Thank you, Marion, for a wonderful 4th of July celebration!  We had a great time at the KC Hall, watching fireworks and enjoying our community.  With the carnival, band, and food, I can’t imagine a better way to spend the 4th in Small Town, USA.

The 4th of July makes me grateful to those who fought to win our independence.  I also feel a huge debt of gratitude to the heroic folks who volunteered to test the various COVID vaccines.  Our freedom to gather up, eat, drink, and be merry this 4th is due to their courage.

It takes a lot of courage and love to die for what you believe in.  Jesus believed in us and laid down His life to win freedom for anyone willing to trust Him.  He set me free from a pit of sin and addiction I’d been in for decades.  5 years later, He rescued me from a tangle of religious legalism by teaching me about His love and grace.  If you don’t know the love and grace of God, you may be living each day like it’s April 15th instead of 4th of July.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “It’s for freedom’s sake Christ died to set you free.”  When I was legalistic, I thought that meant Christ had freed me from addiction, but it was up to me to keep myself right with God.  I became neurotic because the God in my head had never gotten over my past and wasn’t at all impressed with my attempts to live a holy lifestyle.  No matter how hard I tried, I always felt I was failing.

Folks, that is religion.  Religion is our self-driven attempt to please God apart from Christ.  The meaning of the word religion = Re is a prefix meaning “return,” and ligare means “to bind;” in other words, “return to bondage.”  And truthfully, I don’t know which I have been in more bondage to, addiction or religion, because religion can become quite addictive.

Religion is addictive because it stokes a part of us that loves self-improvement.   But Jesus didn’t die so you could be free to self-improve.  He died so you can live in the freedom of His perfect performance.  Where religion is our bondage word, justification is our Declaration of Independence!

As Elyse Fitzpatrick puts it, “Our sinful record became His, and He suffered the punishment we deserved, then Jesus perfect record became ours.  Because God has accredited Jesus’ perfect obedience to you, when God looks at you, he sees you as a person who always does things that please Him. As well as someone who has kept all his commandments!”  Justification means “just as if I’d never sinned,” and “just as if I’ve always done everything right.”

Released from the bondage of a performance-based relationship with God, we are freed to live in an affection-based relationship with the Father.  Yes, we will still desire to please Him, but it will be done from a heart full of love and affection.  No bondage there, only grace.  Grace = God is pleased with you when you don’t deserve it.  Now, go set off some fireworks!






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