Freedom: For Us or From Ourselves?
Oct. 7, 2016 at 2:27 p.m.
Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. How powerful is that? Apparently so powerful that most of us cannot grasp it. The other end of this spectrum seems to be that where the spirit of religion or differing viewpoints is, there is condemnation.
We as Americans love to tout living in a free country. We tie so much of our national and cultural identity into this “freedom.” Yet, we still draw lines in the sand over politics, religion, race and a host of other things. As Christians, we talk about people being “set free” and there being freedom in Christ, yet so many times we won’t express this freedom without a follow up on how this new freedom should look or act.
What if we lived and conducted ourselves like we really believed in freedom? How would that look? What if we all really believed that as long as another’s actions didn’t cause direct harm to another individual, then they are free to do as they choose? What if we weren’t so threatened by another’s viewpoint, opinions, or expressions?
The Israelites witnessed God reign down plagues on Egypt. They saw God part the Red Sea on their behalf. They saw him provide miraculous meals in the desert. Yet, as soon as they entered the promised land they couldn’t help but beg for a king. Why? Did God not tell them he wanted to be their king? How is this not enough?
That same question is relevant for all of us today. Both as a nation and in the Christian church. Why do we continue to expect the answer for our country to come from the next politician, yet we continue to re-elect all of the same people we’re supposedly disgusted with?
What if the bigger problem is us? What if we’re turning our politicians, pastors, beliefs, ideals and even our nation into our God?
What if the secret to being free isn’t about others oppressing us at all? What if it’s really about being free from ourselves? Free to be connected with our Creator. Free to be who He made us to be?
It’s so hard to believe God. So hard to take Him at His word. What about the problems in my marriage? The sickness of a family member? The betrayal of a friend? My own inability to break a bad habit or behavior. Does this mean God isn’t faithful?
My pastor, who is also a friend, recently delivered a message to our church about grace. Not the standard grace message, rather one with depth, conviction and what certainly seemed to be an anointing of the presence of God. The whole message dealt with what the sacrifice of Jesus Christ meant to each one of us on a personal level. The real power behind it. The truth is, grace is power. I invite you to listen to the message here: Pathway Longview message from Pastor Marty Strait
I listened to the message twice as my family and I attended the Saturday service and I ushered for our eleven o’clock Sunday service. What I observed from my seat in the back of the room on Sunday was so telling. Had the message been a rousing Bible-thumping attack against specific sins (especially those that opposed the majority of our congregation) then I doubt you’d have been able to quell the “amen”, “hallelujah”, and various other declarations of agreement and support. On the other hand, had the message been full of pie-in-the-sky Hippie Jesus, all is cool, awesome and God wants to reign blessing down on you right now and make you a comfortable millionaire then I imagine an equally warm reception. Probably even some misty-eyed nods of agreement and thanksgiving.
However, when you start telling people the God-truth of the sacrifice of His son Jesus, and what that means to each us: That we can trust Him. That we can believe Him. That He really can handle each and every situation. Well, that just makes people squirm. Our minds go to all the times we’ve had an unanswered prayer. The times when we lost someone too soon. The times that someone else’s poor behavior and choices wreaked havoc in our lives. Believing and trusting in Jesus is hard. Does this mean that the problem is God?
As our pastor commonly reminds us, many churches choose to create a new theology or excuse for why things didn’t happen the way we believe they should. A way to excuse us from believing for healing and other miracles. Believing God and taking Him at His word are hard, even for the church. Maybe at times, even more so for much of the Church.
Should we have all the answers? Would that be faith? Would that be believing? Is that trust? If we did have all the answers, wouldn’t that essentially make us God? Oh, there it is. Most of us continue to try and be our own God. Not intentionally. The enemy is good. Really good. Read your Bible. He’s conned the best of the best who saw the best of what God had to offer and still allowed themselves to be persuaded into not trusting God. Like a lion looking to steal, kill and destroy.
Take heart. No matter how much destruction that enemy causes in your life, you’re still no further from God. Why? Because your standing with God has nothing to do with you or what you’ve done and everything to do with Christ and what He’s done.
What if we start believing Him?
What if we as Americans and even more so we as Christians stop being so thin-skinned and insecure to the point of alienating those inside or even outside our ranks who may see things or even behave differently that we do? I’m not asking anyone to accept nor ignore sin, but I am saying the blood and grace of Jesus Christ is the only way it will ever be defeated and made right. The same grace that saved you is available to each and every person.
It’s time to stop being THAT Christian. The church hopper. The take-my-toys-and-go-home Christian. The overall offended Christian. The you’re going to Hell for that Christian. The God is mad at you Christian. If you continue to find yourself offended, the problem probably isn’t everyone else. I think it’s safe to say your mirror has a clear picture of the problem.
It’s time to stop being THAT American. The get out of my country American. The enlightened American that sits on a condemning high horse of who believes the Constitution the most. The American who is more concerned with who respects our flag the most above how much we love one another. Stop putting your patriotism above your willingness to follow Christ.
To be clear, I’m not saying I myself don’t have strong opinions about these and many other issues. I very much do, but they’re opinions. I’ve come too far and been too forgiven to hold onto a my-way-or-the-highway approach to those I’m trying to connect with and reach.
Just trust Him. For everything, in everything. When it hurts and when it’s pleasant. In lack and in abundance. In sickness and in health. Don’t accept the lies, the hurt, the sickness, the brokenness. Trust His word and His promises. Wake up every morning knowing God isn’t mad at you. He’s good. He’s faithful. He loves you. Nothing that happens catches Him by surprise, adjusts His mood, or causes Him to panic. Let’s press in more and more until we’re like that, too.
We should all thank be very thankful that while others see us from the outside, Jesus sees us from the inside. Where it matters most. It’s how He works, from the inside out. So while you, me, or anyone else may stand in judgement or condemnation over outward behavior, only one truly knows and justly judges. Thank God for that, because we always know where we stand when we put our faith in His sacrifice: Holy, righteous and redeemed.
Is that an excuse for sin or a justification for poor behavior? In the words of the Apostle Paul, “God forbid.” It’s simply meant to level the playing field. Just believe and trust in His word. It works if you’ll let it.