Tag Archive: freedom

Christian Freedom Part 2

I saw this saying on a fellow blogger’s site, beautybeyondbones, and thought it summarized God’s grace and our freedom beautifully:

Living FOR acceptance and love is bondage.
Living FROM acceptance and love is freedom.

The reason there is a cross in Christian freedom is that we are radically insecure. We seek to justify our existence based on what we and others think of us. It never quite works, though, and we try to dull the pain with toys and distractions.

But if we realize this soul-sickness for what it is, we can put it behind us by turning to God for our justification. What greater statement of our worth could there be that the very Son of God would die to secure our forgiveness and to give us a real hope?

But there has to be a letting go of self: it’s not just enough to turn over a new leaf, to force ourselves into moral compliance. The illness is such that the only cure is for is to come to the end of ourselves and our self-justification.

Insecurity and self-centredness are two sides of the same coin. We constantly crave affirmation, to be told we’re all right. But the praise fades and like addicts, we need more.

It’s a big step to realize this, and a bigger step to be willing to let it go, to die to it, finding our justification – our reason to live – outside ourselves: God Himself loved us enough to die for us. But when we finally do let it go, what freedom! Worry and striving evaporate, and for the first time we can live deeply: not trying to drug ourselves with distractions and toys, but to live life down to the roots, secure in His acceptance and living for Him, not because we have to but because it is perfect joy to do so.

THAT is real freedom. That is what we were made for.


Christian Freedom

“Whom the Son sets free is free indeed” (John 8:36)
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

We hear a lot about how Christians have been set free, and it’s gloriously true. But we need to think about what that freedom really means.

Christian freedom has a cross in it. We are free because we have died to our old lives with its desires and pride, and our new lives are bound up in His. That means the Christian admits Christ’s primacy in and over every area of their lives.

Many take the gospel to mean they can do what they want because Christ has taken the consequences of our sin. But how can we be truly Christian if we remain centred on the self and its desires?

The gospel is far more radical than we are sometimes willing to consider. We are called to a complete humility: my old life with its desires and self-seeking is dead, and I am called to look to God for my affirmation. I don’t have to prove anything to myself or others because my identity and my future rests in His hands.

Our new lives, then, are entirely in Christ. Until we are willing to give ourselves completely to Him – to follow Him to the cross in practical fact – dare we call ourselves His followers?

Answers to Prayer

Answers to Prayer and Free Will

We sometimes are troubled that God does not always answer prayer the way we would expect, especially since the Bible tells us that we are precious to Him.

Life still appears random, and we ask ourselves if things are just happening as they would happen. We don’t see God’s hand notable in daily life.

Or we are told He does answer prayer, but if we aren’t seeing Him move it’s because we don’t have enough faith.

I wonder if both ideas misunderstand our real situation.

If God is the Creator and outside of time, we may reasonably expect that He is sovereign and can work all things out according to His plan; and if He truly desires our good, that He hears us. But because He desires relationship with created, finite beings, He must grant them free will so that relationship can be consensual. That’s where things get messy.

If the free will of humanity is a real thing, then it’s nonsense to expect a direct correlation between prayers offered and desired results. There will be notable instances, perhaps even miraculous deliverances; but to get what we want every time we pray is to ask the impossible. Some thoughts:

1) Sometimes there are conflicting needs, situations and desires of praying individuals – whose prayers get answered?

2) God knows what we need better than we do, and if God dwells in the past, present and future all at once as the Bible suggests, He sees outcomes we can’t. We are finite beings who live in time, and we often can’t know the long term results of the answer we desire. He does.

3) Besides this, we may consider that the results of our physical actions are limited by our own physicality and mortality; but when we pray, we invoke a power that stands independent of time. Prayer could be a much more powerful force, and a Heart greater than our own must balance our requests against our ultimate good and His plan for the universe.

4) And sometime we ask amiss, for our own pleasures. We trust our own hearts a little to easily: yet the Bible tells us the human heart is wicked and deceitful; self-centredness is the default position of the human heart. Even among His chosen, we must unlearn a lifetime of looking out for number one, and sometimes what we ask for has some of this in it.

But what about when we have done nothing wrong, and God just doesn’t seem to be there?

5) I wonder if God sometimes answers prayer in large strokes, with the complex good arising out of many smaller things that seem like reversals and trials at the time.

One example that comes to mind is Joseph in the Bible. Sold into slavery by his brothers, I don’t doubt he cried to God and wondered why he was left to languish in an Egyptian prison. Yet this trial put him in the position to save his family and changed him from an arrogant upstart to a gentle, forgiving man. It took decades before he was able to connect the dots and see God’s hand.

6) And what of Christ’s passion? Our Lord prayed for deliverance in Gethsemene, yet it was not offered. The Jewish leaders freely chose to have Jesus executed; and they are described as blameworthy even though we are told it was God’s plan from the start.

7) Waiting and trusting develops our souls, puts on spiritual muscle. What we become is more important than our comfort. And if our wills really are free, I don’t see any other way God can amend our bent nature. We have to swim against the current if we are to be changed in fact.

Read Psalms. Lots of wonderings, yet the Psalmist remains faithful. The Bible is quite clear that sometimes faithful people endure terrible trial.

Read Hebrews 11. Some were saved or brought great deliverance; others suffered and were even killed rather than deny their allegiance to God.

When we trust, even our effort is more relaxed. To do our very best because of the gratitude we have for Our redemption is one thing; to work hard because we don’t think God will come through if we don’t is another, and I wonder if this attitude informs much of our work for Him. To do our best and then to be able to rest at the same time is the key, I suspect, to avoiding burn-out. Understanding God’s sovereignty and foreknowledge is part of this.

In the end, I think the Bible describes a God who is eternal and sovereign; whose plan will prevail, and who wants to change our hearts. He moves many things to accomplish His will; and our freedom is one of the things He works with. His work in and for us will not always be obvious.

If the atheists are right, we aren’t really free; we are all just the effect of random causes we had no control over. There is no right and wrong, we are not accountable for our lives, and if life has dealt us a bad hand, we can just complain like the victims we are.

If we are free, we are also responsible for the choices we make. But we will live worried, guilt-ridden lives as we notice our own tendency to mess things up.

But if we combine this with an understanding of God’s grace and His sovereign power, then we can rest and really start to enjoy our lives.

God says we are free; our choices matter. He wants us to do our best, and uses the trials of life to change us. But because of Christ’s work, He also forgives us as soon as we are willing to trust that He has. And knowing His will ultimately prevails, we can put our worried hearts aside and live happy, fulfilled lives.

It’s like the old Keith Green song:
“Keep doing your best
And pray that it’s blessed
And He’ll take care of the rest”.

Islam, ISIS and the West

In his book Inventing the Individual, Larry Seidentop shows how our concepts of human rights and freedom of belief are a Christian construct, and that they form the very basis of modern liberal thought. By emphasizing individual responsibility and justification by faith as a personal choice, Christianity asserted the equality of individuals, subverting the stratified society of the time. This eventually formed the underpinning crucial to the concept of human rights that we enjoy today.

But the politically correct seem more open to non-western thought (anything but Christianity), deconstructing the basis of the society that puts a premium on individual rights and liberty – while actually opening the gates to terror. We are literally cutting off the branch we’re sitting on.

The real enemy is relativism and the moral ambiguity that results; we now have no articulated worldview from which to resist. It’s easier to be pushed to extremes. And ISIS wants that; to polarize, to create a “them vs us” mentality. In fact, it’s not much of a stretch to suggest the atrocity of their acts is calculated to do so: the worse, the better. And we react. We hate back. We vow revenge. And we play into their hands.

What’s the answer to terror? In the long run, society must embrace again that which created the freedoms we enjoy. Let the immigrants come: but don’t muzzle those who would share the Gospel of Christ in reasoned discourse. Let them be changed by a society that understands how we became free.

Can We Live As We Want?

Many people think that because Jesus paid for our sins, we can relax and just live as we please. He’s a forgiving God, right?

Not so fast.

Even a casual reading of the Bible will tell us that God cares, and cares very much, about how we live. Christ’s death puts us in right standing with God, but if we have any concept of what it cost God to pay our debt, we would hardly live to further indulge that which separated us from Him in the first place.

In Galatians, Paul lays it out pretty plain: God’s moral law delineates simple, unselfish living: love God, and love your neighbour as yourself. But when we try to do this, we often fail; there is sort of a moral gravity that pulls us towards selfish thoughts and actions, and even though we know better, we break this law. Our inability shows us our need for an intervention.

Our failure to be perfectly moral serves now as our “schoolmaster to bring us to Christ”; it is only by knowledge of our moral imperfection that we realize our need of God’s grace.

The gospel tells us we don’t try to earn our way into God’s good books by keeping the rules but by admitting our need. We have to trust Him and His provision. And if we hope for forgiveness we must bear in mind that codes and creeds don’t forgive, but persons: and we are dealing with a real Person, not just a religion. And that relation will change us from the inside out.

Anyone who thinks they can now live without care for their own behaviour simply shows they neither understand nor appreciate the Grace that is offered them; it’s only the heart that weeps for its own spiritual poverty that stands ready to accept forgiveness.

God will always care very much about how we live. If we are really His, our lives will reflect it, dead to our old selfish ways and following Him not because we’re being forced to, but out of humble gratitude for the work done on our behalf.

Wouldn’t it be great to not lie awake at night steaming about slights and offences, just to be able to let it all go? To get rid of that angry, burning knot in your stomach? It’s possible – but how?

I think that to really forgive others we have to first acknowledge our own guilt and need of grace. We have hurt God, offending against His law every time we put ourselves and our own interests above those of a loving God or our neighbour. It cost God the death of His own Son to put it right – the only way He could show us the mercy we needed while still remaining just.  When we finally get this we can understand what it cost God to purchase our own reconciliation – and the undeserved forgiveness offered to us.

In our politically correct, self-actualizing, all-about-me world, that really runs against the grain. But it’s just common sense if you take a minute to think about it: if we offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us on any other basis, we’re telling ourselves (whether we’ll admit it or not) we’re better than them, and so pass judgement on them. And if we go there, we may ask ourselves if we really have forgiven them.

God has done this wonderful thing for us, and we are commanded to do likewise for the people in our own lives. We can’t forgive on any other basis, and it’s frankly easier to forgive when you realize you’ve blown it too. It’s humbling in the best sort of way.

Religion and Grace

“Gospel” means good news. Before it’s anything else in our lives, it’s an announcement, a proclamation of a wonderful event that has taken place.

It changes forever our “search for God”. It’s no longer what we do for Him, but what He’s done for us.

We often forget that Jesus didn’t come just to teach; His primary purpose was to accomplish the mission of sin-bearing and redemption on our behalves.

Religion says “I obey and therefore I am accepted”.
The Gospel says, “I am accepted, and therefore I obey”. It’s still a path of moral effort, but the motivation is exactly opposite and comes from a place of rest. We work to please the One who has already saved us.

The only real optimists are those who can rest in this grace, because their hope is based on something eternal and outside of their own attempts to justify themselves. We’re certainly to do our best – but we now do it out of grateful obedience, rejoicing in what has already been done for us. We don’t need to prove ourselves anymore.

Don’t beat yourself up when you fail; in fact, to do so is an act of disobedience to the Spirit of Grace. Return to the place of rest, dust yourself off, and move forward.

Trying or Trusting

Ps. 119:32 “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free”

We can’t be free, we can’t rest until we are thinking more of Him than we are of ourselves. I think this is what the Bible means when it says to take up your cross or to mortify your flesh. It’s a radical re-ordering of your relationship to God.

We are not trying to “turn over a new leaf”, to pull ourselves up by moral effort – it’s telling us we died and have entered new life. It’s telling us to live not in the old way, but in the new, wonderful fact of our life in Him. In that life, we are thinking more of Jesus than we are about ourselves. It’s a life of worship.

We can’t obey or please God, really, without this work in our hearts – obedience out of a heart that is changed, that rests in a work already done.