Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ... (1 Peter 1:1-2)
God chose you. Did you know that? If you’re a Christian, you’ve been chosen by God to be made holy (sanctified) and obedient. Like we talked about last Tuesday at the Porch, this choosing by God gives us a hope for life and the promise of an incredible eternal inheritance. But what about that “holy and obedient” thing? Does being made holy and obedient to God sound like He’s giving you your freedom or taking it from you?
I believe it’s the most incredible kind of freedom there is. Let me explain.
A few years ago, some friends and I visited one of my college buddies in Houston. Monica and I were the last ones to arrive, and as we pulled up, my buddies were in the street playing football. Excited, I jumped out of the car and ran to the huddle. I looked at my friend playing quarterback and said, “hit me on a post route.” I went up to the line of scrimmage and at “hut”, I sprinted down the street. He launched the ball, and I jumped up in the air and turned around to catch it. That was stupid. My momentum had me flying backwards over asphalt. The first thing to hit the ground was my back, and then my neck acted like a slingshot to throw my head into the street. I was out cold.
I woke up with a huddle of friends around me. They took me to the hospital. I was not well. I didn’t know where I was, and I kept asking the same questions over and over. It turns out I had a concussion. I rested for a few days and recovered. But what happened next, I didn’t see coming.
My favorite candy is chocolate. I love chocolate. As I ate my first piece of chocolate after the concussion, though, I spat it out. “It’s gone bad”, I thought. I tried some more. It was disgusting. Coffee was another love of mine. But when I took a sip, it was bitter. Some of the things I used to love were no longer enjoyable! Why? Because my tastes had changed.
To me, I think this helps explain what it’s like to be chosen to by God to be made holy and obedient. When you become a Christian, God starts to change your tastes. The sin that you used to enjoy and indulge in without guilt or shame, now comes with conviction. There’s a new influence in your life – the Holy Spirit! Part of His role is to convict you of sin and point you toward obedience to Christ.
This happened to me with porn. I used to be addicted to porn. I used to love it and watch it whenever I could. But when I became a Christian, I got a new perspective on porn. I’m not saying that I didn’t still want to look it, but I got a greater awareness that it was deadly and would bring death to my life. Once upon a time, I only enjoyed it. But God’s Word showed me that it’s a killer wearing an attractive mask. And through God’s work in my life to make me obedient, I don’t look at porn any more.
Part of me still loves porn (I wrote about that here). But because I have new God-given tastes and desires, I can write about how to overcome a pornography addiction and how to hate pornography. God has given me the freedom to obey Him instead of my sinful desires, and He helps me obey Him through the power of the Holy Spirit. I’m not a slave to my sin anymore – I’m a slave to righteousness.
If what I just described doesn’t sound like freedom to you – if you still want the “freedom” to do whatever you want – you might not have ever experienced the work of the Holy Spirit in your own life. I can call obedience, “freedom,” because I’m following the only One who can truly set me free. God hasn’t set me free to sin; He’s set me free from sin! And that new perspective is something that only He can provide. If you don’t have it, you should be worried for your soul.
The good news is, God doesn’t require you to work at being obedient for Him to save you. The work that God requires is to believe in Jesus, the One whom He sent (John 6:29). And when you believe, God saves you and starts to change you. You start to love Him more and more. Because you love Him, you become more obedient to His commands (John 14:15). As you obey Him, you experience the abundant life that He came to give you (John 10:10). And that’s the best kind of freedom there is.
(with help from Luke)