Devotional by Sunny Lee Jones
Here’s my soapbox confession, via words on a computer screen; I don’t know about you but, I’ve raised my hands during worship out of obligation… I’ve gotten burned out from going through the motions of Christianity, checking off the daily devotional box, serving in church box, and greeting my neighbors with a smile box… I’ve had a surface level relationship with God before. It’s like the uncomfortable beginning stages of a dating relationship, when you feel the massive pressure to seem perfect and follow every rule in the game. The pressure to look and smell good, make sure you don’t overshare, don’t over-text, etc. It’s not that these things are inherently bad on their own. However, the danger is when you get stuck in the pursuit of perfection and checking-off-boxes making you and your relationships suffer. They fail to get past the surface and get real.
God always intended for us to be in personal, intimate relationship with Him. We needed the Old Covenant back in Moses’s time so we wouldn’t stray too far from God, but He always had Jesus in mind. Jesus was His plan even before Adam and Eve so that neither sin nor death could separate us from Him. We see that when Jesus ascends into Heaven after His resurrection, He sends the Helper, the Holy Spirit, so that He may dwell in us always. This truth is incredibly liberating – the Holy Spirit abiding in us sets us free from the rules and regulations of the Old Covenant. Instead, we are invited to an unashamed, vulnerable, call-at-any-time-of-the-night relationship with our God. I believe this is what Paul is writing about in 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NLT), “For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
This freedom does not negate the law, but it calls us to a relationship with our Creator in which we are no longer slaves to the law. We are free from religious obligation; instead, we do what God’s called us to do because we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. I love how Paul says this in the earlier verses – “Yet we don’t see ourselves as capable enough to do anything in our own strength, for our true competence flows from God’s empowering presence. He alone makes us adequate ministers who are focused on an entirely new covenant. Our ministry is not based on the letter of the law but through the power of the Spirit. The letter of the law kills, but the Spirit pours out life.” 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 (TPT)
The freedom that has been offered to me by the Spirit propels me to approach my ministry and even my free will differently. No longer do I exercise my right to make choices for my own gain or for self-preservation but for the Kingdom of God. If we were to simplify this into practice, it would look something like this: We don’t feel obligated to pray because that’s what good Christians do, we pray because we long for His Will to be done on this earth. We don’t feel obligated to forgive because otherwise God will be mad at us, we choose to forgive because the Holy Spirit gives us compassionate eyes to see people how God sees them. We don’t feel obligated to serve in church, we serve because the Holy Spirit has stirred up a passion in our hearts for the House of God.
Maybe you find yourself in a season where you’re rushing through the motions of church. First, I want you to know that you don’t need to be ashamed. I also want to encourage you that the promise of His freedom is there for you. For me, one of the best cures has been immersing myself in the presence of God, in an atmosphere like Devoted, and allowing my spirit to be filled up again. My prayer is that when you hit the pause button in the chaos of your life and commit your time and resources to pursue Jesus, He will meet you and His Spirit will set you free.