Since my last blog post, several of you have asked me to expand on what the difference between being a “Christian” and “following Jesus”? Like I said, some may see this as semantics but there are several crucial differences.
First and foremost, it starts with correctly understanding the implications of the atonement. Mainstream evangelical theology of the atonement is decently sufficient; more so the penal substitution theory–but the reality is, God has only revealed a limited amount of information on how everything worked out. No matter what view you lean towards, it is still a theory.
Nevertheless, the idea of freedom emerges once you go deeper into the atonement. The Apostle Paul was an unashamed proponent of the new found freedom that a believer has through Jesus. Paul references this idea of freedom over a dozen times in his letters to the new believers–this new freedom was a BIG DEAL!
While growing up in the Christian faith, I was taught that this “freedom” was “spiritual freedom” from sin or a “freedom” that came with certain rules and restrictions. However, this by its own definition is a contradiction.
Freedom is not truly freedom unless it is independent of all conditions
Example: In light of Independence Day here in the States, we celebrate independence and freedom from England. Now, if after the Revolutionary War in 1776 we agreed to become a free nation but yet England wanted to impose and enforce a couple of their rules and regulations on us still, I would be the first to object in saying that that is not true freedom.
America as a nation is NOT in fact a free nation either. There are still laws and restrictions. Such as immigration, taxes, legal procedures, and a bunch of things you can and cannot do. Don’t let your mind become warped…America is not a free country.
True freedom is completely separate and independent from ALL rules and regulations. Somehow in the Christian religion they have been able to sell this idea of “freedom” with it not being complete freedom. I would argue that if it is not “complete freedom” it ceases to be freedom at all.
Jesus comes to bring complete freedom (spiritual, emotional and physical) to those who follow him. A true follower of Jesus does not need any laws, rules, conditions, or guilt in order to “keep them in line” or “on the right path”. Many Christians are under the illusion that they are living in freedom but all they have done is allowed people to control them, tell them what to do, dictate their emotions and appearance…while telling them they are free. Boggles my mind.
A follower of Jesus has been filled with the Holy Spirit which is sufficient for EVERYTHING the person will need in this life.
This differs drastically from the mainstream Christian stance, where they believe that you need these extra things to keep the person on the right path. Such as the Bible, or man made conditions; don’t drink alcohol, don’t get a tattoo, don’t get divorced, don’t smoke, don’t dress or act a certain way, don’t listen to that type of music, don’t go to that club or bar, don’t hang out with those people, don’t cuss, blah blah blah…in order to live a righteous life.
All those can be good things, don’t get me wrong; but they will never substitute the all encompassing sufficiency of the Holy Spirit. Take away the Bible, take away all the rules, regulations, cultural expectation, all the “do’s and don’ts” and take away all the conditions and just give me the Holy Spirit; that will be more than enough to help me living a life that is pleasing to God.
Trust the Holy Spirit.
A true believer does not need the Bible to tell them to be patient or to love or that they should tell others about the true freedom that is found in Jesus, because the Holy Spirit has already been or will empress these things upon them. The Holy Spirit will lead, guide, teach, empower, strengthen, comfort, encourage and mature a person much better than anything man has set up in Christianity. When following Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes first; before anything else.
In Regards to Freedom: Following Jesus is much more than freedom from sin; but it’s a freedom to love unconditionally. Unfortunately not many believers are able to grasp this. What this truly means is that the believer has been freed from the bonds of hate, rage, anger, stress, worry. In the lives of one who truly claims to follow Christ, love must govern their actions and thoughts, Love must prevail over all. You can choose to do whatever with your freedom as…. there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ. (Extreme example: But if I were to murder someone I know Christ will forgive me and He will love me no less). However, the Holy Spirit calls us to love.
True freedom is only found in true love, therefore with your freedom, choose to love.