Hi, Rob here. One of my favourite verses in Scripture is Psalm 119:32, “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” I love the connection between the freedom of the heart and the desire for holiness. Freedom is an often misunderstood concept in the church. In fact, history seems to show that the church has often feared freedom. We have tried to define holiness by creating rules to be obeyed as if we were an extension of the Pharisees. That is clearly not the path to true holiness according to this verse. Holiness comes from the inside out, not the outside in. On the other hand, many in the church these days want to be seen as revelling in their freedom, and so they will drink, smoke and flirt, often without self-control. They make the mistake of seeing freedom as an end in itself. It is not. Freedom is the means by which we pursue holiness. Holiness is the goal, because within it is life, freedom, joy and peace. How does this work?
Part of the answer lies in what we believe about sin. Sin is not “all the bad things we do”, but the power that held us in bondage before Jesus Christ rescued us through his redeeming work on the cross and the power of his resurrection. When we talk about freedom, we’re talking about the power of sin to keep us bound being broken. We’re now free to be the people we were always meant to be – gloriously human and truly reflecting the image of God. That is, holy.
Look at Jesus. He walked this earth truly free and without sin. Not bound by the opinions of others, parental expectations, societal norms, a need for status or money, he was free to say and do what the Father told him to say and do. Satan could not penetrate the oneness that existed between Father and Son. As we think about what stands in the way of our holiness, isn’t it always some form of bondage to forces other than God? Think about the forces of ego and reputation; pleasure and self-protection; peer pressure and simply the desire to check out. These forces and more are the obstacles to freedom in the life of God. They come at us through Satan, the World and our old, sinful selves. They feel, at times, natural as if they are who we truly are. But sin is not who we truly are if we belong to Christ: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2).”
In Christ we are declared to be free and we are declared to be holy. Often we feel like neither but the declarations remain because it is about what Christ has done for us, not about how we feel. What I’ve discovered is this: the more we remember who we truly are – that we are in Christ, declared holy with new hearts set free from sin – the freer we become, the more holy we become and the more alive we feel. It’s a mighty battle, so here’s my top 3 tips that have helped me to remember:
1. Declare it before you even get out of bed in the morning. “Thank you Jesus that I’m in you. I take my place in your cross and resurrection. I am dead to sin and alive to you. I am holy. I am free. I am yours.” Stand against the enemy by standing with Christ fully armed.
2. Have a few favourite verses or passages that you can quickly turn to or have in your head for those moments when you’re struggling. Colossians 1:21-22; Romans 6:11; 1 john 3:1 are just a few I recommend to you.
3. Take communion regularly. My tradition takes it weekly and I’m grateful for this practice. Remembering Christ’s body broken, his blood shed, his victory and his return with a group of struggling saints is a sacred time.
Enjoy your freedom. May you know holiness. God bless.