recall seasons throughout my life where I found myself operating under a self-created law. I must be sizing up to these guidelines, partaking in these disciplines, keeping up my life in these ways.
When those condemning laws were broken by my inabilities to perform adequately, I felt distant from God and disconnected from the person I felt I was supposed to be. I would try and uplift myself through various forms of spiritual disciplines, ascertaining that this
would do the trick. Yet time and time again, I found myself feeling puny, lacking the heart strength to break from the cage I kept creating. And the mind strength I was hoping to muster and classify as communion with God was devoid of his sweet nearness. Loneliness crept in while I was externally seeming to be keeping the rules just fine.
Yet such rigidness is not the way we have learned Christ.
"I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!" Psalm 119:32
I've read through the greatest chapter in the Bible about the Bible
many times in my life, yet it was not until this last year as I was preparing for a moms' bible study that God caused a pause in me over this verse. God used the footnote for this verse in my Bible to prick my heart and turn from legalism through the work of the Spirit. "When you enlarge my heart" is likened to the phrase "for you set my heart free."
Freedom is found in Christ alone. Not the cages we construct for ourselves.
When God enlarges our hearts through the realities of the gospel, our hearts are expanded and we can run with freedom, even as our days are guided by much needed routines.
Early motherhood is especially hard and demanding. We must operate within some type of schedule or our hearts and homes are muddied and marked by inconsistency and confusion. Order is good. However our order can give way to legalistic, robotic ways in our hearts. We are plugging along doing, doing, doing and being still seems non-existent. Yet our circumstances don't guide our freedom. Our position in Christ does.
Paul's epistle to the Church in Galatia speaks with frankness to one underlying issue–a life or death issue. You believe in the one true gospel of Christ's finished work on the cross or you believe in another gospel which adds to Christ's work, equaling no gospel at all. One or the other. There is no in between.
As one who naturally tends to legalism rather than licentiousness, I can easily cage my heart. I can feel confident in my actions towards my husband and children, but most glad to be doing what I am certain I should be doing for the Lord. The accomplishments of our physical bodies, even as good as they may be, can cage us if we are not running by a God-enlarged, free heart.
The cage of list keeping has been lifted from us, and we are free in Christ. Not free to libertinism, believing we have the ability to sin because grace will abound, or toward legalism, believing our salvation and sanctification is wrought in our own merit.
You see, our freedom isn't some cause or reason to do or not to do. Our freedom in Christ is based on the perfect work of Another. But how can we be certain we aren't bound to some form of law-keeping?
The Bible is clear that "the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). This doesn't classify the Mosaic law as hogwash to us. It is giving us a clear and necessary view at redemptive history. The law diagnostically serves to pinpoint our depravity while highlighting God's holiness. We can cherish the law of Moses, considering God's kindness to reveal Israel's inabilities and His consistent blamelessness. Yet what we have in Christ is the final revelation of God's grace and truth (ESV Study Bible). We see the law described as a guardian "until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith" (Gal. 3:24). So we see it as biblically accurate that the law was put into place to reveal our desperate need of salvation in Jesus Christ–our freeing Savior from the law (Gal. 3:19).
So what can we make then of this freedom? What truly sets us free?
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." Romans 8:1-4
The law of the Spirit of Life has set us free in Christ Jesus. Marvel in that reality!
So we don't have to be hidden in our man-made cages anymore. We can run freely in the Lord's commands through the perfect work of Christ and no merit of our own. What beautiful freedom! We can find all the identity we need in Jesus Christ alone–our law-abiding savior and reconciler.
May we be women that are bound to fiercely hoping in God and focusing rather on the hidden person of the heart with such adorning that is not worthy of this world because it is wrapped up in the righteousness of Another. Caged by Adam through the fall and freed by Christ through his glorious death of deaths and resurrection from the dead, we are free indeed.
By Melissa Dennis
Originally published in Be Still Magazine, Issue 3.