So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you [live according to] my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32, English Standard Version).
Religion starts with the belief that we must but can set ourselves right with God. To become righteous, we must believe the right things about God and conform (with greater or lesser rigor) to the right moral code. Once right with God, he owes us answers to prayer here and Heaven hereafter. We can also look down on others who are less right. While particular religions vary in details, all agree on the importance of right beliefs and right actions in getting and staying right with God.
Freedom from religion: the gift of righteousness
Jesus today invites us to become misfits by setting the thought and practice of religion gently to one side. To begin with, through his life, death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus Christ has already set all human beings right with God.
Freedom from religion: discerning living word vs. conforming to dead letter
Having been set right with God in Christ, all we need to do now is act like it. Acting like it, however, is not a question of speaking and acting in conformity to a moral code. Being both inventive creatures and prone to self-deception, we easily conform to moral codes, even ones based rigorously on the Bible, and still remain stinkers.
We witness to the gift of righteousness, which God shares with us daily, by hearing and obeying the words which Jesus speaks to us today.
Jesus speaks to us today through words. These words may be verbal thoughts running through our minds. They may be words spoken to us by friend or even enemy. They may be words we read. (Warning: rarely, if ever, do such words come from watching television).
Regardless of whether they are words thought, heard, or read, any word taken and spoken to us by Jesus today will be consistent with the words of the Bible. In truth, Jesus prefers to speak to us through the prophets and apostles because they remain our normative witness to Jesus.
Living word: spoken by Jesus and confirmed by Spirit
Since God is sovereign in relation to us, there is no way we can make any human word become a word of God. Jesus is sovereign and only those words chosen by him become his living words of truth to us.
As both creatures and sinners, there is also no way we may recognize a word as Christ’s without divine intervention. That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. When Jesus speaks to us today, it is the Holy Spirit who enables us to hear and obey them. It is by hearing and obeying the life-transforming words of truth spoken to us by Jesus that we live as misfit witnesses to the God of freedom.
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