One of the joys that comes from teaching in an international Bible school is that one disocvers how, in spite of our boundaries, ethnic differences, and distinctions in health care policies, the human heart is unchanging. It’s issues cross the barriers of culture, race, politic, economy, space, and time. Students are here from all over Europe, Canada, and America, along with some from Asia and at least one student from Africa and all of them are made for the same thing: freedom!
Thee gospel clearly speaks to God’s intention for the world to be a place characterized by political and economic peace and freedom, and surely we’re called to take steps to make that visible, even if only in small ways. But because of this, it’s tempting to politicize the gospel, and when you do that, you’re one short step away from idolatry, because you’re a short step away from believing that your party, or your nation, or your power structure, is the right one, the one that will finally bring about justice on earth. Isaiah indicates the this kind of freedom won’t be fully in place until “the government rests on His shoulders” and that hasn’t happened yet.
What is available in this present time, for people from all cultures, the substantial freedom that is found by living in intimacy with Jesus. Freedom in Christ means lots of things:
1. Freedom from condemnation (here’s Jesus: “Then Jesus stood up again and said to hear, ‘Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’” She said, “No Lord.” Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more…”) Many lives are paralyzed by shame, and as a result people are sitting on the sidelines, not serving, not enjoy relationships, because they’re living in prisons of condemnation. I think, sometimes, its even worse among the faith community than the rest of the world. The answer, though, isn’t to walk away from the faith, but to walk more fully into it, and claim the forgiveness that is ours because of Christ.
2. Freedom from fear - Our world is filled with fear, ranging from global fears of terrorism and economic meltdown, to personal fears of rejection, job loss, health loss, or inadequacy. When Jesus was born, and the angels brought the news to the shepherds, they began their message by saying: “fear not!”, a message which would later be reiterated by Jesus over and over again. Our lives are in God’s hands – our days, our provision, our health, it all comes from God if we’ll but learn to relax and live in relationship with God as provider. To the extent that we’re freed from these fears, we’re free to be generous, honest, humble, childlike people who, by virtue of their freedom, are able to live as a genuine blessing to others.
3.. Freedom from worry - We live in a world where people are worried about what to eat, drink, wear, what to do for a living, who to marry, where to live, and so much more. Our freedom of choice seems to have a paralyzing effect, and the results aren’t pretty: high blood pressure, sleeplessness, and people finding themselves stuck in terrible prisons of anxiety. Jesus’ antidote seems very simple: seek to make God’s reign visible in the world, and relax – God will shepherd you through the maze of choices, giving you just what you need, at just the time you need it.
As I’ve been studying Exodus this week, I’ve been reminded that this freedom is available to everyone in Christ, and that this freedom doesn’t just happen by accident. In the same way Egypt oppressed Israel, we all have little Pharaoh voices in our heads telling us that we can’t be free, that we’ll be stuck forever in slavery to fear, or worry, or condemnation.
The way out? We need to confront the lying voices, and claim our freedom. I’ve found that one of the best ways to do this is by praying, thanking God for the freedom he’s given me in Christ. I do this sometimes by praying through my identity in Christ, reading these verses, and as I read them, praying and expressing thanks.
If you’re interested in learning to pray this way: here’s a great group of verses to get you started. I’ve been telling several students about this list during the week to help them on their own journeys to freedom, and since all of us could stand to walk in a little more freedom, I thought I’d share with you too.
And here’s to freedom – from guilt, condemnation, fear, worry..and so much more. May this advent be your season of taking the next steps towards freedom in Christ.