saying yes to being eternally set free

[post originally published at my favorite home-away-from-home, The Rising.]

What does freedom in Christ mean? If I am free, then why is it not okay to do whatever I feel like doing? If freedom doesn’t mean that I can do whatever I want, then what is it for?

Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

This passage answers our questions by saying: Freedom doesn’t mean living according to the flesh and the countless paths it might take you down. It means submitting to a good God and throwing all empty promises behind. Freedom doesn’t leave us defenseless and wandering for our own sense of purpose. Freedom gives us a place where we can throw our worries behind and plant our feet safely. Freedom is not carelessness. Freedom changes our place of submission. Freedom does not mean that your life is summed up by a dictator, but given by a Savior. Christ died so that we could live under a life-giving law made to protect us and give Him all the glory.

If I am free, why do I feel weighed down?

In Galatians 5 verses 2- 6, Paul explains why the church of Galatia needed to give up their hang ups. “…if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision not uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”

The Galatians were convinced that you couldn’t inherit eternal life unless you were circumcised, and Jesus suddenly shows up on the scene and changes everything. Jesus changes the requirements from laws and sacrifice to accepting a gift? Yes. The Old Covenant had taught that their life was all on them. God has always been the same good God, and He graciously provided a way that didn’t leave those under the law hopeless, but He knew that they couldn’t keep the entire law on their own. He made another way. The Old Covenant said, “Follow these rules and when you mess up take care of it very carefully.” The New Covenant says, “You are mine. Accept my grace. Take it as a gift. Come follow me, and if you truly know me, you can’t help but be changed.”

I think we all have a bit of Old Covenant thinking in our midst. We stuff lists and lists of ways of life and things to accomplish in our heart and say, “When you finish, He’ll love you.” On the alternative, He loved you therefore He came to free you from all kinds of bondage. If we think that others have the foundation of their relationship with Christ on a petty requirement, we have fallen away from grace. He died so that we could live unafraid and unashamed. Accepting anything less is man-made religion that means nothing to Him, and ultimately means nothing to us. If you feel weighed down instead of taking heart in the gospel of Christ, perhaps you’ve carried an Old Covenant truth as your New Covenant way of life. Clinging to those ideas and promises leave us confused, because that carries the weight on us and not on Christ. If we make our lives about us and not about life from and because of Christ, if we accept empty religion, if we carry everything over from the Old Covenant, we accept a perversion of perfect, present grace.

If I’m not under the law, what does it look like to work under a standard of grace instead

Galatians 5:16-25 points to walking according to and with the Spirit, opposing the way of your flesh and defying the odds in the way you live your life. Paul instructs to stay pure in your heart and with your body, to fight back feelings of bitterness with forgiveness, to be united amongst one another, and to not rely on the things of this world to satisfy what only God can. At first glance, it seems surprising that after Paul rants about their obsession with the law, he gives more rules. But there’s something different here. It’s not just a list of do-nots. With the command, comes a promise: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is now law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Jesus isn’t about boring, petty requirements – He is about faith worked out in love, called fruit.

Work in Christ might be hard temporarily, but it’s not heavy permanently. It is not oppressive. John Piper says, “He offers his fellowship and help, and even makes the life of obedience a life of joy. The Christian life is a life of freedom because it is lived in the power of the Spirit.” Following the world leads to temporary pleasure and eternal destruction. Obedience in Christ may involve temptations and hard decisions that say no to the things that entangle us to the world. Saying no to the things of this world may not feel joyful, but produce long-lasting joy. When we obey Christ, we don’t become His by our own doing, but literally love Him back. To obey Christ might mean momentary confusion, hurt, or seclusion → but a life dedicated to obedience guarantees a life of love, community, adventure, and joy.

Life with Christ doesn’t exclude trouble, but it promises victory. If you are wrestling with God, or feel far from Him, I ask you the same question Paul asked the church of Galatia in chapter 5 verse 7. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?

If you are hindered from running on the mission of Christ, that didn’t come from Him. Anything that destructs and oppresses is not from the Father. Because…

For every hard no required of us, there lies a better, sweeter yes in Christ.

What is freedom? Freedom is running unhindered and being kept close to the heart of God. Living out commandments that were made for our care in mind with His glory at the center. We accept the grace that allows us to not be justified by what we do and show the world we love Him back when we say yes to His will. We loudly proclaim Galatians 6:17:

“From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”

Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

This passage answers our questions by saying: Freedom doesn’t mean living according to the flesh and the countless paths it might take you down. It means submitting to a good God and throwing all empty promises behind. Freedom doesn’t leave us defenseless and wandering for our own sense of purpose. Freedom gives us a place where we can throw our worries behind and plant our feet safely. Freedom is not carelessness. Freedom changes our place of submission. Freedom does not mean that your life is summed up by a dictator, but given by a Savior. Christ died so that we could live under a life-giving law made to protect us and give Him all the glory.

If I am free, why do I feel weighed down?

In Galatians 5 verses 2- 6, Paul explains why the church of Galatia needed to give up their hang ups. “…if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision not uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”

The Galatians were convinced that you couldn’t inherit eternal life unless you were circumcised, and Jesus suddenly shows up on the scene and changes everything. Jesus changes the requirements from laws and sacrifice to accepting a gift? Yes. The Old Covenant had taught that their life was all on them. God has always been the same good God, and He graciously provided a way that didn’t leave those under the law hopeless, but He knew that they couldn’t keep the entire law on their own. He made another way. The Old Covenant said, “Follow these rules and when you mess up take care of it very carefully.” The New Covenant says, “You are mine. Accept my grace. Take it as a gift. Come follow me, and if you truly know me, you can’t help but be changed.”

I think we all have a bit of Old Covenant thinking in our midst. We stuff lists and lists of ways of life and things to accomplish in our heart and say, “When you finish, He’ll love you.” On the alternative, He loved you therefore He came to free you from all kinds of bondage. If we think that others have the foundation of their relationship with Christ on a petty requirement, we have fallen away from grace. He died so that we could live unafraid and unashamed. Accepting anything less is man-made religion that means nothing to Him, and ultimately means nothing to us. If you feel weighed down instead of taking heart in the gospel of Christ, perhaps you’ve carried an Old Covenant truth as your New Covenant way of life. Clinging to those ideas and promises leave us confused, because that carries the weight on us and not on Christ. If we make our lives about us and not about life from and because of Christ, if we accept empty religion, if we carry everything over from the Old Covenant, we accept a perversion of perfect, present grace.

If I’m not under the law, what does it look like to work under a standard of grace instead

Galatians 5:16-25 points to walking according to and with the Spirit, opposing the way of your flesh and defying the odds in the way you live your life. Paul instructs to stay pure in your heart and with your body, to fight back feelings of bitterness with forgiveness, to be united amongst one another, and to not rely on the things of this world to satisfy what only God can. At first glance, it seems surprising that after Paul rants about their obsession with the law, he gives more rules. But there’s something different here. It’s not just a list of do-nots. With the command, comes a promise: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is now law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Jesus isn’t about boring, petty requirements – He is about faith worked out in love, called fruit.

Work in Christ might be hard temporarily, but it’s not heavy permanently. It is not oppressive. John Piper says, “He offers his fellowship and help, and even makes the life of obedience a life of joy. The Christian life is a life of freedom because it is lived in the power of the Spirit.” Following the world leads to temporary pleasure and eternal destruction. Obedience in Christ may involve temptations and hard decisions that say no to the things that entangle us to the world. Saying no to the things of this world may not feel joyful, but produce long-lasting joy. When we obey Christ, we don’t become His by our own doing, but literally love Him back. To obey Christ might mean momentary confusion, hurt, or seclusion → but a life dedicated to obedience guarantees a life of love, community, adventure, and joy.

Life with Christ doesn’t exclude trouble, but it promises victory. If you are wrestling with God, or feel far from Him, I ask you the same question Paul asked the church of Galatia in chapter 5 verse 7. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?

If you are hindered from running on the mission of Christ, that didn’t come from Him. Anything that destructs and oppresses is not from the Father. Because…

For every hard no required of us, there lies a better, sweeter yes in Christ.

What is freedom? Freedom is running unhindered and being kept close to the heart of God. Living out commandments that were made for our care in mind with His glory at the center. We accept the grace that allows us to not be justified by what we do and show the world we love Him back when we say yes to His will. We loudly proclaim Galatians 6:17:

“From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”

learning the secret

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” —Philippians 4:11-12

I’ve always thought that when Paul wrote, “I have learned to be content in all circumstances.” that meant I was supposed to learn how to be content when I didn’t have enough money for the things I wanted, or even needed and then again to be content when it was provided for me. That alone was simple enough. I was being raised well in this area already. Growing up during my elementary years, I learned how to plan a memorable party with a total budget of $10. We watched nothing but The Andy Griffith Show for a season because we couldn’t afford cable and that’s how I memorized every word of each episode. Our hearts were full, and at times, our cupboards were bare. I never went hungry (obviously). It was a happy time full of making memories and building relationships. But there just wasn’t the overflow or safety net that most of us strive for while we sit at our desks or work with sweat on our brow all day, everyday.

It wasn’t an easy season – most significantly, of course, for my parents. But I’ve found since that it’s so much more than only being thankful for the roof over my head. I found after our season of little sacrifices that what’s hardest is to be content when there is abundance.

When I’m sitting with too many things while I’m starving myself of Him for no good reason at all.

“We may be earnestly desiring to be obedient and holy. But we may be missing the fact that it is here, where we happen to be at this moment and not in another place or another time, that we may learn to love Him—here where it seems He is not doing what we expected Him to do, where He is most absent. Here and nowhere else is the appointed place. If faith does not go to work here, it will not go to work at all.”

—Elisabeth Elliot, The Path Of Loneliness (emphasis mine)

Faith that stays behind the walls full of all the pretty lies we’ve built ourselves is not real. Faith that is wilted just because of financial status is worth nothing. Faith that is comfortable and never exposed, is not faith. Faith that is not content in every place and time, blooming strongly wherever it is planted, is not the faith that comes from God alone. 

I don’t want to be known for poverty of heart in the midst of too much. I want to be known for having the fullness of Christ in the face of persecution, in sadness, whether coming up or down the mountain.

Dear God, in the face of honest prayers like these:

Emilee Blog Prayer

I want to lean harder into You, in the absence or in the presence of my words — in my countless groans. When I’m paralyzed by fear or running on confidence. When I can hear You and when I can’t. When I can see Your movements and when You feel a million miles away.

Let us walk through the woods of mundane tasks and heart cries with Your strength in us, and come out stronger than ever before.

Let us make Paul’s statement to the Philippians our anthem, whatever it looks like in the nooks and crannies of our modern lives. Let there be more than just our circumstances keeping us afloat.

Our results might end up echoing Paul’s words more than we would have first imagined. It may sound something like this on the other side, when we sit down to mentor someone as we’re writing a letter of our own:

“I have learned to love God, even when my flesh is naturally jealous of the good gifts He’s giving to other people before me.”

“I have learned to be content when I’m invited to the party, and when I have to watch the peaks of the party on Snapchat alone in my room.”

“I know what it’s like to be in love and what it’s like to be brought to the ground because of a broken heart.”

“I have learned to be content when I have texts flooding in, and when my screen stays dark.”

“I know what it’s like to be embraced emotionally, physically, and spiritually — I know what it’s like to be coldly rejected.”

“I have felt Your companionship in my singleness and barrenness, in my marriage and in my fruitfulness.”

“I have heard Your whisper in the cruel beatings and the gentle massages.”

“I know what it’s like to have a best friend and what it’s like to stand alone.”

“I have learned to love myself when I feel fat and when I feel skinny.”

“I have found You in the woods and in the clear.”

“I have learned to be content on a dirt floor or sitting on a granite counter top.”

“I have learned the secret to being content traveling to beautiful foreign places and staying still in my familiar home.”

Mosquito net and my Bible
Concrete bed I’m still smiling
Ain’t eating much but I’m smiling
I’d rather be in the jungle and in the will of God
Than anywhere else outside it

–KB, 100

“I have been brought low by depression, and brought high on Jesus and the laughter He brings in community life.”

“I have loved You in my dreams that crashed and burned, and when You made them fly.”

“I have found You when I feel  known by the people around me and when I feel forgotten.”

“We thank You when our bank accounts are low, and we thank You when they’re doing alright.”

“We’ve danced in the thunderstorm, in the snow, and with the sun on our faces.”

Teach us how to love You at Goodwill and at Gap. It’s work to love You. Help us know You’re more than worth it. Teach us how to love You when we’re safe and when we’re vulnerable. Teach us to thank You, all the time.

Yours alone is true provision. We can’t breathe, let alone be thankful in everything, without Your grace. Your strength is this divine secret. 

Let us breathe in prayers like this in and out: I’d go anywhere with You, Jesus. 

Wherever I go, You’re the same loving Father and You’ve went before me.

I’d rather be in the jungle and in the will of God, than anywhere else outside it. 

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” —Philippians 4:19