Freedom

How would you define freedom? Is it a political thing? Does it have the force of law? Is it a state of mind? Is it defined entirely by the country you inhabit, or the company you keep?

Paul talks about freedom almost exclusively in terms of spiritual matters. For him, freedom is the end result of salvation and forgiveness as we leave the enslavement of sin and death and live under the openness of God’s grace.

Romans 6 (The Message)

15-18 So, since we’re out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we’re free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you’ve let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you’ve started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!

OK, hang on a minute, Paul. Do you mean to say that we have just traded one master (sin) for another master (God) who gives commands?

Read on…

19 I’m using this freedom language because it’s easy to picture. You can readily recall, can’t you, how at one time the more you did just what you felt like doing—not caring about others, not caring about God—the worse your life became and the less freedom you had? And how much different is it now as you live in God’s freedom, your lives healed and expansive in holiness?

God’s freedom comes with some conditions. For one, you will be healed. And your life will be expansive in holiness. I don’t know about you, but I think I can live with that.

20-21 As long as you did what you felt like doing, ignoring God, you didn’t have to bother with right thinking or right living, or right anything for that matter. But do you call that a free life? What did you get out of it? Nothing you’re proud of now. Where did it get you? A dead end.

22-23 But now that you’ve found you don’t have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.

A whole, healed, put-together life is the freedom-gift God offers. His gift is real life, eternal life, given to all who choose to receive his offer of salvation and believe in him.

Where is God offering you freedom from sin right now? Are you ignoring him? Living a life under the tyranny of sin results in less and less freedom. You may think you are living life on your own terms, but the end result is nothing you can be proud of. It’s a dead end.

Choose true freedom.

Flowing Freedom By Michelle Robertson

Dead to Me

Have you ever been so “over” something that you just wanted to yell, “This is dead to me!” A broken trust, the ninth consecutive day of rain, a cheating spouse, a relative showing up drunk and obnoxious once again, a contractor who ripped you off, waking up with yet another hangover…it is harsh but understandable to wish a situation or relationship to be “dead” to you when you no longer want to deal with it. Just. Go. Away.

Abuse, you are dead to me.

Alcohol and drugs, just go away.

Lying, cheating, soul-destroying behavior, you are dead to me.

Toxic relationship? Dead to me.

Rain, be GONE.

Scripture condones a “dead to me” response in a specific situation: when we declare sin to be dead to us.

Romans 6 (The Message)

1-3 So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!

Sin! Just. Go. Away. I don’t live there anymore.

3-5 That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country.

Baptism, forgiveness, and the new life promised from the cross guarantee that we have moved to a new land of grace. In that place, God comes alongside of us and offers his strength to resist temptation and sin, and helps us to not return to sin-country.

6-11 Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word.

You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did.

Where in your life is God asking you to declare a certain sin dead-to-you? What behaviors and habits continue to drag you back into the miserable life that sin guarantees?

We aren’t called to a life where we get to keep sinning because we know God forgives. We are called to be included in Christ’s sin-conquering death so that we can be a part of his life-saving resurrection. So do better. Pack up that sin and leave it for good. God is speaking his language of redemption now…hang on his every word.

Just. Go. Away. By Teresa Holloway

Frozen

In the cold and snow of winter, there’s a spring that waits to be! Unrevealed until its season…something God alone can see.

These beautiful words from Natalie Sleeth’s Hymn of Promise speak of all kinds of good things. They remind us that cold Januarys turn into sunny Junes. They speak of change. They offer promise. They speak of God’s ability to see our potential when all we see is failure. They tell us about growth. Most of all, these words speak of the promise of the resurrection.

I can remember the first time I sang this song. It was at a funeral in my church in Georgia. I recall standing in our sanctuary on Windgate Rd. and looking out at the people who had gathered to say goodbye to their loved one. Sleeth’s imagery in the midst of death struck a chord with me that day that has reverberated each time I have sung it, as it speaks to a reality of life and death that we would rather not consider.

Consider the final verse:

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity; In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity. In our death, a resurrection; at the last a victory

Sleeth is echoing the truth found in scripture regarding the resurrection:

Romans 6 (The Message)

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.

 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

I think the idea of dying paralyzes us, and we become frozen-in-place.

But maybe even more so, the idea of living is just as paralyzing. Just the IDEA of making necessary changes to the way we live freezes us in fear. The thought of letting go of anger, quitting drinking, releasing a long-held grudge, ending an affair, starting chemo, offering forgiveness to someone who hasn’t asked for it and doesn’t deserve it….like the icicles captured in this picture, we become immobilized in our determination to not have to alter how we live in any way.

God wants so much more for us than that. This passage sets forth a challenge: we die with Christ and we also live with Christ….but the life he lives, he lives to God. So should we.

We are stuck in cocoons of unhealthy habits and thoughtless words, but Sleeth likens us to butterflies who will soon be set free. We live in the darkness of our selfish behavior, but she reminds us we are just the ”dawn that waits to be.” In Sleeth’s poetry, we are a potential of something only God can see in us.

It’s time to thaw out. It’s time to warm up and become the people God intended us to be; loving, giving, full of promise, ready to grow in him, and ready to be set free.

What will you do today to respond to God’s call to unfreeze your life? Where is God calling you to make changes that will reveal your hidden promise? How can you be like Jesus and live your life for God?

How about we start today? Let’s get moving.

…unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see!

Frozen Art by Alice Rogers.