When we decide to follow Jesus, life is no longer about our liberties. It is about our responsibilities to Him. It is not about our cans. It is about our want-tos. And in that healthy relationship with Jesus, liberties live at peace with convictions; there is no constant war — we are still doing what we want. Our wants are just different.
As representatives of the Holy, anything that makes people question His ability to change us and clean us up is a liberty with too high a price tag because the result could be an eternal lost soul. Tarnishing God’s good name happens quickly. It’s not about loving Jesus and cussing a little, though words are one of the most powerful symptoms of the heart. The issue is how we’ve become a Christian culture no longer shocked by our own casual acceptance of the world’s ideas. Maybe the most radical move of God in us is when we become offended by our lack of offense — grieved by our continued violations of the Word without so much as a blinked eye. May even this chapter alert and awaken us to our passive attitude toward holiness. And may it move us, me at the front of the line, to see that freedom within the bounds of holiness is the true freedom we need.
Holiness feels rigid and unrelenting only when we are in an active state of compromise, self- focus, or rebellion. It feels legalistic only to a self-centered heart. If only we knew and could see how our Jesus-over everything daily choice of holiness over freedom saves us from unnecessary heartache. It’s as Charles Spurgeon once said, “If young men knew the price of sin, even in this life, they would not be so keen to purchase pleasurable moments at the price of painful years!”1
When I was in my first year of college, in a state of overindulgence and thinking I knew it all, I hated my school’s rules. I’m a rebel at heart, then and still to this day in some ways, but it went beyond that — my heart rejected being bridled. But when I came clean and brought myself under full and right submission to Jesus that following year, I transferred to a school that had even more rules, and I embraced every single one without thought or question. It wasn’t that my personality changed — I was still very much rule-testing me, but Jesus was over me and I was ready for a spiritually submitted lifestyle.
Rest assured, there will be times in our lives when we will want to choose our freedom over holy living and our flesh will battle the issue to death. I still struggle with the wild, bucking bronco of will, all the time. It is in our nature to desire to have our freedom and be holy simultaneously and in that order, but in that order it will never work. Holiness brings freedom; it does not act as its pal and tag or follow along. It dictates a spiritual freedom that feels far less like I have the right to do whatever I want and much more like I’m so free in the Spirit, I turn some of my earthly freedoms down. That’s the miracle of life in the right order. Jesus first in all areas brings a health that supersedes humanity. With Him, we truly do live an otherworldly life down here.
If your life feels complicated right now, ask yourself (1) if you’ve chosen freedom over holiness (remember: just because you can doesn’t mean you should) and (2) if you’re trying to hold on to both worlds and love Jesus but do something else apart from Him a little bit too. Compromise leads to complication. When we grow weary enough of the complications of our life, we will do whatever it takes to declutter our hearts. Some of us have thrown out piles of clothes from our drawers that didn’t bring us joy. Now it’s time to turn to the inside and see what’s in there that we bought that has now drained us. It’s got to go too.
You may be wondering what cleaning up will require — how you even go about making the choice of holiness over freedom from this point on. Reading 1 John 2:15-17 as a reminder of what all this is really about is a good start:
Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.
We are free to do what we want with so few boundaries in this day and time, yet this temporary life will come to an end, and the reality of eternity will be ours. We can give our lives away to the freedoms here, or we can give our lives away to Jesus, choosing Him and enjoying the far greater benefits of right living. It will take prayer, immersing ourselves in the Word, and dying to our wants and self- focus every day — the tried-and true, never-changing disciplines of our faith — to choose the holy path. It will require us to take an honest look at what the freedoms that don’t make us more holy have cost us, even if only in wasted time that doesn’t make us more like Christ. It is a choice only we can make for ourselves, every single day, that will determine how well we live and how far we take our relationship with God.
Because if Jesus is going to be over everything, He’s going to have to be over all things.
Yes, even the things our freedom allows.
- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Moab Is My Wash Pot,” Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit 16, no. 983 (1870), sermons in Modern English.
Excerpted with permission from Jesus Over Everything by Lisa Whittle, copyright Lisa Whittle.
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Freedom is the ultimate prize for a life of honesty. Hiding keeps you from peace, hope, joy and real life. But honesty ushers in the freedom to live the Jesus-over-everything kind of life. So let’s get honest together. Name and share one thing that makes your life feel not-so-pretty right now. Now think of one area you feel compelled to come clean about, trusting God to be there as you let go of it. Come share on our blog!
Join Lisa for an Online Bible Study during the upcoming Advent season!