I grew up in a pretty conservative church and tried to live by what it taught me… right up until my late twenties, when my life fell apart.
After that, I threw everything overboard. I spoke to a lot of different experts, looked at a lot of different faiths and worldviews. I also studied the ancient manuscripts my church had been teaching from scratch, this time trying to learn what they really said for myself. What I found there was such an incredible degree of freedom that it’s no wonder most churches don’t really teach it. It’s so contrary to how the rest of the world works that it’s genuinely difficult to believe.
First, I have a question for those among you who, like me, believe in a personal god: do you feel truly free from your sins, from your mistakes and shortcomings? Because that’s what the scriptures have to say about those of us who have committed our lives to Him. I’ve asked a lot of other believers that question, and most of them don’t really feel that way, even if they believe it intellectually. After all, no one is perfect in this life. No matter how long you live and how wise you grow, sin and temptation will always be a struggle.
So what does it mean to be “free” of sins? Well, there are basically two definitions of freedom that I want to look at. The first is the ability to think and act without hinderance. In practice, this would mean that while your worst tendencies still exist, that they do not govern you. As opposed to the other end of the line, which would be addiction. But I think the more relevant definition here is the second: the state of not being enslaved or otherwise constrained.
Because you can struggle with these sorts of tendencies—and maybe even be addicted—without being held captive by them. Without being defined by them, you might say. Scripture actually has a lot to say about this. It describes a choice between being a slave to sin, or a slave to righteousness. The reality is that we will be constrained, either by our natural urges or something else. But we get to choose which.
This immediately brings up two questions: how does one really make that choice, and how can you tell which way you’re going right now?
As to the first, I have nothing to say that has not been said before. Simply put, it is a matter of commitment. It’s about making an earnest search for the truth, and then committing wholeheartedly to what you find. And it’s also about not taking failure to heart—that part is critical, and it feeds into my answer to that second question.
I once asked my own spiritual mentor that second question, how do I really know where my heart is right now? His answer was extraordinarily simple: temptation. Is that the evidence you’ve gone wrong? No, it’s the evidence that your heart is right. That seems obviously counterintuitive. But think about what temptation actually means. It means that you’re being lured to a new course, right? But you can’t be lured to somewhere that you already are. If the subject of temptation was really your “master,” then the whole process of temptation wouldn’t come up. You would just do it.
It's not often that these sorts of questions have such a clean and simple answer, and I’ve taken comfort from this one ever since.
Have a blessed, wonderful day!
Dr. Alex Loyd