Pastor Tom Millner
John 10:10; Galatians 5:1
Freedom is seldom free. Freedom from the tyranny of a selfish despot that taxed without representation was gained only after the loss of countless lives in the revolutionary war. Even then, freedom was not enjoyed by all. Some of our ancestors were enslaved as duty bound to often unjust and unkind masters. A war was fought and freedom from slavery was won. We are a people who thrive in the notion of freedom to express ourselves as individuals, as communities, or as sects with like viewpoints. We enjoy the freedom of being able to worship where and as we please or feel led. We like to be able to express ourselves through words, songs, or various other media. We just love to be free! Why is it then, that we don’t exercise our freedom in Christ? Why do we constantly fall victim to our own agenda to measure up to a self-contrived standard that says that only then we are free? Paul reminded Timothy that (2 Timothy 1:7) “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” We often live outside of that assertion to Timothy. Here are some impediments to freedom in Christ that we stumble over each day.
The “Too Good to be True” Trap. We just have a hard time understanding that grace is truly free. We hear that grace is free…but… Each time we hear a “but” following an assertion, we can pretty well accept that the assertion has a catch or it’s only partially true. A half truth is still a lie! Grace is free AND it ignites a response! If you haven’t been moved in response, you haven’t experienced grace. If you act in the belief that you SHOULD somehow measure up to a standard for the sake of grace, you’ve missed the grace that is free to all. We have a hard time accepting that anything is free. We have a culture of skepticism that tells us that nothing is free. Everything has a price…everything costs something. When it comes to grace, we forget that the cost was paid by someone else – Jesus, and that price of grace was paid in full, leaving no room for added cost! The only additional cost associated with grace is the cost of not accepting God’s free gift of forgiveness, atonement, justification, and redemption. The cost of not accepting grace is enslavement to a life of guilt, self-defense, shame, competition, external affirmations, struggles to measure up and get ahead of the “game” of life. The biggest slave trader that exists is the one that would have us believe the “but” after “grace is free.” Each time we buy the “but” we take on God’s role as one who knows better. Sounds a bit like the tussle in the garden those many years ago. Jesus came and lived His role as the new Adam who did not sin, did not doubt, did not desire to raise Himself above His Father’s will, and submitted to be the end all sacrifice for all mankind’s transgressions. Sounds like the past has been rectified so that we can live in a different reality of the present and enjoy the fullness of the future! That’s the truth of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The “All But Me” Trap. Many hear what’s being said and believe that it’s possible for folks to be freed from their bondage of self judgment, but not them. I’ve heard the stories of how unworthy I am…how God condemns who I am…how God can love anybody but me. We’ve had a healthy dose of condemnation from the church and from many elements of society that do not understand scripture in context, paint all God’s creation with the same damnable brush, and hold self then to be how great I art for not being like THEM! John 8:36 states “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” This is the same Gospel that asserts that God loves us so much that He gave up His only Son so that whosoever believes in Him shall have everlasting life! If these are true, it can’t also be true that God rejects anyone for being who He created them to be! God’s grace covers each and every one of us. There is no greed, no lust, no lies, no misconduct, no unforgiveness, no anger or any other thing we can think of that we’ve done that is not covered by God’s grace. There is no depth to which you can fall that the arms of God’s grace are too short to reach. When we choose to believe that He can’t be offering grace to ME, we are placing self in the final judgment seat that shuts Him out of our lives. All our being cries out for Him, yet we close our ears each time He knocks. The path to freedom is through an open door. The key to the door is on the inside! You hold the key; He holds the way!
The “I Can Do It My Way” Trap. This one is just another side of the same coin as the trap just described. There are many who believe that doing things our way is the pathway to success and happiness. We read books, see movies, or watch TV shows about the successes of those who have self determination. Being self determined and sometimes single minded can be a good thing for accomplishing a goal. There is a story told that Thomas Edison failed 1,000 times at constructing an incandescent light bulb that had commercial value. Whether true in part or in whole, the outcome was learning from his mistakes and improving upon his method until he reached success. Some people use this kind of story for justification for continuing on their chosen path to make life give them peace, happiness and/or success. Edison’s story is different, however. He tried his way, learned from his mistakes and then tried another way until he found a way to succeed with his goal. What we do more often, however, is set our determination to do it our way, continue to do it our way, even when the outcome tells us it’s the wrong way, and then blame God or others that it didn’t go our way. There’s an old adage in the recovery community that is actually a quote from Albert Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.” The insanity of our lives is in the acts of self determination that take us away from that which we really seek – intimacy with our creator! Intimacy is a condition of knowing and being known. God’s Word tells us who He is; His Holy Spirit takes us to a deeper level of intimacy within who He is. We create the barriers to the intimate relationship with Him when we decide to not be real with Him; to treat him like we do our peers or loved ones and present to Him only what we want Him to see for fear that the REAL me is much too vulnerable and might be hurt yet again. That very idea that God hurts us when we are real is an idea that enslaves us. God’s love is steeped in grace and mercy far deeper and wider than we can even imagine. Each time we limit our intimacy with Him, we step deeper into the depth of bondage to self and this world. True freedom comes in surrender of self-willed, self-defeating thoughts and behaviors to the grace filled presence of the One who loves us even through death. The only place God’s grace can’t reach is the place that’s under siege and locks Him out by the god of self-judgment and self-will. God is always there with grace. We can only experience it when we take second place. II Corinthians 9:8 reminds us “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
Where’s your freedom? Where’s your bondage? Are you practicing each day the walk of freedom in the love of Christ or are you insisting on remaining in your bondage to self judgment, self-determination, and self-centeredness? It’s not your orientation that limits your participation! Only those who are steeped in limitations they place on God’s creation and the study of His Word would even utter that thought. Don’t let false beliefs enslave you away from Christ! John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” The thief is anyone, any thought, any belief that would keep you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” There is freedom for all who will walk on the path of faith, assured that “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
“Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!” (Martin Luther King, Jr)