synonym for a gloomy kill-joy. The Christian under law is a miserable parody of the real thing." -S. Lewis Johnson
God is not a kill-joy. The Creator of joy and of all things good is not the one who desires to steal joy and all good things from us. No, there is another One who holds that desire, and that is our Enemy: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy..." (John 10:10a)
But, contrary to popular belief, God has "come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10b).
May we stop our vain strivings, our treadmill runs to nowhere, and our joyless pursuit of perfection and instead fall at the Throne of Grace where Christ lifts up our weary souls and penetrates our hearts with these refreshing words, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).
Free indeed. Oh, how my heart sings with the lighthearted realization that I am free, no longer held in bondage to others' expectations or to the law... but free to live life as the woman that Christ has created me to be, loving Him and obeying Him and living to please Him only.
Freedom. Infinite Joy. Peace. Life to the fullest. This is the life that I live because the Son has set me free - and I am free indeed.