Monday, November 15, 2010

Thoughts on Freedom...

What is freedom? Where does it come from and what does it require of me?

In the first 13 chapters of Exodus we meet a nation of enslaved people. God heard their cries, sent them a leader, and took 13 chapters to get them to walk out of the city. When God set the Israelites free from the Egyptians, it wasn’t just a matter of Him setting them free and then they sat around and were just “free” in their own little lives. Their freedom required something of them. If they wanted to be free, they had to not only accept the work that God was doing in their lives, but they had to pack up their stuff and actually walk out of the city of their captivity. They had to walk away from that which held them captive. Now, you wouldn’t think that that would be a difficult decision. You might not initially think that walking away from oppression would be something you would actually have to think over, but let’s look at this a different way.

The Egyptians were holding the Israelites captive and treating them like slaves. But what if the Egyptians were holding the Israelites captive but treated them like equals or better? Would the Israelites still recognize their enslavement or would they come to an acceptance and say, “well, that’s just how things are”? It’s easy to recognize enslavement when it’s painful or oppressive. It’s easy to look at slavery and say, “that’s bad and should never happen! We should fight that.”

What if enslavement is somehow masked as something that’s not so bad? What if we are walking around this world, thinking we are completely free, but in actuality are completely enslaved? Only this isn’t any kind of slavery history has ever recognized before. It’s completely unearthly and entirely spiritual. Ephesians 6:12 "For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” Our freedom will not be gained by fighting people, or even by “just getting through today”. There are days when we feel like “just getting through” is doing pretty good, thank you very much. But is that the life of freedom Jesus died so that we could have? Of course not! I have a hard time believing that the Savior of the Universe DIED just so we could force ourselves to push through another day! But how do we break this dynamic we have with the world? It’s so easy to just jump on the “God bandwagon” and expect to go out and conquer the world and fall flat on our faces. How do we free ourselves from this tether that the world has on us?

I don’t have any magical answers that will somehow make that light bulb turn on over your head and help you see something you have never seen before. Like Paul said in 1 Timothy 1:15, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” Here is what I have found in my spirit to be true. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot free ourselves. We have to let ourselves die. The Bible says, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20 NLT). Crucified. Dead. No longer living. Powerless. That is what our old lives must become if we expect our new lives in Christ to gain any momentum. We simply cannot go on living our lives as we have been and still expect God to free us from those lives. We have to be willing to walk away from them. Now, we can’t always afford to walk away from our jobs, but we can walk away from the group of gossips around the coffee machine. We can’t always physically walk out of our situation the way the Israelites did, but ask and watch as God provides a place for your spirit to find freedom and rest within your stressful situation. Be willing to be changed, ask, and then watch as God takes a sinner and slave to sin and grants a freedom that no words can express!

Will you have troubles? Of course. Will you struggle on probably a daily basis? Naturally. Will people mock you and treat you badly? Probably. Will you sometimes wonder if this was a good idea? Could be. Will you be alone? Never! In your lowest valley, He is there. On your highest mountaintop, He is with you. On your way from one to the other, He travels by your side.

Romans 8:38-39 (New Living Translation) “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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