Finding Freedom Now

Losing the Power, posted earlier this month (click to read), painted a picture of walking free from the power of condemnation for all my wrongs. I had been in Christ many years without experiencing freedom from condemnation due to ignorance, despite reading the Bible. My eyes were opened to what had been mine all along in Christ when I read these verses anew:

Romans 8:1-2 NIV Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

With the help of these same verses, this post will take you a little further on my personal journey of losing and finding. Parking on the latter words of this passage, I contemplate this law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus that has set me free from the law of death. The more I focus on the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, the more all else fades in comparison – even death.

mini-cross of hopeWhen I believed Jesus to be who He claimed – the Savior of the world – I received His Spirit of life. Now I am alive in Christ Jesus . . . forever. Christ Jesus is alive forever, and I live in Him, so I am alive eternally, as well. Already alive forever. Not waiting until my physical body stops working. Now. When my body gives up, my eternal life will continue living in Christ without even a slight pause – simply in a form no longer hindered by mortality. 1

This excites me beyond words and radically changes my perspective on the loss of life as I know it now.   Fear of death is lost to me. What is to fear when I am in Christ? The Romans verse clearly states I am free now (and it’s always now!) from the condemnation that could separate me forever from God. The penalty for my sin, and its justifiable condemnation, was paid in full in Jesus’ suffering and death. It’s gone forever, and along with it, the separation mandated by it. In Christ’s resurrection, I was raised to new and forever life in His Spirit. Death and the fear of it are lost to me now – forever – because I am Daddy’s child.

This is real now, when I’m not at death’s door, and it will be real after my last breath. But it will also be real at the end of my life, evident in the loss of torment often associated with those last days – torment rooted in regrets and remorse and doubts about a less-than-perfect life. Fear of death is lost to me forever, driven out by the perfect love of my Father. 2 Freedom is found – now.

The final verse of In Christ Alone, a familiar hymn, captures the glorious freedom and victory of which I have written:

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

For the final in this series, click to read Lost and Found.

1 1 Corinthians 15:50-57

2 1 John 4:18

In Christ. Period.

journal wordsEven as I poured out my heart on the pages of the journal, receiving clarification in the midst of it, I knew it was to be posted in the blogosphere.  Not to focus on me and my inner mess / workings.  I prefer to let the Lord do His work on me in secret, so you see only the new, improved version.  Apparently, our Daddy wants a few more of you to receive the same sweet release His Spirit brought me this morning in these words. . .

As much as I’ve been struggling inside for a while now, it’s been me in my own strength struggling and trying to understand, to figure out, to look the part and convince myself (of what???).  But it’s really the old dead me seeking to stay in control even while the new me in Christ wants nothing beyond living by His Spirit, trusting Him 100%.  I haven’t fully reckoned myself dead; thus, the struggle.

Oh, Daddy, how can this dead man continue to exert so much influence?

Maybe it’s not a greater revelation of reckoning myself dead, but of new creation in Christ I so need to grasp.  Which all goes back to in Christ, period.  As in, focusing on Him, knowing Him more intimately – the fullness of who He really is and of what He really did for me.

After all, I can’t kill the old man in me – the flesh – no matter how much I’d like to or how hard I try.  In actuality, the more focus I give that dead creature, the stronger its hold.  Furthermore, I already died with Christ in His death and was raised with Him in new life – a new creation.  Already done.  Not needing to be done.  It is finished!

Help me fully rest in this, Holy Spirit, fully trusting my Jesus – the Way, Truth, and Life.  Help me keep letting go of all the “what about…” questions every time they come up, no matter how many times they come up.  Help me choose to remember, instead, that I am in Christ.  Period.

In Christ alone!  My only hope!  Yes, in Christ alone, my only Hope!  My rest!  My peace!  My righteousness!  My joy!  Jesus Christ, my Life!  My All!  And in Christ, I am a new creation! Period.

The Chart Doesn’t Lie, Does It?

You’ve probably seen something like the chart in this picture.  Maybe you used one to track your children’s physical growth.  What about your Christian growth chart?  Is it out for all to see, or is it just in your brain – away from the public eye?  I’m talking about the one you use to track how much you have grown in Christian character since you began this journey with Him.  The one on which you can consider where you stand in relation to other Christians you know.  Have you grown by leaps and bounds, do you not see much difference from the last time you measured, or has it been an up-and-down journey?

Can I let you in on a secret?  It’s one that needs to be shouted from the rooftops to the whole body of Jesus Christ.  Here goes: Growing in Christ is a sham!  Yes, you read that right.  The real or imagined growth chart, whereby we plot our progress in our Christian life, is a man-made, pit-instigated invention.  It keeps our focus off our perfect Jesus Christ and on our imperfect human selves – and keeps us comparing our imperfect human selves to one another – as we try to “get better.”

We are new creatures in Christ.  We’re not becoming new creatures.  We are – the moment we believe in Jesus and His finished work on our behalf.  We have been made new in Christ.  He isn’t progressing.  He is complete.  We are in Him.  As He is, so are we, right here and right now, in this world.  The problem is, we insist on looking through our natural eyes, so we can’t see it.  When we think we see it, we’re still looking at the flesh, not the spirit.

When we work so hard to grow in Christ – like a fruit trying to produce itself on the tree – our effort is self-focused and self-defeating.  One day we mark ourselves high on our progress chart, but the next day we are back at the bottom beating ourselves up.  What we have considered growth in Christ is improved behavior.  When we’re good we feel good about ourselves, and when we are bad, we feel like worms.  Again, the focus is on us, not Jesus.  These self-improvement efforts, regardless of motives, easily hide fleshly attitudes.

“But I think about things so much more like Jesus now than I used to.  I know people see Jesus in me more than they used to.  After all, I must decrease and He must increase.”  Christ is either in us or He’s not.  Any true improvement is a result of the work of Christ in us, not our working to be like Him – an eternally fruitless effort.  We are not supposed to be like Christ.  Rather, we are in Christ, and He, the Hope of glory, is in us.  Believe this reality of His work in our stead, because we couldn’t.  That’s when resting in Christ comes, when self-effort and self-focus decrease, and when He is seen more clearly.

Our growth is only in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  So, come on.  Tear up that Christian growth chart and discover the absolute freedom and joy of simply being in Christ.  Of resting in His finished work.  Of recognizing and receiving His forgiveness and covering for all the self-focus.  Of being immersed in His love!

Redicovering Hidden Treasure

One of my current projects, transcribing one of my hand-written journals onto the computer, is a time-consuming and shoulder-tightening project, yet with rewards.  In this case, though the entries were written less than a year ago, I am rediscovering great treasures.

In one of the entries, I was telling the Lord about a situation where I felt I didn’t measure up to others in my group.  Even as I wrote those words, He helped me realize that comparison and insecurity had come to do some damage once again.  As I kept writing, the very ugly root became obvious.  I wanted to be held in high esteem by others for having God’s wisdom and understanding.  It was pride, masquerading as insecurity.  As ugly as all this was, though, my loving Father didn’t leave me wallowing in it.  Even as my old nature wanted to figure out how to get rid of it, He gave me the solution as I wrote:

Rest.  Yes, you are hearing it right.  Now that you see what has been at work against you, rest.  Rest in the finished work of Christ on the cross.  Rest in the grace that pours forth to you and flows abundantly over you.  Remain in Me and My Word remains in you.  My Word does the work.  Don’t strive to get the Word to work.  Rest in My Word as it works.  You don’t even have to focus on the specific verses about humility for the humility of Christ to work in you, removing those tentacles of pride that produce the insecurity.  Rest.  Remain.  Abide.  Peace.  Rejoice.

What an amazing God! What a loving Daddy!  He knew before I was ever born I could not make myself right, and sent Jesus to take care of it all!  Jesus, alone, is my righteousness.  He is the Word Who works the changes in me.  Mine is simply to rest in Him and in His Word.

So, that’s what I choose to do.  Rest in Christ alone.  How liberating!  I am free to rejoice in how much He is, and free to be completely content with how much I’m not.  Oh, the glorious freedom of the children of God!1

1 Romans 8:21

A Case of Mistaken Identity

I’m known in the medical community as a cancer patient.  Yet, from the very beginning of this journey, I have balked at that label.  It isn’t that I doubted the diagnosis, or that I thought it should have been for someone else.  It really wasn’t the natural part of it at all.  It was the Spirit of Christ in me refusing to accept that identity.

At first, I didn’t understand it so clearly.  The well-meaning nurse called me from the waiting room with such an almost audible “Poor thing” in her expression as she ushered me back for the diagnosis.  I hadn’t anticipated the pity, nor my internal reaction.  I was repulsed by the pity, and determined I wanted no part of it during this journey.  It just didn’t belong to me.

Two days later, we were at the specialist’s office.  When I arrived and saw the big, bold letters proudly declaring Derrick Davis Cancer Center, it felt like a punch in my gut.  It was surreal to me, because it was so new to my thought processes.  But there was still that voice inside insisting I didn’t belong here.

A month later, I was recovering from a hysterectomy.  The nurse assigned to me explained the daily shots required, even at home, to reduce the chance of blood clots.  Some people only have them for a few days, she said, while others continue injections for a couple of weeks.  We decided we’d both like for me to be one of those few day types.  The doctor’s explanation, however, was that cancer patients have a greater possibility of developing clots following surgery.  He said more, but I didn’t really hear the rest, because the voice inside surprised me.  “I am not a cancer patient!  I had cancer, and I’ve had surgery to remove it, but I am not a cancer patient.”  Now I understood the battle more clearly.

Approximately six weeks later, on what I thought would be my final visit with the oncology doctor,  I found out that I will see him every three months for the next two years for a pap smear, with a chest x-ray every six months.  For the following three years, there will be a pap smear every six months, along with one x-ray per year.  This is required even though the lab results showed no trace of cancer in any of the 23 lymph nodes they removed, and none of the tests prior to surgery indicated anything else of concern.  You see, as I said in the beginning, I’m known as a cancer patient by the medical community, and probably always will be.  But cancer patient is not my identity.

Neither am I a cancer survivor.  Cancer was found in my body, but it could not become my identity, because I am in Christ and Christ is in me, the hope of glory.  Cancer has no place in my identity.  In Christ, I am not a survivor of anything.  I am more than a conqueror through Him Who loved me!  This is my identity.

Certainly, this time of my life has had quite a profound impact, and I will never forget it.  But my focus is on Jesus and what He did before, during, and after the crisis.  Jesus Christ, the Living Word, strengthened and encouraged me in my darkest times.  Jesus Christ, the living Word, went before me to bear even this cancer so I could walk in health.  No matter how the world identifies me, I know that the Greater One lives in me.  In Him, in Jesus Christ, I live and move and have my being.  My identity is in Christ alone!

Real Joy (chorus)

Joy, real joy, running all through me
And I’ve got hope, love, and life abundantly
And now I’m free to live in my identity
Well it’s not because of what I’ve done.  No.  No.
But what He’s done for me.

New Song Fellowship Celebration Choir – Portraits of Worship, Volume 2