Yesterday, I told you about my uber-religious elementary school teacher who instilled major fear in me and my fellow classmates. By reinforcing the idea that we should live with constant anxiety about going to hell so that we continually confess our sins, she introduced a toxic theology that was focused exclusively on what you can’t do. Unfortunately, she was not alone in her dogmatic and fear-based beliefs — such thinking has pervaded many sectors of the church for generations. The major problem with this kind of dogma is that it stifles our souls. When we’re constantly fixated on giving things up without having a greater reason, we become joyless and lackluster. If we need proof of this, we need only look at the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. Though they should have been full of life since they were in a relationship with the Living God, they seemed totally miserable. Because their sole focus was on adhering to the law, they lost sight of the vibrancy of faith, and many became critical and aloof. Similarly, I’ve seen churches today whose only vision is to obey rules. While they may say that their aim is to become holy and to live righteous lives (and these are both really good things), they fail to point people to the One who makes it all possible. When Jesus is at the center, His love prevails, and His desires, dreams, and good plans compel us to live rightly in response — for the sake of something greater!
My friend, you were born a sinner, and you needed a Savior. While to lose sight of this takes away from the power of the cross, to go on living every day in light of your failures takes away from the power of the resurrection. Because Jesus died once and for all and came to life again, you can embrace an existence of joy and freedom! You’ve been raised with Christ in triumphant power, so nothing in your past can hold you down any more. Refuse to let yourself be taken captive again by a yoke of slavery, and press on toward the upward call of God, who reigns lovingly over the universe while caring deeply for the sacred space of your heart.