I have been a Christian since a very young age, but for many years I believed that I was not defined by God’s love for me, but rather by the sin in my life. This false thinking led me to live a life of guilt and shame, causing my relationship with God to often feel strained because I never felt like I could be good enough. The day it clicked for me that God did not desire this life for me — that he saw me not as a “bad Christian” but as his beloved daughter, and his desire was that I would walk in true freedom — this was a day when my entire life shifted! This is his desire for us all.
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
— Titus 3:3–7
“For we ourselves were once…” This is past tense. Paul goes on to list a myriad of struggles: poor decision making, blatant disobedience to the things of God, believing faulty doctrine, being “slaves to various passions and pleasures,” hatred for others, especially people who have hurt them (because we feel justified in hating someone who hurts us, right?), and being hated by others because of the lifestyle they chose to live. Sounds a lot like some of our struggles.
Paul does not go on to list steps that a Christian must take to obtain forgiveness. We have a but God moment: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared…”
That list of sin struggles at the beginning of this passage is not who we are. When God steps into the picture of our lives, we are immediately made new. We are “justified by his grace.” We are called to walk in freedom, and we have a totally new purpose! Sin does not define us or control us.
Paul speaks of this some more in Galatians:
For freedom Christ has set us free, stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
— Galatians 5:1
In Christ, we are free. But that does not mean we will no longer struggle. In fact, Jesus promises that we will struggle. We each face a choice: will I choose today to walk in freedom, or will I choose today to live in the flesh? God desires that we walk in freedom! He has a bigger purpose for his people.
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: You shall love our neighbor as yourself.
— Galatians 5:13–14
As someone who lived in bondage to sin for years, I assure you that freedom is glorious! But it is a choice. Today, my prayer is that we would be a people who choose to walk in freedom, and who do it in such a way that others want a taste of the freedom that we are experiencing. That, in choosing freedom, we would be ambassadors of truth!