Have you ever been set free from something? Like debt? There’s nothing quite like getting out from under the stress of knowing you owe someone money. But I’ve learned over the years that there’s a big difference between my reaction when I have to pay my own debt and when someone pays my debt for me.
Today’s verse is Galatians 5:1.
So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.
The Book of Galatians was written by Paul to the Church at Galatia. The Church at Galatia had started to turn away from following Christ and believing in His sacrifice as what saved them, and instead they were returning to the Law. They were trusting in their own actions and in their rituals to save them instead of believing that Jesus had already done it. And that’s one of the reasons Paul wrote to them, to remind them who they were and to tell them that what they were doing was wrong.
As a distant, third-party observer to Scripture, it’s easy for me to stand back and criticize the Galatians, just as it’s easy to criticize the Israelites, for their poor choices. Whenever God would intervene in their lives and save them supernaturally, they would rejoice and turn back to Him for a season. But shortly afterward, they’d go back to living the way they always lived. Like nothing had happened at all.
But as much as I would like to think that Christians living now are different, our choices demonstrate that we’re just the same. And I’m not really talking about sin here, though. At least, not the sin that we think about. When I think about sin, I think about lying and stealing and cheating and immorality. But the sin that was going on in Galatia wasn’t any of that. The sin in Galatia was pride, turning back to religion, trusting their own righteousness instead of God’s.
Why are the shackles of religion so hard to escape? Why do we think we have anything to do with our own salvation? Why do we think we have to pay for any of it? Where does that come from?
When I have to pay my own debt, I hesitate before I go into debt again. Why? Because it’s hard work to pay my own debt. It’s grueling. But when someone else pays my accumulated debt for me? Well, there’s nothing I have to do. I don’t feel it. I don’t suffer or struggle. So it’s more difficult to avoid going into debt again. That’s the way it works for me, at least. I don’t know if it’s that same way with everyone.
The struggle with salvation is that I absolutely can’t pay my own debt. I have no way to pay for my own sins, and that’s why Jesus did it. He loves all of us enough that He didn’t want to be separated from us for eternity. Hell is the only way I could even begin to pay for my sins, but God doesn’t want that for anyone. That’s why He sent Jesus to make a way for us, to provide a choice for us.
But somehow, even though the choice between eternal suffering and Jesus is clear, people still choose to try to pay for their own sins through good works, through being a good person, through going to church and learning Scripture.
It’s like a slave who was set free running back to his master and requesting to be shackled up again to face a life of brutality and forced labor. Why does it make sense in the church when in “real life” people look at you like you’re an idiot?
So what does this mean today?
Pride is sneaky. It appears in so many forms, and it’s so difficult to fight sometimes. But if you’re trusting in anything other than Christ to save you, you’ve allowed yourself to be made a slave again.
Even if you already follow Jesus, if you think your church attendance or your Bible knowledge or your charity work makes you right with God, you’re telling God that Jesus didn’t need to die for you.
Even as a believer, I’m always tempted to try to prove to God that I’m worth His time. I want to show Him that I deserve His goodness. But in all honesty, I can’t. I can’t be good enough. I can do my best. I can try my hardest. But even on my best day, I’m not perfect, and that’s what I need to be good enough for God. And that’s beyond my capability. That’s why I have Christ.
So watch your step and listen carefully to what people in the church tell you about your salvation. Check everything against Scripture. Don’t just take it for granted that the people you’ve always listened to are telling you the truth. Check me. Check anyone who says they think they understand.
Salvation is free. And since it didn’t cost us anything, it’s easy to take for granted. So don’t. Remember what Christ did for us and leave the Law where it belongs, as a reminder that we’re not perfect.