Jesus says in Luke 4:18–19 (ESV):
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Jesus Christ came to bring into freedom people who have been oppressed in every way (emotionally, physically and spiritually). He says to people who are being held captive by their sin, their unhealthy choices and life patterns, and the enemy, "Come and receive the freedom I have come to give you."
Now, who wouldn't love that message? Everyone!!
But then why don't more people receive it? Why aren't our churches filled with more people?
One of the reasons is that we don't preach the same message Jesus did that day in the synagogue. We, the church, have added to it.
This is called religion.
Religion is anything that has been added to the message of Jesus Christ by individuals or the church that communicates that it is Jesus "plus this behavior" that will get you the freedom you are seeking. These can be rules or hoops that we make people jump through to come and experience the freedom that Jesus offers.
Now, I love the church and in no way want to speak negatively against Jesus' bride. And I think that many of the religious rules or requirements that people have added came from a good idea that went bad.
At River City Church we seek to strip away these additions in an effort to bring more people into the Kingdom of God. We want to bring more people into orbit around Jesus so they can experience the freedom and love He offers.
However, that doesn't mean that we don't participate in church traditions that help us experience more freedom in Christ. But whatever it is needs to result in our experiencing more freedom, love, grace, mercy and life in our journey with Jesus.
If it doesn't, then don't do it; if it does… do it!
We are in the season of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter. This season was created by the church to help us prepare our hearts for celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection. The tradition would have you "give something up.”
The thinking behind that is that as you have the desire to enjoy what you have given up, you will instead turn to Jesus, remembering His sacrifice for you.
Now, that would be awesome if that were how we used this man-made tradition. But it usually isn't.
In most cases, Lent has become like a Christian CrossFit Competition, with people vying for the title "Most Disciplined Christian". People talk and brag (in the most humble Christian way) about what they are giving up, and it makes the more disciplined "Type A" people feel proud and spiritual, and the less disciplined "Type B" person feel less spiritual.
That is the fruit of religion; it oppresses some and makes others feel proud with neither group experiencing the freedom Christ has come to give us.
So, during this Lenten season, why don't you enjoy your chocolate, alcohol, or caffeine, and instead add something to your day that would increase your time and experience of Jesus in your life? This will guarantee you the freedom you are looking for, protect you from pride and make you a whole lot more fun to be around!! :)