“My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.” (Ps. 119:20)
Does Christianity restrict our freedom and joy? I don’t know of a single believer who would answer that question in the affirmative. No one who has encountered Christ in a saving way could ever answer that question with a loud and proud, ‘yes!’ The believer, above all people, has learned true freedom and true joy. That is not to say that God doesn’t have his rules that we are to follow.
But, why do people view rules in such a negative light? Why have we developed this false sagacity that limitations makes us “less-human?” They say that freedom is a lack of confinement or constraint! But, freedom cannot be defined as such, in negative terms. I LOVE to play basketball. If I want to get better and nurture this gift that God has given me I have to practice, practice, practice. This kind of discipline and limitation allows talent to run riot. Now, what have I done? I have willingly given up my freedom to engage in other things in order to accomplish a richer kind of freedom. Freedom is NOT the absence of restraint and confinement, but rather, its finding the right ones that fit our abilities and cause us to grow towards deeper joy and fulfillment. They are liberating restrictions. And, they help us grow intellectually, vocationally, and physically as well. That is what the rules of Christianity are all about –true freedom!
Love is the most liberating freedom-loss of all. The “freedoms” of love come at great cost and great loss. Personal autonomy is given up when love is pursued. There is no greater example of this than Jesus Christ. God adjusts to us! No way! Yes, because He loves us. It’s this love that motivates the believer to respond. That is why Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “The love of Christ CONSTRAINS us.” This is true freedom. True Identity. True joy. I’ll take it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
This is why the Psalmist can say…I LONG FOR YOUR RULES, GOD. GIVE ME YOUR RULES AT ALL COSTS AND AT ALL TIMES! He understood that the rules of God lead to the highest possible form of joy. Don’t settle for anything less, Christian!
Side note: The rules of Christianity are not about feeling “guilty,” although they may have this effect in an individual. Guilt is a far cry from true spirit-filled conviction. Conviction is an acknowledgement of wrong committed and an attitude of transformation and change. Guilt is self-pity and a mockery to grace.