“What is truth?” Pilate asked.
See John 18:38
Jesus said the truth will set us free (see John 8:32). So if the truth sets us free then error keeps us bound, shackled, and imprisoned. Allowing us to live a life of lies, as a Christian, is not what Christ came to do. He has no desire for us to fake our holiness. We are holy, so we should live holy.
Jesus came so we can enjoy absolute liberty, not a quasi-gospel of liberty plus bondage. Paul explains this truth to the Galatians who had forgotten what Christ had done:
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
There’s a lot of good things going on in this particular verse, but I’ve underlined again. Again means returning to the same thing. Why would Paul advise them to not become slaves again? Because they were trying to justify themselves through Mosaic Law observance, again, 613 all-or-nothing commandments. Read the two previous chapters and it’s simple to see.
Paul is not referring to drinking, smoking, sleeping around, cursing, and skipping church. He’s chastising Christians who were trying to be religious; Christians attempting to add to what Christ has already completed: 600+ Thou Shalts, which included the Ten Commandments (see Deuteronomy 4:2).
The people in Galatia had become bored with the message and simplicity of the gospel. They wanted to have their ears tickled by being told, “Doing more religious stuff will increase your right-standing with God.” Paul called them fools for doing such a thing (see Galatians 3:1). If legalism was now their focus, their mindsets had fallen away from grace (see Galatians 5:4). Had they lost their salvation? No. Grace would never allow that to happen because then grace would no longer be grace. But their purposefulness would be put on pause (see Galatians 2:16, Romans 11:6, Revelation 2:4).
Lots of Christians fall away from grace in their thinking. Behavior-centered teaching is to blame. A double-talk mix of, “Come to Jesus just as you are, and be completely forgiven,” then the next week, “Sinner! There’s no hotter place in hell than for a backslider like you!”
This slave-causing theology of, “You’re saved by grace through faith, until you sin again,” has warped the mindsets of countless believers–not their eternal security–but their thought life. Enjoying freedom is not on their radar of faith. Rules and regulations are the blips, while overbearing, cliquey, charismatic people throw commands out like Skittles. Emotionalism sells the tithe, so certain preachers make sure the seats are full of fans and groupies, teacher’s pets, or petrified sheep.
If you have legitimate questions, you’re no longer welcome. Fall in line, eat what you’re fed, or shut up and leave.
But why? Why can’t we just stick to the freedom of the gospel? Innocently, many Christian leaders just don’t understand the New Covenant and the power of the Cross. Instead, they rely on their good looks, smooth talk, intelligence, fear-mongering, church size (big or small), collar, or supposed spiritual gifts. Pressure is their message of choice. Even when their teachings begin graceful, rarely do they end that way. A call to action is always their M.O.–falling away from grace yet again.
To make matters worse, behavior repentance hounding has been handed down from previous generations, there’s a lot to unlearn. We’ve been taught to focus on the pay-out and not the nourishing of the product. This is why a lot of well-behaved churchgoers will be in hell. They thought “what they do” is what saves. It does not (see Matthew 7:21-23).
The word “repent” in the Bible means “change of belief” more often than “change of behavior.” After all, the Jews were the most obedient people on the planet. If actions are what made a person right with God, why would they need to repent of what they were doing? It was the heathen Gentiles who didn’t know how to live righteously, not them.
Behavior repentance for salvation makes no sense for a reason: sin modification and sin management is not the truest meaning of repent, especially in the gospels and in Acts.
Self-absorbed people have twisted Scripture attempting to appear more holy than others, and we’ve believed it. Holiness is impossible to earn or sustain through behavior change. Authentic holiness only comes by way of identity. It’s us who has made the word repent into a law, into a work. Paul rebukes the Romans over this topic:
“And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” (Romans 11:6)
When it comes to stirring up the power of sin in a human being, made-up laws of behavior repentance are just as lethal as Mosaic laws (see Romans 7:8). Therefore, we must count ourselves dead to anything which would cause us to think we will be punished by God. Christians will never be punished by God for a single mess up, a single sin. This includes sins of omission and commission (see Romans 5:1, 1 John 2:2, 4:18).
Authentic ambassadors of Christ will teach you freedom and that you are completely reconciled with God through faith (see John 8:32, 2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Don’t worry, the Holy Spirit will never lead you into a life of sin or licentiousness. The self-centered people think freedom gives us a license to sin, but that’s only because they find their value in “amazing” behavior, which, like the Pharisees, is laughable (see Galatians 2:21). This is the exact mindset which must be repented of in order to be saved–the mindset of “whitewashed tombs” (see Matthew 23:27-28).
If you’re dealing with two-faced messages which create church hierarchies, as well as constant “Be like me!” teachings, please understand those are chains. Those things are not giving you freedom. Further, the sermons of, “God has done so much for you! The least you can do is pay Him back!” that is bondage too. It’s error.
The truth is, we could never pay God back and He doesn’t expect us to. How could we possibly do such a thing? How could we pay back the Omniscient One? God is not needy! (See Acts 17:25). He’s making this planet float and spin in the middle of nothing. He’s holding us at just the right distance from the sun to give us light and warmth without burning or blinding us. He’s providing oxygen for your blood as you read this sentence. The rhythm of your heartbeat is ticking by His choice and desire–nothing is making it beat but Him.
GOD. NEEDS. NOTHING. Instead, He wants a relationship with us. Our relationship is not payment, it’s our purpose. Trying to pay God back is one of the most shackling teachings on the market. Don’t fall for it. You can’t do this–neither can I–and that’s okay because our Dad just wants to be our Dad.
Please, don’t get angry at teachers, relatives, and friends–or anyone–about this type of teaching. Learn from my mistakes and don’t attack because you’ll regret it. Simply stay anchored in His love, the love infused with your spirit. Then express this love to those who don’t understand it–toward confused church leaders. I’m not even saying leave a church such as this. I’m saying, know the truth.
When we know the truth the truth will set us free in our minds. As Christians, our spirits are already free, but do we know that? This is part 3 of my “Debunking Christian Myths” devotionals. If you’d like to read part 1 and 2, they’re available in my book series, 60 Days for Jesus, as well as on my website.
I pray that what I’ve just written has helped you understand your freedom in Christ better. Here are three additional myths:
So today, my friends, know this: You are free, so live free! You are as close to God as you can possibly get! Christ has removed the punishment for all of our sins, even the careless stuff we sometimes say. But most of all, I want you to know your heart is good. It’s not sinful. It’s not wicked. As a believer, our minds are still catching up to this truth, our actions and attitudes are too–but our identity is not! Our identity is final and we are complete! (See Colossians 2:10).
A prayer for you: Heavenly Father, today I want to thank you for freedom; freedom from sin, freedom from hell, freedom from living a life in confusion. These freedoms come by way of your grace. It is when we truly allow ourselves to bask in the richness of your grace, we enjoy the abundant life of Christ! Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. Dad, I know some of the things they’ve just read might seem scary. Your grace is a scary thing when we’ve been taught error for so long. But without your grace, life is even more scary, because the pressure is all on us. Take the pressure off them, Father. Your grace is infinitely loving, and your infinite love casts out all fear because fear has to do with punishment. Jesus was punished FOR us, for every sin we’d ever commit, so we don’t have to be afraid! Teach us more each day and take us deeper into what all He’s done! Thank you for freedom! Amen.
This devotional is from The Christian Identity, Volume 1. Get your copy here!