For you have ben called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. – Galatians 5:13
I’m sorry I skipped posting last week’s devotional. I did have a good reason. I went to Kentucky and preached to 78 middle-school students. The stuff we’ve grown extremely accustomed to like the Internet, television, and cell phones are all pretty much cut off for the week. In the two years that I’ve gone there, I’ve realized just how important it is for me to be there. It is like this giant spiritual reset that you didn’t even know that you needed. It is kind of wonderful.
I’ve learned something about Christian kids. Many of them feel like they have disappointed God. They seem to think that they have done something that has damaged the relationship and God is mad at them, or at least is withholding Himself from them as a result. I don’t know when it actually hit me, but I was changed fundamentally as the week went on because I felt this way as a Christian too, especially in my younger days.
I preached over and over that our sin should drive us to God, not away from Him. I tried to change the mindset that God is quick to punish when we do wrong. There are certainly examples in the Bible where we could make the argument that He is this way, but we are also clearly taught that God is compassionate, gracious, and slow to anger (Psalm 103:8). Why do we all go through spells of not believing this? Even when I sin now as an adult, I immediately begin to think that God isn’t going to speak through me when I preach. Something in me screams that God can’t work through me anymore.
The verse I’ve chosen for today says we are free. I believe it means that we are free to not have to be the morality police all the time. We don’t have to sit around and let everyone know what they are doing wrong. By the same token, we don’t have to sit around and evaluate our own performance and think that God has abandoned us because we are performing poorly. I will make this easy . . . we are going to sin. God is constantly perfecting us and making us brand new by this crazy awesome restoration process called sanctification. If you recognize that you are using your freedom to indulge in too much worldly things, then you simply stop feeding that nature. Hence, Paul says, “don’t use your freedom to satisfy the sinful nature.”
The last line is what I’ve never thought of until recently. Over the past 27 years of being a Christian, I thought when I sinned that I was supposed to just feel awful for it and be sorry. I think God has called us to freedom from that as well. Yes, we are to repent and let God know that we agree with Him that we have been overindulging and it has kept us from Him. Afterwards though, we are not to beat ourselves up over and over again and think that God is done with us and can’t wait to get even with us. We are to actually receive the forgiveness and restoration that He offers. Paul tells us the opposite of indulging our flesh . . . serving one another in love.
I spent a lot of this summer doing very little. Indulging my flesh by watching movies, playing games on the Internet, sleeping too much, and just time-killing. Nothing that anyone would look at and say, “Sinful!!” I just used my freedom to satisfy my sinful nature and let it keep me from God’s presence. At camp, I met some kids who have done the same thing. What was the answer? We were to spend a week together serving one another. I might have thought that I was there for them, but it turns out I was there for me.
If you are like me and tend to judge others based on their behavior, or maybe you judge yourself based on your own behavior and decide that it is lacking, then Paul tells us the perfect solution: Get out there and serve one another. If we stay busy serving, then we aren’t busy indulging our flesh.