If Jesus came to set the captives free, then it seems that would end the restrictions. His death on the cross ended ritual sacrifices, but it seems that we’ve found a laundry list of ways to bind ourselves up over.
The Ultimate List
It doesn’t have to be this way, because Christ did free us from most of the Old Testament restrictions. In fact, He drilled down the list to eleven items: the ten commandments, and to love one another as He loved us. He never mentioned drinking, dancing, dining, or anything else. In fact, Jesus didn’t give us a “don’t do” list at all. He says heed what God passed down directly to Moses, and love. That’s it.
So why have we developed a restriction list to our faith that rivals the Old Testament ways that we’re supposed to be free of? I think it’s humans doing what they always do – overgeneralizing that if it’s a problem for me; it’s a problem for everybody. There are too many people with a “if I can’t have it then nobody can” attitude, and they’ve managed to wrap this fatalism around false faith.
What You Own; What Owns You
In the last chapter, I discussed finding your authentic self through surrendering your will to the Lord. If you recall, I closed by encouraging you to embrace what the Lord put in your Heart and to cast off worldly expectations. Now we get to identifying what’s wheat and what’s chaff.
It really comes down to a simple question: what do you own, and what owns you? Galatians 5:19-23 gives a good breakdown of what’s what and how to determine which side of the fence things fall on. Surrender helps you identify what you own; specifically, the combination of unique things that produce the fruit of the Spirit in your life and shine your light into the world. Anything that demonstrates love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control is something you own to spread light and life into the world. Conversely, anything done from motives of impurity, idolatry, hatred, discord, jealousy, rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, and envy own you, and is chaff that needs to be burned up. In fact, one good way to find truth of character is to see which of these traits people demonstrate more of. People walking in the Spirit demonstrate its fruits. People bound by the world don’t.
It seems quite simple and in reality it is, but as with all things, it comes with experience, prayer, and the prompting of the Holy Spirit. You really have to know yourself to sort out what’s wheat from what’s chaff, because most things start out with good intentions that go awry. The road to hell really is paved with good intentions, because that’s the way it usually goes: the devil finds something good in you, and turns it to his purpose because, well, that’s what he does. He can’t create, so he has to twist all good things to wrong. It’s the job or volunteer opportunity that leads to the pride that turns you into a controlling tyrant. It’s the friendship that leads to co-dependency. It’s “being there” for someone having a tough time that turns into an affair. It’s the helping hand that becomes intrusive. I think you get the picture. We have to be so careful and constantly monitor our motives to make sure they stay true.
Good enough, but how do you do that? I recently heard that the average human has over sixty thousand thoughts a day. Do we have to stop and analyze all of them? Thankfully, no. There is an easier way, and we’ve actually talked about it already in Chapter 1.
I believe the most overlooked virtue in humanity is discernment. The entire book of Proverbs extols all the good of wisdom, and it’s probably the most ignored book of The Bible, which is a shame because there’s no substitute for good, old-fashioned, common sense. I think it’s because our age of technology and reason has caused us to shut off our conscious and intuition in favor of the click of a mouse. Why think about it when you can look it up online? Why pray when you can post and have feedback in a few seconds? Who’s got time for that? It’s no wonder that people are addicted to their smartphones. We’ve turned them not into a surrogate brain, but a surrogate conscious as well.
Prayer and meditation may not be as fast or fashionable as a video or webpost, but it’s much more reliable and far more real. All that’s on the other end of that screen are human beings, with all of their flaws and weaknesses, and most of them don’t care to fix them because they’re pretty sure they’re right about everything and now they can tell the world that. For this reason, people will always let you down. Nobody’s perfect, and it’s unavoidable that at some point, people will fail. A personal relationship with the Lord and submitting yourself to Him is the only way to gain the wisdom you need to succeed in life and the peace that passes all understanding. Discernment is the Spirit’s gift of wisdom and understanding that helps you perceive and understand the world better, but you can only build it if you unplug from the world and plug into the Lord regularly. It’s not fast food. It’s an investment, and the more you put in, the more it returns.
Sometimes, the Lord does call you to give up something that’s harmful or doesn’t serve a greater good in your life. I experienced this recently when I felt strongly compelled to leave Facebook. I like social media as much as anybody else, but I had a nagging feeling that it wasn’t good for me. I was spending too much and personal investment in it, and that wasn’t helping me move toward my personal goal of welcoming more positive energy into my life. In fact, after three months of prayer and meditation, I suspected that it was actually sabatoging my progress in that area. I finally admitted that it was doing me more harm than good and deactivated my account. I immediately felt better, and since that time my mindset has improved drastically. I find that I spend more time writing and reading too, and that brings me more joy than rants about peoples’ day and pictures of their supper. I feel better than I have in a while.
Notice what I didn’t assume in the above paragraph. I didn’t say that social media is bad. In fact, I’m still on Twitter, have a website and blog running, and am on several other social websites, where I interact with others regularly. I don’t say that Facebook is bad and everybody should quit it. There’s nothing wrong with Facebook and if it’s a place that you find encouraging and helpful then by all means, knock yourself out. Just because it was bad for me doesn’t mean its bad for everybody, so please enjoy it if you like it. I just happen to prefer Twitter myself. It suits me better. Maybe it’s the introvert/extrovert thing.
One person’s virtue can be another person’s vice. The only “once size fits all” rules are the ten commandments and Christ’s encouragement to love one another. The bottom line: keep the commandments, act like a decent human being, and respect others. If you need a “don’t” on the list, then don’t be a jerk.
Sacrifice really comes down to knowing what’s best for us, and isn’t meant to be a burden. Quite the contrary, it’s meant to lift the burden so we can experience peace and joy in life. It’s really not rocket science or brain surgery, although some of us have managed to make it that way. Christ made it really simple but us being us, I guess we do have a way of complicating things.