Tag Archives: redemption

I Am Free

Words of Grace  

It is particularly sad when the church becomes a merchant of bondage for the people of God.  The message of the gospel, from beginning to end, is a message of freedom.  By going to the cross, Jesus destroyed the power of death and sin, overcame the law, and set us free.  He is the Conqueror, and He has redeemed us from the hands of the enemy.

One day we will wake in glory to discover that there have been no shackles on our hands or feet.  They were a lie.  They were there once, but were destroyed by Christ when He saved us.  The bonds have been gone as long as we have known Him.  The chains you have been feeling are in your mind.  You are free.

Free from the condemnation.  Free from the power of sin.  Free from the Law.  Free from the expectations and standards and opinions of others.  Free from guilt and shame.  You are free.

So live in that freedom.  Defend it.  Believe in it.  The only One who holds power over you is the One who set you free and He loves you.  Don’t let anyone take it away from you, whether it is a teacher or a pastor or a parent or a spouse or a ruler.  Paul wrote to the Galatians that they should stand fast:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1 (NKJV)

Whenever someone teaches freedom, someone else will jump up and say that we shouldn’t just let people do whatever they want.  They get all worried that people will do terrible things under the excuse of being free.  The only problem with this is that people do terrible things even when they claim to be under the law.  Just because you are free to do something does not mean that it is good for you or that there will be no consequences.  Dumb things are still dumb things.  There are many good reasons not to do the things God calls sin.  But there is still no bondage of law over us.

Listen.  It is possible and even good to limit your freedom for the sake of others and for the cause of Christ.  That doesn’t make you less free.  Sometimes people cannot believe their freedom because they live under expectations and challenges.  You are expected to go to work every day if you want food to eat.  Well, you are still free.  You don’t have to eat.  You choose to work so that you can eat.  Choice comes out of freedom.

It’s hard to feel freedom in a difficult marriage or in a dysfunctional family.  It’s hard in a restrictive church or country.  But these are outside things.  You can live within chosen confines and still be free.  Remember what Paul said:

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more       1 Corinthians 9:19 (NKJV)

“Even though I am free, I have made myself a servant.”  Paul chose to do this for the sake of the gospel and the sake of the lost.  He kept the law that was no longer binding to him.  He served people who were no longer his masters.  He obeyed rulers who no longer had authority over him.  He lived his freedom within their expectations to accomplish the call of God on his life.

Are you in a difficult marriage?  Live in freedom even while choosing to live under the expectations.  Are you in a demanding job?  Live in freedom even while doing your best to meet the requirements of your boss.  Are you in a compromised or legalistic church?  Live in your freedom even among those who have yet to discover theirs.  No one else has to change in order for you to be free.  You are free.

I am free!

Jesus has set me free.

No power has authority over me, other than Him.

No bondage holds me back.

I am free.

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Filed under Freedom, Grace definition, Words of Grace

Life in the Present

Instant replay.  Some say it is the downfall of football.  Giving the fans the opportunity to review, over and over, a play and judge the calls of the officials has certainly changed some of the flavor of the game.  What was an attempt by broadcasters to energize and involve the fans was the beginning of a whole new way of life for those fortunate enough to live in such advanced times.  Today we can replay many of the events of our lives, sometimes events we would love to forget.  The criminal thought he had committed the perfect crime until he saw himself on the television news in the act.  The actions of teens that would have simply been remembered by the ones who were there are now immortalized in the minds of a world through Facebook and YouTube.  We can’t seem to escape our past.

Of course some of us don’t need videos to remind us of the stupid or sinful things we have done.  We remember plenty.  We remember too much.  In fact, because we remember, we find it hard to think of those things as separate from us in any way.  We allow those dumb things to define us.  We say things like: “I am a —,” based on what we have done.  Or: “I always —,” because we remember doing something foolish.

Now, most of us have been taught that we should not let our failures define us.  We know that our sins are forgiven.  But we still look back on those things with regret and fear and shame.  Because we can remember what we did, we find it hard to think of ourselves as separate from what we did.  So what if I could show you that the things of your past have been redeemed in your relationship with Jesus?

Because you have eternal life, you live forever in the present—in relationship with Jesus.  That means that the mistakes and sins of your past have been more than wiped away.  They have been incorporated into the wonder and joy of your present.

Now, so that you don’t think I have gone too far off the deep end, here’s what I mean.  Those evil things you and I did in our past are no longer on our accounts as sins held against us.  We know that.  But, beyond that, those evil things have themselves been used in your life, and apparently in the lives of others, to accomplish the purpose of God.  Nothing you did was a surprise to Him.  When you came to Him, those things were in the package you brought.  Not only did He wash you clean from guilt and shame, He also used those things as part of the building process of your life.

Don’t get me wrong.  Those things were sins and they were evil.  But notice Joseph’s understanding:

 

But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Genesis 50:20

 

And God tells Isaiah that the sins, though stained as deeply by evil as possible, will be washed and purified.

 

 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:18

 

And here is the promise for you and me:

 

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

All things?  Even those awful things I have done, those things I regret so deeply?  Yes, even those things!  All things have been brought into your present, washed and made useable for your good.  Under the blood, in your relationship with Jesus, even those things have worked good for you.

Now, I realize this may be a difficult teaching to swallow.  We have been taught to hate our sins and think of them as the reason Jesus went to the cross.  We have been made to feel terrible whenever we think about what we did, no matter how long ago.  But the truth is that we are not to live in the past.  We live in the present and, if we are truthful, those evil things that weighed on our hearts contributed to our need for a Savior.

A wise friend reminded me one day that people who fail need a Savior, so I should never be ashamed of the fact that I failed.  In the same way, people who sinned needed a Savior and—Praise the Lord!—a Savior was sent for us.

I never want to do those things again, but I also no longer will live there.  My life is in the eternity of Jesus, full and free because of His love.

Your thoughts?

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Filed under Theology and mystery

The Scarlet Letter

 

Some will remember the story of Hester Prynne, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tragic character who had to wear the scarlet “A” because of her adultery.  And some understand what it is like to carry a symbol or record of sin.  Sometimes the consequences of sin are with us for the rest of our lives.  And, if the reminder of our sin is always with us, how can we know that we are forgiven?

Well, for sins committed before we came to Jesus, we take great encouragement in the fact that we are born again, new creations.  That which we were is washed away and today we are different persons.  The Bible speaks often of the new life we have received in Jesus.  That new life means that our past sins are gone from us.

But what about those things we do while we are believers?  After we have received this new life, we still make some pretty stupid and self-serving decisions.  Some people actually teach that there is no covering for sins committed by believers, that those sins must be dealt with through our good works.  I guess I would have to say, “Good luck with that!”

No, we can’t pay for our sins after we are saved any more than we could before we are saved.  And let me say this bluntly: Our good works have nothing to do with our sins.  No amount of good works will cover even one sin.  It doesn’t work that way and it never worked that way.  For those who see a distinction between the way of salvation in the Old Testament and the New, which I do not, there is still nothing that teaches that sins are covered by good works.  Someone will point to the sacrificial system, I suppose, but making an animal die for my sins is not a good work.  It is an act of sacrifice.

So how are our sins covered after we become believers?  The same way they were before we were believers.  And when are our sins covered after we become believers?  At the same time they were covered when we became believers.  In other words, Jesus took all our sins on Himself at the cross.  He justified us by His sacrifice.

On the cross, Jesus paid a price big enough to cover all the sins of the whole world forever.  Yours and mine—past, present, and future.  When we come to Him for salvation, for forgiveness, we bring the account book of our lives and He wipes away all record of sin.  He removes the record from us forever.  All He asks is that we come.

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:18

Come and reason with the Lord.  Enter into a relationship with Him through Jesus.  Then all your sins—past, present, and future—will be washed away.  Even the scarlet letter.

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