Finding Freedom Together in Leaving Some Things Behind

IMG_0113 manualOpportunity 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 as 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.

But truly, “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.”  (Galatians 5:1)  We are not to be bound to the world’s perspective on God’s truth, to a false view of salvation, or to the sin from which we now have the power of God to say “no” for a greater “yes!”

Sometimes, we simply love sin too much; we grasp it with white knuckles because we don’t know how we ever could 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 of what Jesus has done for us and 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.”

Ultimately, we are hesitant to live out the grace we have been given as a response to that gift, that redemption!  Being “odd” because of our obedience sometimes feels too great a price to pay…but is it?

God, who created us,  knows us better than we know ourselves, and thus knows how life is best lived.  He 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 sin 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

Snow Day…All Things New

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I went to bed with little expectation of seeing much of the “white stuff” when I woke up the next morning, a dusting perhaps.

God gave me a stunning surprise – the view out my window in the pre-sunrise moments looked promising. But when the morning began to shed its light on my yard and neighborhood, what I saw was total beauty!

Now for those of you to whom snow is a chore or to whom a foot or more is a daily or even a seasonal occurrence, you would laugh at what ended up being an inch and a half to two; but for those of us who rarely see snow in a winter, I was giddy; for I am always in wonder of its beauty.

And yes, I love a good snowball fight, a little snow cream, and my feeble attempts at making a snowman. But so many other things also flooded my mind yesterday as I saw what had transformed my yard over night and then as more blew in, heavy yet softly, quietly spreading a comforting layer on our barren ground.

Winter had taken its toll on our land and the day before yesterday it was looking rather bleak, brown and muddy with a patch of bright green where we have a garden of lettuce. But as I stood and watched the transformation, I was struck by the newness, the fresh reality that filled my sight.

It was the same piece of land – nothing had been done except that with which our awesome God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, had chosen to delight us. He had gloriously crafted each snowflake and let them blow over the cold, grey day after ten days straight of frigid rain that threatened to tamp down the mood of many I came across…including my own.

It was His hand that created the freshness and led to a lifting of the heart! Though it was short lived, the moment was not lost on me, and it did much to renew our spirits. It was temporary joy that brought with it eternal perspective.

At times, we can view our lives through the same lens. Either we get caught up in the daily-ness of it all and become tyrannized by the urgent so that we miss and/or forget the truly important. Or we grow weary because of circumstances – our own choices or that of others, any number of “hard things” that come with living in a fallen world.  

But God is not unaware.

Our fears can weigh us down as we focus on the “what ifs” instead of looking to and embracing the God who is I AM and who holds all the “what ifs” in His hands; He Who knows the final outcome has promised to never leave or forsake us. We can begin to see life in the greys instead of the rich hues hidden beneath the mundane, the sorrow, or the fear.

Throughout the Bible, God reminds us that He has made and is in the process of making all things new! We can look on situations in our lives and in the world and culture around us and grow discouraged, even fearful of the dismal prospects at times.

As we look through a glass darkly, we often miss the wonder of Revelation 21:5-6: “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” HE is faithful and true!

It is a fact; it is a promise! He who is able to “wash me (so that) I am whiter than snow!” (Psalm 51:7) is able to bring a fresh perspective, a richer view of circumstances, yes. But He is also in the process of actually making me more like Himself and of doing astounding things we cannot see.

Just as the snow fell quiet in the night and transformed my little piece of the world into a place of wonder that lasted for less than a day, our God is actively working to do the remarkable but with an eternal exclamation point!

Habakkuk 1:5 says, “Look at the nations and watch–and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”

Though this was written hundreds of years ago to a different people, God has not changed and He is still powerfully and lovingly at work in a world crawling with terrible situations! We don’t have to doubt that or wring our hands in fear.

We work, yes. We act, indeed. We do all that He calls us to do, and then we rest in Him and in the plan He is unfolding regardless of what is before our eyes.

Our winter yard is again brown and muddy for the sun returned and quickly melted away the snow. But my heart holds to the visual picture of truth that God gave me yesterday in the midst of our brief winter precipitation that will be indelibly marked upon my heart and that will be brought to mind as I view the pictures again and again.

That truth is more significant and far more eternal than a fleeting snowfall – that the everlasting God of the universe has, through the work of Jesus Christ, made me “whiter than snow” through the forgiveness of my sin and is continuing to change me for His glory; that this same God is the Lord over all aspects of my life as well as that of nations and rulers.

I am given opportunities every day for fresh beginnings and a greater awareness of His love and power to make all things new! 

Praying for eyes to see those opportunities and a heart to seek what He is up to my corner of the world and beyond!

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