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Breaking Religious Bondage

Bad religion causes more bondage than freedom. Many religious people violate their own principles in countless ways, often through illicit affairs, white color crime, stealing, or other sins. Perhaps you know someone who has done that. Perhaps you have. 

Religion means, “To bind together”. Its shared values knit individuals into a community. Problems occur when Christians misunderstand the law. It then becomes the ‘law of sin and death’, binding us to our worst habits. 

God is all about freedom, not bondage. When Jesus sets us free we are free indeed. But the freedom He came to give us isn’t license, it’s real freedom; freedom from our grossest habits; freedom to manifest loving kindness, grace and compassion; freedom to resist the evil that destroys us, make the world a better place and truly bring glory to God.  

We see both bondage and glorious freedom in biblical characters that reveal our human condition, showing us unblushing stories of the contradictions of great saints and sinners. David the adulterer and murderer remained a man after God’s own heart to the very end. Solomon, man of 1,000 women, authored the world’s greatest wisdom literature. In a Shakespearean twist of irony, God praised the harlot Rahab for her faithfulness. Peter the coward swore, lied, denied Jesus then ran away, only to become the solid Rock of upon which Christ built his church.  

But no one helps us understand our depravity more than the Apostle Paul does. His struggle with what he called his besetting sins so plagued him that he pondered if he would save others only to condemn himself. He contended with covetousness - something no one dare preach about today - but he also confessed his quandary with illicit lust. No wonder Paul asked, “Who is there to rescue me from this body doomed to death?” Who can’t relate? Like him, many of us have fallen from grace and we can’t get up. 

Paul well understood the perils of perfectionism. He learned that the tighter we pull in the reins the more our carnal instincts rebel. He knew that the letter of the law kills, but the spirit gives life. Our spirit is indeed willing, our flesh pathetically weak.  

Thank God, Paul shared his struggles with us. His book of Galatians is a victorious treatise on personal freedom. He taught that the law is our tutor, teaching us about our weakness, convincing us we can never save ourselves. A tutor teaches us what we need to know. In this case, the law as our spiritual tutor teaches us who we need to know: Jesus. No one else empowers us to conquer our self destructive sins.  Ultimately, the only way out of our indentured servitude to sin is the One who is the Way. We fail again and again until we finally get it: apart from Christ we can do nothing. 

When I first gave my life to Christ, I enjoyed a euphoric sense of love, acceptance and freedom unlike any I had never known. It wilted under the withering heat of guilt-laced sermons that underscored my personal wormnosity. Well meaning messages fostered a worse bondage than the one I left. Mine was a noisy desperation. That’s why Paul fought the Judaizers who required Christians to keep the law. 

Fortunately there’s a way out. When I reconnect with God’s goodness, compassion and mercy - as I receive ‘the grace that must be sought again and again’ - then and only then have I ever been able to improve. Certain scriptures help. Try meditating on this one: “The strength of sin is the law” (I Corinthians 15:56b). And, “Sin shall not have dominion over you because you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). Consider this:  “The law is not for the righteous but for lawless” (I Timothy 1:9). 

In Galatians 5, Paul said if we walk in the Spirit we won’t fulfill the lusts of our flesh. (Notice, he doesn’t say we won’t have those lusts.) He says if we follow the Spirit, we aren’t “under the law”, because the Spirit leads us into paths of love, peace, kindness, grace and joy. And while we’re planted there we don’t even want to visit the baser places of our soul. Thus, the ultimate freedom from religious bondage is finally ours, if only we can forget the nagging voice of our accuser long enough to hang on to it.  

Ultimately, Christianity is more about what we do than what we don’t do. When we obey Jesus’ laws of love, He abides with us. And as our soul drinks in the sweet water of His delicious Spirit, we no longer crave the septic sin samplers Satan offers us. We realize we were created for love, joy peace, patience, gentleness and self-control. No one can legislate these. And nothing less can quench our thirsty spirit.


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