Finding Freedom Together in Leaving Some Things Behind

Opportunity has never been greater.  Hope and true healing, not just lip service, are needed now as much as, if not more, than ever.  We live as one writer says, “in an alien land.”   Even more so, we, as the Bible says in I Peter 2:11, are urged “as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.”

The headlines speak of a world giving into and even increasingly embracing ungodliness.  We have the occasion, then, to use it as a springboard for the unbeliever as well as for the believer.  For the one unredeemed by Christ but in unity with the Word of God about the issues of the day, we can point to the fact that “’There is none righteous; no not one” (Romans 3:10) and “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  We all need the redemptive work of Christ.   Many unbelievers and believers alike justify their own sin as “not as bad as…” because so many, even in the church, are engaged in the same instead of, as Jerry Bridges says, “confronting the sins we tolerate.”   For the redeemed believer, we have the opportunity to speak the truth in love and call them to repentance, to a victory in Christ over sin that a person has long resigned themselves to being insurmountable and unbeatable.  We don’t sell just ourselves short; we sell our Savior short when we believe we either can’t be free of it or we can’t be forgiven for it.

And sometimes, we love sin too much; we grasp it with white knuckles because we don’t know how or we don’t want to live without it.  We are afraid to be “aliens and strangers,” to be “set apart” as God calls us to be – not legalistically and in an attempt to earn salvation, but because God calls us to be in the world not of it, to be “transformed by the renewing of our mind” through the Word of God not “conformed to the patterns of this world.”  God, who created us,  knows us better than we know ourselves, and thus knows how life is best lived, also knows that to live otherwise is to set ourselves up for a battle against our soul and a longing that is never satisfied.

Among some, we are glad to be courageous and to be different.  On certain issues, we will boldly declare “This is what God’s Word says; live it” or “This is right and good, do it.”  On matters of little significance, we will be resolute.  But on some issues and among those we want to please, those whose approval and love we seek, we are often silent.  Trying to wait for the right moment and words so they don’t come across offensive, our words remain unspoken.  Where there is need for accountability and speaking the truth in love, we back down for fear of alienating or being rejected.  But that is the enemy’s lie.  Yes, we need to consider our words and the timing, but more specifically we need to ask ourselves whether we are seeking God for the right time to say the hard things or whether we wait because we don’t want to face the possibility of being rebuffed.

None of us like rejection, but God’s Word tells us that when we do “speak the truth in love” (and that includes motive and literal words), “we (will) grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13)  It’s not a matter of do we want to; it’s a matter of will we do what we are called to do?  Do we love someone enough to gently but firmly point them to the truth so their lives can be changed by the redemptive as well as the transforming work of grace in their life?  Do we then love enough to walk with them through their wrestling and restoring process?  Will we ask the hard questions as we humbly acknowledge our own sin and struggle, laying ourselves bare for the sake of another who has chosen to be wounded by sin, not once but on an ongoing basis?  The Bible says when we do, we will grow in Him, through Him, and by Him as individuals and together; His Spirit, not us, does the miraculous work of restoration when we are faithful.

Maybe we have rejected someone in the past because they dared to speak the truth to us and so we fear that what we did to another will be done to us?  It may be time to lay that burden before the Lord as well and seek the forgiveness of the person to whom we refused to listen.

Perhaps we will be rejected for a time.  God says that may happen, but if we obediently do what we are told to do, not rashly or harshly but prayerfully and out of a deep love for the other person, how rich the reward if the other responds in repentance and, by grace, is drawn more deeply first to the Savior and then to us.  Our prayer must first be for the Holy Spirit to cover the conversation, that the other person’s heart will be soft, for our words to be full of love and acceptance yet seasoned with salt which may sting for the moment but also bring healing, and for the redemption and/or freedom of the other from a slavery to a sin held tightly for so long.  The tentacles of that may have become so entangling, it may be hard to break free, and it may be frightening to consider what breaking free will mean for a time; the wounds that have come from them may have left scars so deep.  Yet, no entanglement and no scars are too great for the Savior to heal and we all need to hear that and be reminded of THAT truth!  Will we believe the promise of God’s grace for them and, perhaps, for ourselves?

For it is possible, as we face the sin of another that the enemy wants to remind us of our own failings, our own ensnaring sins either in the past or that we still battle and have yet to fully lay down.  Or maybe we still allow the enemy to condemn us and we do not think we can speak to an issue where we have failed.  “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”  (I Corinthians 15:57)  What a blessing to let God redeem our past failures, not to condone another’s sin but to bring His healing for them in the present.  When we are in open rebellion, choosing “what seems right to us,” and refusing to confess it and leave it at the cross, the conviction of the Holy Spirit is meant to bring us to repentance and the liberty found in that.  But when we have turned from sin and have been redeemed from it through the work of Christ on the cross, not continuing in a pattern of picking it up and playing with it,  the enemy of our souls wants to rob us of the peace of Christ and remind us of our failures in an attempt to take our eyes off the finished work of Jesus and His daily transforming power in our lives.  The enemy’s goal is to make us ineffective and afraid to use that victory in Him to more and more often say “no” to sin ourselves and to lead others out of the same.  “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Oh the joy of leaving our past at the cross and our present failings at the feet of Jesus; how good and precious is it to do that with another believer rather than to bury it without true healing offered by the grace of God that forgives, frees, and transforms us and them.

“’Cause when we say ‘no’  to the things of the world, we open our hearts
to the love of the Lord and
 it’s hard to imagine the freedom we find from the things we leave behind.”  (Michael Card)

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.  For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” I John 5:3-5

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory…”  Ephesians 3:20-21

Joy in the Everyday

We celebrated in June…for a lot of reasons!  Many birthdays and not just a few weddings!  And with the celebrations have come so much joy and laughter.

With the birthdays, it wasn’t necessarily in the gifts given and received; though I loved giving and they loved receiving.  Rather, it was the anticipation, the memories recalled, the new memories made of time together enjoying one another, and the recollection of God’s faithfulness in the past year and looking forward to His faithfulness, regardless of circumstances, in the year ahead.

And we celebrated many marriages lately with dear friends who were brought together with the ones with whom they have now covenanted and pledged to live out their lives for God’s glory and their greatest joy!  They were times of reunions, laughter, tears, rejoicing, and, again, the focus on the faithfulness of God leading to the moment and the promise of His faithfulness in the days ahead.

Happiness, how we long for it!  Delight, how we yearn for it!  The various “delights” of life invade our many thoughts and energies and those given, ordained, and blessed by the hand of our Creator are very good.

These days have been some of those “big moments” of life; some might even call them defining moments and the happiness is palpable!  But oh the joy when we find our delight not just in the big moments of life but in the every day, the ordinary.  How precious when we find wonder in the here and now even as we may await another big event!  How freeing to bask in the pleasure of God’s everyday graces!

Ann Kiemel’s words come to mind when I think about celebrating the ordinary days which make up life as we know it and she has long energized me to think in the same way:

“And every day my mom would say, ‘Don’t you kids know, that life is made up of ordinary days when there is no one to pat you on the back?  When there is no one to praise you?  When there is no one to honor you?  When there is no one to see how brave and noble you are?  Almost all of life is made of these ordinary days. And it is how you live your ordinary days that determines whether or not you have big moments. Get out there and make something of your ordinary days.’” 

         I pray I never miss what God is doing and what He wants me to do with my ordinary days!

And I know you’ve made the lame to walk
And caused the blind to see
But what You do with my everyday is amazing!  (Sara Groves)

(To hear this song: Everyday Miracles…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIYAYhtNM4s)

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