What’s Holding Us Back?-January 19, 2014
Scripture: Hebrews 12:1
When I think of Martin Luther King, Jr. it would be, I think correct to think of the continuing work that was still left to do after the emancipation of the slaves almost 100 years before. Although the freedom was gained it would take continual work to live into the reality of that promise and that freedom. In King’s time it had been almost 100 years but a good bit had not changed it would take another national “civil” conflict to begin to change that process. Now we are some 150 years since that first emancipation or freedom granted. It is interesting to remind ourselves that this reality is something that people need to be reminded of often and daily allow it to shape life.
This is also similar to many things in our own lives and walk with God. I am young enough to have not lived through either of these times of conflict but what does seem a little striking to me is how little distance seemed to have been covered in those first almost 100 years. Although a law had changed the hearts of people are much slower to change.
The institution of slavery had been around for a very long time and although it is a horrible thing it takes years for people to change. Many who had freedom were glad to be free from oppression but were not to live out the full extent of that freedom. The sin of that system is also one that is not so easily one to loosen its grip on the lives it once held.
Why mention all this? I think it is similar to our journey in faith. There are many who do not yet know or have not heard that there is freedom from our sin. There are people now some 2000 years removed from the resurrection of Christ who do not know about the freedom we have from our sins in Christ Jesus. Today with all our technology and communications we are both the most connected and disconnected generation of people. It also speaks to both our human nature and our sin nature.
Sin has held its grip on the lives of human kind going back to Adam and Eve. It is also so destructive that it then becomes intertwined into our lives. It not only has emotional and spiritual consequences, but even physical consequences as well. God’s Word reminds us that sin came into the world through one man but affects us all. In another place, the sins of the fathers will visit the generations to the third and fourth generations. It is demonstrated in the powerful ways today when we can see children born with horrible addictions and even if they are able to survive those early days their bodies may always crave even that which they have never had themselves. They must be diligent each day. Genesis 4:7b God reminds Cain, “But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”
The point is that there are many who still do not know at all that there is freedom available in Christ. Secondarily, even if we do know that it is available and have accepted the reality of that on the surface, what do we do with that? What I am asking is how do we go from saying that is great and I accept that statement of doctrine of faith, now what does that mean for my life? The difficulty becomes not just that we say the right words, or understand it as a mental exercise that we accept it as information being presented in a news cast. Most often we go wow! Really, but that is someone else, that’s not me. Faith is a response to the revelation of God, it is not or has ever been something that is purely information or and intellectual exercise and where we have made it so we have robbed it of its very power to transform our lives.
Sin does not want us to be free from its grip. It is a harsh and sometimes seductive master. Many Christians have accepted the intellectual and not the effectual reality of Christ. This means that they know that there is freedom in Christ and we say yes that is true for everyone who would believe, we say we believe in our minds and although there is freedom in Christ we don’t feel very free. Some have experienced this let down when they go, well I made my decision for Christ but life is no different. They have embraced the intellectual reality but no the effectual transformative reality. We are a people who are free, but do not know yet how that changes anything. Just as God’s Word and action are one in the same, so faith by its very definition is not an intellectual process of information but a response to God in action. The active Word of God in our lives elicits an active response known as faith. To know that a plane can fly and to know the math and science behind it, we say in theory planes can fly. Faith is what puts our heads in the clouds and gets our feet off the ground. It is not enough to know. If knowing was enough then the death of Christ would have not been necessary.
Then there is the constant pull of sin upon our lives. We must be careful at what waits at the door. Giving our lives to Christ is not a one-time event. It begins with that first active response of faith, but sin is not going to leave that easily. It is as old as time, it is in our nature, our DNA, and it is the primary force at work in the world today.
A statement of faith does not make us faithful. Living does. A statement of freedom doesn’t make us free but being able to live each day in that freedom does. Faith acknowledges by its very life and existence as defiance to the reality that seems present before us today. It allows us to live out a different reality. It is possible to be free from sin, and not be overwhelmed by it daily. Sin wants to hold us back and hold us down. We want freedom more than anything, and now we have heard and been given the knowledge that there is freedom in Christ Jesus. It will never change your life if you just accept it as information, but to accept it as a life-giving, life-changing, life-altering reality means that we can walk out of here different today than when we came in. That we can walk into the world with new life, new hope, new purpose, and a new freedom.
King reminded the people that he was a dreamer. One who did not judge reality by what was before him, but by what he believed was God’s reality beyond that day. It was more than an intellectual experience, but an act of faith that gave him both freedom and courage for action. The dreamers know there is more here than what we can see.
I do not know a single person who can really say, “I feel free.” Rather we live free. Don’t just accept the information embrace the reality, cast off the sin that so easily entangles and then live, run, jump, play, and know with your whole life that freedom from sin means not just that life is different today but different every day. Don’t wait for it to crouch at your door but allow your life to defiantly proclaim that the power of Christ is greater than the power of the world.
It is faith that allows us to say we know the power of gravity is strong (sin) but there is a greater power at work that has overcome that power. Although the reality of gravity (sin) is always there it takes faith to put our heads in the clouds and get our feet off the ground and trust that there is a greater power at work.
Don’t just accept in your minds or your seats that there is freedom in Christ instead cast off all sin, find that freedom and run, live, love, and play each day. Allow that freedom to truly make you free.
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son set you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:32-36
We are set free by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Revelation 1:5…he has freed us from our sins by his blood.
Freedom from sin comes from Christ breaking the chains but daily freedom from sin for the believer is one that requires us letting go. It is not so much that sin has a hold on us but we are holding on to it. All the while being weighed down and drowning.
It is sin that keeps us from God and it is holding on to it that keeps us from finding fulfillment in Christ. It is like being thrown a life-preserver and saying I choose to remain here and drown. We don’t have to live being surrounded by death instead we can have life and live because we are free.
The greater freedom is not one that is earned by us but rather received. It is hard to accept or too easily taken for granted. Where are you?
Many Christians have accepted the intellectual (doctrinal) Christ rather than the living one that changes lives. The Christian life is not what we “know” or say we know it is a response to who Christ is. If only an intellectual exercise then knowing that you are supposed to be free doesn’t make you feel any free. Accepting an intellectual reality without embracing transformative life is like knowing a plane can overcome gravity but never putting our heads in the clouds or getting our feet off the ground. Faith is a response to the revealing of God in our lives. God’s Word and action are inseparable. God speaks things into existence.
Faith like the plane demonstrates that its power is greater than the one at work in the world. Faith is not purely an intellectual exercise, and where we have made it so we have robbed it of its very power to transform lives. Our feet remain on the ground while we long for the freedom of the sky. There really is no such thing as a statement of faith. Faith is the response to God’s activity in our lives. Faith is the (purposeful) defiant living out of the power of Christ that doesn’t change everything about the world but helps others to know they can fly too. Telling them the facts, although helpful, does nothing for the experience.
It is this type of dreaming we hear echoed in the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who dreamed for a freedom was more than an intellectual exercise but a response to live in the world in such a way that he rose above it in freedom that truly is free. We do not talk about freedom we live free and that is faith. For if the Son has set you free then you are free indeed. John 8:36