It's quite clear that in the final analysis it's the grace of Christ that liberates us. It's the experience of unconditional love that really sets us free.
But first we have to be led to the circumstances that make it possible for this love to get through to us, so that we can sense and experience the need for this new life.
Richard Rohr, from Simplicity
This is what so often seems so scary about the Christian life. TS Eliot once called it, "A condition of complete simplicity / (Costing not less than everything)" (Little Gidding, from Four Quartets), and Jesus himself spoke of taking up one's cross in order to follow him. But it is true.
Jesus gives us a hint, perhaps. To the Jews who had believed him, he said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8.31-32 NIV)
Love, truth, freedom. And yet they can only be found through obedience. As always, paradox, resolved in grace, in mercy.
Psalm 119 sums it up:
Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I obey your word...
It was good for me to be afflicted
so that I might learn your decrees...
I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous,
and in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
May your unfailing love be my comfort,
according to your promise to your servant.
Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.(Ps 199.67,71,75-77 NIV)