Can Obedience Produce Freedom in Our Walk with Christ?
Perhaps the question we as Christians wrestle with most is “Does what I do matter if I’ve already been set free in Christ?”
How are we to live in light of Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” while also adhering to 1 Peter 1:14-15, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, …”?
If you’re like me, the comforting freedom of the Ephesians text quickly dissipates in light of the 1 Peter passage. How are we to take comfort in not having to do any one thing to earn a better standing with Christ while simultaneously striving for “holiness” in everything we do?
Surely, we won’t put this question to rest in just this one article, but I think we begin to find the answer by turning, also, to scripture. Psalm 119 celebrates God’s covenantal instruction for how Christians are to live. In other words, the psalmist essentially gives us a manual for how to live freely under the law.
Verses 15-16 say “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.” It might be difficult not to interpret this passage as legalistic or Sunday school(y), but I think if we step back we can see the true meaning. The intent is not to beat scripture into our heads so that we can then delight in passing a Bible verse quiz later (Sunday school). The hope is that we would be so moved and thankful for what we have been saved from, that we would become obsessed with knowing more about the one who saved us.
Like a young, novice musician seeks out instruction from a great piano teacher, so should our desires be for our walks with Christ. Like the young musician’s desire to learn all of the right notes, cultivate the same habits as his teacher, and experience the freedom of understanding and enjoying the music he is thus eventually able to play and hear, so should our longings be for experiencing freedom in Christ. Like the young musician must practice his craft so he niether falls back into mediocrity nor hinders becoming even more proficient, so should our striving to experience Christ be.
Think about it. Psalm 119 urges us to “meditate” on and then to “delight” in the Lord’s instruction, which implies that it should be refreshing and liberating. When was the last time you meditated for a legalistic reason? No, we meditate to rejuvenate our souls.
Lastly, I listened to a John Piper sermon on what it looks like to live in freedom while also being obedient to the Lord, and he gave a really helpful word picture. He describes what it’s like for someone to go skydiving. The skydiver, in order to survive, must both wear a parachute and listen and apply everything the skydiving instructor tells him to. Although the parachute is constraining and bulky and the instructor’s direction might seem monotonous, the skydiver knows that if he wants to keep skydiving, he must adhere to these instructions. It’s the instruction that leads to freedom. It’s the refusal to listen or the insistence on not wearing a parachute in order to temporarily feel freer that leads to death.
Scripture clearly shows us that it is natural to swing to both ends of the spectrum as to what it looks like to strive freely in Christ. But like Psalm 119 tells us, I’m going to do my best to meditate on and delight in his instruction, and choose to believe that obedience can produce freedom.