“Is That a Sin?” How to Live in Freedom

 

Is That a Sin

Being a Christian, I’ve stumbled across oh-so-many blog posts, websites, questions, etc. asking, “Is such-and-such a sin?” or “Is it okay for Christians to __?” and “Should I do xyz?”

 

And honestly, I’ve wondered quite a few of these questions myself.

 

But I’m not here to tell you what’s right and wrong. I want to address what we’re really asking.

 

When we ask, “Is consuming secular media wrong for a Christian?” we are focusing on the bondage of legalism, not freedom.

 

When we try to contemplate, “Is depression a sin?” we focus on our own struggles as opposed to what’s already been done for us.

 

When we tell people, “You’re a Christian, you shouldn’t get tattoos,” we bind people to a law that they do not have to follow anymore.

 

And that’s not right.

 

I’ve heard arguments for all sides of controversial topics. And I’ve come to this conclusion:

 

We have freedom in Christ.

 

There is no commandment in the Bible that says, “Thou shalt not listen to pop music.” There is no verse that says, “You are unforgivable if you are ever depressed.” There is no passage that warns us, “Marking up your body with permanent ink-art will make you forfeit your salvation.”

 

Because you know what? We’re free from the bondage of the law. We’re free from condemnation. We have a new nature inside of us. Asking questions about the specifics of what sin is or is not really do not profit us.

 

Our sins have been totally, 100% forgiven. There is no way that we can will ourselves out of sinning enough to attain perfection. Heck no. Salvation is forgiveness by believing, and then an internal transformation – our desires change, our attitudes change, and our actions will change.

 

No longer will we want to know how much we can get away with (though I know that does creep up on us at times), but we will ask the question, “how much can we live for God?” And I don’t mean out of compulsion, I mean out of joy.

 

We shouldn’t spend hours puzzling over what is a sin and what’s okay to do. If it’s not a sin, cool. But if it is, well, it’s forgiven. That might seem like a terrible way to put it, but read these verses.

 

Galatians 5:1 says this:

 

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

 

So the point isn’t for us to say, “Hey! We’re free! We can do whatever we want!” but to live according to our new nature.

 

Romans 8:1-4

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.”

 

Our sin nature doesn’t have to control us anymore. This is what it’s saying. We were slaves to sin, but now we are free from falling into those traps of condemnation. Now we can live life fully – not go back to that slavery of sinful patterns that we were rescued from, but living lives pleasing to God.

 

Galatians 5:13 says later,

 

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

 

We have been called to freedom. This means that God does not punish us for our deeds that we do now. We’re all going to struggle with something here on earth, because we’re undeniably human. But we can’t let our struggles take advantage of us, because God is greater than those struggles.

 

Going back to the string of questions we all ask, every Christian wants to know what’s okay to do and what’s not okay. I totally understand that, because the Bible’s not totally clear on those gray areas. But that’s why they are called gray areas.

 

We can’t focus on the what’s-a-sin-am-I-doing-this-wrong aspect of the Christian life. Like my Dad says, “If you’re looking for dirt in the ground, just dig deep and you will definitely find it.” If you’re trying to convict yourself of sin and you look hard enough, you will find it. And dirt ain’t pretty.

 

So you know what we do? We don’t abide by a list of “Christian Rules” in order to try to be perfect. Jesus is our holiness. And so we pursue the understanding of His incredible grace, and out of that flows grateful love and a life pleasing to God.

 

I’m not saying we can’t use common sense to try to figure out what we should and should not do for our own benefit. I’m not saying we shouldn’t look to the Bible for wisdom. But what I am saying is that we shouldn’t stress so much over trying not to sin, because we are free in Christ. And if we seek God in our freedom, wanting to live out His will for us, He will reveal it to us and empower us to carry it out.

 

*aj

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Joy in the Mundane

Joy in the Mundane

I know I’ve been focusing a lot on the topic of joy recently.

You would think that I’d be a joyful person all the time (hello, joy is part of my name!) but honestly, I’m not.

(Perhaps I’m simply rehashing everything I’ve been saying for the past couple of weeks. Sometimes, I just need to write things that teach me, because I’m far from perfect or complete!)

A few days ago, I got into a terrible funk where I was moody and depressed for a few hours. Why? I have no idea why. I wrote in my journal to get out of it, and realized that no part of my writing had anything to do with joy in it.

But wait, we don’t have to be happy all the time, do we?

No. Nowhere does it say that we have to be happy all the time. Why? Because happiness is dependent on circumstances – and circumstances are never 100% perfect.

True to my blog’s name, I’m going to share a journal page snippet with all of you.

“Wow, I just read what I wrote earlier. It sounds so dark and hopeless. But it’s not. If I can’t find joy in the mundane, I’m making my joy circumstantial. A horrible decision, really. Life is really okay. Even when it doesn’t feel like it. My joy should come from Jesus, and not from accomplishments or possessions or circumstances. No, it’s never easy or pain-free. But I will make it through. For this isn’t the end.”

Joy is always possible because hope is always always available.

 

I started to get fed up with my mundane life in which I do practically the same exact thing every single day. I wake up, I do school, I go to karate (or at least practice it), I read and/or watch TV, I write, I go to bed. EVERY SINGLE DAY. (Maybe a little exaggeration there, but I think you get the point.)

I veer toward the side of believing that joy comes from great things that God gives us. Like: opportunities. books. money. friends. freedom.

Joy isn’t happiness. Joy is a life choice and lifestyle. I recently read an amazing blog post about marriage and it talked about making the mundane and ordinary days just as wonderful as the particularly romantic parts. It struck a chord with me, because I often forget that same concept in my daily life.

For me at least, I tend to find “joy” when things go my way, or I’m happy. But that’s not joy.

Joy comes from hope.

Hope is knowing that I’m never alone.

It comes from gratitude.

I am so thankful for my salvation because I am so undeserving of it.

I have joy because I am blessed down to my soul. I am loved and treasured and I belong to my Creator.

This has nothing to do with happiness, because it’s an attitude.

I still have my days where I feel like I’m in darkness, but we all do. It’s absolutely impossible to be always happy.

But we can always put on the attitude of joy. Joy is substantial because its foundation is on hope. This hope isn’t wishful thinking, but assurance.

Hebrews 11:1

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

When life is mundane and difficult, joy is possible because we have assurance that faith in God – the only solid foundation – will never fail us. Our souls are saved and secure. We are loved. We were bought with a high price. We are new creations.

Life is hard. Yeah.

But it isn’t the end, nor should we let it be.

Joy is beautiful. Joy is possible, even when it’s impossible to be happy. Joy is amazing, because no matter what, we can find it because of what Jesus has done for us.

That’s where we find joy.

*aj

Truth From The Psalms

Truth From The Psalms

I love the book of Psalms.

I started reading this book once again on September 1st, and I’ve been doing 3 chapters a day since then. I love to read my Bible in the mornings, because it starts my day off with fresh perspective.

Psalms is honest. When everyone around us makes us feel like we have to be “fine,” we read in the Bible that we don’t have to pretend to be. Feelings are real. Depression is real. Tragedy is real. Despair is real.

And the more I read, the more I realize something.

Being a Christian doesn’t mean that life will be easy, painless, or safe. What it does mean, is that God is with us through the good times and the bad. Hardship will come, but God will be with us through it.

Psalm 34:7-18

“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

When I read the book of Psalms, I am reminded of a few things.

Feelings are real.

Psalm 43:5

“Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

my salvation and my God.”

 

Stress, depression, and despair are real. There is absolutely NO denying that. God gave us emotions, and we live in a broken, fallen world. It’s good to feel. At the same time, it’s painful. Emotions shift, life changes, things are unsteady. But there is one thing that does not change.

God’s truth does not change because He does not change.

 

Psalm 9:9

“The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”

 

We can spend time in the Bible and read His truth. We can meditate on His word and learn that He never leaves us. We find out that He is the only one that can satisfy us, and He is the only one that can save us. We know that in spite of our sin, God forgives us and calls us holy. He has saved our souls, which is reason to rejoice.

We don’t need to be consumed by darkness in our lives.

 

Psalm 139:12

“Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”

 

Psalm 30:5

“For his anger is but for a moment,

and his favor is for a lifetime.

Weeping may tarry for the night,

but joy comes with the morning.”

Psalm 23:4

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

 

God is greater than the darkness. God is more powerful than tragedy. God lavishes us with love and grace and mercy, and we needn’t worry.

Our lives are in His hands. Tough things will come upon us, but God is always worthy of our trust.

I encourage all of you to take some time this week and read some Psalms. There are so many truths in there that bring comfort to my soul, and so many that push me to keep on going.

*aj