To the Called Out Ones of Jesus Christ,
To the Called Out Ones of Jesus Christ (and to all those who want to live for something more),
I’m not sure why, but as we approach the new year my mind and spirit go to the subject of freedom. I guess I’m wondering what will be different about 2018. Will we all just go along with what has been – being adrift on the river of life and going with the flow? I’m especially wondering this for Christians. Will we continue to let the world dictate our culture – ours personally as well the general society – or will we stand up and truly be the light on the hill that Jesus said that we should be? Will we stand in the current and change the flow? I hope so. I pray so.
So, what is the issue with freedom and why is it such a big deal? It’s a big deal for us as Americans because of our history – our Declaration of Independence and our fight for freedom. And, because of this, we think we understand it and “naturally” live it out. It’s also, or, at least should be, a big deal for Christians because Jesus said. “if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) Paul echoes this when he said, “for it is for freedom’s sake that you have been set free” (Galatians 5:1). Sounds like a pretty big deal, doesn’t it? Sure, but I wonder if we’re on the same page today as they were when they spoke and wrote these words. Although I believe at one time we did understand it – at the founding of our Faith and our Country – I believe we have lost sight of what true freedom is and what our founders were seeking as well as what Christ was thinking in “setting us free.”
Freedom “from something” and freedom “for something”
When our founding fathers declared their freedom, they were not thinking, “Yippee, now we get to do whatever we want and no one can tell us what to do!” No. They were thinking about being free from the tyranny of overbearing taxation without representation, forced servitude in the military, or restrictions on who could own land, etc. They were wanting to break away from this oppression so that they could live their lives as freemen – not so that they could indulge every appetite but so they could live the just, responsible, and good lives they believed they should under God, free from an overbearing and intrusive government.
However, today, we have something entirely different going on. If it isn’t obvious to you already, our country, and Western society as a whole, is running headlong into a pit of moral debauchery and is about to implode from the inside out. We’ve now defined freedom as my right to do whatever I want, regardless of how bad it is for me or how it impacts others. In fact, as is made clear by recent laws or attempts at lawmaking, we now believe it is the government’s responsibility to protect and even pay for my right to do what I want regardless of who it impacts because of the “freedom” I enjoy as an American. And, we’ve made it “wrong” to tell anyone that they can’t do this. Cases in point: the legalization of marijuana and the use of public bathrooms by any “gender” that one wants to be in the moment.
So, what does this mean for Christians and how should we respond? Do we just shrug our shoulders and say, ‘oh well.’ Do we just observe in sadness and disbelief, all the while being tainted by the same values? Paul faced a similar situation in his day, particularly in the city of Corinth, which was known for its rampant immorality. To this church he wrote:
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others….
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” I Corinthians 10:23-33
“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” I Corinthians 9:19
And again, to the Galatians he wrote:
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love….
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:1-13
As Christians, we believe that Christ “set us free” from the tyranny of sin and death. According to scripture, we were all slaves to sin and the devil (Romans 6; Galatians 3:23; Ephesians 2:1-3). In this condition, we were/are not free to do anything but act out in our sinful nature. But, we were not “set free” just so that we can do whatever we want, whenever we want with whomever we want. No. We are set free from the prison of sin and death so we can freely live the lives that God intended us to live in the first place. (see Ephesians 2) Lives that honor Him. Lives that extend His Kingdom, which include doing good and helping others to become free. Lives that seek the good of others as well as or even above ourselves.
We must come into alignment with the teachings of our Lord and stand against the tide of immorality threatening to take over our land today. To be clear, however, I’m not talking about Christians going around with our fingers and tongues wagging, telling everyone else that they’re going to hell and that they shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing. No, we’ve done that with disastrous results. I’m saying, we must be the beacons of a Better Way by demonstrating a better way of living that isn’t caught up in the temporal pursuit of selfish ambition and lust. We must demonstrate the oft repeated commandment of “love another” and as particularly exhibited by the further clarification, “greater love has no man than this – that he lays down his life for his friends” and other such admonitions.
This is a distinctly Christian view and teaching by which we must distinguish ourselves. This is what it means to extend the Kingdom Reign of Christ through our obedience to Him. This is explicitly what He meant for us to do when He gave us the Great Commission – to make disciples by teaching all men to practice everything He taught us to do (to use our freedom to do good, in this case). see Matthew 28:19-20
As Christians we should live with a sense of hope and purpose that transcends the din of this world and offers the same to all who are watching. We should live as free people, but not use our freedom as a cover-up for evil; but live as God’s slaves, furthering His kingdom here on earth. (see 1 Peter 2:16) As Christians, we should be seeking to overcome evil with good. We should be leaders in doing good and creating “good” for everyone, as much as possible. We should “let our light so shine before men that they will see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)This is the only hope for the world that is falling into darkness. In 2018, let us use our freedom to demonstrate the power and goodness of God’s Kingdom so that the world may know Jesus, the Christ, and the loving Father of All who sent Him. (see John 17)
For the sake of the world and the glory of God,
Saturday at the Mission – 8:30am
We are continuing to meet every Saturday in the “Upper Room” above the Dining area in the main building of the Union Gospel Mission, 1300 N. First Street, 98901. We meet from 8:30 – 10:00am.
Please enter at the SE entrance, across from the food pantry. After entering, go forward thru a short entry hall (15′) then turn right to go up the stairs to the Banquet Room. Call or text Dennis Crane if you have questions, (509) 910-7772.
Please invite others to come that share their desire for Transformation in the Yakima Valley.