Most people I now talk to agree that this world is on a fast boat to crazy town. Yesterday, I was watching a TV show from the 1980s and they portrayed a young man with a short, green-dyed ponytail as a problem child. Considering today’s issues, that hair choice being problematic now seems laughable. Over the last couple of years, it seems like we see the book of Revelations unfold daily.
When I look at the world around us, my heart seizes in fear; but, then the Holy Spirit reminds me of Who holds the world and my heart eases. The below passage is a beautiful reminder that true freedom comes from knowing and loving the Lord. Even in prison, Paul and Silas were free in their hearts… and God, as always, was faithful:
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. (Acts 16:25-34, ESV)
Though Paul and Silas were in jail, (unjustly), they were freer than the jailer. Their freedom was from God and could not be chained by any man. Paul and Silas did not worship God because they were hoping He would set them free from their shackles; they were already free! Their worship was a testimony of their hearts’ focus. Those who are in Christ can weather the crazy storms of this year because our freedom runs deeper than our government, our housing, and our surroundings. Our freedom was purchased by Jesus’ blood, and no one can take it from us.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1, ESV)
Is That a Crown?
For a couple years, I noticed a small tattoo on a church friend’s arm. I wonder what that is? So, I finally asked her the story behind it, and she was happy to oblige. “It is a tattoo of the Charlotte Crown I got after completing the Charlotte Marathon.” (If there was ever a reason to get a tattoo, successfully running 26.2 miles may be it!) She enjoyed telling us about her experience and we enjoyed hearing about it, but one part stood out to me above the rest. She said that around the twenty-five-mile mark, she threw her water bottle on the ground and kept pushing forward. When her friend saw her chuck that bottle away, it reminded her of a passage from Hebrews:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV)
A water bottle seems light, right? It does not weigh us down much. But after twenty-five miles, any unnecessary weight is burdensome.
Lay aside every weight.
It is a word picture which has stayed with me. I only wish I had seen it in person. This life race is long and exhausting with bursts of energy and seasons of weariness. God knows we need to run with nothing encumbering us – especially now that the end feels imminent.
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5, ESV)
Are You Free?
We can talk about the different kinds of freedom this year – freedom from clutter, freedom from others’ opinions, freedom from debt – but no freedom is complete without freedom in Christ. For true freedom, you must be born again.
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3, ESV)
The unpopular truth in our self-focused world is that we are sinners. But, saying that we are sinners is not enough. We must recognize in our hearts that we are sinners. (Romans 3:23) Not only do we all sin. We were all born into sin; sin is our original nature; and, before coming to Christ, we must understand this. When Adam and Eve sinned, they brought sin into the world which separated us all from God. (Romans 5:12, 19)
- The wages of sin is death. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, ESV) We are all guilty of transgressing God’s law. We will all face judgement for every moral crime.
- We must be drawn by God the Father. Coming to Christ is not a matter of muttering a heartless or tear-filled “sinners’ prayer” and writing a date in your Bible. No, to be born again, the Bible says that no one comes to Christ unless the Father draws him. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44, ESV) Without God the Father drawing us, we cannot repent. We are dead in our sins. Dead men do not repent. Ephesians 2:5 says that God made us alive together with Christ by His grace!
- Before we ever cried out to Him for help, God made a way. “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:7-8, ESV)
- We must confess our sins, repent of our sins, and follow Christ. Romans 10:9 says that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. In Mark 1:15, Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” So, first we confess our sins, and then we repent…but that is not where it ends. Now, we follow Christ. “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?’” (Matthew 16:24-26, ESV)
- He gives us a new heart. When God saves us, He removes our heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh. “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26, ESV)
- We are no longer slaves to sin. “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7, ESV)
- Sanctification is a process. After we are saved, the Lord sanctifies us. We grow in Him spiritually just as a child grow and learns. Growth and godliness are signs of salvation. If we are in Christ, we should be godlier now than when we first believed. We should be godlier a year from now than we are now.
- We are known by our fruits. There will be evidence of our salvation and our love for Christ by the fruit we produce in our lives. “You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16-20, ESV)
- Jesus’ work on the cross was enough! Anyone who tells you Christ’s death and resurrection was not enough to reconcile us to God is lying. It is only through Christ’s sacrifice that we can be at peace with God. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:1-2, ESV) Jesus is our advocate. He is our go between.
This post is different than our others in that it is not specifically about romantic relationships, but this post is incredibly important because our relationship with God is the only relationship more important than a marriage relationship. Marriage is temporal, but our souls are eternal. We will be in Heaven with the Lord eternally or in Hell suffering for eternity. God, in his mercy, made a way for us to spend our eternity with Him.
Have you been reconciled to God through Christ?
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10, ESV)
Have you been born again?