...well, a twenty year old college junior. This is my daughter, Gina. She's currently working on a double-major, liberal studies and linguistics. She loves to read - well usually.
The other day she was visiting for dinner, as she is wont to do. While I cooked, she poked around in the refrigerator in search of a Diet Pepsi and made a statement she had no idea I'd still be thinking about two weeks later. Her words were to this effect:
"Nothing ruins a good book like having to read it for a class!"In a breath she captured the human condition. Reading a good book is a good thing. Being required to read a book...well, shouldn't being required to do a good thing be a good thing? Not if you're human - a sinner by nature. The only thing that can rob us of the joy we find in our most loved activities, besides being forbidden to practice them, is being required to practice them. Our deep desire really is to be a law unto our own selves. Our natural inclination is to oppose all other authority. This is at the very heart of what it is to be a sinner.
"For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me..." Rom. 7:8b-11And it is to this very heart that the gospel offers its great hope.
"For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Rom. 8:7-8
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit...For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!' The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God..." Rom. 8: 1-4; 15-16.
Those who are led by the Spirit of God are not driven by slavish fear, but by the desire and delight that comes from love for our Father. Do you, brother or sister in Christ, ever find yourself motivated by guilt, or fear? I know I do. Do you ever find yourself doing good, not for the love of God and delight in what is good, but to make up for something you've done wrong? Have you ever seen your sincere repentance subtly becoming penance - an attempt to earn God's grace and forgiveness by afflicting yourself - trying to work up more sorrow so you can feel more forgiven? Have you ever compared yourself with others to gauge where your are in your Christian walk? These are all symptoms of slavery, not the freedom that comes from the Spirit of God, from knowing with certainty that you are accepted in the Beloved and loved by God your Father.
"Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?..." Gal. 3:2-3When the joy disappears from a joyous task, we need a return to grace - a return to the cross, where Christ bore the condemnation for our sin. He bore all the guilt, for all our sin. Nothing we can do can add to what He's already done. We have been set free.
"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." Gal. 5:1
Thanks to Gina for the reminder.