Freedom


And he was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Revelation 21: 5

 

It can be hard to be optimistic these days. There is so much wrong in our world, and the pain that all of this brokenness is causing is hard to handle. It doesn’t even need to be personal hurt, loss, and suffering for it to have a strong impact upon us. Then, when the sting of life’s sorrows does come to us in a personal manner, our already tender and raw hearts can be overwhelmed by it all. This is a challenging time in a tough place to live; yet, we are not even close to being alone in this place or in our journey through it. From that moment when it all went sideways, God has been involved in this world and with us as He seeks out all that are lost and has set His plan for full redemption into motion.

 

The plan is present as God articulated it in those first dark hours of creation’s rebellion, and its resolution is a promise that God has made to that same creation and that He specifically gave to the people of this world. We were to be saved out of our sin-devised death by Christ, and He has come and He does save us through faith and by His unfathomable grace. Although I and others who live today may not see that day of final renewal during our current lives on earth, we can be certain of God’s promise that this day of restoration for creation will come. For me there is a hopefulness to be found in this knowledge, for my own efforts on behalf of God’s kingdom are neither wasted nor are they of minor importance to my Lord. He calls me to do what it is that I engage in, and He empowers that effort as He directs it.

 

This reality provides me with true freedom. It expresses the hope that underlies life in this world. For as there is pain, loss, and suffering afoot everywhere today, the presence of God is also here with me, and that presence pours out the glory of my Creator and Lord onto all that I encounter. In moments of loss, He is there to comfort and to fill up with His infinite love. During the hours of pain, Christ shares in it and provides a form of grace that soothes the sting of my raw and tortured nerves. It does seem to me that even over the harsh and raucous noise of our world today that the voices of the angelic choir that surrounds the throne of God can be heard singing out their unceasing praises to the Lord. They speak of God’s promise of total renewal, and they lead me to join in with them in singing praises to Christ who has redeemed me and is working every day to perfect His renewal in me and in all who follow Him.

For we are slaves; yet in our bondage, our God has not forsaken us, but has extended lovingkindness to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us reviving to raise up the house of our God, to restore its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.

Ezra 9: 9

 

In at least one sense, Ezra is speaking truthfully about our lives today; for, we are slaves. It seems to me that living in this world and the effects of being surrounded by what often seems to be a relentless assault by evil can cause us to feel as if we are just as enslaved as were the Israelites during the times of foreign captivity. It often feels like our thoughts are being held captive by our culture. We perceive that it is unsafe to express what we really believe in public. We live with concerns that all forms of entertainment are likely to be infused with dangerous lies or with harmful images. It is easy for followers of Christ to come to the conclusion that there is no righteousness to be found in our world.

 

Yet, Ezra’s calling to stand firm and to shout out the truth of the Lord’s calling to His people in a very oppressive public environment is also our calling. The Lord does not want us to remain enslaved, trapped, and made ineffectual by the forces of evil that try to take away our freedom. God is not silent in these times; for, He speaks continually to the hearts and into the minds of anyone who will seek Him out and who will listen. God wants us to proclaim our freedom in Christ. In so doing He also wants us to bring restoration to the world around us.

 

We can stand up with courage before the rulers of this world, and we need to stand firmly for the freedom that Christ has given to us. We do this most effectively by refusing to buy into the lies and the deception that evil uses to divert us from our true calling and to frighten us into submission to its mission of destruction. Truth is spoken very clearly in God’s Word, and we are called by Christ to proclaim that truth without reservation, hesitation, or compromise. Our Lord also calls us to love all others with the same passion that He holds for relationship with all people. As we do this we become agents for restoration by bringing the love of Christ and His grace into the lives of people who are caught in the trap of bondage to this world. So, as we rebuild the walls of faith and righteousness in our hearts and in our communities, we can reclaim important parcels of territory for the Kingdom of God.

 

Arise sleeper, awake from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.

Ephesians 5: 14

 

When Christ comes into our lives He changes the status of our souls from ones that are dead and already in the process of decaying into ones that are fully alive and that are then in the process of being transformed into souls that shine with the glory of Christ. Turning my life over to Christ and following His path of righteousness in my life has the effect of quite literally awaking me from the deep and dark sleep of that spiritually dead state into the light of awareness. As Christ shows me truth and His Spirit makes acting upon that truth an imperative, my now wide-open eyes begin to see that the world has a profound level of need for a savior.

 

This awareness is not a part of the thinking of a person who is still asleep, and, I fear, that there are times when those of us who do know Christ are also caught napping. We tune out the voice of our Savior as He points us toward the hurt, the broken, and the spiritually needy people around us, and we excuse our untimely slumber by pointing to how much energy we are using in order to survive the day or to all of the really good things that we are already doing for the sake of our religious practices. To Christ, these statements are simply excuses, and He asks, “Am I not enough, am I not all that you need?”

 

The honest, true, and real answer is, “Yes, You are more than all that I ever need.” So Christ calls to us to awaken and arise! If your heart and mind have slipped into a drowsy state, it is time to pull back the curtains and let the glory of Christ in. Then, it is also time to become like a rooster in the world crying out in celebration of the new dawn of life that is to be found in and through Christ. This day is the Lord’s, and He is ready to pour out His glory into each and every life that turns to Him. So, those of us who are already awake can demonstrate and speak about the life that we have received from our Lord, and by living in this manner, we bring the hope of true life to the world that we touch.

 

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.

1 Thessalonians 1: 4, 5

 

If you thought that the last commission-based salesperson that you encountered was persistent, you have seen nothing until you consider the way that God goes after people. The Lord does not stop appealing to us until breath stops flowing into our lungs. He wants to close the deal with each of us before that final day comes, and He would prefer for it to happen much sooner than that. God’s motivation in seeking after people is very different too. He wants to be in a relationship with people in a manner that is deep, personal, and transformative for each of us. Christ also desires to work with and through us to bring love, truth, and peace into our world.

 

So, Christ’s tools of persuasion are powerful and compelling. He sends people who know Him out into the unknown of this world to care about the lives of other people and to share the profound importance of entering into a relationship with Christ with the people who they encounter. Yet, God does not just send people with words of unsupported personal experience, He also goes along in this journey of faith in the personal presence of the Holy Spirit within each of Christ’s people and by way of the Spirit’s own testimony to the truth of the gospel message of salvation and transformed lives by and through Christ. All of this presents a powerful expression of the relentless love that God pours out upon the people who populate His Creation.

 

Christ wants to know each of us, and He also desires that we would know Him very well. As we do come into that ever deepening form of knowledge and understanding of the Lord and of His heart, we will become ever more fully aware of His desire for each of us to be people who share the love of Christ with others. The Lord sends us all out into the numerous places in our world where He is not known, and He commissions us to live out and to speak forth His gospel message of salvation in those places and to the people that we encounter there. This desire to share the truth of the salvation from sin and the transformation that Christ is working within us is fueled and driven by the conviction of our hearts and minds that life and freedom are found in a relationship with Christ. This is the message that the Spirit within implores each of us to carry with us throughout the days to come.

 

 

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us, for after saying,

“This is the covenant that I will make with them

after these days, declares the Lord;

I will put my laws on their hearts,

and write them on their minds.”

Then he adds,

“I will remember their sins no more.”

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Hebrews 10: 15-18

 

God has done something wonderful and remarkable for us. Sure, He granted to all people the opportunity to enter into His complete forgiveness for our sinful rebellion against Him, and that is the biggest thing that exists in this life and beyond it into eternity. To me this is a fact that I do not even consider rethinking or doubting. Jesus is God. He did live as one of us on this earth, and His life was given up in sacrifice for the sinfulness of all of humanity. Then He overcame the realm of this world by coming alive again, and He resides with the Father. These are the basic facts that I accept, and it is this acceptance that leads me to the place where God does this truly over the top thing.

 

My Lord wants me to be fully aware of the difference that His presence within me and in my life means for the way that I can go about living. God wants each of us who know Him to have His ancient and everlasting view of what it means to dwell in a loving and peace-seeking manner within the world of our existence. He replaces the ethic of death that everyone is born into with His living one that considers hope, restoration, and relationship as its foundation. This is all formed up around God’s grace that He has poured out upon all of creation in the form of Christ’s sacrificial blood and that now grants total forgiveness to those of us who choose Christ. God wants us to grasp the wonderful gift that has been given to us in the form of the totality of our forgiveness in Christ.

 

Now we can live with bold engagement and with complete fearlessness in our world. We will make mistakes, and we are all still prone to sinful thoughts and actions. Yet, God will not hold any of these missteps and misdeeds against us. They are forgiven and put behind us so that we can continue forward with a life that is committed to serving Christ by making His name known to our world. God is not like many human rulers and leaders in that He does not desire to control any of us by means of superior power and forced obedience. Instead, the Lord grants to us the knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and love that make it possible to think and to act out of His truth with His Word as our guide. This comes about because of the presence of this great gift of the Spirit of Christ who works to reform our hearts and to form our minds into ones that are shaped more and more fully into the image of our Creator.

God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).

Ephesians 2: 4, 5

 

This is an important thing to remember; God didn’t wait for me to go out and figure out life before He would come into my world. Also, He didn’t require me to get up out of the tomb that was my life, convince someone to perform CPR on my lifeless form, and start my own heart beating with eternal blood before He would embrace me. Jesus came into my world, which had all of the appearance and the odor of an open graveyard, and my Lord reached out to me and put His arms around my broken form. Then, Christ accepted me as I was. He took me into His glorious home even though I was still dressed in my grave clothes and covered with the filth of my sin.

 

God continues to operate out of the depths of this thing that we call grace, for He wants us to give Him our love and our worship. The Lord wants us to live righteously out of a desire to serve Him and not because we believe that God requires some form of effort out of us in order to draw near to Him. Just as we could not bring ourselves out of the darkness of spiritual death, we don’t have the capacity to initiate just, worthy, and righteous actions on our own, either. God’s Word and His Spirit interacting with us through it and within our hearts will show us what to do and how to do it. God’s grace continues to reach out to us, and it sets us free to follow Christ and to be His representatives in this world.

 

We can all stop moving so fast and working so hard. Rather, let’s take time to reflect on God’s Word and listen well in order to truly hear His voice as He speaks from within the depths of His Word. Then we can take the Lord’s words of direction and encouragement with us into our day where His Spirit will continue to speak to our hearts and minds, and His gracious love will continue to surround us with the sweet embrace of Christ’s mercy. This is what it means to be alive with Christ. We travel through this journey that is life in the continual and the constant company of the Creator of all, and the steps of our days have meaning that is far greater than anything that we could have devised on our own. Now, this love that saved us is also the love that we can pour out onto the world as we live in the full expression of the grace that has freed us.

 

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?

Galatians 4: 9

 

You know, those heavy chains with thick ankle and wrist cuffs that make up the bonds of slavery were never really comfortable or even fashionable. They were a part of my daily wearing apparel for a long time. When I allowed Christ to set me free from the life of servitude to sin that had been my calling from birth, I gave up my need to wear them. He brought me out a perpetual state of weighty oppression and into an eternal one of freedom. Yet there are times when I seem to want to go back. I take on the countenance and the manner of thinking of a slave. These are truly frustrating and even debilitating times.

 

Paul wants me to clearly understand that something profound happened when Christ entered into my life. In that moment I came to know God on a deeply intimate and very real level. Additionally, God took me into His family as a fully known child and a completely vested heir to all of the love, truth, and glory of His kingdom. There is nothing that I do not possess that is needful in this life. There is no reason for me to want to go back to living in my old life. All of what is right and righteous has become mine, and all knowledge and wisdom that is useful for living well is knowable by me.

 

Christ has truly set me free from the old, worldly way of navigating through life. When I find myself confused, disturbed, and disoriented, there is wisdom available to me that will guide me to clarity. During the times when doubt enters into my spirit with its cloud of self-defeating claims about my worth and capability, Christ speaks up to assert His claim to my soul and to proclaim my worthiness. There is simply no rational reason for me to return to old sinful patterns of thinking. There is no longer any need for me to seek comfort in my former methods of coping with life. The chains of that life of slavery have been broken beyond repair by Christ. I am free from their hold upon me, and I can claim that victory and follow God’s wisdom as a free person through all of my days.

 

Next Page »