Christianity had always seemed a bit restrictive to me.
When I was a kid growing up in the church, it seemed like we chanted the same things over and over again. When I truly understood what it meant to believe in Jesus in college, it seemed like other people were still held captive by church rules too.
This seems to be true in the church today. Many people go to church because they are supposed to. They read their bibles because the pastor says so. And they give their 10% because that's what conventional thought says too.
We hear about the rules so much in the church too. Ultimate rules, theological differences on what we can and cannot do or how we should act. There seems to be so much talk and focus on what we need to do with our lives and our faith.
But I don’t think that is what Jesus meant for his church. I don't think he wanted us to focus on the rules so much as focus on freedom. Not freedom to do whatever we want, but the freedom we have in Him.
Faith is a Journey of Discovery
My faith has been a journey of discovery.
Like I said before, I grew up going to church. Mostly because it's just what was done in our small town. We went to church on Sundays, school during the week, and high school sports on the weekends.
There was nothing remarkable about going to church.
Most of the time it just felt super boring to me. Or I did what I was supposed to so the old German ladies wouldn’t tattle on me for not signing or not memorizing my bible verse.
The Early Years
Then, when I entered college, I went wild. Well, mostly in my sophomore year. It was right at the end of my sophomore year when things were falling apart that someone explained to me what church was really all about.
It was at this time that I understood that God did love me. Not because I was a good boy, or did what I was told, just because he does. This was groundbreaking for me.
This was the beginning of my faith journey. Or at least the most active part of it. I began to seek Jesus and understand as much as I could. It was a time of great learning for me.
And yet, I still felt this restriction. I was learning a lot about why I shouldn’t do this and shouldn’t do that. It felt like the love God had for me had conditions, even though plenty of people told me God loves me no matter what.
I think a lot of people feel like this in the church today.
Faith After College
When I finally graduated from college, I started working for the Christian organization that share the Gospel of Jesus with me in the first place. While I worked mostly in an office helping put on events, I was forced to figure out what my faith looked like outside of a college setting.
This was the first time I had to look for a church.
It took several attempts to finally find a church that fit me. During this time, I began to experience the extremely intellectual part of Christianity. I went to a church with a very intelligent pastor who broke down scripture in a way I had never heard before.
I learned a ton during this time and season in life. It was as if I was hearing about Jesus and who he was for the first time. The knowledge I gained during this time was amazing.
Yet, it began to feel like Christianity was an intellectual pursuit. Which again brought me into this feeling of a rigid structure. While the knowledge and understanding were important, it was very heavy to me.
I think this is why people are afraid of overly intellectual preaching.
Finding Freedom in Jesus
It wasn’t until years later after I had gotten married and had our first child that something finally broke free. It was during a marriage conference that my wife and I attended that I finally understood what Jesus meant when he said:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” — Luke 4:18–19 (NLT)
It was as if freedom was finally unlocked. Not because someone had bound me up for years and years, but because Jesus spoke freedom over me in a way I didn’t understand before.
It was at this moment that my eyes were opened to the greatness of following Jesus.
Freedom In Christianity
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.” — Isaiah 61:1 (NLT)
Jesus spoke these words from the Old Testament book of Isaiah. He was speaking these things as he proclaimed that he was indeed the Son of God. It was his initial declaration to the world.
He was also speaking these things to show that while people were following a religion, he was sent to set people free.
While so many Christians today read these words and don’t understand them, it is still a declaration that is being sent to the world today. Jesus came to comfort the brokenhearted, release captives, and free prisoners.
Jesus has come to comfort you in the pain you have experienced. Whether it is from personal trauma, loss of loved ones, or something difficult in your life, he has come to comfort you.
I think this is for the people in the church today who felt like I did, restricted. Honestly, you don’t have to do ‘this’ or do ‘that’. Yes, there are things you probably shouldn’t do but it's not about what you’ve done. Jesus has come to release you from whatever holds you down.
Jesus has come to set free those who are stuck. Stuck in their hurt, pain, grief, or sin. He has come to free you in order that you can help bring him to others to free them.
Freedom, Not Restriction
I have found more freedom in the last few years than I ever experienced from the previous decade. Why? Because Jesus has released me and set me free from the things that were troubling me.
No longer, am I weighed down with previous sin, struggle, or hurt.
Now, I live in a way that breakthrough many of these things. Even ones I didn’t realize I had in my life. Now, I am beginning to experience a full life. One which is sharing love with people, standing for what I believe, and trying to share this same message of freedom with others.
It is time to usher in more freedom into the church.
When we do this, I believe there will be less hypocrisy and scandal. I see a church that will be able to connect with the brokenhearted, captive, and prisoner outside of the church as well.
And I see a world that will look drastically different than it does today.