For what purpose are we freed? Many times when the Gospel is discussed, the conversation surrounds what we are freed from. While this is crucial to understand, it seems that the discussion about what the Gospel frees us for can get overlooked. During Riccardo’s sermon on Titus 2:11-15, he talked about how the Gospel frees us from the bondage of sin, and many times we don’t live into the freedom it provides (i.e. what we are freed for). There are numerous reasons for this, but it seems that we forget the purpose of our freedom too easily.
There are two purposes and dimensions of our salvation: vertical and horizontal. Many times the vertical purposes of our freedom are emphasized, but the horizontal purposes are commonly overlooked. In the Gospel, God frees us from sin so we can be reconciled to Him in a relationship (vertical purpose), but He also frees us for mission (horizontal purpose). In our freedom, we are called to be a distinct community of people living out God’s creational intent so the world can see what it looks like to be truly human. Titus 2:14 explains that one of God’s purposes for our redemption is that we would be zealous for good works. This cuts to the heart of the horizontal purpose of our freedom, and our actions are evidence of our redemption. One of the primary ways we embody this horizontal dimension of the Gospel is through our interaction with others and the way we love our neighbors.
In his sermon, Riccardo said, “God accepts us as we are, but never leaves us as we are.” This is a powerful statement that thrusts into the heart of what God’s purposes are for His people. This statement specifically addresses Christian sanctification and the way God’s grace grows us once we become His people. When God’s grace intervenes in our lives, He gives us new hearts and desires and our affections change (2 Cor 5:17, Col 3:10). These new desires and affections are for the purpose of conforming us into the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). This means that God is not just interested in saving us, but also in transforming our lives to look more and more like Jesus’. For many of us, when we hear about receiving new hearts and desires, it might sound like we won’t sin anymore as Christians, but that isn’t the case. In Romans 6:11-12, the Apostle Paul says that we are dead to sin and alive to God, but he also acknowledges that the presence of sin still remains in the lives of Christians. Due to this, he tells us not to let sin reign in our bodies, but instead, we have to fight against the sinful desires of our flesh. Even though we won’t reach perfect sanctification (sinless) until we die, the power of sin has been broken by the resurrection, and sin can no longer defeat us.
The Holy Spirit empowers us to say no to sin and yes to godliness (Rom 8:13), but how often do we downplay the power of the Spirit? Romans 8:11 tells us that the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead lives inside of us as Christians, but when was the last time we meditated on this reality? It is imperative that we rely on the power of the Spirit and remember that there’s nothing God calls us to do that He doesn’t empower us for, because He has given us His Spirit. Thankfully, we are able to pursue godliness, because the Spirit is at work in us and enabling us to become more like Christ.
Are we being shaped for godliness or ungodliness? Even though sanctification happens because of God’s grace, we must realize that we have an active role in our growth. In order to be effective in our sanctification, it’s beneficial to examine our lives to see what kind of rituals or rhythms we currently have, because this will reveal the things that are shaping us. Since our lives are oriented by rhythms, we need to identify them in our lives, and we can ask ourselves some of these helpful questions as we seek to establish new rhythms that promote growth in Christ
- Are we pursuing things that grow our affections for God?
- What are the desires of our flesh that make us drift away from God?
- What are the things that deaden our affections for God?
- Are we engaged in Christian community where people are walking alongside us, encouraging us, and reminding us of the Gospel?
- How are our prayer lives? What do we pray for?
- Are we contemplating new and creative ways to be zealous for good works in our vocations, neighborhoods, communities, and cities?
- Are we living in a way that gives a foretaste of God’s kingdom to the people around us?
- Are we relying on our own strength or the power of the Spirit?
As we examine our lives, let’s pray that God would give us a distaste for our sin and grow our desire to be more like Jesus as we reorient our lives to have Him at the center.