We crowded the platform overlooking the stage – the three of us in a kind of huddle, swaying and bouncing with giggles.
We danced with our hands in the air, singing the words we knew and mumbling through the ones we didn’t. More than 17,000 people packed the arena and it felt like just the three of us – three blonde sisters savoring the moments and filling the air with laughter. I wasn’t concerned about impressions because I was singing with two beautiful girls who were lost in the music.
I didn’t used to be like this. Junior and high school were about keeping up appearances, no matter how many times I try to say they weren’t.
Do I look spiritual enough? Do I look too spiritual? Do I look smart enough? Do I seem too smart and not humble? I did a lot of situational assessment to figure out how to make the best impressions. I know, definitely first world problems.
I thought on those things as I was standing there at the concert, not caring about anything that anyone was thinking. Maybe it was because those things – those silly cultural fears about what others think – seemed so petty when I thought about what my sisters thought of me. I wanted them to see that I was unshackled and unashamed.
Christ doesn’t set free halfway – when he freed me from my sin it was complete. That kind of power pulls people into statements like Paul’s in his letter to the Romans, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes…” That’s not a statement that’s worried about impressions.
The law of the spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death. Free.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
(Romans 8:1-11 ESV)
The Spirit of God dwells in me and the Spirit is life and the Spirit gives life – the kind of life that lives unshackled and unashamed. This is the impression I want to make.
Today is the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, and I want to live it unshackled and unashamed.
You may not be giving something up for 40 days, but if you are, let me encourage you: don’t put yourself under the law for 40 days as an act of penitence. If you are in Christ, the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Don’t crawl back under the law so you are condemned again. Instead, live in the freedom His grace provides.
Even as you are giving things up, focus on Jesus as treasure and your small sacrifices will taste so much sweeter.
These 40 days are about choosing Christ instead. When we want chocolate or coffee or facebook or drive-thru or clothes or comfort, choose Christ instead. Sink your teeth into His truth and be filled to full with His grace. He satisfies (Psalm 63) like nothing else.