Browsing Tag

freedom

Christian Life, Spiritual Warfare

Quit Your Judging

January 31, 2018
Quit Judging blog header

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.

  • 1 Corinthians 4:3-4

 

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

  • Phil 3:12-14

 

If you’re like most humans (or at least like me), odds are that you spend the better part of the day evaluating how well you’re doing at following, riding on a constant stream of judgments. You hit snooze one too many times and kick yourself for being lazy. As you get ready for the day you evaluate and judge your appearance, always finding it lacking. When you spill your coffee while heading out the door you inwardly call yourself an idiot for being in such a rush.

The ongoing procession of self-judgment doesn’t stop when you’re out in public. Feeling foolish for saying something awkward in conversation with a co-worker, beating yourself up for getting angry at your kids, shame when you do that thing you swore you’d never do again; the opportunities for self-judgment are endless in our failure-riddled lives.

But if you’re a follower of Jesus there’s a problem with allowing our minds to be constantly making judgment calls about ourselves. The Bible calls Satan the “accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10). When we spend our time evaluating and passing judgments on ourselves we are partnering with Satan and cutting ourselves off from the joy of the Lord that is our strength.

Martin Luther discovered this in his endless hours of confession as he attempted to root out and confess every sin he had committed in thought or deed. The stock of sins he could identify was endless, and it wasn’t until God revealed to him the truth of the Gospel that he found freedom and hope. The truth of the Gospel was this; God’s judgment about Christ can be his judgment about us. By faith we can become the righteousness of God in Christ, freed from condemnation from without and within.

Paul knew this freedom well, so well that he could say in his letter to the Corinthian church, “it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself…It is the Lord who judges me.”

What beautiful freedom there is in the statement “I do not even judge myself”! This whole self-judgment thing is incredibly tiring and time consuming. Let’s learn from the Apostle and deny ourselves the right to pass judgment on ourselves and instead leave it to the Lord, the Judge of all, to determine.

And determine he has. For those who are in Christ his judgment has already been determined. As Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthians, we are the righteousness of God in Christ because Christ has taken our sin on himself (2 Cor. 5:21).

We need to stop attempting to overwrite God’s judgment about us. “What God has put together, let no man separate.” If God has placed you together in the righteousness of his son Jesus and thereby made you righteous, stop claiming that you’re not. If he has created you and called you good, stop allowing yourself to think the opposite.

Instead, determine to have the same mindset that Paul writes of in Philippians 3. Commit to “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead…press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Forget your past. Forget what you did (or didn’t) do this morning or last night or last week. Quit your judging. Press forward towards the prize that God has called you to in Christ. Run to Jesus.

I believe it was John Piper who once made the statement, “faith turns a mirror into a window.” Let’s stop standing in front of mirrors evaluating and judging ourselves. Instead, let your faith transform that mirror into a window that gives you a view of the beauty of Jesus and stare at him instead. As you gaze on him, and with “unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, [you will be] transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory” (2 Cor 3:18). It’s by looking to Jesus and delighting in Him that we are changed, not by self-analysis and condemnation. Quit your judging.

Commentary, Spiritual Warfare

Running From Demons

March 30, 2016

 

 

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.

Mark 5:1-13

One of Satan’s most effective deceptions is convincing a person that those around them can’t handle their problems; that their issues are too deep, too horrible to ever bring out into the open. In the short eight years I’ve been doing ministry it’s always been those who are the most in need of help that are the most afraid of opening up and asking for it.

In his ministry on earth, Jesus encounters a mind-bending array of needs and issues. He encounters dead people, blind people, diseased people, liars, manipulative mothers, thieving tax collectors, and countless others in unending succession. Perhaps one of the most shocking and needy of those that Jesus encounters is the man known as the Gerasenes demoniac – a man so given over to demonic power that he has supernatural strength, engages in ritual cutting, has no discernable sleep patterns, and has been given up on by his people who apparently couldn’t control him even with iron chains.

We have a lesson to learn from this terribly demonized man. Yes, there is the standard lesson drawn from this text about Jesus’ power over the demonic and Christ’s love for all people, but I believe that we can learn from this man even before his deliverance. Despite the fact that he has the very forces of Satan battling within him, he doesn’t buy into the deception that Jesus is going to be surprised by or unable to handle his problems. That, my friends, is a lesson that we need to learn.

Run to Jesus!

“And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.”

Note how this man sees Jesus from afar and runs to him. He doesn’t wait for Jesus to come to him. As soon as Jesus sets foot on the shores, “immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.” He doesn’t wait for permission or the appropriate moment – he simply runs to Jesus.

In Christ God has set foot in your territory. You don’t need to wait for him to come a little closer. Don’t waste time waiting for the appropriate moment. Do you have hidden sin or a desperate need that you’ve hidden for so long that it’s no longer in your control? Run to Jesus! He knows your need and is more than able to meet it.

This demonized man doesn’t ask for freedom, but Jesus gives it. He’s so far gone that he can’t even express his needs, only cry out “do not torment me!” Jesus knows his longings, knows his needs, and gives what he desired but couldn’t request. He casts out the demonic forces and frees the man from his captivity.

Sometimes we’re in so deep that we don’t even know how to ask for freedom. The Apostle Paul writes in one of his epistles that even when we don’t know how or what to pray, the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings. Come to Jesus – you needn’t even ask – simply by coming close to him he will give you what is needed.

Jesus is unphased

Perhaps most beautiful to me is the fact that Jesus seems completely unsurprised by this man’s horrible condition. I seem to have this expectation that Jesus will be impressed or perhaps even surprised by the significance of my problems; that in his holiness he will draw back in horror once I finally reveal my deepest issues.

We’re absolutely wrong to think that way. If Jesus was unphased by this man, he won’t be phased by us. He knows full well the depths of your struggle, deception, and hidden sin. He’s already embraced it, absorbed it on the cross. When you finally come to him and confess it all he’ll simply smile, nod, and pull you up from the dirt into a warm embrace. You’ll find yourself free and “in your right mind” (Mark 5:15), seeing the world through new eyes.

Is there a portion of your life that you’ve kept hidden from those around you for fear of their response? Have you hidden among the tombs rather than running to Jesus? Now is the time to come forward! He has set foot on your shores. All you have to do is come to him and he will speak but a word and you will be free. That is good news indeed.

A closing note for Christians here. Be like Jesus. Don’t be surprised by other people’s issues. Don’t shy back from the relationship when someone reveals their addiction, homosexuality, deception, or other secret sin. We of all people should know well the depth and quickness of human brokenness, and therefore know all the better the power of the Gospel of Grace in Christ. As we learn our identity and position in Christ we, like him, will be able to stand before someone like the gerasenes demoniac unphased, gently ministering to them and leading them into the freedom of the children of God.

We Christians ought to be a people who welcome others regardless of how deep their issues are because we KNOW that God will restore them. Jesus is unphased, so we won’t be either.

 

 

Best Of, Christian Life, Evangelism, Spiritual Growth, Theology

Freedom and The Glory

July 6, 2015

 

 

The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
– Romans 8:19-21

 

Subject to frustration

You’ve seen and you’ve tasted the futility and frustration of this world, haven’t you? The pain of the stillborn child, the death of two teen boys in a sudden car crash, the hours of work that barely bring in enough money to make ends meet, the frustrated plans for a beautiful marriage. Our world was subjected to this. It wasn’t meant to be this way. Things are broken and in need of fixing.

Subjected in hope

But, unlike what modernism, post-modernism, evolution, nihilism, and their ilk want us to believe, this subjection wasn’t purposeless. It’s not the result of ten billion molecules aligning for the sake of creating purposelessness. We’re not on the treadmill until we die and then off into the void of death.

Creation (note the intentionality in that word) was subject in hope. There’s a massive difference between purposeless pain and the purposeful agony of pushing your body to accomplish a goal. This frustration and seeming futility was done with an end in mind, a hope that it will have a certain outcome. And what is that hope?

In hope of freedom

The hope is that the futility would lead to freedom. Liberation from captivity, from destruction, and from pain. No more bondage to death and decay. Subjected to captivity for the sake of freedom is a strange path to take, but it’s a pattern than God seems to repeat. Israel in Egypt for four hundred years before walking into freedom. Paul blinded and captive for days before being released to shake the world with the Gospel. Jesus bound, beaten, and killed before rising from death as ruler over all, displaying his glory.

In hope of glory

The end goal of this futility is glory. The pent-up wonder and awe that has been tamped down for millennia by the frustration of a broken world will soon explode over the horizons of creation. Glory will cover the earth like waters cover the sea. Jesus was the first deluge, but he was just the start. Just the firstborn among many sons and daughters.

Of the children of God

This freedom and glory is “of the children of God.” It’s something possessed by God’s children, given as a gift to the heirs of God’s kingdom through Christ.(Romans 8:17) Jesus purchased our adoption, yes, but this glory and freedom is ours to give. Creation’s aching and anxious for it to be revealed. God’s made the downpayment, sealed his children with the Holy Spirit and anointed us to be the ambassadors of the free and glorious kingdom that has and is to come.

The present frustration and pain is tiny in comparison to what’s coming. Creation itself is on edge in anticipation. Join in. Embrace the freedom and glory that God has given for today and lean into the future freedom and glory, so hard that you – like Jesus – become a bridge between the then and the now. Let the world taste the good future of the children of God so that they too join the family. The freedom and the glory is yours, child of God. Share it.

 

 

 

 

Fallout Revisited, Spiritual Growth

Fallout Revisited: Let no Christian soul tremble in fear, God himself is here

September 17, 2013

“Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? …Who can bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

– Romans 8:29-34

What undeserved grace we peoples of God have received! That God himself should choose men and women in whom there was no pleasing thing, no righteousness, and no strength to free themselves from the sin in which they dwelt! And not only this, but He has chosen them and has promised by all His infinite grace through His Son to make them into images in the likeness of Christ. Just as Christ took on the likeness of sinful man, so in the end shall those who have been chosen by God be made into the likeness of Christ. So sure a thing it is that the Apostle Paul was able to write of our final glorification as a thing that has already happened.

It is with that same confidence – the confidence that is so sure of the truth in God’s word that it believes them as if they had already come to pass – that we are to live lives completely given over to God. We are to sacrifice ourselves and our fleshly desires, putting to death by the Spirit every sin, deed, thought, and passion that would lead us away from Christ. Our lives are to be led by His Spirit, not by our own. (Rom. 8:13)

Rise up, oh men and women! Dwell upon the glorious truths held within the eighth chapter of Romans and let them carry you out upon wings of infinite strength. If God is for us, who can be against us? Not government, not death, not starvation, not another human, and not even the wickedness left in our own bodies that so often causes us to falter in our walk; none of it can come against us and condemn us, for God has justified. And know this, oh saint; when God does something He does it completely, above and beyond any chance of retracting the deed. Christ Jesus, who died and now resides at the right hand of God eternally interceding on our behalf, has purchased us for God (Rev. 5:9) and it is a purchase that shall never be revoked.

Gaze upon the wonder of those things, and be not slow to respond. Be reckless in your devotion; cast off all else. Set your mind daily, minute by minute, upon Christ and what He has done. Know that He will not fail you who God has called, justified, is sanctifying, and will soon enough glorify. Let that knowledge free you from all constraints to live a comfortable life, to avoid pain, and to provide for yourself. For is it not true that if He “did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32)

Poetry

In Freedom

August 20, 2012

We have yet to meet
in freedom.
No matter how many
angles of your skin I study
there are shadows
that loom between us.

This throat, these lips
lean eagerly for that day
when all rightful secrets
are finally, fully betrayed.

Quotations, Theology

Once Slave, Now Free

January 22, 2011

In the person of Jesus Christ, God came into this world, not to strip away our freedom, but to strip away our slavery to self so that we could be truly free.

– Tullian Tchvidjian, via TGC

Prose

Claimless

August 25, 2009

“The ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.”

–          Jesus Christ, John 14:30

These last few weeks it has seemed as if Satan has been battering me full force day in and day out, and I have fallen before those attacks time and time again. It is an amazingly frustrating thing to know the truth – to know exactly what you should do – and yet fail to do it time and time again.  More and more I understand the Apostle Paul’s exclamation, “Oh, wretched man that I am, who shall rescue me from this body of death?” To know failure; to know that no matter how much I attempt I shall fail; to feel as if a captive when you know that you should be free, that seems to be my lot these last weeks.

So there I sat this morning, awaking to a gorgeous dawn and to the reminder that I had failed again the day before. As is my habit, I made myself breakfast and grabbed my Bible to read for as long as time allowed. Permit me here to divert my train of thought. Oh, how essential it is, my Christian brothers and sisters, to begin each day in the Word! It is our life blood; it is the lens through which we must learn to see all things, and how shall we see through it if we do not saturate place it before ourselves? Be ever ready to grasp those hallowed pages and study what is written within. The words found there bring life and health and peace and hope to those who hear them. Begin with them each morning and you shall not fail to see the results. Time and time again I have come to that thirty-something minutes discouraged, angry, or frustrated, only to rise in joy and having a completely different perspective on the day. Never yet has there failed to be a sentence which strikes sharp at the heart of what is present in my life. Whether it be to encourage or convict; give peace or stir up passion, there shall always be something waiting in the Word of God for you. This morning was no different.

As part of my regular reading I’ve been working my way through the Gospels and am currently nearing the end of the Gospel according to John. The above verse, taken from Jesus’ discourse to His disciples during the Last Supper, struck me with great power. In the next few moments I hope to lay out what struck me from those words of our Savior’s in a way that, God willing, will do for you what it has done for me this day.

Note first that Christ new full well that Satan, the “ruler of this world” was coming for him, to bear him away to the cross. How often have we been caught unawares by the devil’s schemes? Yet Christ new that the ruler of this world was coming for him, and accepted it; he did not cower or rail against his coming, he only submitted, not to Satan, but to the will of God the Father. Oh that our hearts would be so firm in their faith that we would not only see the schemes and traps of Satan, but that we would face them as the Father commands! Christian, tremble not at the devil’s greatest attacks! Your shelter and shield is secure. You have been bought and purchased at a price; you have been called with a calling that is irrevocable; you are held in a hand that no demon or angel can bend to their will.

Note secondly how Christ knew that in his position the ruler that was coming had no claim upon him. Herein is the great wonder, the great encouragement to us in times of failure and trouble; we can say with Jesus that the ruler of this world has no claim on us, for we have been united with Christ. As he is, so are we. We have been joined with him in his death and shall also join with him in his resurrection, and as such “just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too may walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4) Satan shall come, oh yes, the ruler of this world shall come, but we who are in Christ may declare with all confidence, “He has no claim on us!” Ours is the resurrection life, we are born of water and Spirit and are freed from the chains of law and sin. Cry with joy when trials and tribulations come, when you are tempted, and when you feel the oppression of the ruler of this world, saying, “You have no claim on me, for I am Christ’s alone!”

Lastly, and lastly only because it is late and I need sleep, note Christ’s action at the end of the passage. His response to the knowledge of Satan’s imminent attack and that Satan has no true claim upon him, though he may cause harm, leads to movement.  Jesus says to His disciples, “Rise, let us go from here.” Let us heed that call. Do not be paralyzed by fear or worry. The combined knowledge of the real danger and our real protection and freedom should lead us to rise from our seats and act. Are you tempted? Do not sit and waver! Rise, go from that place and do the will of the Father! Are you persecuted? Rise and do as Christ did, bear your cross meekly and depending upon the Father for strength. Are you besieged by the devil and his wiles? Rise, oh saint, rise and take up your shield. Ten thousand of his fiery darts shall note scourge you if the Lord is your protector.

Yes, the ruler of this world comes against us in constant battle and our flesh conspires with him as a traitor. Yes, he may do very real harm to us and it may seem as if he has free reign to do as he wills with us. Perhaps at times it will seem as if we are once again under law and not under grace; that the lingering sin in our earthly bodies has gained more power than that Spirit of God which we so much love. Keep faith, oh heart! Neither Satan nor sin have any claim on us if we are in Christ! Heed those truths, hide them within your heart and let them be an anchor and shield to you in times of storm and war. Plant them as seeds within the fertile soil of the soul and trust that God shall cause the growth. Heed them and rise, go from the place of your fear and defeat; rise and follow Christ wherever he may lead. It is there, in the footsteps of God himself, that we shall find joy.

Poetry

Flight From Chain, Tower, and Hole

March 12, 2009

Must I be a man made of such low and earth
that all I am is betrayal
and sold down to the curse?
I have fought cage, and cage fought me
to bend soul ’round bars
and break what longs breaking free.

If I rest in shadowed tower,
I shall fling myself from the height.
If in deepest of the dungeons
dig my way to light.
If I am chained to iron, steel, and stone
I shall bid them fall
and they shall fall indeed.

For I shall be no man of smaller soul,
instead I shall live bright, here at your feet
where men where born, once
and now are reborn free.

Continue Reading…

Poetry

Warrior Vs. Watcher

November 24, 2008

Tolstoy wrote of war and of peace
And Plato’s Republic of a perfect society.
But I, living here,
on a world outside literations and the power of the pen
know more of war than peace,
and of a society that is in pieces and far from perfect
as we gorge on liberties.

You’ve heard it said, “Freedom is never free,”
and a pacifist’s claim never held its own on the sea,
where storms rage, and Poseidon wields his power.
So it is for the warrior, who knows nothing of peace,
that all he is will burn up bright
and cost the greatest thing.

If blood runs fiercely hot,
and the power hungry unsated bleed,
then war is as oft the outcome
as for those who wait for peace.

Both sides, a folly
And neither saving life;
life finds no difference between the gunman
Or the activist who shouts silently by.
Both give way to evil
And both, in the end, shall die.