September 16, 2017

Emotional Freedom In Christ

The great thing about this aspect of the Freedom In Christ series is that there is so much Biblical material to help us directly in the Psalms - as well as illustrative narratives throughout.

The first thing to remember is that emotional freedom does not mean never experiencing negative emotions.  It means not being imprisoned by the negative emotions.  Jesus did not promise the perfection of eternity in this life.  He actually said this life would get harder as a Christian.  We are not freed from evil.  We are freed from the power of evil.  Evil will continue to be all around us in this world.  The Prince of the air is still allowed his dominion.  Our lives will continue to be experienced in the shell of this broken clay flesh.  Evil/sin is still here and will be.  The POWER of sin and evil is what we are freed from.

What this means for emotional freedom is that, while we will still experience temporary depression at times, seemingly chronic anger, times of apathy, or even sleepless anxiety, we are not under the power of our emotions to control our lives.  Just like the psalmists, we can experience those emotions, actually use them for positive process in our lives, and then turn the thinking behind those emotions toward God for hope and restoration.  It is hard work, but we can find freedom through Christ as we are, "...transformed by the renewing of our minds."

Anyone who has ever experienced deep, raw emotions (including myself), knows this is not as easy as reading that last sentence.  Our emotions are incredibly powerful parts of who we are.  While they can bring us to the very lowest points of despair that ultimately end a hurting life, they can also drive us to accomplish the most extraordinary feats of human achievement.  The difference between a life experiencing emotional freedom in Christ and one that is not, is ultimately Christ.  You cannot escape this truth.  It is the first lesson of Scripture regarding the nature of man after the fall.  Outside of the freedom given us in Christ, we are a slave to our pride and our passions.  Good things may come out of our experience, but that is not an indication of freedom.  The indicator of freedom, as with anything else in life, is whether that thing controls you or you control it.  If you cannot control it, it controls you.  There is no middle ground.

But just because you have Christ, does not mean you experience emotional freedom?  There are many Christians today who are sealed by God's Spirit, and have eternity to look forward to, yet do not have control over their emotions.  Their emotions still control their lives in an ebb and flow of experiences.    Is it just because I am not a faithful enough Christian?  Is it because I am not a good enough Christian?

HOW DOES A CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE THE EMOTIONAL FREEDOM THAT JESUS INTENDED?

PSALM 6 and PSALM 13 give us significant illustrations of the powerful affect of emotions in the life of a faithful disciple.  Psalm 6 is unique in that it is completely devoid of an assertion of innocence or a cry for vengeance.  It is a desperation from a man who is completely depressed to the point of his "soul" being in anguish and his "bones are in agony".  This is guilt and suffering.  There is no one to blame.  there is no way to escape the regret, the shame, the intrusive memories of self-inadequacy and worthlessness.
In Psalm 13, the Psalmist, King David, "a man after God's own heart", is experiencing what any truly faithful believer will face at some point in this life - aloneness.  This is a desperate aloneness.  The world remains wicked, men are wicked (or at least without the hope and direction of God), and we experience growing pains.  There are times when, no matter what, God will seem distant and absent.  This is almost unbearable for the child of God who has put all their trust and hope in God.  But God recognizes that, "hope deferred for too long makes a heart sick" (Proverbs 13:12).  Two different circumstances, one apparently self-directed shame, and the other despair of loneliness.  Can you relate to either of those?  I can.  Many times.  There have been many times when I uttered the same as both of these psalmists, "How long Lord?".

Silence.

Do you see what happens at the end?  Their is a recognition of the price of sin, if it is involved, and there is true contrition (6), and there is a remembrance that God's promise of grace is dependent on His name, not on my performance, feeling, or situation in life.  God promised by His own name that He would bless His people (Genesis 22 and Hebrews 6).  His own name.

The second aspect is the declaration of trust in God's 'chesed', His unfailing, unending, unchanging love.  God sees us and moves for us because of who He is.  But in the midst of our emotional prisons,  when that thought isn't enough, we do have one comfort, in Christ, to hang on to: the unfailing, unchanging love (nature) of God.  God will not leave us or forsake us.  We may feel alone, that is a part of life.  So is regret.  So are all the other emotions and experiences we have not talked about.  But God is also a part of the Christian life, and this is paramount - HE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART and REAL part of our life.  This is the hard part, but it's the truest part.  In the midst of all of the hard ache, God is there and He is real.  He will not cease to be, and He will not cease to be there.  HE has a plan and it WILL COME TO PASS.  I hope that helps.  There is freedom.  If you need help finding it (many do, that is okay) seek it out.  We're told to. God Bless!

With you for His glory,


September 10, 2017

Social Freedom in Christ

We live in a socially catered-to world.  Business today is built on internet powered connectivity and smart-phone driven immediacy.  Gone are the days of the telephone and the telegraph.  Carefully thought out correspondence is replaced with #anewwaytocommunicate.  Patient anticipation has been usurped by the ever present *bing* of the "omnipresent" app-clustered phone.

There is a social sphere of life that plays into a balanced, holistic healthy lifestyle.  But, just like any other area of life, the social life can be imprisoned by sin and brokenness.  In order to understand how Jesus sets us free socially, we need to understand how sin imprisons us socially.  What does it look like?

Status.

The social sphere of our lives is all about how we engage with and move within the rest of our society.  Born into this world, depending on what our birth order is, our personality type, and our love language and style, we battle the ever present onslaught of "should" and "could".  What this means is that our sinful nature always cries out for what "should be ours" or what "could be ours", which the world is constantly telling us to pursue.  We desire to have stuff, we desire to have position, we desire to have recognition.  And, most of the time, the reason is so that we feel better about ourselves when we engage with others in our social spheres.  It's called "keeping up with the Jones's"; or if you happen to be the Jones's, "Maintaining status."

We are enslaved to sin socially when our desire to have status keeps us from experiencing Jesus' purpose for our lives.  It can spill over into financial bondage, emotional bondage, and vocational bondage as well; but it's true power is usually rooted in our social bondage.  We cannot engage the world with the identity Christ purposed for us if we are so concerned with engaging the world for the purpose of being what it has purposed for us.  They will always be in direct conflict.  One is of the natural order - the "old creation".  The other is of the spiritual order - the "new creation".

In order to experience freedom socially, we have to be brutally honest with ourselves.  We have to be able to admit where the world and other people control our idea's of what is fair and appropriate for our lives.  We have to discern where other voices are deciding for us how we engage with them and the rest of the world according to their rules instead of Gods.

And then, we give it up.

There is only one status in this world that matters, and it has to do with the only real throne that matters.  That throne is in Heaven and the only true King and Creator of all status sit on it.  The only status that matters is the status that is granted from that throne by His hand.  Many of us have forgotten that there is a purpose for our lives that comes from that Throne.  We do have a freedom in finding and growing into it; but nonetheless, our redemption comes at a cost of surrendering our lives, socially as well as physically and spiritually, to His purposes.

Christ died to give us Freedom.  He, and others, have shown us that we can have an abundantly fulfilling life if we choose to embrace the social freedom he has given us as well.  Life abundantly.  That is what He makes available to us.  Trust His way for it.  He will give you status that matters.

With you for His glory,


August 30, 2017

Spiritual Freedom in Christ

The first of our seven part series is, of course, on spiritual freedom.  Of all the great theological and spiritual teachings of all time, this is the crux of our faith.   Jesus said that He came that we may have life, and to have it abundantly (John 10:10).  He also said that if He sets us free, we will be free indeed (John 8:36).  

Of all the denominational arguments that have ever existed regarding wealth and healing, and whatever else has divided the Kingdom of God for lesser reasons, none dispute the central pre-eminence of this truth.  Jesus Christ has set us free from the Power of Sin and Death; we are spiritually free.

But what does this mean?  Can I live life as a born again, chosen, redeemed, child of God, and still not experience spiritual freedom? 
 [WHAT I MEAN BY THIS IS NOT, "CAN MY SOUL GO TO HELL STILL?" The answer to that is emphatically, Biblically, "NO!"  but "CAN I LIVE LIFE WITHOUT THE SPIRITUAL JOY AND SENSE THAT I AM FREE FROM THE BURDEN OF SIN?" ]   
Sadly, I believe the answer is yes!  
"But mustn't I necessarily experience spiritual freedom?  Is it not forced upon me by the effectual calling of God?  Isn't that what John 8:36 says?"  Again, I believe the answer to that question is no!

The rest of that passage reads this way,
"31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave[a] to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
The Son makes freedom available to us, but notice how he makes it available to us...
"and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The Truth is the mode and method by which Jesus sets us free.  The problem, earthly speaking, is that Jesus left the "Truth" in the stewardship of human hands.  We are the ones that 'dish out' the truth according to our allegiances and personal belief's.  The Lutheran's steward the truth differently than the Catholics did.  That changed the World.  Literally.  It led to war in 1546-47.  Since then, numerous men and women have stewarded the truth in different ways that  led to global conflict and shedding of blood.  It is no little thing, that idea of "Truth".  
The Bible makes it clear that when the Holy Spirit - not a man - effects a sinner to repentance, that sinner is redeemed and set free from the power of sin and death; yet, the Bible also points out that those same redeemed individuals can live a life devoid of the experience of freedom because they are still living under the burdens of lies, or fear, or man-made regulations.  What Am I talking about?  Listen to Paul,
"For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery."  Galatians 5:1 
and James, 
"16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.[a] 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures."
The problem is that in these and several other occasions in Scripture, the recipients of the letters, Christians, had already been deceived, had already submitted to a yoke of slavery.  They were being encouraged to return to true spiritual freedom in Christ via the Truth alone.  

They had thought they were trading in slavery for freedom, but in reality they were simply trading in one burden for another - usually a man-made burden of faulty religious system.

Many of these things are honest attempts to honor God, but they become man-made stipulations that are not concretely found in Scripture.  Things like baptism, communion, and confession are big ones that people argue over, which are found in Scripture.  But there are other things, like - going to church, reading the Bible, attending Bible Study, wearing pants, dancing, smoking, drinking, etc. which are not concretely prescripted.  I wonder what else is out there as a burden on believer's shoulders.  What stigmas do people carry because of shame and guilt that others have assigned to them outside of the grace of Christ?

But beyond these issues which are heaped on worshippers as burdens of holiness, people have their own burdens that they have not realized freedom from.  Is it any wonder?  

Are we really surprised that people struggle with trusting Jesus with their broken hearts and shameful past when religious leaders tell them that the simple choice of lower extremity wardrobe is an affront to God?  Is it truly surprising that born again believers have a difficult time letting go of anger or shame, when they have been taught that God can't get over His anger and shame at their continued failings as His children?
How do we experience true Freedom from the burdens that keep us from experiencing life fully?  The answer is in Jesus' answer.  Be His disciple.  His disciples will know His Truth and be set free.  If you are studying what someone else says about God, you are not a disciple of Jesus, you are a disciple of that person.  If you are sold out to a denomination based solely on what that denomination has taught you and not on your own study of the Word, you are not a disciple of Jesus, you are a disciple of that denomination or of that denominational leader.  To be a disciple of Jesus you have to study His words yourself.  You can be led to the Table, but you have to pick up the fork after the initial invitation is over.  Sometimes, we need help, but we can never surrender our conscience or our will to the integrity of another, no matter who they are.  Our Freedom is given to us.  Anyone else who comes by to 'regulate' the gate is a "hired hand" or a "stranger" and is operating under false pretense.  John 10.  If they simply proclaim the truth and guide toward understanding, that is different than regulating.  Jesus said in the same passage, "My sheep will know my voice [and be able to discern it from others]." John 10:8, 14, 16.

We have cheapened the definition and experience of a disciple in our world today, and that wreaks havoc on the less mature disciples.  They don't understand why they are not experiencing freedom, and the truth is because they are not living in Jesus' Truth, but someone elses'.  For those who think we will never be able to agree on truth, Ephesians 4 tells us that the purpose of the Church is to build up the body till we all reach unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God. 4:13.  

We have work to do, and we need to begin by realizing that there are myriads who are longing to experience freedom.  It is available.  We need to be faithful proclaimers without adding our own regulations.  If you are striving to experience it, can I encourage you to simply start reading through the Bible?  Just read it for now.  Get the story in you.  Hear it from Him, and learn the Gospel from Him.  Then there will be plenty of people who can help point things out to you.  I hope this helps at least a little in moving you toward freedom.  God Bless.


With you for His glory,

August 23, 2017

True Freedom in Christ

I have several friends who live and worship in Africa.  I'm not talking about white missionaries who have gone over to build churches, but native Africans who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and who belong to God-honoring, Christ-exalting, Holy Spirit empowered churches.

I miss you all.  I pray for you often.  And I miss experiencing Church with you.

I have been guiding a group from our church through a study of the book of Revelation, and at the same time, preaching through the Sermon on the Mount on Sunday mornings.  Concurrent to this, I am also counseling individuals in jail, and in mainstream society.

The combination of these three things lately, have made me acutely aware of the lack of freedom that many of us as Christians are experiencing in many areas of life. Myself included.  Jesus said that He came that we may have life, and to have it abundantly (John 10:10).  He also said that if He sets us free, we will be free indeed (John 8:36).  So why are so many of us not experiencing freedom in our spiritual lives, our social lives, our emotional lives, our intellectual lives, our physical lives, our financial lives, and our vocational lives?

I am reminded of many of my friends who live in much different situations in life, with much less opportunity and resource than myself, and yet have what I have so often lacked, and longed for.  You may have heard a pat Christian answer before; however, while I do believe it is simple, I do not believe the answer to the question, "Why am I not experiencing real Freedom in Christ?", is quick or "pat".

With this post, I am beginning a series on True Freedom in Christ.  I believe Jesus and the Apostles saw the reality of this situation in their day as well as knowing it would continue to happen in future days to come.  Notice Jesus did not say, I came to give you life and in abundance.  He stated that because He came, we may have it!  It is ours to receive if we choose, but we are responsible - as has always been the truth with God's People - for making choices that will embrace God's best design for our lives.

If we are honest, we will admit we do not always make choices which embrace God's best. Often, we make choices knowing full well it is not God's best provision.  And again, we often make choices betting on, rather than waiting on, God's direction and provision.  One of my favorite leaders, when speaking about money, calls this kind of behavior, living on "ifcome rather than income."  Spiritually speaking, I would apply the same idea and call our behavior at such times "ifdependence rather than independence from slavery to sin."

Here's the big picture:  Jesus came so that we may have freedom from sin.  That includes defeat, fear, anger, depression, guilt, shame, addiction, debt, ignorance, lust, control, illness, etc.  That's doesn't mean I am promised wealth, it means I am promised to be free from debt.  It doesn't state I will never be sick or infirm, I states I will not be a slave to the circumstances that wants to imprison me in.  It doesn't say, I will never lust, anger, or be tempted.  In fact, scripture promises that persecution and temptation will come, but we have the option to embrace His provision for freedom - if only we could see what it is.  As a child of God, I can see what it is, if I am looking.  I look forward to this study of God's Word over the next few weeks, and I hope it will be a blessing to you as well.  Let's grow together and learn to experience true Freedom in every area of the life abundant available to us.

God Bless,

With you for His glory,

August 09, 2017

The Sermon on The Mount is Not About Evangelism!

I'd like to point out a critical piece of insight regarding the Sermon on The Mount.  You made have heard me say it before, but evangelism is not the purpose of the Church; it's a mandate!  That's a big difference.  It's not the difference between good and bad, it's just a matter of staying on Track with the purpose God has given us.

It's interesting that in Revelation, none of the Churches are commended or chastised ofr anything having to do with Evangelism. In Ephesians 4, only one of Christ's many gifts to the Church (His Bride) are for evangelism.  The purpose for that and, and all the other gifts, is not evangelism in itself though.  It is something much bigger and separate!

Back to that in a second.  Jesus gave His Sermon to a large group of His Disciples and everything in it challenges them to think contrary to their previous religious system and to the World.

1Corinthians 2:6-14 tells us that the unspiritual mind will never understand spiritual truths.
Romans 1:15-32 tells us that the unrighteous will suppress the truth and approve of wickedness.
Matthew 7:12-14; 24:3-14 tells us that the unrighteous will always outnumber the righteous and that the righteous will suffer at their hands.

The Sermon Jesus gives to His Disciples is a guide for them on how to live in the Church so that others whom God has called to redemption will see it and be drawn to it.  Not to be a light to the Lost!!  Now back to the purpose of the Church.

God's Purpose as given in Ephesians 4 is so that the Body all together will be raised up in maturity and unity of faith and able to minister.  Evangelism is part of that, but it is a gift to enable that, not the purpose.  This is huge for us today, because the purpose of the Church summarized is to become the mature Bride that will be presented to the Groom when He returns to her.  

The Sermon on The Mount is a sermon about how to live within the Church to reach maturity.  We need to hear this today because many of our local bodies are so focused on reaching out and looking great, that they are not being faithful to God's purposes for them.  We need to get back to the internal attention of sanctification talked about in Jesus' sermon so that we are preparing the Bride to meet Him.  If we're honest, here in the West, we typically have Fit Minds and Fat Bodies (puffed up with knowledge without true humility and Christ likeness is our personal private lives) or we have Fit Bodies and Fat Minds (lazy minds that are hidden by programs and business that don't prepare us in maturity and faith to meet our Savior).

Lets get back to work building a Mature Bride...(that's not the same thing as having a bunch of people who have all the answers to all the Bible questions because they attend all the studies.)  Are we a mile wide and an inch deep, or a mile deep and possibly wide?  Be encouraged, but be honest for others sake.

With you for His glory,