Sometimes when I look into the mirror now, I’ll see Lynn Greear, my dad, looking back at me. And as much that startles me (reminding me of the steady aging process), I am ultimately OK with that. I love my dad and have always wanted to become the man he is.

The same thing happens to us, on a spiritual level, with God our Father. When we believe the gospel, no longer do we live under a Law that forces us to do what we don’t want to do. Christ’s Spirit comes into us and changes our desires so that obeying the Law is what we desire to do because we love our Father and want to be like him. The gospel frees us to obey God.

Now, that sounds strange to many people, because our culture celebrates freedom as the ability to define your own existence, to make your own rules. It’s how even the U.S. Supreme Court defines freedom: They issued a pretty famous ruling in a 1992 ruling on sexual ethics in which they said, “The heart of liberty is to define one’s own concept of existence and the meaning of the universe.” Our culture says freedom means you are free to find your own purpose.

The Bible would say that’s not freedom at all. Imagine a fish that develops a psychological disorder, and he wants to jump up out of the water onto dry land. When he does, he starts flopping around and thinks, “I’m free! I’m no longer constrained by that restrictive ocean!” He won’t be free for very long, though. He’ll be dead! He is designed to be in water, and he’ll thrive only when he’s in water.

You and I are created for God, and we’ll thrive only when we are in right relationship to him.

Total freedom is a myth, because we are not God. We know we need security. Deep down, we know how fragile we are. And we know we need something beyond ourselves to be happy. God is supposed to be that thing. And when he is, we experience freedom, because we were created for God.

But whenever we choose something besides God to be our primary source of security and happiness, not only are we unfulfilled, but we also become enslaved to that thing.

For example, if we depend on money, we become obsessive, stingy, workaholics. If we think romance is what will make us happy, then we become fearful about being alone or we become co-dependent in our relationships. If we need family to be secure and fulfilled, then we become controlling and possessive of them. If we look to the approval of others to be happy, then we become a slave to their opinions.

As Bob Dylan says, “You might be a rock ‘n’ roll addict prancing on the stage; you might have drugs at your command, women in a cage. You may be a businessman or some high degree thief; they may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief, but you’re going to have to serve somebody. It might be the devil or it might be the Lord, but you’re going to have to serve somebody.” Friends, when the Apostle Paul and Bob Dylan both say it, it has to be settled in heaven. Everybody serves something.

The same is true when you turn to obedience to the Law to try and save yourself. Rather than being clothed by the righteousness of Christ according to the promise of God, you try to clothe yourself through obedience to the Law—and that’s going to make you a slave to the Law. And, in turn, you get really technical and legalistic and even paranoid: Did I obey enough? Confess enough? Go to church enough?

“But now, since you know God, or rather have become known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elements?” (Galatians 4:9)

We were created by God, for God. And in the gospel, we find what we are looking for. We are reunited to him. We are clothed in his righteousness and filled with his power. Do we really want to turn back again to ourselves for clothing and acceptance?

If you view the commandments of God and fellowship with him like bondage, it means that you don’t love him. You have the heart of a slave, but God wants to make you into a son or daughter. He isn’t just after obedience; he’s after a whole new kind of obedience. He wants you to obey with joy, as his child, not with the drudgery, as his slave. And that transformation only occurs when we start with God’s attitude toward us rather than our duties toward him.

The gospel is not, “Change and I’ll accept you.” The gospel is, “Admit that you need to be changed; submit to God and trust him to do it, and he’ll change you.” When you do, God will give you the heart of a son who desires to fellowship with, obey, and emulate his daddy.