Pentecost Sunday Musing: Holy Spirit Empowerment

Today, Sunday 6/12/2011 is Pentecost Sunday[i]. It is the day that focuses on our being filled with the Holy Spirit. It is also known as the Jewish festival Shavuot.[ii]  In terms of previous thoughts regarding Pentecost please read https://peacebringer7.wordpress.com/2009/05/28/shavoutpentecost-musings/ and https://peacebringer7.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/musings-on-pentecost-sunday-shavu%e2%80%99ot/ in addition to today’s article.  Also please take time to celebrate having God with us and being in-dwelt with the Holy Spirit.

God set aside this day for a reason and a purpose. God specifically directed the disciples to wait. They were not to go off on their own and start sharing the good news about Salvation, they needed what they did not yet have.  See, on this day something happened that had not occurred before. Sure, there were instances of people being empowered by the Holy Spirit including Moses, David, Elijah, Elisha, and others.  But there never had been the moment where God took up residence within the human spirit. It was the day that the following of God’s truth and God’s ways was given the empowerment through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit enabling God with us, every day. It was the day that God’s ways, God’s law started being written on the hearts of humanity and daily fellowship with the creator enabled. 

Granted, there is a lot of ways folks understand and misunderstand the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  But, God made it clear that there is no fruit and progress without the Holy  Spirit. He directed the disciples to wait, to not go off on their own power to spread the gospel. Something else was needed.  Even then, he directed them to start local and move outward.  There were specific steps for specific times.  Now we may not always grasp or understand. At times we may be waiting, but God does go before us. He provides us what we need, when we need it. The Holy Spirit within us is evidence of this. But God gives when He gives in accordance with His will with what is necessary.  It may not match our viewpoint or understanding at all; for we do not see things clearly, only in part.  Think for a moment to what it would be like to be a disciple and having seen Jesus ascended and being directed to wait without having any idea what was coming.  Then Pentecost comes and the Holy Spirit comes and indwells. What a glorious day but no one could have possibly known what it meant until it happened. 

 

Now note that God still gives what in accordance with His will with what is necessary. It does not always line up or look like we think it should. We are told to listen and follow. We are to wait when directed to wait and we are to move forward when God says move forward. Each step involves trust.  Each instance and circumstance and life is unique.  Too often, each of us can look toward a certain way God moved and apply it broader.  But each circumstance, each person, each life is unique. God works in us all, and those of us who have submitted to God’s way and follow the true path have God with us. It is not a special thing about any of us, it is not a ‘divine spark.’ It is God taking up residence within us, to give us the power and direction to respond to God’s truth and love God and others in accordance with God’s will.  We simply need to trust and obey and be about what God directs each day. We are given power to do so each day, but it requires a daily surrender to the Holy Spirit and a seeking out and following God’s direction but in God’s word and in the prompting of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Doing so makes each day a glorious day and leads us into the path of contentment recognizing that we can do all things through God’s empowerment which is enabled by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Thank God for this day, many years ago that allows me to walk, write, and do what God sets before me when I surrender daily.  It is this that enables us all to be conquerors and empowered to do whatever is ahead. For none of us can do what God directs on our own accord, just as the disciples needed the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, so to we need this empowerment. It starts with surrender and following God with trust and obedience.  He gives the power, we just need to stay in step. When we are obedient and not relying on self, we can know that God will see us through to where He wants us, for He is promised is always faithful and He has given us the means to be empowered for whatever He asks in whatever circumstance.

Holy Week Musings: Good Friday and the Crux of the Cross.

The day of April 22nd, 2010 is Good Friday.  It is the day we focus on Jesus death on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins.  The very action taken on that day is really the fulcrum point of all of history. The cross and Jesus death as the eternal lamb is central.   Now in order to understand how essential and critical Jesus death was to the whole of history let us go back to the beginning of humanity and the first sin of man.

Back in the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God.   In that disobedience, lies of being able to be able to determine right from wrong and elevate self to be “like God” was at the core.  It was a move out of being dependent on God, to being able to determine for self what is right and wrong.  This decision brought separation from God and resulted in consequences for the whole of creation. Those consequences entail the varied forms of suffering and the twisting of all creation.  The consequences that are suffering were designated by God, for apart from God, nothing is right, nothing is as intended.  It is a natural out-flow. When things are not in correspondence with how God intended to work, through dependence on Him, the result is pain.

Now recognizing that the pain and suffering comes as consequence to the initial deportation from depending on God, let us look a bit more closely at what Jesus death means.   Jesus came because of love. God had the plan ready to go when humanity chose to go on way.  The plan was for the innocent to take on the wrath for the guilty, but not just any innocent, a member of the Godhead himself,  Jesus the Son.  He left the full dynamic relationship with the Father and Holy Spirit, took on humanity, and took on all of suffering.  He lived perfectly, was wholly innocent, and suffered that we might live.  It was God’s plan, for there had to be away to redeem that which went another way.  Love dictated such an act.  The wrath of love dictated that the price be paid. So God paid it Himself. 

It is very important to grasp the depth of what it means that the Son of God came in the flesh.  Jesus, in whom “All the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in bodily form”(Colossians 2:9), came to earth, entered in to suffering all in order that we may be free.  All God actions prior to the cross pointed ahead to the event and after everything points back to the cross. It is the center point.   He endured the suffering of humanity. He took on the worst death humanity could conjure. He was betrayed, mocked, belittled, and scourged.  This all because He did not measure up to what humanity expected, that He make the immediate life more comfortable and undo the tyranny.  He came to undo a tyranny, but that tyranny was the consequences of humanities sin. Just as through one man, sin entered the world, so too by one action, a solution was provided and tyrants defeated.  Just not in accordance with human perspective. 
Jesus came, suffered, and died so that the justice demanded by human pursuit of self-determination and moving away from surrender to God was fully satisfied making the action on the cross the crux of God’s plan and His story for humanity.  

It starts with sin and God establishing the consequences as the whole of creation is twisted. God takes on humanity, takes on suffering, and dies.  Dies, rejected of men.  For the first time the relationship of the Godhead is broken as the Father turns away from the Son for he cannot look upon the sin, for it is too much.  Jesus takes it all on, willingly, following the fathers plan, always in perfect submission to His will.  It is noteworthy, that at the moment of the death there were many events testifying to the importance and crucial moment.  Storms, darkness, earth quaking, and the veil tearing in two.  There has never been a greater act of love.  For some the act is foolishness, how can a Father require a Son to die for those who reject the father and are in conflict?  What is not grasped is the Son was fully on board, always in surrender to Father’s will, for there was no other way to make things right.  No other way to undo the twist and the suffering that entered due to self-determination.  God took the initiative. One that demands response from all and one of which to all response will one day be given, some just with weeping and gnashing of teeth because they continued along the way of self-determination instead of surrender to the one who suffered all so that all can be freed.

Holy Week Musing: Remembrance and the Last Supper

Today, Wednesday is considered the day historically the Passover feast occurred known as the Last Supper.  One can imagine with the events that occurred and the place being provided for the meal as directed by Jesus that there was great anticipation by the disciples.  Surely Jesus would explain what was going on.   Essentially he did just that and it was only realized later by the disciples.  See Jesus intended the day to be a day of remembrance.  The Passover meal was already one God established as a day of remembrance, Jesus filled it up with meaning and gave the disciples images and lessons they would not forget in spite of everything to follow.

Before looking at what Jesus did that was so memorable, it is worth briefly reviewing what Passover provided a reminder of: Salvation!  It is the day the Jewish nation and all that were under the blood of the lamb to be saved from death.  It was the day the Jewish nation was freed from the Tyranny of Egypt and all its gods.  It was a move from the way of the world to the way of God.  The Passover meal brought all this to reminder every year.   The point of this article is not to review all the Passover gives remembrance of, but to focus specifically on what Jesus added to the memory. (It is worth the time to do a search and examination further of the messianic Passover symbolism and encourage all to take time to do such examination.)   There are four key memorable moments that are worth highlighting: the identification of His betrayer, the call to remember the bread and wine, not drinking the last cup, and the washing of the disciples feet.

The first key moment of memory is when Jesus identified Judas as the betrayer and he left.  Jesus told them someone would betray him, none pointed at anyone else, all wonder if it was them.  Jesus did not directly identify but did with symbolism.  The one who dipped into the bitter herbs the same time as Jesus, Judas was identified. Judas then left.   Certainly the disciples remembered that act, but also had it fresh in their minds their own ability to do such an act.  For they all questioned and the memory would stick.

The second point of memory is when Jesus declared a specific point of remembrance: the taking of the bread and wine.  Unfortunately some of the meaning has been forgotten in the church as a whole. We remember the symbols of blood and wine, but we lose the important and central part of Passover Jesus was pointing out.  The bread consumed was the “afikomen.” It is the last thing eaten. It is the bread broken and hidden.  When Jesus broke and ate this bread, declared it His body, He declared himself as Messiah. He declared the coming salvation through His death and resurrection as symbolized by that element of the Passover meal.  The wine was the third cup known both as the cup of redemption and the cup of blessing.[i] When he drank this cup, called it His blood, he declared His blood the source of redemption and blessing.  He then made certain He proclaimed himself as Messiah and set forth significant points of remembrance.

One memorable element to the disciples but clearly forgotten in the church today is that Jesus did not drink the final cup, the cup of praise.  He state he would not drink of the fruit of vine again, until His Kingdom comes (Luke 22:18). It is said that Jesus will finally drink the fourth cup after His second coming after His wrath has been meted out and the millennial reign begins.  One of the reasons it is easily forgotten, as it has yet to be fulfilled, it is coming and there are many other images and thoughts that fill our mind than the drinking of the fourth cup. It would be fresher in our minds if the church had not set aside the participation in the Passover feast.

The finals act of remembrance worth commenting on was Jesus showing himself a servant and washing the feet of His disciples.  Now there is plenty of moments of “washing” in the Passover meal, and the meal finishes with that ceremonially washing. Jesus took further. He took the meaning of the cleansing the washing a step further, to illustrate He was humbling self, serving us, and would clean us wholly. It was an astounding act unheard of, unthinkable.  Peter was so taken a back that He wanted to refuse to let Jesus serve Him in such a way.  The impact of the message definitely stuck with the disciples.

Now, there is much more that went on at the last supper that Jesus gave the disciples to remember. He spent great deal of time teaching and explaining, trying to clear their confusion and redirect their expectations.  Jesus did this day what He set out to do, created a time that would be remembered and examined, pointing to what He was about to do and gave meaning to the Passover meal.

God wants us to remember and we do, even though what we remember has been reduced and diminished.  We still take time each year to remember.  God sent His son to die that we might live.  Sure we miss plenty, but we still remember and thank God for the gift of the eternal Passover lamb, the eternal afikomen, the eternal cup of salvation and blessing. He died, so that all who turn to Him shall live, just as all who lived who came under the blood on the doorpost. The question for each, has the blood of the eternal Lamb been set on your doorpost, are you marked within so you may live.  Now is the time, while it is still today, to consider and act so that you may be saved.   And if you have your doorpost marked, celebrate and remember for He has freedom us from the tyranny of sin and death and given us true life.

Holy Week Musings: The Ascent

Tomorrow 4/16/2011 is Palm Sunday.  It is the day of Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem with people proclaiming Him as King. A lot of time is spent remembering that day as it is celebrated in churches throughout the world.  How much time is spent thinking and talking about the approach to Jerusalem?   There are several events and teaching that transpire as Jesus approaches the city and the enfolding of His mission with the suffering that will soon follow.  Each gospel account references different things that happened as Jesus moved with purpose from Jericho to Bethphage to Jerusalem.  He approach the city knowing full well what was to come.  He did so faithfully without wavering.

Outside of the actions and teachings of Jesus leading up to Holy Week, my mind is going to what Jesus was experiencing during this time,  as He knew what was to come, that suffering, betrayal, and death awaited.  Here is one incredible thing, as he ascended to Jerusalem, to that which God set before him, He experienced a wide range of emotions and maintained his course. He did not shrink back, pull back, or hold back. He moved ahead.  Think for a minute Jesus focusing on Psalms 120 through 134 the Psalms of Ascent and knowing that what He was about to do created the help, peace, and salvation.  Jesus kept the focus and surrender and moved ahead, knowing what He knew, He still followed and surrendered.  Jesus knew the personal cost to him, but He also knew the purpose and intent of what He was to endure. He knew the victory and salvation it would bring.

Now in our life and call, we do not know the details like Jesus did, but we do know that there is victory.  We do know that God is faithful even when we do not understand what is before us.  If we follow God’s leading, we will receive His blessing in God’s time and in God’s way.  For we know that God is love and while there is pain, suffering, and threats untold, God is greater.  Sure, we may endure great suffering for a time, but as we walk the road God set before us and approach that which He has called us to, God’s purpose will be fulfilled always.  There may be great pain and suffering getting to where God calls, but His will and His love will always be served. Whatever are the evil intents, if surrendered to following God and His ways, He will always bring the victory.

Yet, folks do and will lose out.  The losing out happens when any one of us leave the path of ascent.  We when go down our own way and leave God’s path there are consequences. When we do not surrender, trust, and obey there is loss. Loss that can impact many more than just our self.  This is seen over and over in scripture as deviation and distrust bring choices that have great impact.  The choices is ours minute by minute, as we are all in the ascent, approaching that to where God want us, until we reach the final moment when “It is finished” for this life and we move on to New Jerusalem.

Musing on Repentance 2: Element of the cleansing process

Repentance is a word that refers to an essential element of the Christian faith. Repentance is needed in order to be able to accept the gift of redemption. It is an essential element of salvation. We do not enter into the kingdom of God without surrender and turning from self and sin. Turning to Jesus as the answer at heart means accepting that nothing that self can do is good enough and there is a need for help. It is possible to repent of something and not turn to Jesus but you cannot turn to Jesus unless you turn from self. Repentance is also very vital in understanding other element of the Way of Jesus, the Christian faith. Repentance is a key component to the ongoing process of being cleansed and perfected (known as sanctification.)

First of all, it is worth noting that by accepting the gift of redemption and being saved, that positional before God the Father we are clean. It is already a done and completed task. Jesus declared at the cross, It is finished! If we were not considered clean, the Holy Spirit could not reside. If we were not considered clean we could not approach God. We are consistently in a “clean state” before God. As the Bible states, all who have become a disciple of Jesus and follow Him as The Way, are a new creation. The old corrupt and dirty self is dead, done away with. Sin has no power. These facts are true and certain.

Yet, there is a paradox here, for while we are already made clean, we still are in the process of being made clean. In order to grasp this thought one needs to understand that God does not operate in a linear fashion with time. It is possible before God to be in a state of being clean, yet still be in process of being cleansed, for that is the reality. Each of us are in a growth process that is continuing to change. Many times we deviate the Way and onto a course of our own choosing. Sometimes we hold onto areas in our life that we do not want to give up. We still miss the mark often. So the sin nature while considered dead is still active. We still are learning and growing and there is never a point we arrive. When we have been able to repent and turn from one area of sin and self in our life, God reveals deeper levels and exposes the desires of the heart that twist things toward self. So there remains the continual need of turning from self. There is no sanctification without repentance. Note, that just like salvation, there can be turning from sin but a lack of true cleansing, for the actions and the fruit of self are rubbish before God and do not “clean.”

In thinking about the process of sanctification, a conceptual image has developed for me. This image came to my mind after thinking about the vision of the kingdoms of the world the prophecy interpreted by Daniel of the statue. The statue shows the Kingdoms of the world moving from pure gold to ultimately dirt. Each step is a lower level of value. Well, the image of sanctification is the opposite. We are moving from a lower value state to a higher value. The statue moved from gold to the common elements of iron and clay. Now the concept is that sanctification is the exact opposite. We are being refined from dust and ashes  to that which is even more precious than gold. As we grow and mature and are refined, we become more pure and precious.

Perhaps, even the sanctification and what we overcome is reflected in the crowns of life we each will be presented. The crown adorned with the precious metals and gems that derive from the course of life and how we turn from self. Each victory may well be another gem. We achieve victory by practicing true and genuine repentance. When we turn from self toward a focus on loving God and others, it is a victory. Then even when we not only turn from self but help others to take steps of repentance to salvation or play a role in their ongoing sanctification, what God fashions is even more precious. And what God fashions is precious in so far as it reflects Him, that his nature is seen. It is even that recognition that will result in our setting aside any crown before Him, for it is all but His and His nature. It is nothing we possess, it is what God is doing, and the acts of repentance resulting in growth toward being more in the image of Jesus is essential. If there is not repentance, there can be not fruit, and if there is no fruit, the rewards are less, and the less the reward the less we have to offer back to God as a reflection of His glory.

Musings on Repentance 1: Glen Beck’s Call for Awakening versus Biblical Repentance

Glen Beck has made the news because of a speech he gave on the Washington Mall on 8/28/2010 which was an Anniversary date of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream speech.  The speech was part of a rally hosted by Glen Beck that when by the title of Restoring Honor.  The speech made the news because Glen called for the nation to return to God.  The speech garnered varied reactions ranging from unqualified support, skepticism, or criticism. Many Christians were alarmed that such a call came from a person known to be a member of a Latter Day Saints (Mormon) congregation.  Some have spoken with Glen Beck and have come away convinced he understands and embraces the idea of atonement.  Well, given all the reactions this writer decided to listen to the speech and having done so have found it to be quite disturbing.  Yes, Glen Beck calls for an Awakening and a turning to God by acts of faith, hope, and Charity. He spent time pointing at the need for firm reliance on divine providence as written in founding father documents. However, his call for Awakening does not match the Biblical view of awakening or repentance. Let’s examine a bit closer what he stands for as indicated in his speech. You may want to take the time to view the speech for your self before you read the further commentary in this article. The speech can be found at: http://www.glennbeck.com/content/articles/article/198/45013/.

In listening the speech there were four concepts espoused by Glen Beck that do not correspond to Biblical principles or Biblical repentance.  Glen Beck did use some words that have an element of truth, but the truth he spoke simply served as a means of accepting the other content of his message as true.  There are four key message elements of his speech that are in direct contrast to Biblical repentance and awakening. 

The first element that is in contrast to Biblical repentance is that Glen Beck emphasized the importance of self-determination. He opened the speech with a comment “One man can change the world.” “It is you.”  He made frequent references to Moses and his staff.  He encouraged people over and over to “pick up the stick.” Meaning get involved in the efforts to alter the course of the nation. He used the metaphor even of Egypt and slavery to make his point. However, the slavery he refers to is not being involved in political action and having restrains to self-determination.  True, he does reference seeking God and acting in faith, hope, and charity. Yet, it is all for the building up of self.  He even alluded to his being a broken man and having made changes. Yet, he points to political actions to “set people free.” 

The second element that is in contrast to Biblical repentance is that while he hearkens to engaging in prayer and engaging in firm reliance on divine providence, he emphasizes the importance of “America.”  He clearly espouses the concept of America as a “special nation.”  He referred to the documents from the founding fathers of the country as being “American Scripture.”  He indicated that if “America” does not change the course it is on, then there will be no one to step in when the “world” is in trouble. In essence, he elevates “America” to a savior of the world status.  This is elevating the country of the United States to an unhealthy level and looking for human element to saving the world.  The perspective of the Christian faith is that nothing will be made right until Jesus returns and everything will continue to get worse.

Another disturbing element of Glen Beck’s speech was the frequent references to “looking within.” He made comments such as we need to “strengthen our spirits” and we need to explore “inner space.”  The need for such “inner exploration” is not part and parcel to the Christian concept of awakening and repentance but rather calls to finding what you are sure of and finding some form of spiritual guidance for inner strengthening.  And while it was not directly said, it suggests pointing to some inner element of “the divine.” For Glen Beck made constant references of to humility. He even declared God as King, yet he frequently focused on self effort.  Even his push for “faith, hope, and charity” really seem inclined to being found in looking within in and choices made.  Yes,  Glen Beck did proclaim that we need to look to God and look to love, yet the direction he pointed folks to look was within.

The last disturbing element of Glen Beck’s speech  is that  what he pointed to is everyone needs to know what they believe. He indicated that belief is important, he stated truth was important but only as elements of self.  In terms of truth, a person needs to be truthful and have no lies in your life.  He proclaimed  “truth shall set you free” but the determiner of truth is self and what you believe. He emphasized that what was important were the “universal principles” of the varied faiths, not absolute truth.  His embracing nebulous universal truths was highlighted even by his action as he called for a “Black Robe Brigade” of people of varied “faiths” that were standing for advocating political answers with a human moral base centered on universal principles.  This is not by any shape turning to submission to a Holy God and Jesus who is “THE WAY,” rather it is being actively involved and engaged in solutions of this world to change moral behavior and political focus. It is quite different that biblical awakening and repentance.

At the core, Biblical repentance is not turning to self or elevating self with the aim of some political world changing purpose. Biblical repentance is turning away from self-effort and following God’s ways. Yes, that involves loving God and others. Yes, it involves turning to Jesus as King.  But it is something that is not about elevation of self or society but simply doing what is right before God and turning away from that which is self.  The Bible is filled with evidence of what repentance looks like.  The story of the Prodigal son is one example.  It is a coming to an end of self and turning to God.  True repentance will result in a turning to Jesus.  The attitude seen in Biblical repentance is shown in James 4:6-9 (ESV) “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.”   There really is stark contrast.  Look at Zacchaeus for a Biblical example of repentance. He was crooked, greedy man. He met Jesus and he changed his life to the point of even returning more than he stole.  He was called and he followed. Biblical repentance involves two actions, a turning from self and turning to God.  It is leaving the old way for a new.

Glen Beck offers ways to arrange the world and life to best accommodate desires. It is holding on own life in a way, it is far different from the self-surrender of scripture.  There is a verse passage in Ephesians that really sums up the difference between what Glen Beck is promoting and the Biblical view.

Ephesians 5:6-17 (ESV) Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  

 This passage  exposes those  appear  to proclaim a turning to God yet really are elevating self.  The passage also commands to have nothing to do with those who are deceptive.   For there is always really two ways, the way of God and the way of the world.  There is Godly sorrow and repentance that leads to salvation as those who lose their life will gain it. Then there is the way of the world, the works of flesh, the elevation of self that has no life and leads to death and destruction.  One is real, one is but illusion.  Glen Beck’s call is to that of illusion leading to death. There is no life there.

What is true freedom?

          It is the month of July and at the beginning of the month the focus was on celebrating the forming of the United States of America. The essential element that is celebrated is that of freedom or liberty. We revel in the freedoms of being a citizen of the United States of America. Often times the concept of freedom and liberty is heralded as a foundational element rooted in Christianity. Now the intent of this article is not to dig into all the philosophical foundations of the United States or event that of Liberty and Freedom. Rather, it is to grasp the difference between what is true, freedom found in God and what is the liberty that leads to bondage.
          Now if you examine any philosophical or political writings on liberty you will find reference to two types of liberty, positive and negative liberty. Positive liberty is the freedom to reach your full potential. Negative liberty is the freedom from restraint. The core of both types of liberty is the focus on the individual. It is in essence about self-determination. Being able to fully develop your self and be all that you can be and be free from anything that may restrain. However, liberty in practice recognizes that there needs to be some order, some agreed principles of restraint for there are a wide variety of wills. Thus systems of government were devised with the end result ultimately being establishing the system of government that allows for the choice of the individual coming to a societal consensus. It is the liberty of self-determination impacting society through an agreed social contract established by representation. Granted, the system of government developed in response to corruption, tyranny, and greed of what had gone before. It is a system that has benefited many, but is the core really a biblical concept?
          The liberty of self-determination and social contract are not biblical concepts at all. Perhaps some might argue that concepts of grace and being free from the condemnation of the law are the concepts tied to this concept of liberty. However, the bible does stand against the concept of self-determination. Note it was self-determination that was central to the fall and the twisting of all of creation. Eve and Adam in consuming the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil entered into the ability to self-determine what is right and wrong and move away from dependence on God. They chose to be free of being told what to do by God. Saul got in trouble for doing what he thought was right and going against what God said. Moses got in trouble for his own self-willed and self-determined response of hitting the rock when told to speak. Israel, in the time of the judges, “did what was right in their own eyes” and turned away from God’s ways. One thing that always happened when one chose the way of self over the way of God was consequences. And it is important to note that consequences always impacted more than self, our choices impact others. The Bible is filled with self-determined actions, even for the good of society, which result in consequences that lead to pain, destruction, and suffering.
           So what is the biblical view of freedom? Well everything in the Bible starts and ends with Jesus. Jesus stated “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36 (ESV). According to Isaiah 61 part of Jesus mission was to proclaim liberty to the captives. So the question is, what does the Son set us free from? Before the already mentioned statement Jesus is quite clear what people are saved from. John 8:34 (ESV) Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”  Jesus is identifying himself as the source of freedom from sin. However, it is not just freedom from sin but also freedom from death. Romans 8:22 (ESV) state “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

         Sin and death go hand in hand. Sin is falling short and missing the mark of what God desires. Sin is elevation of self. Sin has consequences. The biblical picture of sin is that to which we are enslaved. It usually does not start that way, but sin does end up in control. Take the nation Israel and there time in Egypt for example. Something that was a source of provision became slavery; very cruel and destructive slavery. Now what Jesus accomplished by being an innocent sacrifice is the potential for anyone to become free from sin. It is all a matter of what we turn to and surrender to. Do we strive to maintain our own life and focus on the elevation of self, or do we surrender to Jesus, who did what was required to purchase freedom from sin. What Jesus did was essentially a contract moving ownership from that of the sin of self back to being realigned with the creator of the universe.

         The transaction of Jesus sacrifice also resulted in allowing for the freedom from death. Jesus defeated death. Death and suffering are direct consequences of acting out of alignment with God’s intent. God proclaimed that disobeying Him brings death. The death meant a lack of fellowship with the creator, a separation from that for which we were created. True freedom brought by the cross brings ultimate freedom from the ultimate consequence of sin. It also gives us a chance to move beyond the consequences of our own sin and the effects and cross the bridge away from death to life. Since God is the creator and author of life, when disconnected from the creator there is death. Jesus provided for us the ability to reconnect to the author of life by taking all consequences of sin upon Him for us, bringing cleansing and freedom by establishing the bridge so that we can access life. Freedom from death means really the ability to truly experience life. The life is not about things for self, but living in harmony with how God created us and surrendering to Him.
There is one more element of what true freedom sets us free from but often misunderstood. The focus of many has become about there being a freedom from the law, yet the concept has become such for many that means we are free to do what we want, as Jesus sacrifice covers all sins. And while, that is true, Jesus himself said he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. He met the conditions of the contract by which all can be clean before God and he filled up every piece of the contract with meaning. Jesus is what the law is about. So the real freedom is about being established as having freedom in Christ. This freedom is not about self-determining reality, or picking and choosing what is right. Rather, it is about being in right relationship with God. Because of Jesus we no longer have to live up to a set of negotiated instructions that quickly fade from memory. It is about living a relationship and having fellowship with God. The freedom in Christ means that because we are clean, we can have God with us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And since we have the Holy Spirit and active relationship, we do not need an instruction manual or external list, we have God himself to guide us and even show us what those instructions really mean. The freedom really is moving from an interaction that is dictated by a negotiated contract to a relationship dynamic.
         The dynamic is really defined by how the freedom enables us. First we are free to live in truth. When something operates the way it was intended to operate, that is true freedom. Who is freer? Someone wandering about trying to sort out for self what is true or someone who knows by instruction what is the right way? The bible points out in John 8:31-32 (ESV)  So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The passage really points to those that are intimate with what is true, they are the ones who are truly free and liberated. We live in a world where lies are the rule of the day. We are saturated with deception, propaganda, and untruths. It is difficult to live in correspondence with truth, but living in truth is true freedom. If people try and hide or run from the truth, it impacts them. Working in the mental health field, there are all sorts of ways people embrace lies or hide from truth. The lies or hiding from painful truths results in much emotional discomfort and even disconnecting from true emotions is a significant issue. Yet, when people recognize what is true and able to identify lies and understand the truth, there is healing and freedom. The world outside life in Christ and life in truth will embrace whatever gets through the day, whatever feels best at moment. Rather than being free, it often results in further and further constriction as patterns replay over and over. When you know what is right, what is true, and what is beneficial you are able to grow and expand and live free. Even in the country of purported freedom, The United States, there are restrictions in order to facilitate everyone freedom. There is recognition that true freedom does involve boundaries, the establishing of what is the correct manner. Here is the greatest deal of the freedom in Christ. When we falter, fail, and fall short of the truth we can start over and learn. What Jesus did allows us to continue to grow and learn, to be more and more aligned with God’s truth. Walking in truth does not just impact us but those around us as well and enables the freedom to walk in love.
          The freedom in Christ also enable us that freedom to walk in love. Love is a misunderstood and distorted concept. In this day and age the concept of love is centered on how others make us feel. Love today is a self-driven quest for satisfaction. Loving relationships and procreation take the highest value in society. Yet, the self-driven love is easily fractured. Ultimately, real, deep, abiding love is not about self-satisfaction. True love is about moving beyond self and building up of others. Now the Bible indicates that the apex of love is giving of your self to the point of death. It involves no care for self at all. True love starts with being in right relationship with truth. True love involves surrendering and pouring all of self to God which in turns frees us to love others completely. It is not just giving without concern for what is returned it is even giving at expense of self. Now you want to know an amazing thing about love. Each of us reflect and give in correspondence with what has been given with us. If our experience of love is limited, our ability to love is limited. Sure, people are able to transcend past their limits at times, but in general, people are able to love others in correspondence with how they have been loved. Now the amazing thing about the Freedom that is in Christ is that there is no greater love. We are able to love others greatly, because we have been loved greatly. We can give of others at expense of self because Jesus loved us so much he died in our place. A great love at a great expense. When you know and experience that love, there are no limits. And our walking in both truth and love are a response to that deep love at great cost. Ever notice that some of the greatest and most moving stories are the ones that show love at great cost. O. Henry’s story “The Gift of the Magi” is a prime example. And it is because of the freedom found in Christ’s love that we are able to give at cost to self.
           In this day and age, love often comes at expense of truth. It is a focus on either building of connected relationships or finding ways of alleviating suffering. Now caring for others and looking out for those in great suffering are part of love, but often is focused on at expense of truth. We can do acts of service even at expense of self, but love without truth is fleeting. We can also point and talk truth but if we have not love in doing so, we become a cutting wedge. No one can truly walk in truth and love without the Freedom of Christ and being right with the Creator. For without being in that right relationship, ultimately everything becomes about satisfying self in one way or another.
           Ultimately, the heart of the matter is true freedom really only comes and surrender of self. Now it is very alluring to seek after the freedom of self-determination. We all want to feel like we have control and ability to shape our lives and meet what we desire. However, ultimately there are only two choices. One choice is that of doing what we self-determine to be right for self. It is a tempting trap, but walking in self-determination is at its very nature the spirit of lawlessness. One the other hand, walking hand in hand with God’s truth in surrender of self, seems tough, difficult and at cost. But such surrender brings great freedom and joy as one is allowed relationship with the creator and grows in living in correspondence with God’s truth and love in our own lives today. This comes down to a choice, serve self or serve the Creator.

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