Skip to content

Where Law is Lord, There is Bondage to Religion

 

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian believers, he contrasted two lifestyles. One lifestyle, based on Law as the motivating force, although portraying a glimpse of God’s glory, produces death (3:6-15). The minds of these people are filled with obeying the Law of God. The Law is Lord in their lives. Fear of failure or non-compliance to man’s interpretation  of the Law of God governs their public actions. Pride grows as  they receive recognition and honor from their peers. The best performers usually are rewarded with public praise and positions of leadership. Unfortunately, relationship with God through the righteousness of Jesus and reaching out to others for His sake diminishes. Without realizing it, they become man-pleasers, filled with themselves and their own definition of righteousness.

Man-pleasers characteristically look for “how-tos”, formulas, and principles by which to live. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians, these “have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body” (2:23). These easily become laws or standards expected of everyone in their community or circle of fellowship. There’s not much room for  uniqueness,  freedom to follow the Holy Spirit, or personal preferences in the man-pleasing community on certain issues.

The pressure to conform to a seemingly  endless  set  of  outward  forms  of religion usually stifles and suffocates spiritual life. Well-intentioned parents, either reacting to their own rebelliousness in earlier years or to the lawlessness of the culture, easily fall prey to teachers who exemplify and articulate high standards of conduct. Having been an observer and participant in the global homeschooling movement since 1983, I’ve watched countless families plunge into the abyss of man-made religion with  its bondage, judgment, and cult-like practices. Charismatic  leaders,  who  appear  to have many answers are very attractive to  empty  people  in  search  of  significance, order, freedom from guilt, and belonging–fullness.

Without fail, a spirit of control rises in the Law-is-Lord family, church, or society. That’s why there is no sense of freedom or personal  liberty.  Parents  and  church leaders kick into sin-management mode employing communication and teaching of acceptable rules and standards, discipline, threats, public and personal rejection of the non-compliant, public and personal praise and reward of the submissive conformers designed to produce right living. Usually the weight of the “don’t dos” increases with time. This isn’t freedom, it’s bondage to  religion.

Speaking of weight, Jesus described those in bondage to man-made religion when He declared, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!   For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without  neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23). I  guess  it  is the nature of the man-pleasing beast to place greater importance and value on external religious practices while neglecting the most important internal attitudes that should govern relationships. The children of man-pleasers keenly feel and observe  this moral disparity as they suffer under the unloving, shaming, rejecting, and controlling techniques of parents who are revered in their church or community for their adherence to less spiritually weighty standards. This isn’t freedom, it’s bondage to  religion.

Children or young people who see such lack of integrity can be devastated, disillusioned, and in some cases, suffocated to the point that their souls shrink, their hearts fail, and bitterness envelopes them. The most compliant resign themselves to  their enslavement while others rebel or leave at the first opportunity. Why? Because of the crushing weight of knowing the hypocrisy and having to remain silent out of fear and guilt. Afraid that no one would believe them if they told the truth, they suffer in silence.   To add insult to injury, the thought of exposing their parents, who the Bible commands them to honor, feels wrong. Nothing  exasperates  (Col.3:21)  or  provokes  a  child  to anger (Eph. 6:4) greater than parents who display one thing in public, but another in the privacy of their homes. This isn’t freedom, it’s bondage to  religion.

If you can relate to either the parents or the children I have described above, I grieve with you and empathize with the pain, disappointment, disillusionment, and the baggage you have caused and carry from laboring under the lordship of the Law. I have good news for you in next month’s Chariot of Fire. We will see how the Holy Spirit’s  filling brings cleansing, healing, and freedom from the bondage and destruction of religion.

 

Where the Spirit is Lord, there is healing and freedom from the bondage of religion.

The second lifestyle the Apostle Paul described to the Corinthians is the Spirit-led, Spirit-filled life which produces life. The filling and leading of the Spirit results in freedom from the bondage of religion and healing from its destruction. Paul  wrote,

But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord,  are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as  from the Lord, the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:14-18).

As I read the verses above, I first ask, “Why were their minds hardened and what is the veil?” I think their minds were hardened due to the veil of flesh that lies over the heart. The person who reads the Bible looking for what he can do to be holy and please God is blinded to the truth that he cannot please God. This person will try to do the    right things and not do the wrong things. However, when there is a veil over the heart,  he will compare himself with others who don’t perform as well as he and assume he is fine. He judges himself only by the standards he keeps, not the weightier laws he breaks. Consequently, he minimizes sin, and his heart hardens to it. The sin and pride deceive him into thinking his desire to do right equals actual holiness. From his viewpoint, he is writing his story.

When the Father gives birth to a Father-pleaser, He opens the eyes of the heart to see His gracious provision of righteousness in and through Jesus Christ. The veil of flesh disappears and  begin a process of healing and freedom. Notice in the verses above the primary characteristic of this second lifestyle, namely, the Spirit is Lord. Paul stated this truth three times for emphasis. Although I’m not a Greek scholar, the  phrase, “where the Spirit of the Lord is…” could also read, “where the Spirit is Lord, there is liberty.” The context encourages such an interpretation. It is true that where the Spirit dwells there is freedom, but the issue Paul was addressing had to do with lordship or what dictates your lifestyle. Do you live by the adage, “The Law is Lord” or  is your life directed by the Spirit, who is  Lord?

When the Spirit is Lord of your words and actions, there is freedom because He moves you from the heart, His dwelling place. When the Law is Lord, fear and bondage increase because the words and actions are being controlled from an outside influence. Now we can see why Paul commanded the Ephesians, “Be (being) filled with the Spirit” and encouraged the Galatians, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18; Gal. 5:25).

According to Eph. 3:16-19, recorded above, the Holy Spirit’s filling strengthens and empowers us so we can know by experience the love of Christ. Knowing His love enables us to experience the fullness of God. From the Spirit’s fulness, we forgive  those who have used, abused, rejected, and controlled us. We can embrace the truth that God purposes to show the power of our relationship with Him through Christ. Because we know God loves us, we know that every person and situation in our past was necessary to set the stage for a glorious display of love, forgiveness, and healing. Perhaps restoration may take place if those who hurt us take responsibility for their  sins. However, even if they refuse to admit their pride and sin, we don’t have to remain hurt and bitter and be free to love. How does this  happen?

First, the Holy Spirit sets our mind’s eye on the cross and its power to remove   the sin barrier between ourselves and God. Our hearts respond in blessing our God and Savior for His glorious grace and forgiveness. Second, the Spirit informs us that we   may inherit the same blessing we gave God, as we forgive those who have sinned against us. The Spirit inspires, Peter wrote, “not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing” (1 Pet. 3:9). Third, as we reckon our offender’s sins removed by the power of the cross, forgiveness overflows and the Spirit cleanses, heals, and  fills.

The Holy Spirit searches the depths of God and reveals His will to us (1 Cor. 2:10). This enables us to see that the parents, pastor, elder, or leader who misled, used, disappointed, or hurt us was God’s chosen agent to reveal His glory in our lives. He didn’t make them do what they did, He chose to leave them to themselves. The Spirit helps us empathize with their bondage, guilt, hardness, and pain because we know what it is like to be left to ourselves. Being an instrument of destruction or an agent of temptation is not fun. Controlling people to fulfill our expectations is tiring. These people are not happy people. They are hurt people who hurt people, and their day of reckoning will not go well unless God grants repentance.

When we understand their true spiritual state, we can’t help but long in our hearts for them to be free from the bondage of religion as well. If it weren’t for the Holy Spirit, we would devise ways to get them to see their sin and repent. However, the Holy Spirit sets us free from the bondage of getting others to meet our expectations and desires.

For God to get the glory, the work must be done by His Spirit. Expecting others to perform to our standards before we love them and take steps of reconciliation is a return to the bondage of the Law.

 

Let’s pray.

Holy Spirit, fill us so Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith, so we may know and express your love to those around us. We want to be filled with the fullness  of God, live in the fullness of Christ, be filled with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit so we can please you, Father, for your glory.

  1. Discuss. Is it possible for someone to be filled with the Spirit and reduce life to living by a prescribed set of standards or  Laws?
  2. Describe what your life was like when you lived in bondage to the “Law is Lord.”  How did you judge people? What do you think others felt when they were around you?
  3. Can you relate to the description of the man-pleaser or living under the influence of  a man-pleaser? How do you relate?
Ministry Events
Donate Now
Follow Us
Back To Top