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Obedient But Free

An Old Testament saint (presumably David) verbalized an attitude in Psalm 40:8 that characterized Jesus and ought to characterize every Christian — "I delight to do Your will, 0 my God, And Your law is within my heart." Does doing God's will and fleshing out His law bring delight to you? Does seeking to be holy make you happy? Do you look forward to worship assemblies and the God-ordained activities that take place in them? Do you give cheerfully to the Lord's work, or do you give only to escape a sense of guilt? Do you strive to keep a godly attitude and do right by your mate and others because you feel God forces you to, or because you feel free to? In short, is your religion a blessing or a burden, something you enjoy or something you endure? Has it set you free to do God's will, or does it feel like a chain holding you back from (sinful) things you really would love to do, but dare not do? The Bible writer James challenges our thinking about this: "he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does." That sentence runs counter to the way the world (and even some believers in Jesus) thinks about and views God's word. Many think of liberty as freedom from or even absence of law. Americans largely view law as a hindrance to liberty. Yet James insists God's law is perfect and that being bound by it gives liberty. How can that be? Commentator Alfred Plummer said something helpful about this: ". . .if not seen in the beauty of its perfection, it is not loved and men either disobey or obey it only by constraint and unwillingly and so it becomes a law of bondage. But to be free is to do what one likes to do, desires to do — and when men recognize the perfection of God's Word they long to conform to it, not because they must but because they choose to do so" (commentary @ preceptaustin.org). Those who know and love God like to obey what He says to do! If we love God, moral laws contained in the Gospel become "laws of liberty" —not by imposing fewer obligations or releasing us from moral responsibility, but by infusing into the hearts of those who welcome it a disposition and desire to obey. As John wrote, "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3).

An old story tells that on a Saturday night a Christian widow and mother, busy with household chores, asked her 7-year-old son to clean and polish her shoes. He worked hard and then brought her the shoes. She was so pleased she rewarded him with a new, shiny dime. The next morning, as the mother put the shoes on to go to church, she felt a lump in the left shoe. Taking it off she found the dime wrapped in paper. Written on the paper, in her son's childish scrawl, were the simple words, "I done it for love." Thomas 0. Chisholm said it beautifully: "Buried with Christ, my blessed Redeemer, Dead to the old life of folly and sin; Satan may call, the world may entreat me, There is no voice that answers within. Dead to the world, to voices that call me, Living anew, obedient but free; Dead to the joys that once did enthrall me - Yet 'tis not I, Christ liveth in me" (1st vs and chorus "Buried With Christ"; 1935). Obedient but free - praise God! "But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness" (Romans 6:17-18).

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ