During WWII, the Nazis, as known by all, interned the perceived enemies of their people in a massive concentration camp system. Many of those interned (mostly Jews) were kept alive to be used as slave labor, which usually meant hauling stones out of a quarry. This was different from the numerous "death camps" in that the prisoners here had a hope of survival by being able to physically continue their work. In one particular labor camp, these slaves would get up every morning and carry huge stones up 186 steps to the loading and cutting area. They were allowed to live as long as they could carry the stones. If they grew ill, or too weak to climb the 186 steps, they would be killed. They had a ray of hope for survival as long as they worked. When the Allies liberated this one camp, the prisoners could not fathom the prospect of being free. Traumatized what they had experienced, it was impossible for many to understand that their Nazi tormentors no longer held any power over them. In the days after liberation, there were many that rose early in the morning and began their ritual of moving stones up from the quarry. They had become so rigid in their thinking that hauling stones meant hope of survival, that they could not do anything other than haul stones. They could not comprehend being free.
Currently, the world is filled with multitudes of religions and beliefs. Each one of them claims to offer some promise of better things to a world trapped in ignorance and darkness. Most of them require it's adherents to live by some type of religious observations or ritual. When Christ came, however, He came as the Liberator to a whole world that was held under the sentence of death. To those who are perishing, he offers the free gift of eternal life. He doesn't attach stipulations or hidden costs. It's free to "whosoever shall". Most of us in the world, however, have become very accustomed to resting our hopes in the work of our own personal "labor camp." Many of us have been brought up to think that hope of salvation comes by observing particular ritual or following our religion's tenets. Jesus struck hard at the notion that anyone could win God's favor by his or her deeds. No individual, however, could ever be good enough to merit eternal life. Yet many of us still think our chances for eternal life rest on how successfully we carry our stones. When the apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians, he was dealing with the question of how a person gains eternal life. Some false teachers had come into the church, who said that even if an individual believed in Jesus, one still had to observe the rules of the "Law of Moses" (which included the Ten Commandments) to be saved. Paul rejected this notion saying "Stand fast in the freedom, in which Christ has made you free, and do not be entangled again in the yoke of slavery." (Gal 5:1) Any belief system that denies that Christ was fully sufficient for you is "the yoke of slavery". It is merely another quarry, with it's myriads of stones, and it's own 186 steps to climb. In Christ, we are restored to complete righteousness before God, and are received as adopted children of God. When the Son sets you free, you're free indeed! So many churches today give lip service to God's grace, by saying Christ is Savior, then say that our salvation is maintained by our adhering to that churchs rituals. It is as if we were told we are free from our bonds in the labor camp, and then told that our "freedom" means that we are going to carry rocks of a different color, or that we can now climb up a ramp instead of stairs. Is that an improvement? If you were in one such labor camp, and your life depended upon carrying a single pebble, up a single stair, then you are not truly free.
Spend a moment to think about what rocks you may be carrying out of the quarry today. Do you feel that there is the possibility that God may reject you because you are not good enough? Do you think He may be mad at you? Do you hope you may go to heaven, rather than know that you are saved? Are you racked with guilt for things you have done in the past? Does the prospect of standing before the judgment seat of God make you nervous, even terrified? If you have answered "yes" to any of these, then you are still climbing the stairs, burdened by rocks. The good news is that Christ has come into the camp. He has come to proclaim freedom for the oppressed and release for all of us. At some point, we need to realize that we are free indeed, and put done our stones. Christ's forgiveness is complete and comprehensive, bringing both the most vile sinner and devout religionists alike into the same position of restored relationship with God. It is only the worthless traditions of men that hold us captive. Don't go back into the quarry. Consider the "Liberator's" words when he first began his ministry nearly 2,000 years ago. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor; He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners." (Luke 4:18). Stand fast, therefore in that freedom.