Happy Birthday

Galatians 5: 1

 It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

I hope you have been savoring the sweet taste of freedom this weekend.  I imagine many of you have today off to celebrate our political freedom.  As you do, say a thank you to Jesus for your personal freedom as well.  You know, the two are interconnected.  Political freedom is not worth much without personal freedom.  The price has been paid by countless citizens for our religious, political and personal freedom but it was Jesus who created the platform by which others have been able to stand for the liberties we now enjoy.

I am so very grateful for those who paid the price and for all who continue to pray for our country and our leaders today.  Freedom still has a high cost but praise our Lord who gave us freedom so that we could pursue liberty.  Thank you Lord.  And Happy Birthday America!

Loose Him

John 11: 43 – 44

When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus *said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

The story of Lazarus is a good metaphor for the Christian experience. Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb, from death, yet Lazarus was still bound hand and foot.

A few sentences earlier Jesus told Martha, “I am . . . the life,” (v. 25). In Jesus is the very essence of the life force that runs this planet, so he was well able to restore Lazarus to life. It is the same way with us. We were dead in our sins. We had the appearance of being alive but truthfully, we were dead bones walking around waiting for redemption. Jesus came. He called out to us as he did to Lazarus and Eureka! We were born again; born from death to life. His life was given to us.

When Lazarus came out of the tomb, he was bound hand and foot and had a veil over his face. That is the very picture of us. We were given new life; restored and redeemed, but still bound hand and foot and blind from the veil covering our eyes.

It takes another act of grace to loose us from that which binds us. There are needful steps to remove the veil so that we might see. Being restored to life is not the end of the story, as we can see from today’s passage. Jesus said, “Unbind him, and let him go.” This is the message he speaks to all the pastors of the world today. After being born again begins the work of removing all those things which bind people. If the veil is not removed then we still see the world around us as the world does instead of as Jesus sees it.

It’s great when people get saved and born again but if they (we) do not take the important next step then they are not free. Jesus wants us out from under every bondage. He wants the veil removed from our face so that we might see. As Christians, this is our task for our lives in Christ. He did not restore us to life so that we remain blind slaves to our old bondage. It was for freedom that Jesus set us free (Galatians 5: 1). Therefore, let us no longer be bound by all the things which entangle those without Jesus’ victory flowing through their bodies. Be free of the blindfold and the ties. They only serve to hold you back.

Independence Day

Galatians 5: 1

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

I hope you have a wonderful Independence Day but even more, I pray you will never be subject again to a yoke of slavery.  There are all sorts of bondage, but Jesus set you free so that you would never have to be restrained by any of them.  Celebrate freedom but remember it was Jesus who set us free.

 

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).

Memorial Day

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

Our freedom was not free to Jesus nor to the many people who have fought to preserve it.  We must be diligent, daily, to stand firm for those many blessings, including freedom, that Jesus and so many others have died to secure for us.  Lest we forget . . . .

Blessings on this day of remembrance.