One of the Bible’s more notorious verses appears in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, where he writes: “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (5:1). So much of the New Testament — including Jesus’ ministry and most of the epistles — puts stock in a God who “sets the captives free” (Lk 4). But popular Christian discourse often reduces this integral concept of freedom to one of two things:

First, and perhaps most common among the well-seasoned faithful, ‘freedom’ is a cautionary freedom; that is, freedom “in perspective.” In this interpretation, ‘the but’ is of utmost importance, e.g. Christians are free from the law but…yada yada yada. Translation: Christians should have a sensible amount of fun and know where to draw the line. Which may be true, but as experience proves, that line often smothers whatever sense of freedom we had to begin with, putting us back under bonds — and diminishing the gift of the cross.

The second most popular interpretation of Christian freedom refers to that dizzying rush that many (though not all) experience in adolescence, maybe at church camp, or after hearing the gospel for the first time. Feeling what many call a “spiritual high” or a momentary lightness, we smile at our neighbors and speak openly about the things that have weighed us down for so long. And this is genuine freedom, to be sure; but it is only one layer of it, which is frequently — eventually — lost when that exhiliration gives way to the humdrum of everyday life, to grocery lists and taxes, or worse, to the persistence of addiction or self-righteousness. When our lives look more like a downward-trending scatterplot, what, then, is the freedom promised by Christ?

Times like these, we could really use more self-proclaimed hypocrites, bacon-lovers, and college dropouts like Noel Jesse Heikkinen, whose new book, Unchained, has cracked open a third, and better, understanding of Christian freedom. Heikkinen takes seriously the unconditional freedom given to us in Christ while simultaneously parsing out the ways we might begin to understand this freedom in our everyday lives.

Theological but not overly academic, honest but not cynical, Heikkinen walks us through this foundational aspect of the Christian faith. He describes the fears we might feel when faced with absolute freedom, especially given our undying devotion to the law:

“I once heard someone answer a common question — ‘How does God feel toward me when I sin?’ — with the answer, ‘Exactly how He felt toward Jesus when He did not sin.’ Does that bother you? That’s because you’re more comfortable with chains.”

In this way, Heikkinen’s writing is conversational but simultaneously provoking and convicting in the best ways. Unchained goes on to remind us that Christ’s sacrifice “repositions” us in relation to God: no matter what we do, God loves us.

The chapters are divided to show the different ways that Christ’s love for us actually does set us free: “From the Law,” for example, or, “From Religion,” “From Guilt,” and “From Shame.” Each chapter is readable, totally accessible, and at the same time gives a well-deserved double-take to a topic that, usually, too easily slips by.

A favorite passage:

Which of these is more important: who we are or what we do? Down through history, the predominant viewpoint has been that what we do determines who we are. We’ve all heard the old adage, “You are what you eat.” This isn’t a new school of thought. Aristotle wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do.” A recent TED talk declared, “You are what you tweet.” Each one of these proclamations, while carrying a significant nugget of truth, gets the core message of the gospel backward. Frank Zappa, of all people, got it right: “You are what you is.” In other words, it’s not what we do that determines who we are; rather, who we are determines what we do. This is the biblical paradigm.

Meandering through Scripture, verse-by-verse, Heikkinen helps us understand the biblical basis for our freedom in the cross of Christ. Most effectively, he draws on real-life anecdotes from his own ministry, showing how normal people like you and me experience gospel freedom in their/our every day lives. In the end, Unchained proves to be a powerful down-to-earth testament to the impact of grace.