Freedom


The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Philippians 4: 23

The thing that I needed more than all else was God’s grace, for here I was, interested, even fascinated with God, listening to His word, and hanging out with His people; yet, until I was ready and willing to open my heart to Him and surrender control to His Spirit, I was as lost and as dead as any person who had never come near to His presence. In fact, I was more so; since, if I had continued to ignore His call, my intellectual knowledge could have become a very large barrier to entering into a true relationship with Christ. However, God’s grace continued to pursue me until I stopped running away and accepted Him.

This need for grace continues throughout my life; in fact, it seems that there are many times when the need has become even greater than before I had entered into that relationship with Christ, for now, evil tries to speak to me with a voice that tells me in detail about every way that I fail to follow God’s will, and it keeps reminding me of each instance of moral, ethical, relational, and spiritual deviation from the direction that God tells me to travel. It is the truth of the Lord that brings me back to my senses, and it is the truth about my Lord’s grace that overcomes the lies that Satan keeps speaking to my mind.

I know, based upon my life experience, that there will be times today when I will need to focus on the truth of the totality of Jesus’ saving work and on what that means for me right now. The glorious aspect of this fact is that when I do closely consider  God’s love for me and then get on with living as someone who knows from the heart that this love and acceptance is total and absolute, my spirit is lifted out of the depths of worry and concern that fear tries to push it into, and I am set free to live as God intends for me to live. It is the grace of Christ that carries the weight of life that this world and I keep attempting to hang around my spirit. So, this same grace is where I find freedom and living in that freedom is how I experience peace in my soul. 

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Therefor do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

2 Timothy 1: 8-10

In Christ, shame is gone. That is a very big idea, and it is one that, in general, is hard for most people to fully grasp onto. Yet, as people who know Christ and who are also held onto by Him, we have nothing in life or beyond it to be ashamed of. We may have lived a life wherein we did and said things that were highly worthy of rebuke and shame, and we do get to own the damage that we may have done along the way. Yet, the grace that Jesus pours over His people is such that we can be set free from the fear and the doubt that accompanies realization of the sinfulness and the harmful nature of the way we have lived. Christ grants to us a newly formed and discovered strength of will, character, and person that enables us to make radical course changes in life and to also do the hard work of repairing damage done in the past.

It is this dramatic and transformative change that can establish the reason for proclaiming the work of Christ as the cause and motivation for what others are seeing as a new person. In addition to the difference in approach to life that Christ makes in His followers, He also gives each of us a gift or gifts of His Spirit that are to be used in the support and the promotion of the outworking of God’s kingdom upon the earth. The presence of Christ within us should make us bold in our use and application of these gifts. We can go through life with the confidence of Christ in both putting what He has given to us to practical use and also in speaking out about the source of this newly found capability and capacity for doing God’s work in our world. In Christ, we are fully alive, and the way that we live out our days can reflect that reality to others.

Death itself is the result of sinful disobedience to God. Each of us is born into a life that is overshadowed by the prospect of our own mortality, and the weight of that knowledge can work to constrain and to curtail our joy and our freedom in living in the fullest expression of what it means to love and to care about the world around us. Jesus overcame the hold that death has upon humanity, and He put human mortality into its rightful perspective. We all will still die, but in Christ, that is just a momentary change in the location of our residency. For Christ transforms our living spirits into ones that dwell in this life in the presence of the divine as the Holy Spirit comes to reside within us; then, when this life ceases, Christ takes us into the next aspect of our existence with Him as we continue on with a life that is carried out in the presence of God in the spiritual realm of heaven. This certainty of our eternal destiny is also something that we can proclaim to our world in the shamelessly bold manner of one who now lives in the center of the glorious truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

1 John 5: 12

This is a simple and direct statement. There are two states of being, and one of those is fully and eternally alive, and the other is not. It is up to each of us to decide on which side of this equation we land when our days on this earth end. Essentially, this all revolves around who and what we believe to be true, and the outcome hinges upon willingness to take a singular action that is based upon that belief. God presents the evidence for His perspective in many ways. It comes to us in the form of the testimony of people who have believed in God and who have accepted Christ as the Son of God and as our own Savior and Lord of our lives. God also speaks to us through His word, the Bible, and He reaches out to all of the world through the wordless witness of creation. God is not silent about His presence, and He is never reticent to bring forth His presentation of Jesus the Christ as His Son and the path to redemption for all people.

Yet, God still allows us the right to choose. He does not want to compel us into a relationship with Him, for any relationship that is founded and formed up out of compulsion is not truly a relationship. God desires for each of us to willingly submit ourselves to His will so that we can live out our lives in committed service to His gospel of love. This is a form of service that provides the servant with meaning and with purpose in life that is far greater and more significant that anything else that we may have considered before we knew Christ. By submitting our lives to Christ, we are entering into dwelling outside of the temporary and futile nature of this world as we then begin to live in the fullest sense of what the bigger than life construct of eternal life describes. Living as a follower of Christ means that all aspects of life are framed in and formed up out of material that can be drawn from beyond that which is found in this world.

These resources are infinite in their abundance, and they are readily available to God’s people. Although we do not leave this world, we can operate in a manner that is supported and empowered by Christ so that His great love for all people can overcome our fears and our reluctance to engage with some people. In fact, Christ compels us to become ever more involved with our world as we grow closer to Him. The more we know of our Lord and the better that we understand Him, the more His heart of love, care, and compassion for the people of this world will shape our own hearts to be like His. This is one of the most significant ways that followers of Christ should be distinct from the rest of the world, for we should demonstrate God’s heart of redemptive care and relentless pursuit of the lost in all of our words and actions. So, this is what being alive in Christ truly means. The life that Christ grants to us is one in which we love others in the faith without reservation, and we love all people with a zeal for the Gospel of Christ that is fueled by the desire to see all people from every corner of our world given the opportunity to choose this same form of life for themselves. 

If anyone serves me, he must follow me, and where I am, there will be my servant also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

John 12: 26

In many respects the easiest part of following Jesus is found in saying yes to Him. Yes, I will follow You, and yes, I will serve Your kingdom. The hardest aspect of all of this comes about when Christ shows us where it is that He actually wants for us to go in fulfillment of that promise to follow Him anywhere. Jesus made the same sort of commitment to the Father and to all of creation, and the following that ensued for Him took our blameless Lord to a cross that would normally have been reserved for people whose lives were ruled by the darkness of sin. Yet, in obedience and out of necessity for the sakes of all of us, Jesus suffered and died at the hands of people who were unwittingly tasked with service to God as priests as they offered up and executed that ultimate sacrifice for all sins for the entire scope and span of time.

Now, we do not need to die in spirit, and even these wounded bodies are granted a form of reprieve that leads us to living out our days as instruments of God’s redemptive work in our world. However, we do not escape that cross that Jesus suffered and bled upon. We are called by Him to follow, and the path that He takes us along does inevitably require each of us to go to that place of surrender of will and submission of self to the holy and righteous One, Jesus Christ. This experience is usually not easy or pleasant to consider, and it can be torturous to endure. Yet, the result of such complete and absolute surrender to Christ is a form of freedom that cannot be found in any other way or from a different source. The cross of Christ is the initial point for a life that is lived out in the fullest expression of the wonder and the glory of God’s creative touch upon each and every person that walks upon the earth.

On the other side of the cross was resurrection and life. Jesus departed the tomb of His momentary burial and walked among His people, and He continues to dwell among and within us in the form of His Spirit to this hour. Christ continues to lead us into a type of surrender that sets us free from the earthly forms of servitude that continue to enslave our hearts, minds, and bodies, and in that process of divestiture of those remaining aspects of our old selves, the Lord guides us into the blessings of service to the Father’s kingdom come upon this earth. Christ does this as He grants to us our particular place and purpose in God’s plan for redemption of that which is lost. That cross of obedient surrender to which Christ leads each of us was intended by the world to be an implement of defeat and shame, but God’s redemptive will has transformed it into a place where victory over death is proclaimed and whereby we each gain that place of honor that God bestows upon His faithful servants. 

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12: 2 

We live on the inside of a large, ever present mold, and there are pressures being exerted upon everyone to manipulate and to form us into a replica of that shaping form. Some of its contours are easy to accept and others are hard and sharp-edged. The pressure that is placed upon us that is intended to cause us to fit into the configuration that the owner of the mold desires can be mild but it does get ramped up to the point of being extreme at times. The presence of these shaping forces is something that never leaves us in this life; however, we do get to make some choices in these matters. We can accept certain influences as we can also reject others. So, we can seek out the master of the mold that we would like to have influencing the life that we will live, and we can choose to submit to the type of master that we believe will take us in the right and true direction.

This choice of masters is something that God has given to us. He desires for us to choose Him and to seek after His influence and instruction in all matters, but God wants for each of us to do these things freely and without compulsion. He risks granting us the freedom to make these decisions on our own, but He does not leave us without advice or counsel to assist us in determining what is right, just, good, and holy in our world. The Lord does allow us to decide for ourselves to select or to reject those Godly influences. This is a type of consideration that we are faced with at a high level as we consider whether to accept Christ as Savior and Lord of our lives, and we continue to encounter these decision points throughout every day that we are alive when we need to choose to live in a manner that is fully submitted to Christ and to God’s Word or to travel along a different path in some aspects of life. Every one of these decisions has an influence upon the form, the substance, and the shape of the life that I will live from this day forward.

Yet, even wrong turns and surrender to the pressures that the world places upon a person is not without its value and its worth in the process of living a life that is Godly, righteous, and valuable within God’s kingdom on earth. The Lord is redemptive in His character and nature. He seeks to retrieve our lost moments, hours, days, and years by granting to each of us a grace that is infinite in its mercy and unceasing in its capacity to love us. God follows us wherever we may go, He calls us into the presence of His word of life, and He speaks renewal and new life into any and all of our dark and hurting places. As we submit to Christ and seek out His will, He applies the sort of pressure that we require to remake each of us into people who take on a shape and a form that is beautiful in God’s eyes and that lives in a manner that brings the grace, hope, and love of Christ into the lives of others. With or without Christ we are being formed and shaped every day, but in Christ, the form that we acquire is one that is radiant with His glory and that is made beautiful by the love that He pours into us and that we can then grant to the world where we live.   

Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5:1

All that it takes to live well in God’s eyes, at least as they are understood by the Apostle Paul, is to think and act exactly as God would in the various situations and circumstance in which we find ourselves. This is not such an enormous task, is it? As anyone who has even the slightest desire to do this sort of thing can attest, living out godliness, that is, walking through life as a perfect image of Christ is not only challenging to do, but it is an impossibility. No one can do this, and no one other than Jesus has even come close. Thus, we go from the example of absolute perfection on the one hand in Christ to the flawed performance that all of the rest of us exhibit on the other hand. The contrast is stark, and the failure that we all know could be overwhelming if we were to let it be so. But that is not the way that God wants for things to be, and that is not the place that Christ leaves us, either.

Jesus went to the cross so that this flawed and failed reality would not continue to be the one that all of humanity inhabited. The blameless and perfect One paid a price that each and every one of us who has walked this earth or who will ever do so has earned the obligation to pay. However, God desired to close the enormous gap that sin had created between Himself and us, and that desire was so great that the Father gave the Son over as payment for that eternal debt. In like fashion and with complete accord, Jesus, the Son Himself, surrendered to the will of the Father and completed the arduous and painful journey that was set out for Him from the beginning of earth’s history. So, we are set free from overbearing guilt, shame, and the debt of sin. We are granted a new life in Christ, and we are led into being purposeful followers of Christ’s calling for each of our lives.

So, we will never be perfect followers of Christ, and no one will exist in a sinless state in this life. However, in Christ, we put on that new image of redemption that allows each of us to leave behind our old ways of viewing life and of interacting with people. Now our hearts are opened up to viewing all others as people to be loved and to be cared about and for. As Christ truly gave Himself up for me and for you, so too, we are called upon by Christ, and we are empowered by His Spirit to give up our fears, concerns, inhibitions, and prejudices so that we can see all of the people on this earth as God’s own dear ones that need love and understanding. Thus, there is no person who is too different, unclean, professing an unreachable view of God, hurtful beyond redemption, or who possesses or exhibits any barrier or impediment to being approached in love. We can all imitate Christ in reaching out in love to all others. This is the great possibility of faith in Christ. He has opened those doors for us, and His sacrifice has already bridged the great divide that Satan has attempted to create between people. All that we need to do is to trust in Christ enough to walk out onto the bridge that He has constructed for us to use. 

Behold my servant, whom I uphold, 

   my chosen in whom my soul delights;

I have put my Spirit upon him; 

   he will bring forth justice to the nations.

Isaiah 42: 1

God is not just a distant observer. He sees and He feels. He hears our pleas for mercy, and His heart is broken by the cruel and calculating way that we deny that desired mercy to our world’s oppressed and disadvantaged people. Our planet sees very little grace and even less love, and we are all diminished because of our self-centered and God-denying ways of thinking about others and of acting toward them. Too many people live their lives in active pursuit of isolation and with hearts set on protection from pain and loss. Throughout history individuals have listened to God’s call to see people differently and to attempt to lead us into peace and understanding. Yet, our world is probably worse off today as regards our care for and about others than it ever has been.

Listening to God and allowing Him to move us to action is not only a good thing; it is the right thing to do. When we feed the starving, protect the weak, provide shelter to the homeless, and champion justice for those who are voiceless; we are responding to the expressed desire of God’s heart. Still, very little changes in our world. The pain and the suffering of people throughout the world does not end. Hope continues to elude our grasp, and it is easy to give up on efforts at bringing relief to the victims of strife and commerce. In the face of it all, God says, “Behold My servant.”

There is only one answer to all of the sadness and the pain of life in our world. This is different from the way that we usually see things. For our human tendency is to make the cause the focus. We devise programs for feeding and for housing. We cry out for justice, and we speak stridently in favor of laws that would protect the right of the unborn to draw breath. Again, these are not bad things to become engaged in. However, they are not the cause, and the best of results in each and every one of these areas of concern is not what God desires to see. Every noble cause that people can devise finds its true strength and effectiveness as it is subordinate to Christ. The desired outcome of all of these efforts should be His proclamation in our world. The only hope for lasting justice is found in Christ. Regardless of the nobility of the cause, Christ must be the focus and He must reign over it all. When Christ’s name is the banner that we follow, His justice, mercy, and peace will be known in our world.      

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