LAUREN CHO, CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Last Easter, for Lent, my family jumped onboard with the Whole30 kick. The only diet I’ve ever tried is “how many Girl Scout cookies can I fit in my mouth at once,” but all things being fair, this one seems legitimate. It’s all about natural: cutting extra sugars, all the processed grains, resetting your body and metabolism to its natural levels. Science. Science. Health. Science. Hormones. Health. Health. Science. Health. Natural. Yeah.
It was great to participate in my family’s journey. I recall my mom once sharing about the freedom and joy it was to go grocery shopping. A loose quote: “It was so much faster not to have to go down certain aisles.” Instead of battling with her desire for sugary breakfast cereal or drooling over the various cheeses in the deli section, she found a certain freedom in knowing the rules of her diet and simply sticking to them. More or less, she was talking about the liberation in the law. The freedom found in constraint. The joy made available through restriction. Something not so far off from the life God calls us to as His children.
Sure, God has some strict rules about the way we should live our lives.
- Exhibit A: Don’t lie. Ever.
- Exhibit B: Don’t think mean things about others. It’s the same as murder.
- Exhibit C: Actually, just live, breathe, and be like Jesus. No big deal.
At the same time, though, God knows all along that it is submission to these strict laws that will bring us into the fullness of life we were meant for. Although submission is not easy, God does know His children1 and all of our needs.
In fact, God knows us much better than we know ourselves. He knows our hopes, fears, struggles, and desires, and, frankly, our need for a savior.2 He knows that our hearts are bent toward the destruction of ourselves and of those around us. Therefore, without a clear-cut law to tell us what to do, there is no hope.3 So God gave us His own law.
I’m currently reading through Exodus, and it is a glorious story of God’s grace when He met with Moses to reveal the Ten Commandments. Yahweh, the eternal God, met Moses in person on Mount Sinai—such that the beauty of God’s glory radiated from Moses’ face.4 By God’s revelation of His covenantal law, mankind was graced with instructions of how to live holy, righteous lives. For man is reckless. We harm ourselves and one another. We do what we want and we don’t consider the consequences. We need rules.
Yet in the years, days, and minutes that passed after God revealed His law, it was clear that the hearts of men were still set on doing evil.5 There was no freedom to be found in God’s perfect law, because there was no freedom from the bondage of sin.6 Mankind was still just a bunch of sinners, now subject to a holy rulebook. The ignorance of our sin was no longer an excuse.7 Instead of bringing about life and fullness of joy, the law brought condemnation and despair; for none could live up to God’s perfect design for man.8
Was that the fault of the law-maker? Absolutely not. But the unattainable law, and man’s inability to fulfill it, pointed to a greater promise. One that was yet to come: Jesus Christ, the perfect fulfillment of God’s law. He is the righteousness of God Himself,9 who was tempted and tested in human form,10 yet depended perfectly on the Spirit in truth and power to bring about the redemption of man.11 In His perfect life, Jesus restored the broken relationship between God and man that was lost in the Garden of Eden, providing a way for all people over all of time to return to God.12 And to all who believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the righteousness of Christ is accredited,13 and the right to be called Children of God.14
So, what then is true freedom? It must be the balance between a perfect law and a perfect grace. The implementation and upholding of perfect justice is based on perfect boundaries of what is perfectly good and perfectly right. Yet without the blood of Christ, we all fall short of God’s glory.15 We are ever lacking in our ability to live as God has asked us to. We are sinners, wicked at heart,16 with evil desires that contradict the livelihood God longs to instill in us through His Spirit.17 So Christ came to us, in our great need, declaring that He himself would provide a way—provide grace—to take upon Himself God’s wrath, to pay for our horrendous offenses against God’s perfect law. That He Himself, the spotless lamb, was the only way to the Father.18 That by His sacrifice, His grace, we might live in the freedom God designed for us—the freedom to make good, healthy choices; to live joyfully, hopefully, abundantly;19 to thrive within the restrictions we were made to exist within, for we are by design.20
In this way, the cost of freedom is already paid in full. Christ took that burden upon Himself when He died for our sins on the cross.21 We were purchased by His blood.22 But there is a cost to taking up this freedom, too. Submission. Humility. Folding the (evil) desires of the heart and allowing God to change us from the inside out. It’s all by His power and grace anyways. Sure, there’s a sacrifice. We have to let go of the selfish desires and choose to see the beauty of the design God has for the life He wants for us. Give Him the reins? Yeah, it is terrifying. But what’s even more frightening is missing out on life as we were meant to know it. Holding on to the chains of death that enslave us and declaring a love for our bondage.23 I refuse that. It is no life. I choose Grace. I choose Law. I choose Freedom.
Take up your cross.24 Put to death the flesh.25 Choose to live under the law and experience the freedom of grace found in Jesus Christ when we mess up, because we will. This is where true life is found. Not in the indulgence of your desires, but in the transformation of your spirit into the likeness of God’s own—to reflect His image and glory.
Much like my family and their strict adherence to their diet; I, too, have struggled with the balance between obeying the law for the sake of obedience, compared to the genuine joy of obeying out of reliance on God’s character. During Lent, my mom came to the point of truly enjoying the restrictions set before her. She was able to look at her circumstances, not as cruel or malevolent or cutting her short of the delight of cheesecake, but rather as an opportunity to experience a better, healthier, more fulfilling way of life.
Personally, I have struggled with legalism in my walk with God for a long time. It’s a daily battle to believe that I am truly set free from the burden to prove myself—to others, to myself, and to God. My righteousness is not my own,26 and I praise God for that; for if it were, I could never reach His standard. But because of Christ, because He could—and did—live the life I couldn’t…Well, that makes His grace all the sweeter and it floods my life with the hope to trust and obey that God does know and want my absolute best.
The cost of freedom was pricy indeed: the blood of the Son of God. Christ came to earth to bear your iniquity in order that you might come to understand the joy of knowing Him.27 Is there a price in heaven or on earth that you could set on accepting His gift? It is free to any who would take it.
“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.” 28
Blurb: Freedom’s never free. What price would you set on the power to set you free?
1 Psalm 139
2 Hebrews 4:12-13, 15
3 Psalm 14:1-3
4 Exodus 34:29
5 Exodus 32
6 Hebrews 10:1-4
7 Micah 6:8
8 Romans 3:23
9 Hebrews 1:3
10 Hebrews 4:15
11 John 17:21
12 Romans 5:18-19
13 John 14:6
14 John 1:12
Lauren Cho graduated from Cal in the Class of 2015. Slowly, she is learning to trust that God does not withhold good from His Children (Psalm 84:11). Follow her blog at http://www.gloryencountered.wordpress.com.