Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, – 1 Timothy 1:8-10 ESV
As Christians, especially ones who have been raised that way, we often have a list of do’s and don’ts and we try to live on the do side of the list more than the don’ts. While we’re learning to be a Christian, this is probably a good place to start. It’s a way to define the outline of Christ-like results when the concepts of a deep personal relationship are getting established.
But at some point, we have to go from the list to the relationship. There needs to be a transition, however long it takes to complete it, from the rules to the freedom. Apostle Paul tells us that the reason we had the law was to be protected and taught (a guardian, Galatians 3:24). It was to help us see the fruits of right living and understand the discipline of discipleship. Because we now live under the new covenant, however, we can’t continue to stay in school. It’s time to graduate.
So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. – Galatians 3:24 ESV
When a child is learning to ride a bike, often they get training wheels put on. It’s a way to allow them to ride without having to master the art of balance and control. They can practice the skills necessary to have balance and control, but they are protected from the consequences of not having those skills yet.
This is the same way we approach our walk with Christ. We have been given an example of how we should be living. These rules are primarily referring to the Mosaic Law, the covenant that existed before Christ’s new covenant. However, we often apply this to many rules that we associate with being a “good Christian.” Whether this is rules that we grew up with or rules that we adopted from a church or group of people, we take them to heart and live by them.
In and of themselves, there’s nothing wrong with the rules: they are good and were for a good purpose. Just like training wheels keep the bike from tumbling over with the inexperience rider, spiritual rules keep us from falling into trouble when we’re still learning to the hear the Lord. We can totter knowing that there is a line to keep us from going too far. We can trust these lines to help protect us.
This protection becomes a safety net that is easily relied on. It feels good to have the safety line and to be able to clearly and distinctly determine where and what I do. However, we can’t keep these spiritual training wheels on if we want to become strong and powerful in our relationship with Christ.
The power of Christ comes in when we begin to trust in the joining of our hearts and mind with Christ. We are unified with Him and made one with Him (1 Corinthians 6:17). We have been given to understand His truth and to be able to walk and trust Him (1 Corinthians 2:16). When we step into this relationship, we are free to walk with Him in power instead of the limited walk we had before when we defined our choices by a list of good and bad.
Sometimes when I talk about this with people, they reply with, “So you’re saying we don’t have to be good? Or that anything goes?” No! Of course not. If you fear that taking away your lists will make you become a moral-free heathen, then you are not allowing yourself to be taught by the Holy Spirit (Romans 6:1-4). The lists and the law and the boundaries we have when we are learning about the freedom of Christ are not fences to contain us, but guidelines to grow us. When we step out of the box of the law, we are stepping into the guidance of the Holy Spirit and He will not lead us into a life of selfishness and decadence. He will grow us past what the rules are and make us useful to serve others in the unique way that God designed us to.
Freedom in Christ means choosing to find the teachings in our hearts that God put there to make us in the image of Christ (1 John 2:6). Take off the spiritual training wheels that only apply to the sinners and start walking the freedom of Christ that applies to those who believe in His name.