Slap on the handcuffs?

Slap on the handcuffs?
Restraint is everywhere.  In an attempt to provide an orderly society, our government – local, state, and federal – keeps on writing rules and laws.  The regulatory burden for the average American is crushing. Just try building something in New Jersey; or worse, try opening your own business. You will be forced to spend thousands of dollars just to satisfy multiple agencies of the government.  The result of this growth of regulation does not change us for the better. In fact, it may actually accelerate criminalization by breaking down the sense of responsibility to regulate our own behaviors.  America has a higher percentage of its people behind bars than any other developed nation in the world!  One out of every 31 adults in our nation is either in prison or on probation! 
The impulse to regulate and control flows into the Church with a terrible and tragic result – religion replacing relationship. It’s as old as our faith. Legalism, attempting to create right standing with God by keeping rules, showed up among the first generation Christians.  With strongest language, they were pointed back to the Cross and the grace of God. “What magician has cast an evil spell on you? For you used to see the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death as clearly as though I had shown you a signboard with a picture of Christ dying on the cross.  Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by keeping the law? Of course not, for the Holy Spirit came upon you only after you believed the message you heard about Christ.  Have you lost your senses? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?”  (Galations 3 NLT) Does that passage describe your life?
Over and over, the Bible – both Old Testament and New – tells us of the insufficiency of our own efforts to make us acceptable to a perfect and holy God.  God, the Holy Spirit, moves on us, works in us, and transforms us when we respond with faith to Him. Romans 8 is an amazing chapter about the death of the sinful nature and the life of the Spirit. Christ erases our guilty sense of condemnation and brings us near our Abba’s heart. There we gain the strength to reject temptation and live ‘in the Spirit’ which brings us life. There is no ambiguity about the wonder of this new life. “My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day.” (Galatians 5:16-17, The Message)
Too often we mistakenly reverse the order- focusing first on regulating our behaviors and eliminating even temptations. We try very hard to slap the handcuffs on our sinful nature, thinking that only then will we experience the Spirit’s life. God says, “Love me first. Just focus on my Presence. Receive my gift of life by coming to me just as you are.”   And He says,  “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26, NIV)
This impulse for regulation leads many Christians to experience a spiritual life that is akin to incarceration! They are not joyful, free, and productive children of God. They are stressed out, highly controlled, prisoners of themselves. Religion takes over and destroys the promise of God.  The Word says that “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. … by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.” (Galatians 5:5, NIV)  Have you submitted yourself to religion, replacing a passionate pursuit of God Himself with empty forms or human regulations?  If so, this question is for you:  “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:7, NIV)
Habakkuk was shown the principle long ago:  the righteous will live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4, NIV) The glory of the faith bursts from this passage. Take it to heart today. Throw away the handcuffs and raise those hands to the One who gives real freedom to live a holy life by His Spirit. “But now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight—not by obeying the law but by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago. We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins.” (Romans 3:21-24, NLT)
The Power Of Your Love
Lord, I come to You;
Let my heart be changed, renewed-
Flowing from the grace
That I found in You.
And, Lord, I’ve come to know
The weaknesses I see in me
Will be stripped away
By the pow’r of Your love!
Lord, unveil my eyes,
Let me see You face to face;
The knowledge of Your love
As You live in me.
Lord, renew my mind
As Your will unfolds in my life,
In living ev’ry day
By the pow’r of Your love!
Hold me close.
Let Your love surround me.
Bring me near.
Draw me to Your side.
And as I wait
I’ll rise up like the eagle,
And I will soar with You,
Your Spirit leads me on
In the pow’r of Your love!
Geoff Bullock
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Maranatha! Music (Admin. by Maranatha! Music)
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