Recently I’ve been so caught up in scripture. Reading it, I feel like a brand new Christian experiencing the Word of God for the first time.
Today, I worked my way through Galatians. Finding myself shocked by Paul’s admonishing of Peter and sharp words against other Jews like Barnabas. And also finding myself again, a little grateful, for Paul’s willingness to speak up on behalf of those who are being persecuted - even by those who have been teaching them freedom in Christ.
As I continue to experience the freedom of Christ both in reading the scriptures and the Holy Spirit’s altering of my heart afterwards, I’m beginning to see the Church a little bit differently. Right now, I work and worship in the Reformed Church in America. Our denomination has been declining for 50 plus years. And it’s no secret that young people are fleeing the church in masses.
This morning, the reason for this decline became clear to me for the first time. It’s not that young people are trying to leave Christ. It’s that they’re leaving the Church because all it has ever offered them is mixed messaging. It is the very circumstance that the Galatians experienced as they converted to Christ followers. At a young age, we inherited a spirituality that articulated the importance of Jesus Christ for salvation. We did not inherit an articulated gospel that was relevant for today. We were told the rules didn’t matter, yet the only way our good reformed brothers and sisters could articulate their faith was through a series of “do this” and “don’t do that.” Essentially, it was a contradictory gospel, that established a moralistic posture - it is a bounded gospel.
Yet what does Paul say? Paul, using the examples of Sarah and Hagar, explains that the gospel is about freedom. It’s not about taking matters into our own hands. Instead, it’s about experiencing Christ. Because as Paul writes, “so Christ has truly set us free.”
How does this impact our faith today?
What this means, truly, is that for us to continue growing up in the faith, for us to continue to grow up Christ’s church we must do as scripture tells us later, “dwell richly in Christ.” We must abide in Christ. We must articulate our faith in this way. Creating contradiction to the old narratives, that old way of doing things - dependance on law. Instead, our faith as believers in the person and the work of Jesus Christ - is dependent on our time spent reading God’s Word so that we might hear God’s voice more clearly. Our faith today, is dependent upon listening for the voice of the Holy Spirit - not in a legalistic way of because you have to. But instead, because we long to. Because we know that as believers, as we continue to understand the root of sin, our slavery to work, our slavery to protecting ourselves, our slavery to hiding, our slavery to success, the only way to truly experience freedom - the only way we will ever truly catch our breath in this life - is if we’re abiding in God. Is if we’re making the space to breathe in God’s presence and breathe out the captures that try to bind us to something other than the freedom of Jesus.
Written by Anna Radcliffe