How Church Membership Gives Us Freedom
Recently, while speaking with a friend of ours who’s visiting different churches in the area, I expressed my enthusiasm for our church. “We (my husband and I) feel relaxed there,” I said. “We’re experiencing a sense of freedom as we’ve enjoyed faithful preaching every week. Our pastor knows the flock, and we’re hearing a regular drum-beat from him and the other elders to love one another and to remember our covenant to each other.”
She seemed intrigued!
Isn’t it ironic that a high commitment like church membership can bring about a sense of freedom? I’m not exactly sure how that works but I do have some clarity on what I think it’s not. It’s not because I feel I can do whatever I want, or that I am free to be uniquely “me,” or even that I can act independently and without any responsibilities. On the contrary, I feel more bound to the Lord, his Word, and to the members of our church than at any other time in my life! So where does this freedom come from? What does it mean?
WHAT KIND OF FREEDOM?
Those of us who claim Jesus as our Lord and Savior are acutely aware of the sins that so easily entangle us. And we know it’s precisely those sins that nailed him to the cross. While the transformative work of the Holy Spirit is indeed ongoing, we all have ugly blind spots that cause others to cringe. I find myself living somewhere between these two truths: a sinner saved by grace and a work in progress. Fortunately, the Christian life doesn’t happen in a vacuum but alongside brothers and sisters who are also at times struggling through their sanctification.
As we strive for unity and the bond of peace in our church family, there may be some cringing at times. Sometimes, we’ll all be in a state of confession or repentance to others; other times, we’ll be the ones extending grace to others. But here’s the irony: as I put into practice these things, I experience a sense of freedom from my own judgments, anxieties, and fear of man (Romans 14). When I keep short accounts and don’t allow myself to be easily offended, I become less fearful, less insecure, and less anxious of what people may think of me or what they can do to me (Colossians 3:13). When I battle my pride (Romans 12:16), jealousy, and envy (James 3:14–16), God infuses into me an excitement and happiness for those I assume are causing me angst. My mind and heart can so easily become the devil’s playground, but only if I allow him access and entertain him while he’s there. By stopping him in his tracks in my mind by recognizing him as an intruder, and by taking my thoughts captive and yielding myself to the Lord’s transformative work, I am set free!
A SLOW PROCESS
Here’s another irony: though I’m the one who wrote this article, I’m not particularly good at what I’m describing. It’s only by God’s grace and the presence of the Holy Spirit that I can even consider going into battle against my sin. I’m slowly learning to stop relying on the weapon of willpower and to instead rely on the weapon he’s given me in his Word.
When I do this, I feel precisely what I said at the beginning: freedom. In so many unexpected ways, this freedom enables me to serve my brothers and sisters at Grace Harbor Church.
King David often describes God’s law and rules as “a comfort,” “a help,” and “a delight”:
Let your hand be ready to help me,
for I have chosen your precepts.
I long for your salvation, O Lord,
and your law is my delight.
Let my soul live and praise you,
and let your rules help me. (Psalm 119:173–175)
How unexpected! Guided by his precepts and spurred on by the covenant we have with our brothers and sisters, we move toward greater sanctification and, ultimately, greater freedom.