Not Strange, But Sad

It’s strange that you can’t find words to say when you’re praying, but you have no trouble thinking what to talk about with a friend.

Part of a recent Facebook post in my newsfeed, I found this statement nestled among similar ones designed to highlight Christian failings.  Instead of finding it strange, however, I found it sad.  And not in the way intended.

If the statement is reality for believers, then prayer has become something other than it was meant to be.  Something we do (or should do) because we’re Christians, rather than the means by which we become more intimately acquainted with our heavenly Father.  This is strange, but in a sad way.

Proverbs 18:24  NIV A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

The friend who sticks closer than a brother is Jesus Christ, Who lives in us by His Spirit.  That’s as close as it gets.  In addition, He calls us His friend.1  If we are really friends, why is talking together so difficult?

friendship-1534626-639x479Friends talk with one another about anything and everything, listen to one another, find comfort in silence, work together to help others, interacting along the way.  The more time they spend together, the better they know one another.  The better they know one another, the more time they want to spend together.

Is this the kind of friendship I experience with Christ?  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  How about you?  When the methods and mindsets from so many years of religion become my default mode, I lose the freedom in prayer for which my friend Christ Jesus has set me free.2  When the duty becomes my focus, rather than the relationship, that sense of intimate friendship is lost temporarily, leaving me unable to find words to speak.

That’s not strange, my friends.  It’s sad.

1 James 2:23

2 Galatians 5:1

True Freedom

Freedom.  It’s ours in Christ – why Christ set us free, according to Galatians 5:1It 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.  We already know this, so let’s move on to something deeper, right?

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAReading the verse this morning, I was stopped by that word.  Freedom.  Just what is this freedom Paul tells us Christ died for us to have?  Obviously, it runs contrary to a yoke of slavery.  But I suggest that maybe – just maybe – this yoke of slavery is actually what we have considered freedom most of our Christian lives.  And that we have been kept from living in the true freedom of Christ.

We have let the world and natural thought define our freedom – even in terms of living as Christians.  For instance, we consider freedom of religion as a right to do certain things considered religious, without interference by government or others.  Or freedom of expression as a right to speak out about whatever we want, whenever we want, in the way we want to, regardless of others’ wishes.  You get the idea.

Is freedom in Christ really about rights on earth?  Maybe government-given freedom concerns rights, but the Bible tells me Christ-earned freedom eliminated all our rights.  Demanding rights to freedom of religion, expression, or anything else, reveals the yoke of slavery that binds us, the one that deceptively disguises itself as freedom.  How much greater is the freedom of Christ!

Freedom in Christ (Read all of Galatians for proof) is the freedom to know God as Father, His love, and fullness of relationship with Him through Christ.  It is freedom to know Him unhindered, unlimited, intimately, unconditionally, without condemnation and guilt or fear of judgment for our past, present, or future sins.  It’s freedom to live in His righteousness, peace, and joy, because Jesus Christ bore our deserved judgment, condemnation, and guilt at the cross.  True freedom is all this and so much more.

Freedom in Christ is not about rights and privileges, for those can be given or taken away by the whim of man.  No matter what man does, however, we can never be disconnected from fellowship with our heavenly Father or His love.  The Holy Spirit is in us from the moment we receive Christ’s free gift of salvation.  No one and nothing can separate us from Him from the outside.  None of our own bad choices, words, or actions can separate us from Him from the inside.  This is true freedom!

Romans 8:38-39 NIV  38 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.

This is the freedom Jesus died for us to know and live in – this freedom that is so much greater than we have ever understood.  Thank You, Jesus Christ, for paying it all so we could know true freedom!

Freedom to Be

I am a spirit being with a soul (mind, will, and emotions) and a body.  If I really know and understand this, why do I continue to allow my mind to compartmentalize what I do as either spiritual or non-spiritual, as either of value to God or as keeping me from things that are of value to Him?

This is not the first time I’ve battled this issue, but it’s time to settle it for good.  When Jesus ministered on this earth in His physical body, having received the same Holy Spirit now living in me, His whole life was spiritual.  Think about it.  When He paid taxes to the government, a spiritual principle was at work – paying taxes to whom taxes were due.  He ate physical food as sustenance for His physical body, taking time away from the “important” things of life.  He walked, physically, from one place to the next, probably spending some of that valuable time simply laughing and living with the disciples, rather than teaching or preaching “spiritual” things. At the same time, He was the most relaxed, worry-free, anxiety-free, stress-free person to have lived, which means He was never separated from His Father in Spirit or action until the cross!  Because He remained in the secret place at all times, regardless of where He was physically, all He did was spiritual – for the glory of God.

Psalm 91:1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand]. AMP

1 Corinthians 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. NIV

Jesus Christ lives in me by His Spirit.  If Jesus didn’t struggle with this, why do I continue to go back to this old mindset?  It only causes frustration.  When I do those things that are required for basic living – cooking, cleaning, shopping, exercising, washing the car or the dog, etc. – a nagging thought goes on in the back of my mind that I’m being kept from the spiritual.  Then, I feel guilty for not doing those “spiritual” things, and I don’t live fully in the now.  Like Paul said, “Who will rescue me from this body?  Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25) That’s not how Jesus lived then, and it’s not how He lives in me now.

Jesus’ Spirit is alive in me.  That is where I choose to dwell.  In this place, whether I eat, sleep, exercise, shop, pray, read the Bible, teach, or whatever else, there is no condemnation, no imaginary line of separation between spiritual and non-spiritual.  My life is hidden with Christ in God.1 It is all for His purposes and glory.  If I live and move and have my being in Him,2 what part of me is not included?  None!

So, today I’m slamming that door on guilt and condemnation,3 locking it, and throwing away the key.  It was for freedom that Christ set me free, no longer to be subject to any yoke of slavery,4 so that’s what I choose going forward.  I rejoice in His freedom to be the one He’s called me to be, all facets included: child of Abba Daddy, wife, mother, teacher, grandmother, cook, writer, book reader, pray-er, exerciser, praiser, friend, housecleaner, dog owner, student of God’s Word, etc.

Won’t you join me in this glorious freedom to be5 in Christ – all day, every day?

1 Colossians 3:3
2 Acts 17:28
3 Romans 8:1-2
4 Galatians 5:1
5 Romans 8:21

Free!

Galatians 5:1 NIV  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.

Romans 8:21 NIV  . . . that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

What do we give to the people around us?  Only what we have received.  Have we received the freedom – the glorious freedom – described in these verses?  As believers in Christ, you might be quick to reply, “Of course!”  My observation and my own experience give a very different answer.  It has nothing to do with whether Jesus Christ has given us this glorious freedom, for He has, but whether we have received it in its entirety.

Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV  8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

Oh, yes, we received the gift of eternal life, with the assurance of going to heaven.  This was by God’s grace in our hearts and faith to believe we couldn’t earn it no matter how much we tried.  Somewhere along the way, however, we missed the fullness of this Truth: this is also the only way we are to live our lives in Christ – by grace, through faith.  After salvation, we have worked very hard attempting to do enough or be good enough to deserve what He has already given us freely for this life.  In reality, we have allowed ourselves to be burdened again by a yoke of slavery to the law – we must work to be worthy.  This, my brothers and sisters, is not freedom, and definitely not glorious freedom!

When we live in Christ this way, it is also the way we live toward others, seeking to train them in our ways of the Lord.  But this isn’t what Jesus came to give.  He came to give absolute freedom in Him and in His finished work on the cross, including abundance of the grace of God for every need.  In turn, this freedom and grace is to be given to others who have not yet heard the gospel.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news – but so much better than what our lives have shown it to be to this point!  He came and gave His life, doing all the works and fulfilling all the requirements of the law, by the grace of God in Him, so that we could live in freedom from those requirements.  When we have a life-changing revelation of this Truth, the works we do in this complete and glorious freedom are done in response to His wonderful love and provision of grace – and with a desire to glorify Him and lead others to know Him this way, too.

Matthew 10:8 AMP  . . . Freely (without pay) you have received, freely (without charge) give.

May you be stirred to seek after His freedom beyond what you have known, so that this will be what you give to others – no strings attached!

Freely

Even though there’s always more to understand in the Bible, sometimes I just need the simplicity of it to wake me up; for example, when I read the story of Jesus sending out the twelve disciples in Matthew 10:5+.  Before He told them not to take any money or extra clothes with them, He said in verse 8, “Freely (without pay) you have received, freely (without charge) give.”  I was arrested by that simple statement.  You see, I needed to be reminded that I have not paid for the unconditional love that the Lord has lavished on me.  I have not paid for His mercy that is new every morning.  I have not paid for the complete forgiveness of all my sins – past, present, and future.  No, I have not paid for any of these things, and do not deserve them in the least, but I have freely received them as He has freely given them to me.

When I was brought to that place of remembrance and the resulting flood of thankfulness, I was moved out of the place of withholding unconditional love, mercy, and forgiveness from people who “didn’t deserve it,” right into the place of freely giving those things without expecting anything in return.  It took me out of the position of trying to judge in God’s place and put me into the position of beloved child of God who leaves the judging to Him.  In other words, it put me back into freedom! 

Boy, do I need to be reminded of this lesson repeatedly.  The only things Jesus wanted the disciples to take with them was what they had freely received, without pay.  It’s His desire for us, as well.  So, when you find yourself in my place, not wanting to forgive, walk in love, or give mercy, maybe you just need to remember one simple word . . . freely!  Let it set you free once again, so you can help set others free.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free . . .  Galatians 5:1