Archive for the “Freedom” Category

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Psalm 139:23

There is an excellent blog called “Signs of a Struggle” written by Thom Hunter. Subtitled “compassionate truth for men and women who struggle with sexual brokenness,” it is extremely well written and gives very candid glimpses into the struggle and recovery while providing sound biblical perspectives on such topics as sin, guilt, shame, forgiveness and God’s tremendous grace. I’ve been reading the blog for a little while and wondered about sharing it with others. I’ve come to the point of believing that I am doing those who need Mr. Hunter’s blog a huge disservice by not sharing it.

I’d like to share a portion of a blog titled It Came from Within! I believe this portion of the author’s blog can challenge and minister to everyone. If you struggle with sexual sin or know someone who does (and you probably do whether you know it or not), I encourage you to read his entire blog. Everything following is excerpted from the blog.


Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Psalm 139:23

He [God] is not busy with someone else. He hears your prayer.

Search me. –Sometimes when I stand calmly before a mirror and focus on my own eyes, I think: “Do I know you?” This evokes moments of honesty, easily diverted with a toothbrush or by plugging in the shaver. God has no such distractions. Ask Him to really search you and He will not look away or busy Himself with the day’s preparations. He created the day and He placed you in it. He sees in and out and every way around.

Know me. – We want people to know what we want them to know, not really know us. God knows us. He knows not only that inner itch, but He knows what happened to us in the world to raise it to a level of irritation that demands we do whatever is in our power to seek relief. He knows that what might have been a bearable curiosity in me, for instance, was fully inflamed to major “I want” status by the double-whammy of father abandonment and childhood sexual abuse. But he also knows the pain some of you may feel because you find yourselves embroiled in a temptation and the only person you can point a finger at is yourself. It may be dissatisfying when there is no one else to blame, but the truth remains the same. Sin is sin. God wants to hear you say “know me.” He already does, of course, but He wants to know you want Him to know.

Test me. – God doesn’t test us the way the world tests us. He’s not the dangle-type, holding something just out of reach to see if we will wear ourselves out lunging along the edge of self-destruction. Remember…He does not tempt. So…can you trust Him to test you? If you asked Him to search you and to know you, then why not let Him test you to see if you know yourself as He does? God tests us to prepare us for victory, not defeat. So…search and know, just like you asked Him to do. Search His word; know His ways. Ask Him to test you. And don’t forget the answers to the bonus question:  “trust and obey.”

Know my anxious thoughts. – No wait…don’t. Not those thoughts. Isn’t that the way many of us approach life? Yet, here is the acknowledgement that we will have those anxious thoughts. You can’t hide them, not from God.

I get anxious sometimes. I listen to the reasoned arguments of people on both sides of the strugglers’ “personal problems.” Most of the time I just don’t like what I hear and I want to straighten it all out, make it clear, stop the pain, bring perfect understanding and healing rain for all. And then I realize that if I had it all figured out…then I would have it all figured out. Truth is, even if I did, why would people listen to me any more than they listen to God?

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3So Moses said to the people, “This is a day to remember forever—the day you left Egypt, the place of your slavery. For the LORD has brought you out by his mighty power. (Remember, you are not to use any yeast.) 4This day in early spring will be the anniversary of your exodus. 5You must celebrate this day when the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites, and Jebusites. This is the land he swore to give your ancestors—a land flowing with milk and honey.
Exodus 13:35 (NLT)

In America we celebrate many things: birthdays, anniversaries (of all kinds), New Year’s Day, President’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. In our house, we like to celebrate Ground Hog Day. Some people even celebrate Tax Day.

Some days receive major celebration, some just a little. I’m guessing, though, that we let the most significant days go by without notice. God told Moses and Moses told the people to celebrate the day they came out of Egypt because “the Lord brought you out of it with a mighty hand.” I haven’t been a slave in Egypt, but I have been a slave to sin. Then I came to read in the Bible that Christ died to set me free from that bondage and I prayed something like Lord, I don’t understand what I’ve just read, but I want to believe it and I want to believe in You. So if You’re real, help me to understand. A while later, I became convinced of the reality of God and further convinced that He loved me…even when I didn’t even believe in Him. At that point, my heart was changed and I prayed a different sort of prayer. It went something like this: “Lord, forgive me. I still don’t understand a lot of things, but I believe You are who You say you are in the Bible and I believe Jesus died for my sins. To the best of my ability in my limited knowledge, I give my life to You. That was my day of FREEDOM. That’s when God began to make the tremendous changes in my heart that have occurred over the past thirty-two years. It was May 21 that I prayed that second prayer.

Do you celebrate your Freedom Day? Do you commemorate the day in which the Lord brought you out of bondage? We typically do little more than remember “Oh, today’s my spiritual birthday.” I’d like to step that up a bit. Any ideas? What kind of Freedom Day or spiritual birthday celebration do you think honors the Lord?

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23Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
Matthew 18:23-27 (NKJV)

The Master is in a Gracious Mood Today!
Do you want all your debts canceled? The master seems to be in a gracious mood today – if you beg him, he’ll forgive all your debts! I can do that – I’m not too proud to beg if it means that my family members and I won’t be sold into slavery to pay the debt I owe. How about you? Would you let your family members be sold into slavery to pay your debts? Of course you wouldn’t!

But God did! He allowed His only son to be put to death as payment for our debts so that we and our family would not be sold into slavery. What debts you ask? The debts accumulated by our rebellion against God (yes, the very same God who paid those debts) and our other sins.

So when the master called in the debt of the servant, the servant begged for more time. The master was gracious toward him and not only said “ok, you have until next week” he said “let’s call it even – your debt is totally forgiven.”

The Servant – Not So Much
Hallelujah! Time to celebrate, right? One would think so, but this forgiven servant wasn’t so gracious.

28“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.
Matthew 18:28-30 (NKJV)

After being forgiven a debt of $1,000, the servant refused to forgive the $100 debt owed to him. After being shown compassion, he showed no compassion to others. Well, as the saying goes, “your deeds will find you out.” Here’s what happened next:

31So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
Matthew 18:31-34 (NKJV)

When the master learned that the servant had treated others in such an unforgiving manner, he arrested and jailed him. I find it interesting here that the master still showed compassion on the servant’s family. He remained compassionate toward the family members, not selling them into slavery to repay the uncompassionate servant’s debts.

The kicker comes in Jesus’ concluding sentence. He teaches the lesson from the parable in this final sentence:

35“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Matthew 18:35 (NKJV)

The Kingdom of Heaven
In the Kingdom of God, forgiveness is not an option.  The first words of the parable are “the kingdom of heaven is like.” The Kingdom of Heaven has a King who is compassionate and wants to forgive all our debts. He expects us to respond with no less compassion. When we do not, He allows the jailer to torture us until that debt of compassion is paid.

Do I need to point out who the jailer is what kind of torture we’re talking about? The jailer is satan, of course. The torture may take many forms, but I find most commonly it is the torture of a mind that becomes controlled by our lack of forgiveness. It darkens our days and produces sleepless nights.

We can choose not to forgive, but at that point, we are not being practicing Christians. We are not putting into practice what God has defined as a basic element of our faith – to act toward others as God has acted toward us.

How About You? Are You in a Gracious Mood Today?
Friends, may I encourage you to pray with me as Jesus taught us to pray?

9b Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.

10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.

13 And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Matthew 6:9b-13 (NKJV)

To be sure we don’t miss the message, Jesus follows the prayer with this statement:

14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV)

Lord, help us to forgive.

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Being a Doctor Must be Strange!
I think being a doctor must be quite strange – in order to bring healing, the MD almost always has to damage perfectly healthy body parts. I’ve had healthy skin and muscles cut through to reach areas that require healing. I’ve had perfectly good bones drilled through so they could be connected to broken ones. (Do aspiring doctors really dream about using power tools?) In all cases, my body has developed scar tissue as a part of the healing process. I also have my share of scars from much more minor injuries sustained throughout my life.

There’s one scar on my hand that makes me smile every time I see it because it’s a reminder of a wonderful vacation I had in Cozumel. On the first day, though, I brushed my hand across the back of a wicker chair and scratched it. Why I still have a scar from what I really don’t remember as much of an injury, I don’t know, but it helps me remember the vacation wonderful fondly.

My Elbow Story
I also have a scar on my arm that represents a thoroughly unpleasant experience – I shattered my elbow about fifteen years ago. That was one of those times the doctor had to cut through perfectly healthy skin and muscle and drill holes in healthy bone to secure pieces of bone together. It’s a pretty big and obvious scar. Yet in the midst of the very painful recover, I experienced God more strongly than I ever have in my life. The scar is a reminder of that time, and also of the miracle He did in healing the elbow well beyond what several doctors said it would heal.

To me, these two scars are like the stones that the Israelites would pile up as a remembrance of something the Lord has done.

When my elbow was healing, I had to massage the incision area several times a day to keep scar tissue from forming inside. The scar tissue was hard and would restrict my future movement if I didn’t break it up as it was forming. It hurt to massage the sensitive skin and muscles. It wasn’t pleasant feeling the hard scar tissue under my skin as I rubbed it. The injury was too fresh in my mind, and the whole process made me want to cringe. After a couple of months, I had healed a great deal, but there seemed to be some scar tissue that no amount of massaging would soften. I went to a revival and healing meeting at a local church one night. After being prayed for, I felt the muscles in my arm relax and the scar tissue under the incision noticeably and significantly lessened. God had supernaturally massaged my arm and disintegrated most of the remaining scar tissue. What a gracious God He is!

Emotional and Spiritual Scars
Scars don’t just develop from our physical injuries. Emotional and spiritual pain and injury also causes scars, and these can be just as unsightly as our physical scars. More seriously, just like physical scars, they can restrict our future movement, ministry and freedom in Christ. And just like our physical scars, they don’t soften and break up on their own. They require the gentle massaging that comes through reading God’s Word, listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and allowing the Lord Himself to step into our pain.

I am confident that God would like to work miracles in all the scarred areas of our life, if we’ll only let Him massage them a bit. When those areas are too fresh, we cringe from His touch, but He is patient. If we stay close to Him and open to His leading, He brings the subject up again and again until we’re ready to let Him do the deeper massage to break up hard tissue that obstructs our movement. It is for freedom that He has set us free (Galatians 5:1) – part of that freedom comes from willingly submitting to His gentle hand to work out the scar tissue in our lives.

Our emotional and spiritual scars also become like the stones the Israelites piled up as remembrances of what the Lord has done – both for us and for the Lord. We remember His graciousness and His healing power. He remembers our willingness to step into the line of fire, our perseverance through difficult times and circumstances, and our submission to His gentle hand of healing. I believe our healed scars are part of what makes us beautiful to the Lord. It is the battle-weary saint who captures the eye of her beloved.

Will you take a few moments today to ask God what scar tissue He would like to massage and heal? Wholeness is a wonderful thing and worth the pain that brings healing.

I pray peace and gentle massages in your healing journey today.

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11In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

15What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
Romans 6:11-18

We are blessed in America to no longer live in a place that accepts slavery as the norm. We don’t live with the consequences of owning other humans and controlling their lives to the extent that a slave master controls the lives of his or her slaves. Freedom is a wonderful thing. I appreciate that I have choices that eventually define my life – choices about where to live, with whom to live, what to do with my time, and even who to talk with. Slaves do not have those choices.

In this passage in Romans, Paul makes it clear that we have a choice to make about who we belong to – who our owner is. Will it be sin or righteousness?

As I get older, I’m becoming more and more aware the reality of this principle. The wonderful strength and optimism (and dare I say arrogance?) of youth is believing that you are in control of your own choices. And to a degree that is true. The reality, however, is that when those choices involve sin we become bound to that sin. The invisible cords that keep us attached to that sin are as real as any visible thing that places boundaries in your life. More real, actually. The more we sin, the more tightly those cords are bound.

When we choose Christ those cords are broken. We have the power to untangle them and walk in freedom. They have been cut and we can walk freely. Better yet, we can run and jump and play freely. Each time we choose righteousness, we step further and further away from the cords gaining more freedom.

Each time we choose to sin, however, we allow the enemy to tie knots in those cords that had been cut and begin to re-establish the bonds from which Christ freed us. Every step back into our old life, every obedience to our old self, is an obedience to our old slave master, sin. Every step toward our new life and in our new self are steps in obedience to our new master, Jesus who is righteousness.

Joshua gave the challenge well after the Israelites had entered the Promised Land and shortly before his death:

14“Now therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua 24:14-15

Joshua was choosing righteousness and freedom. Paul was exhorting the Romans for choosing righteousness over sin. What sin easily besets you, friend? May I encourage you to choose righteousness in that area today? Walk away from the cords that Satan wants to bind you with. Jesus has cut them off and given you the power to choose to walk in freedom from sin – choose righteousness today.

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God led me to write the last two blogs in our “Taking Hold of Our Eternal Life” series on being free from condemnation. (Here’s the first blog.) (Here’s the second blog.) As I finished the second blog, I became acutely aware that the blogs were full of encouragement and exhortation to believe God’s Word, accept His forgiveness and walk in freedom from condemnation, but short of practical ideas about how to do that. This blog seeks to give you some practical ideas for walking in the freedom you have been given.

1)  Speak and read God’s Word aloud.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17 (NIV)

If you want faith to believe that you are forgiven, speak and read God’s Word aloud so that you actually hear the Word as well as read it. There is something about God’s Word being spoken and God’s Word being heard that ignites our faith. My last two blogs contained many Scriptures you can use as a great starting place.

2)  Refute the arrows of the enemy with Truth.

Jesus used Scripture to fight the temptations of Satan – we can do the same thing and expect Satan to flee. For example, if the enemy begins to whisper in your ear that God doesn’t really love you, remind him that “God so loved me, that He gave His only Son to die for me.” (John 3:16) When the enemy whispers lies in your ear, respond with Truth.

3)  Study what Scripture teaches about who you are in Christ and how much God values you.

You can’t speak Truth against lies unless you know the Truth. Stepping out from under the shadow of condemnation and accusations can be difficult. When you become convinced about who you are in Christ and how very much God loves you – how wildly passionate He is about you – your healing will accelerate.

4)  Surround yourself with positive, affirming people.

The enemy does a good enough job trying to tear you down. Don’t hang with people who try to help him. If you can’t avoid it, you’ll need extra positive people around you.

5)  Share your need for positive encouragement with a few good friends and pray-ers.

In other words, be willing to be transparent with a few friends. I’ve always found that once I get some good friends on my side, especially those who pray for me, the enemy has a lot harder time getting through the prayer net they put around me.

6)  Practice positive, biblical self-talk.

While this is similar to reading Scripture aloud and refuting the arrows of condemnation with truth, it has a slightly different slant. Make it a habit to regularly drown out the negative voice in your head with a new positive voice. Wake up in the morning and remind yourself “I’m a child of the king, and a co-heir with Christ.” Throughout the day remind yourself of things such as:

  • God has created me for His pleasure.
  • He has a plan and a purpose for my life.
  • I am created in His image and have eternity in my heart.
  • I am fearfully and wonderfully made. God’s plans for me are greater than my hopes and dreams.
  • God wants to use me today.
  • I am the apple of His eye.
  • When God looks at me, He sees His precious child.
  • Through Christ, I can do all things He calls me to do.
  • God has uniquely gifted me.

7)  Forgive yourself for past sins, inadequacies, imperfections and errors in judgment.

God already has. Unforgiveness toward yourself is fertile ground for the root of condemnation to take hold.

8)  As you begin to heal, minister to others out of your woundedness.

Condemnation shouts “Shut up! Sit down! You don’t deserve to be in the game!” But God’s Word says to comfort one another with the comfort we’ve been given. The truth is that some past situations gives us greater authority to help others heal in the same area. Additionally, many people will seek out someone who has already found victory in an area they are currently struggling. As you begin to heal, courageously step out in faith to minister to others. You’ll find that it helps your own healing to take hold.

We want to read articles or blogs and experience a changed life. It doesn’t work that way. It takes hard work to overcome unhealthy patterns, but your diligence will be rewarded! God is faithful. Begin to take steps that apply God’s Truth to your behavior, and He steps in with supernatural grace to sustain you and reveal Himself more fully.

One last tip: Don’t try to do all these things at once. Pick just one of these ideas and begin to implement it. Once you’ve got that one down, add another. Keep adding new behaviors as you become firmly grounded in each. Over-achievers may try to attack the whole list, but that usually results in none of them being implemented well and the over-achiever experiences even more condemnation from having failed to step out from under condemnation! Don’t let the enemy win this one!

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Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
1 Timothy 6:12 (NIV)

Clearly, taking hold of our eternal life means more than accepting Christ and looking forward to an eternity with Him. Paul exhorted Timothy, the pastor in Ephesus at the time the letter was written, to “take hold” of his eternal life. This series looks at the fuller application of that exhortation.

Last week’s blog addressed the complete forgiveness of sins that comes with our eternal life. If the Creator of the Universe has fully forgiven our sins, and he has, we ought to walk in complete freedom from condemnation. To accept condemnation from the enemy is to be deceived. To accept it from ourselves is to call Jesus a liar. Scripture is clear that

But if we confess our sins to him, he [Jesus] is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.
1 John 1:9 (NLT)

When we fully grasp that Christ has forgiven our sins, we can walk in the liberating freedom of being without condemnation. Such freedom is a wonderful thing, and it leads to a walk that carries with it a lightness of heart and spirit. Conversely, walking under condemnation is truly walking under condemnation. It’s like there is always a heavy weight on our heads and hearts.

Two analogies:

  • You’ve seen the pictures of men and women in third world countries carrying their wares to market or purchases from the market in baskets on their heads. What a difference they must immediately feel when the heavy basket is put down and they can walk without the weight and without fear of causing the basket to become unbalanced and fall to the ground. That’s what it is like when we are set free from condemnation. We no longer walk under the heavy weight of accusations and we no longer fear that every misstep will lead to more guilt being piled in our baskets.
  • My mom had a pacemaker put in last night. After surgery, they had a heavy, cold compress on her chest to stop any bleeding, reduce swelling and limit her movement. The cold, heavy compress reminds me of the weight of condemnation always pressing down on our hearts and spirits. Its coldness saps us of our passion for God and our strength. Its weight limits on our movement in ways that Christ has not limited us.

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.
Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

Christ has set us free from condemnation by forgiving our sins and declaring us righteous. The Galatians had forgotten this and Paul calls them “foolish.” The Galatians had forgotten the powerful grace that led them to repentance and faith in Christ. They had fallen back to relying on their own works for eternal life. Read what Paul wrote to them:

1You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 4Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? 5Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

6Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.
Galatians 3:1-7 (NIV)

When we carry a spirit of condemnation on our heads and on our hearts, we are truly not believing that we are forgiven. We fall back, as the Galatians had, to believing we must do better, look better, or be better for Christ to truly accept us and forgive us. Foolishness! God gives you His Spirit because you believed that Christ died for your sins. “Believed” in the biblical sense means you accept it as truth and you rely on it – you trust it even more than you trust the chair you are sitting in to hold you without breaking. God gives you His spirit because you believed that Christ died for your sins.

1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the [Old Testament] law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4in order that the righteous requirements of the [Old Testament] law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
Romans 8:1-4 (NIV)

The conditions for your righteousness have been met if you believe in Christ. “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1, NLT) And because there is no condemnation, there is no need to accept any heavy baskets on your head or cold compresses on your heart.

Now, the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, he gives freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:17 (NLT)

The Spirit of the Lord gives freedom. Friends, receive God’s gift of freedom and walk in it. Or skip and jump in it! Or dance in it! Or shout “hallelujah” in it! But most of all, receive it and do not receive any condemnation that comes from external or internal sources. Condemnation be GONE in the Name of Jesus. And daughter or son of God, be encouraged and set free in the Name of Jesus.

Well, I thought this blog was going to be about being willing to take risks for Christ because He has set us free. I guess we needed to hear the message of freedom again. I’m certain a message about risk taking is coming, but I think God may have even another blog on freedom from condemnation first! Thank You, Lord, for directing my pen (computer keyboard) in Your direction, not in mine.

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Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
1 Timothy 6:12

As I said in the first blog in this series, I want to take hold of the eternal life to which I was called. I have accepted Christ and seek to give Him full authority in my life. Yet I know that I often limp through this life not taking hold of all that He has for me here and now.

One of those things is living my life free from condemnation. When thinking about this, your mind probably goes to the same verse you’ve heard so many times:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
Romans 8:1

We all say “Hallelujah” when we hear this verse, and we should – there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus – none – nada – zip – zilch – zero. There is none.

But I doubt that we live like that. I know that there are many times when I don’t.

It’s interesting to note that the writer of the book of Romans is the Apostle Paul. If ever there was someone who would be tempted to feel condemnation it would be Paul. We first see him in the book of Acts. As Stephen was being stoned to death for proclaiming Christ, Acts 8:1 says Saul, who would later become Paul, “was there, giving approval to his death.” Acts 8 continues:

2Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.
Acts 8:2-3

Paul had a history and his name was Saul. As Saul, he persecuted the church. It’s not a history I would want to have. I think I’d be tempted to feel lingering (or strong) condemnation as I sought to live out my new life in Christ. Yet Paul wrote “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Hallelujah! If Paul can be forgiven so fully that there is no longer any condemnation associated with his former life, surely I can be forgiven, too.

What’s even more interesting is the context in which Paul wrote the verse. Let’s look at the verse in context:

21So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
Romans 7:21 – 8:4

In making his declaration that there is no condemnation, Paul wasn’t even referring to his persecution of the church before he came to know Christ. He was referring to his life after Christ – that even after coming to know and serve Christ he found himself continually tempted to sin. He is so remorseful about this that he writes “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” But you have to  love his proclamation in response to his own question –“Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

It seems to me that Paul’s focus of being set free from condemnation related to his sin nature and his current proclivity to sin speaks loudly in what it leaves out – it’s as if he’s so free from condemnation from sins related to his former life that they’re not even on his radar any more! That is, if he is free from condemnation of his sinful nature even after coming to Christ, if he is free from condemnation of the sins he does to this very day, how much more so is he free from condemnation for sins committed before coming to Christ?

Paul embraced his new-found freedom in Christ and found himself released from the Law, which required regular blood sacrifice for the atonement of sins. Released from the Law of sin and death, he lived according to the law of the Spirit of life. Living under such a law means living free from condemnation.

Potential Sources of Our Condemnation

It seems to me that condemnation can come from one of four sources:

  • Ourselves
  • Others around us
  • Satan
  • God

We’ve already shown that God does not condemn us, so we can rule Him out, but just in case you are still in doubt, let’s look at one more passage. You probably know the first verse, but do you know the two that follow it?

16“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:16-18

If you believe in Christ, you are not condemned by God. Period. He accepts and forgives you. Unconditionally.

Satan doesn’t want you to believe that, of course, and he will hound you with accusations for past, present, real and imagined sins. Follow the advice of Peter:

8Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, standing firm in the faith.
1 Peter 5:8-9a

Stand before Satan’s onslaughts saying, “I am a forgiven child of God. Christ died so that I might be saved, not so that I would be condemned.” Repeat as necessary!

Perhaps it is the condemnation of others that hurts the most. It does for me, anyway. Especially when it comes from people I respect and/or have had a close relationship with. Earlier today God brought me face to face with an old insecurity of mine. As I wrestled to determine the source of the insecurity, God reminded me of an incidence from my long ago past. Being reminded of the incident, I asked God, “Lord, do you have anything to say to me about that situation?” What I sensed was that the accusation – the condemnation – that was brought against me was brought out of the other person’s insecurity. I also sensed that the entire situation brought pain to both of us, causing us both to walk with a limp for a period of time. These were not limps that God desired us to have.

In Christ Jesus, there is now no condemnation! Accusations that have been waged against us, accusations that we have taken into our hearts and spirits, accusations that we have allowed to grow into cancerous tumors with fingers that choke out our life – Be gone in Jesus Name!

Ask God for healing of past wounds where healing is needed. What He said to me about that long-ago situation brought healing to my heart and spirit. A sadness in understanding the long-lasting affect it has had on both of us, but healing nonetheless.

Don’t let others throw condemnation onto you. Take the condemnations immediately to God and ask Him to remove even the smallest speck of the accusation that might take hold in you.

Finally, we are often our own worst enemy, aren’t we? I have worked diligently over the past several years to change the way I speak and think. There was a time when I would quickly condemn myself for even the most minor failing. When I catch myself in such a thought or word, I immediately speak the opposite. “I am an intelligent, thoughtful, capable woman of God. Even if I wasn’t, God would be passionately in love with me. Who am I to think so wrongly about someone (me) of whom the Lord thinks so highly? Am I calling Him a liar? Am I dissing the forgiveness that He has given me so freely and at such a great cost? I surely hope not! Lord, forgive me, and I will know that once forgiven, I am not condemned.

Scripture is clear: We are not condemned by the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Creator of the Universe. “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) That’s a rhetorical question – the short answer is that many people may be against us, but none will prevail unless we give up the ground we’ve been given. Friends, take hold of the eternal life to which you’ve been called – a life that is free from condemnation by God. With that freedom, release condemnation that might be thrown your way by Satan, other people, and yourself. Let your shield against these fiery darts be your knowledge that you stand forgiven by the One who has all power and authority to forgive and that you do not stand condemned. Walk in freedom!

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11But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
1 Timothy 6: 11-12

As I read this passage a few days ago, my attention was captured by one phrase: “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” What a great exhortation to consider as we look forward to 2010. I looked up the word that is translated “take hold” and found that it is a cousin to the word from which gets its name.

The word katalambano is used by Paul in Philippians 3:12, when he says “I press on to apprehend that for which Christ has apprehended me.” (For more on how the blog was named, click here.)

The word used by Paul in 1 Timothy is epilambanomai. It means to take hold of, to seize or to take possession of.

I want to do that with my “eternal life.” I have claimed Christ as my Savior. I have asked Him to forgive me of my sins. I seek to give Him full authority in my life. I want also to fully take hold of the eternal life to which I have been called. To me, that is much more than the eternal life I will some day live out with my Lord. It means living this life differently from those who do not have the promise of eternal life after this life is over:

  • It means living this life with freedom from condemnation from myself, others or Satan.
  • It means living this life with a willingness to take risks that I might otherwise be too timid to take because Christ is in me and has made many promises in and for my life that have yet to be fulfilled.
  • It means aligning my priorities with the priorities of God.
  • It means constant dependence on a God who has promised to supply all I need for life and Godliness (2 Peter 1:3) and has promised to never leave or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6, et. al.).

Our first series of blogs this year is going to focus on what it means to take hold of eternal life. I know, I wrote a blog earlier in the week in which it looked like God had given me a theme for 2010 –

“Learning to hear God’s Voice more clearly and regularly. Of course that requires listening for His voice, as it says in verse 3 – ‘…the sheep listen to his voice.’ It also carries with it the implication that I will follow His Voice after hearing it.”

The two subjects dovetail quite nicely – living the eternal life means living ever attentive to God’s Voice. And I think combined He has given us a great theme for 2010. I don’t have a nifty catch-phrase or title, or a perfectly gift-wrapped paragraph that defines it yet. But God is developing it in my heart as I type. I’m sure it’ll fall into place soon.

In the meantime, come back regularly as we “flesh out” what it means to take hold of the eternal life to which we have been called. Our next blog in the series will be by a guess blogger, my husband Phil. Watch for it early next week.

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1Then the man brought me back to the entrance of the Temple. There I saw a stream flowing eastward from beneath the Temple threshold. This stream then passed to the right of the altar on its south side. 2The man brought me outside the wall through the north gateway and led me around to the eastern entrance. There I could see the stream flowing out through the south side of the east gateway. 3Measuring as he went, he led me along the stream for 1,750 feet and told me to go across. At that point the water was up to my ankles. 4He measured off another 1,750 feet and told me to go across again. This time the water was up to my knees. After another 1,750 feet, it was up to my waist. 5Then he measured another 1,750 feet, and the river was too deep to cross without swimming.

6He told me to keep in mind what I had seen; then he led me back along the riverbank. 7Suddenly, to my surprise, many trees were now growing on both sides of the river! 8Then he said to me, “This river flows east through the desert into the Jordan Valley, where it enters the Dead Sea. The waters of this stream will heal the salty waters of the Dead Sea and make them fresh and pure. 9Everything that touches the water of this river will live. Fish will abound in the Dead Sea, for its waters will be healed. Wherever this water flows, everything will live. 10Fishermen will stand along the shores of the Dead Sea, fishing all the way from En-gedi to En-eglaim. The shores will be covered with nets drying in the sun. Fish of every kind will fill the Dead Sea, just as they fill the Mediterranean! 11But the marshes and swamps will not be purified; they will be sources of salt. 12All kinds of fruit trees will grow along both sides of the river. The leaves of these trees will never turn brown and fall, and there will always be fruit on their branches. There will be a new crop every month, without fail! For they are watered by the river flowing from the Temple. The fruit will be for food and the leaves for healing.”
Ezekiel 47:1-12 (New Living Translation)

My mom is afraid of water. Almost drowning as a child has left her with a life-long fear of bodies of water. She won’t even jump (or step) into a pool. She’s always game for a good water fight, though!

I thought of mom as I read this passage today. I think many of us are as afraid of God as mom is afraid of water. We’re happy to experience Him as a sprinkling (or even dousing) that might come from a good water fight, but we’re reluctant or even fearful of stepping into the river that flows from His temple.

As we read this passage, we learn that Ezekiel was taken into the river by degrees – first into ankle-deep water, then knee-deep, then waist-deep, then to the place where it was over his head. I appreciate that God doesn’t just drop us into water over our head – even if the water is the River of Life that flows from His temple. Most of us (me included) would be too afraid to jump into the full, raging river without first stepping in at the river’s edge. I am thankful that God allows us to get to know Him and His goodness and His faithfulness before He takes us into the river that is so high it cannot be crossed on foot.

Getting to know God is a lifelong process, though, and many of us get stuck at some point when He wants to take us deeper. May I encourage you to continue walking into the water and let God’s current take you to the dead places and bring His healing to them. That’s what happens – the river flows from the temple of God (that is, the place where He dwells – from His presence) (v1) to the dead places (v8a) and brings life where death has been (v8b-10).

During my ordination service last week, one of our pastors had an image as I was being prayed over. Our senior pastor was praying that God would not only release me into ministry, but to propel me into it. The image that came to our assistant pastor was of me on a huge water slide with the gate about to be opened for me to plunge full speed from the top of the slide. I don’t think he knows that I absolutely love water slides. I become like a little child (Matthew 18:3) on water slides, giggling and screaming with joy all the way from the top to the bottom.

What a way to envision serving God – as flowing in the current of the River of Life that goes from His presence to places that are dead – because “everything that touches the water of this river will live” (v9). It’s what you and I are called to – bringing life where there once was death.

Lord, increase our vision and help us be willing to jump into the water that is over our heads so that we might flow in its current, bringing life to all who come in contact with it. Lord, we want to be conduits of Your life to those who are dying.

P.S. Another friend had a different vision – she saw me as a human cannonball about to be shot out of a cannon. I’ve told her and God “no offense, but I prefer the water slide!”

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