The Mission of Our Savior

The Mission of Our Savior

The Mission of Our Savior

In the book of Luke, we read a number of interesting experiences Jesus had during His ministry. In one particular account, Jesus returned to His hometown of Nazareth. On the day of the Sabbath, he went into the synagogue, and as he stood up to read, the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were stuck on him. He began by saying to them: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing (Luke 4: 16-21).” The passage above tells the mission of Jesus in His own words: He wants to free us.

What is fascinating, however, is the account that directly precedes this story in chapter four. Full of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was led into the wilderness, where Satan tempted Him for forty days and forty nights. During this period, he ate no food and was tested by the devil many times. Satan tempted Jesus with food; showed Him a vision of all the kingdoms of the world and offered them up to Him; and even quoted scripture to try and confuse Him. But Jesus resisted the evil one and eventually, Satan left (Luke 4: 1-13).

It’s important to understand that our Savior was tested in many of the same ways we are also tempted in our lives. One of the most amazing aspects of our God is that He actually became a man and experienced the temptation of sin. He didn’t passively sit on His Heavenly throne (although He could have if He wanted) while judging our every mistake. He is and was not simply a “spiritual” being; he was also a man, a descendent from the line of David (see: Romans 1: 2-4). So when we consider what it means to be “free” we need to begin by examining the actual experience of our Lord.

In this chapter, we’ll consider what “freedom” means, the types of bondage to which we are subjected (especially the subjection to rules), and how Jesus frees us from all bondage. In this light, we will consider some common mistakes made in the field of psychology and see how we can integrate a Biblical view of man into effective methods of modern psychology. My hope is that we will be able to identify exactly how we can, as Christians living in the modern world, take “the gold and silver of the Egyptians”  [1] and use them for the glory of God in service to the mission of Jesus.

New Creations in and through Christ

The second verse from Galatians in the beginning of this chapter reminds us that as a result of our faith in Christ, we are to become new creations in Christ. Through Christ, we are no longer slaves to the laws of the old covenant, we are dead to sin. Jesus’ death and resurrection provides the ultimate sacrifice that forever atones for our sins, and with that comes a new covenant with the understanding that our salvation is based not on works, but grace alone. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8; see also Romans 3:28).

When Paul told the church in Corinth to look to Christ for allegiance, he was not telling them to abandon their traditions and values; rather, they should see the greater truth of Christ’s work on the cross to reconcile their conflicts between Jewish law and the new covenant of grace.

Christ brought us freedom through the blood He shed in His crucifixion. God the Father, even before the creation of Adam, knew that man would forever be running away from Him in a cycle of sin that could only be reconciled through a sacrificial offering of blood. Because of this, man, even at his best, became obsessed with the details of the law, not with pleasing His creator.

The Jews knew that without the shedding of blood there was no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22). But over the course of time, they mistook the rituals of the old covenant for what the covenant signified. They were worried about the obligation to atone for sin by performing an endless serious of rituals.  [1] While the law was meant to guide the Jewish people into a right and holy relationship with Yahweh, it instead became an idol, a means to temporarily right themselves in the presence of a holy God.

Instead of embracing His love, the law created distance for the Jewish people. Fidelity to the law became a burden: even the holiest of Rabbis and High Priests had to dedicate themselves to endless hours of studying the Torah to avoid sin. Tragically, the law God created to justify and redeem the Jewish people was the very code that enslaved them.

Unfortunately, we can see that this obsession to remain sinless may lead to a certain amount of scrupulosity that actually draws God’s people away from Him and into their own efforts to maintain perfection. We can still see this today with those who pursue legalism and religion. Rather than focus on a relationship with God, their focus is placed on ritual, perfection, and a list of rules to maintain. This type of religious codependence provides a certain amount of safety, but is actually contrary to the relationship God desires with us; and it’s based not on His love, but our fear.

If we focus on our performance, we actually put ourselves on the level of God in an effort to be as holy and blameless as He. God knew that His people were falling away from Him despite their scrupulous attention to the law, so He sent Isaiah to warn His chosen people. “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6). Truly, we could never even come close, even on our best day, to the holiness of God and what He would require of us to earn salvation through our human efforts. The answer was for God to send one final blood sacrifice to forever atone for our sin. 

The only requirement is for us to believe in Christ and His sacrifice on the cross in order for reconciliation to occur. “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood--to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:25) When we invite Jesus into our heart to dwell, the veil that sets us apart from the Father is torn and we can receive in Him all that we need for life and Godliness “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3) It is only through a relationship with Him that God reconciles us and provides what our hearts desperately seek – a spiritual intimacy that is incomprehensible and full of beauty, such that our souls cannot find in any earthy treasure. 

Through this reconciliation, Christ in us births a new creation: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) We are no longer enslaved to the law; rather, we are filled with the Holy Spirit and through grace our sins are forgiven. We are made right before our Creator. Through this grace and love from our Father, we are free from the grip of sin, and out of a heart of abundance come good works. (Luke 6:45)

[1] A reference is made to the account in Exodus 12:35 of God instructing Moses to take gold and silver from the captors of Israel as they fled the hands of their captors. They were not told to leave Egypt empty-handed. From this Bible narrative, we see that God does not want us to completely ignore the accomplishments of the people who deny Him, but use what we may find good about those accomplishments to further the work of God.

[2] For a thorough list of rituals and laws of the Jewish people, see the books of Exodus and Leviticus.

Perfect love casts out fear

Imagine someone provided you a fire pit, a generous supply of wood, paper and matches, and other instruments to start and keep a fire going, along with a basic set of instructions on how to maintain the fire: Don’t put water on the fire; Keep the wood dry; Crumble and place the paper between the logs when lighting; Place the wood in a triangle/diamond position with enough oxygen to flow in between the logs. At the end of night, make sure to separate the logs and extinguish the fire for safety. Now, let’s alter the scenario and imagine this person was coming from a place of scrupulosity and fear.

Along with the basic guidelines of fire lighting and safety, they also provide an extended list of one hundred regulations and suggestions to maximize your fire and maintain perfect log burning and fire safety. Not only that, they show up while you are trying to light the fire, shout instructions at you, and then continue to anxiously remind you throughout the night how to keep the fire burning while making you nervous whenever it’s time to add another log.

At the end of the night, they list a series of regulations and code required by the local authorities in order to properly extinguish the fire and supervise you while these essential procedures are performed. Sound exhausting? Because this person was coming from a place of fear, they essentially took all the joy away from the experience of the fire, and you allowed it! When the rules were imposed in fear, the fire became something not to lose or get wrong, rather than something to experience and enjoy.

When we act from a negative intention, problems arise. That is, when we try not to do the wrong thing. However, when we look to our Source to fill us up, and out of that fullness, allow ourselves to naturally choose what is right, our heart is transformed. When we choose to connect to the source of love, there is no room for fear (1 John 4:18).

God loves us so much that he provides everything we need in life to fulfill our needs. In fact, Jesus speaks of bringing us this fullness: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). However, when we concentrate on our sinful behavior, flesh patterns, and imperfections, we take our attention and devotion away from the Lord and away from the dynamic relationship we could have with Him. Because our intention is not positive, we allow the evil one to enter and destroy.

By seeking Him, we experience the indescribable grace, mercy, and enlightenment that allows us to pursue the truth that sets us free from the power of sin: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32). Therefore, to obsess over our sins is not only unproductive; it’s also ungodly. It diminishes the saving grace God has provided us to atone for our sins. But does that mean we should continue to sin, just because we have grace?

In the book of Romans, Paul addresses this question: “Shall we go on sinning that grace may increase?” (Romans 6:1)? Certainly not! Therefore, there must be some way of ascertaining God’s truth, or ideals, from man’s wisdom. Not because we need a new set of laws to guide us. No! Christ set us free from that mentality.

But by looking to God-inspired ideals that we understand by a humble reflection on His truth in scripture and in nature, we can truly embrace the life that God intends for us. A life He meant for us to live. A life that that will enable us to experience freedom from sin, not just as a means for reconciliation, but also as a vehicle for a life of redemption with Him − a way to experience relationship and intimacy with our Lord.

When we fully embrace the reality that God wants us to be human, we realize what an early Christian thinker, Saint Irenaus, said: “The glory of God is man fully alive.” God wants us to be fully alive. God wants us to embrace our humanity. God gave us His Son so that we could be fully healed of all of our wounds.

After all, in the Garden of Eden, God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden. When they chose to separate themselves from Him, the natural consequence of God’s law was that they be separated from Him. God did not punish them, but merely enforced the natural consequences of their actions; consequences that they knew about fully. This was but the first example that, because of sin, we experience separation from God.

This is an excerpt from chapter 2 of The Meaning of Sex: A New Christian Ethos (January, 2018). For more information on how to obtain a copy, please contact our office at Christopher Doyle, MA, LPC, LCPC is a licensed clinical professional counselor and the Executive Director of the Institute for Healthy Families. 

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