The Guilt Free Christian

A big reason why you shouldn’t feel guilty about your devotionals or anything for that matter.

Joshua Earle for Unsplash

Google Search Theology

This is a new phrase I am coming up with in modern day Christianity. How many times have my fellow Christians sought Google out for an answer to a Biblical question or for that exact wording on a specific Bible verse? I am not saying there is anything inherently wrong with this, but for some people — hi there! — it becomes what many in the Christian community call their “daily devotional.”

When I came to Christ in my Teepee Tent at a Christian summer camp back in 2001 I quickly discovered what these daily devotionals were and how important they were to a Christians daily walk with Christ. There certainly is no shortage of Scripture that talks about any number of God-fearing believers getting up in the morning and praying to God before they start their day — Jesus himself practiced this activity. But where is the difference between Jesus’ daily devotions and the 2017 Christian version of daily devotions? Guilt.

Lack of Freedom

In the first chapter of Mark we get a glimpse at the way Jesus devoted himself to God daily. “ Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35). The chapter continues by explaining how Simon Peter and the disciples went looking for him before Jesus recommended that they head to the nearby villages and preach to the people.

Jesus woke up, prayed, and went to preach for God. For the Kingdom. What I have learned lately is that most Christians wake up, crack open the Bible for a few minutes, write down some verses, and head out to get coffee or some other ritual routine. Nothing wrong with this version by any means, but within this daily devotional routine lies guilt. Questions like: how long am I supposed to devote to this time with Jesus? Should I be writing notes like my friends who share photos of their devotionals on Facebook do? What even should I be reading? Should I pray before or after? and on and on and on and on.

These questions, my friends, are fueled by guilt. In modern day Christianity we have subjected ourselves to, sometimes, ridiculous rules and standards that — to be frank — have pushed us farther away from the message of Jesus Christ than closer. When we begin to compare ourselves to what other Christians are doing (in prayer, devotions, or service) we begin to feel guilt. We question the ways they go about praying or doing a daily devotional and look inward instead of up.

My Struggle

Most recently I discovered a growing guilt in my soul when it came to daily devotions. I just couldn’t seem to find the motivation or energy to open my Bible everyday and in my mind I didn’t want to do a disservice to even a second of time spent with God if my mind was not in the “right place.” This is what I told myself for nearly two years. But then my church pastor announced his first book would be coming out soon and it delved into this idea of freedom versus guilt in Christianity. In the first chapter I finally came to terms with my guilt and this is the passage that got me:

Because both the means and the end of the Christian life is freedom, because freedom is the reason Jesus came, Paul uses incredibly strong language to talk about a proper response to those who try to steal Christians’ freedom from them: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).
“Stand firm” is a military term that is brilliantly illustrated in the movie 300. In one iconic scene, the Spartans line up shield to shield in a small crevice while an opposing army that vastly outnumbers them thunders toward their position. Knowing a mass of humanity is about to crash into them, they stand firm. Leonidas, the king of Sparta, yells, “Hold!”
When their front line is hit, it is hit hard, but the soldiers stand firm. That’s precisely what Paul is commanding those who have been set free by Jesus. Our freedom is at stake, and there is a great opposing force that is hell bent on putting us back in chains. They will stop at nothing to make sure our faith feels like slavery. Paul, like a Spartan commander, declares, “Hold!”

We have this beautiful freedom given to us because of everything Christ did. Dying on that Cross, standing at the right hand of God, interceding on our behalf. So, that guilt you feel when you forget to pray before you eat, or only open your Bible for a few minutes while your friend is sharing that devotional photo from 5 hours ago on Facebook, push yourself to remember your freedom and that guilt has no place in your life.

Indulge in the Freedom

In the book my pastor goes on to say that this threat against our freedom is other so-called Christians. Surprised? I was to. Here it is in context:

But what is this overwhelming enemy in Paul’s imagery?
Is it the entirety of the Roman Empire? No.
It’s a much stronger force. Is it sin? Nope.
Is it Satan or his demons? Surprisingly, no.
Death? No. Death is no match for our freedom, for then we will be truly free forever.
What could it be? The force that brutally opposes those who have been set free by Jesus is other so-called Christians, specifically those who claim to follow Jesus but try to enslave the very people Jesus has set free.

Now, by no means is that Facebook friend who posted their devotional photo out to steal you from your freedom, but it is that guilty thought that enters into your mind telling you that you can do better that is out to steal your freedom. Which is why I have indulged in freedom and no longer feel guilty for not doing my devotional in the morning.

Instead, I do it at night and even more so I don’t always do my devotions by way of a 365-day devotional book. Certainly I use it as a resource but I view my time with God as any way of understanding him more and learning from his Truths. I stumble upon Desiring God articles and print them out and read them. I open up books by pastors and Christian figures, such as C.S. Lewis, and reflect on God through their words.

Bottom line is I no longer feel guilt. For the first time in two years I feel freedom. The freedom that Christ bought for you, and me, when he died on the Cross.

So indulge. Do not feel guilt.

I highly recommend my pastor’s book “Unchained: If Jesus Has Set Us Free, Why Don’t We Feel Free?” by Noel Jesse Heikkinen as a resource for this area of Christianity.