We hear this a lot: One TV ad says, “Call today or go online for your free sample. You are under no obligation.” The viewer is enticed to order a free 10-day supply of a magical treatment that will help you lose weight, grow hair, or increase your memory. By calling or going to their web site, you find out they want your credit card number so they can conveniently bill you regularly after your free supply runs out. Of course, you may cancel your subscription at any time. Now, “no obligation” suddenly sounds obligating.
The Bible says that Christians really aren’t under any obligation anymore (Romans 8:12)! We don’t have to choose to do wrong things!
This is the basic problem of human nature we face, except that we are born with it. We don’t learn it. We don’t sign up for it. We just do it. Naturally. From the time we are old enough to cry for food, comfort, or mother’s arms, we express the innate craving for personal satisfaction or gratification. “I want my way!”
Do you remember the first lie you ever told?
I don’t either, but I’ve told many. The point is that we don’t teach our children to lie, to cheat, or to shout hurtful things at the other kids. This is part of the human condition. How many times do we recognize problems in our lives that we try to address on our own? Let me give some examples:
- I can be a real pain to those I work with.
- I am neglecting my spouse and family.
- I am so out of shape. I really could shed a few pounds.
Ok, those are light-weight. Let’s see what Jesus says about some things we all struggle with regularly:
- But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell. Matthew 5:22
- But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:28
- But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery. Matthew 5:32
- But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. Matthew 5:39-40
- But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! Matthew 5:44
When we come to terms with the reality of the bad stuff we think about and the wrong inclinations of our hearts and attitudes, we see that our problem is not the sinful actions we take. The real problem is the underlying wrongfulness in our heart, in our minds, in our attitudes. It’s there all the time, and it drives us say things and do things that are wrong. The Bible calls anything wrong “sin.” And we must face the fact that we are wrong by nature. We are born into slavery — the slavery of sin.
The good news is that by surrendering to Jesus as King and Master of your life, you are no longer under any obligation to keep on doing those bad things because Jesus took care of it, once for all. When we trust Jesus to guide every thought, attitude, word, and action, He reminds us that we have been made new. We no longer have to choose those bad ways of thinking and living, even in a fleeting moment.
So, how do we live by this amazing power and make these choices that Jesus teaches?
For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Romans 8:13-17