Posts Tagged liberty

Celebrating Independence

 

What does Independence Day mean to you?  We honor our currently serving service people as well as all veterans.  We have cookouts and fireworks.  For many of us it is about food and family.  Let us not forget, however, that this holiday is a celebration of our liberation from Colonial Great Britain and while Great Britain is a great friend of ours, we should recall that the nation many of us call home exists because people had a vision from God of what their lives and this land could be.  As we recall the price generations of people have paid for our liberty, let us not forget the original struggle for independence that is at the heart of this celebration.  Take it into your heart.  Think about the early framers and the men and women who made perilous journey’s to their “promised land” and gave us all the chance to live in a free country.  This is a great privilege and not one to be taken lightly.

Today we celebrate our independence.  We fought for our independence from Great Britain so that we would be answerable to only one authority, our God.  He is our king.  He is the original framer of this country.  Give Him worship for all He has done!

Arise

John 11: 44

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

This puts me in remembrance of the Israelites in captivity in Egypt. God repeatedly said to Pharaoh, “Let My people go!” Jesus came to earth proclaiming liberty to the captives and freedom to prisoners. We saw that Galatians 5: 1 reads, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free.” Most people who read this daily devotional are blessed to live in countries where they enjoy political and social freedom. The troubling truth, though, is that far too many of us are weighted down with grave clothes and are not living the life of freedom mentally, emotionally or spiritually that Jesus’ victory provides us.

The greater part of us are well acquainted with spiritual death. We were lost, just floundering our way through life when Jesus reached out and brought us into fellowship with him. That fellowship gave us new life, a redeemed life. It is a miracle and a daily joy but sometimes we forget how it felt to be dead. Do you remember what it was like before you had hope? Do you remember the daily frustrations and continuous trials?

Life in Jesus offers hope, but it also yields freedom. The more intertwined our lives become with his, the more free we live. It is amazing, truly. I have been a Christian as long as I can remember. Though, I can’t remember a time when Jesus wasn’t precious to me I have found a different way of living, a different flavor to my Christianity if you will. We have an ability to life our lives with and through him. Recall the words of Paul, “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,” (Galatians 2: 20). Beyond mere Christianity is life in Christ and that is our real objective. It is living with him and for him in every moment of our existence. The concept is so far beyond what I originally learned that I still find it a mind stretching experience. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that if she would drink of the water he offers, she would never thirst again yet how many of us are spiritually parched. There is life and freedom in Christ. Those are not mere words. That kind of truth, however, only comes through laying down our own lives. How does one do that?

Here is my advice. Seek God with all your heart and might. Our Christian walk is often characterized by phases of growth often resulting in a different relationship with the Trinity. I began one of those deeper walks thirteen years ago which completely transformed my life. It began, though, with seeking him. Through that my life and his life have become one amalgamated existence. There no longer is any me without him. And, truthfully, I have become part of him too. This intertwining has changed every aspect of my life: my health, nutrition, relationships, patience, level of spiritual revelation, peace, even every day tasks are easier and I am more successful in the things I do because he is in the midst of them. He really is in everything, even your breath and this shakes the grave clothes from your body so that the life you live is one of vitality, joy, peace and, when we are doing it right, even ease. He gives us the grace to live above our ability, wisdom or knowledge. He gives us a lighter step and clearer eyes.

Shake the grave clothes from your frame. Arise and live. There is fullness of life in Christ Jesus and I honestly want every drop of it in you. My desire is that you live in overflowing abundance of his grace and goodness. Let my people go! Be free! Enjoy a life intertwined with Jesus.

Who Condemns?

Romans 8: 34              NIV

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Yesterday I wrote to you about condemnation and freedom. Today’s verse asks, “Who … condemns?” There is only one fit and worthy to condemn anyone. That is Jesus. It was he who went to the cross, died and then arose to sit in glory at the right hand of the Father. So, does he sit there whispering into the Father’s ear all the things we are doing wrong? No. He constantly intercedes for us. Intercession is prayer on the behalf of someone else.

Jesus won his battle. He accomplished his purpose. Why isn’t he just relaxing, eating grapes. For that matter, why doesn’t he complain about all he did for us and how we fail to utilize his good gifts and even the way so many people ignore what he did for them. We may not be very holy either but at least we recognize his sacrifice.

The only person who is worthy to condemn you has chosen, instead, to pray for you. What does that tell you about condemnation and freedom? God values liberty over criticism. He isn’t a disapproving God. He sent his son to you so that your approval is guaranteed. Rejoice in the loving God who accepts you and calls you His own.

No More Condemnation

Romans 8: 1 – 2

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

Isaiah 61: 1 is Jesus’ commission. It is the passage he read which marked the launch of his public ministry. Let’s see what that means to this passage from Paul to the Romans. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners.” The Tree of Life version says that Jesus’ job was to free “those who are bound.” Bondage is, therefore, no more to those who are in Christ.

The prisoners are set free because Jesus set us free from the law of sin and death. This is the very essence of Jesus’ proclamation of liberty to the captives and freedom to prisoners. We are no longer under the condemnation of the law because we have been set free.

This is a difficult passage in one way. Although it is great news, we can find it difficult in application because it touches on sin, judgment and forgiveness, all of which are very full and challenging topics. Here is what we all need to understand, though. Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and death. Where Jesus exists there is life, light and liberty. Therefore, if you feel under condemnation, I would have you approach Jesus directly because he did not leave his blood on a cross so that you should live under condemnation.

This is not a license to sin. Who in their right mind thinks such a thing? We are to live our lives honorably to the Lord, our lives being our worship. “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me,” (Galatians 2: 20). Surely that is an intense statement of purpose. That is the only law worthy of our conversation, that we live our lives to Christ who willingly died for us. But doesn’t that statement also call us up to higher ground? I want you to live a life which honors Jesus’ sacrifice. That does not mean dead works. It means purposeful worship through your work, your daily workout, your diet, and even your driving practices. It means living with Jesus beside you every step of your day. It explicitly does not mean that you should feel condemned because you do or don’t do some of the things your church buddies think you ought. You better be able to take all you are and all you do into the very presence of the Almighty. If you cannot, then deal with that issue, but don’t let the law, or other people’s version of it put you under condemnation.

I believe this is a very freeing verse, but I also think it is saturated with personal responsibility to the Lord Jesus. I will not make his blood of no consequence nor shall I take his and the Father’s sacrifice for granted. At the same time, I will not let another use Jesus’ martyrdom as an opportunity to imprison the beloved. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery,” (Galatians 5: 1).

True Freedom

John 8: 32

You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

Jesus said that when we know the truth, that truth will set us free. What truth is it that will set you free? Does this sound simplistic? Perhaps it does but it reveals a deep truth that is often overlooked. Only the truth about you, will set you free. The truth about me will do little to change your life. We can learn from other people’s examples and that is incredibly valuable but what sets a person free is that truth about themselves which they accept in their innermost being, that truth which they allow to have a transformative impact.

You could go to a four day seminar and hear the truth all day long for the entire four days and never let one bit of it impact you. You may even sit there thinking about all the people you know who need to hear this wisdom. You will only get your money’s worth when you allow the truth to penetrate to your heart and hear what it means in your own life. A healthy self-esteem allows us to let Jesus speak to our hearts. When we are not secure, then these lessons become a threat. We don’t want to hear advice and teaching from others because it challenges our façade, threatening to reveal the real us which lies just below the thin mask we wear.

Another major revelation can be had by seeing this verse in context, “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free,”  (John 8: 31 – 32). Jesus spoke, here, to believers. Of course, even though they were Jewish, they were also converts. Jesus presented a new way of thinking. He told them how to become disciples. That is to continue in his word, which is a viable test of discipleship even ‘til today. There is more though, and it is important that we not miss the nexus between verse 31 and verse 32. You see here that the truth comes from the Word. If you continue in the Word and you allow that Word to speak to your heart, then you will not only prove yourselves disciples, but you will also set yourself free from the bondage of your past. When you meditate on this verse, it will grow such that you will see that it truly does have great power to set at liberty the captives, which, after all, is part of Jesus’ commission.

There is a distinct difference between reading the Word, studying the Word and allowing it to transform your life. Those of you who can say, “Amen” to that statement have experienced the soul shaking power of the Word. It penetrates even to the deepest parts, when we allow it, and heals the broken heart. It finds places within us where strong ropes of belief, misunderstanding and hurt have tied us down to living life within those restraints. Jesus meant for us to be free. He came to set us free and it is his word and the truth it reveals about us to us that breaks the yoke of bondage off of us.

Get real with yourself and with Jesus. It is not painful. He isn’t looking to tell you what a loser you are. You and others have done that plenty well enough already. Jesus wants you to know how loved and valuable you are. He wants to reveal lies you have believed which have kept you from the life he prepared for you. He wants to give you abundance. If you will allow him and his truth into the deepest, darkest recesses of your heart, he will heal the hurts and shine his light in your heart. It’s all good. Don’t be afraid.

Blessed Independence Day

 

I pray that you have a blessed and safe Fourth. As we celebrate liberty, independence and freedom let us also remember and envision the United States as a nation divinely appointed under God!

Say “Yes”

Galatians 2: 20

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Here is the result of our death and burial. We have a new life. This newness of life came with our communion with Jesus in his resurrection. What, though, makes our new life any different from our old life? I mean, what is the point of a new life if it looks like the old one that we buried? Paul points out the way. This new life, the life that Jesus bought for us but that we are living out in our mortal bodies is not one of solitude, isolation or independence. The life we now live is the life of Christ within us. We live by faith and in the love which he showed when he gave up his life for us. Now, we give up our life for him. Our lives, these lives which we have dedicated to the Lord, this life which he bought for us at Calvary, we live intertwined in the Christ who loves us and gives us life. We live his life because he is alive within us and we are renewed. We say, “Yes,” to Christ and he fills us with his resurrection power of life and liberty.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him,” (Colossians 2: 6 NIV). These verses make sense on the surface of our brains but when we really consider them, they are much more complex than we may first appreciate. However, this verse really is at the heart of the Christian message. This life we live we live in and through him. Doing just that makes all of the difference in our existence.

I was thinking yesterday about raising teenagers. There are so many things that you want to caution them about; drugs, sex, alcohol. I found myself thinking that loving them could end up sounding like a litany of “don’t’s.” How effective is it, I wonder, just telling children not to do this and not to do that. There must be a better way. Then I thought, maybe they need to understand that they are too valuable, too prized to damage their lives with things that will hurt them. Then I realized this is the same message that pastors must consider.

It is no good for pastors to spend Sunday after Sunday telling their congregations what not to do. Besides, we all know the list of the things we ought not be doing. The real message is you are too beloved to do these things. I want you to say, “Yes,” to Christ, to living in him. Christ is true liberty. He is true peace and happiness. When we focus on loving him and, just as importantly, his love for us, then we don’t need those things. We don’t even want them. In truth, they become repugnant to us. And if you want to know the whole truth, they are weak copies of the true pleasures in life. Getting drunk or high will never give a person the high they can experience in the presence of God. If one ever experiences being in the manifested presence of God, then alcohol and drugs lose their attraction. All of the world’s pleasures attempt to mimic the exultation we feel in Christ but they always fall woefully short.

So, my plan is to continue to encourage you into an ever deeper relationship with Christ. Crucify and bury the old man with his fleshly desires. Receive the fullness of the renewed life that you have in Christ. It’s not about saying, “No,” to sin; it’s all about saying, “Yes,” to Christ. If you do and if you continue to, then you will not have a sin problem. Those things will just lose their hold over you.

Christ is calling. What will you say?

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