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Guest Blogger – The Work of Freedom

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” These are very familiar words often spoken from the pulpit or in a counseling session. Everyone wants to be free, Paul tells us that Jesus himself wants us to be free in Galatians 1:5 where he writes, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”  God’s will for our life is to be free and to enjoy that freedom.  If we took an honest assessment of ourselves we might see freedom in some areas, but there are still those areas of our lives that we seem to be bound.  Secret sin or a displeasing habit may be nagging at us, but Jesus wants us to be free.  Hebrews 12:1 tells us to,  “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely.” Is this possible?

Freedom is not:

Unfortunately in America today we have traded this freedom for a cheap and unsatisfying substitute.  That substitute is a Christian sub-culture, which does not produce unchained believers who boldly proclaim the gospel to those who are enslaved.  Instead it has created a modern day monasticism that shelters believers from the temptations of sin.  Early in Christianity there was what came to be known as the monastic movement, these men and women in order to live a holy life, would disengage the world and move into communities where the outside world could not reach them.  They believed the way to combat sin was to eliminate any opportunity to sin.  Sounds foolish to sell everything and go live in a house with fifty other guys with no contact with the outside world, but our modern American Christian sub-culture has created the same thing.  We tell people today that the way to be free from the sin in their life is to change the environment they are in.  Don’t go to that party, don’t go to that place, don’t hang out with those people, or buy a website block for the computer.  This type of “freedom” Paul says is foolish in Colossians 2:

20If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22( referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

These human teachings seem to have wisdom but at the end of the day if our hope for sin is changing our environment or computer software, then we are not free.  Freedom is when the alcoholic can walk back in the bar and share the true freedom that he has with those enslaved.  Freedom is when you go to the sin saturated environment and are not swayed, but rather you thrive and are appealing to those around you.  For many of us our pulpits are the bar stools we once occupied, the parties we once attended, or the relationships we were once in.  My fear is that we have abandoned them for church events and Christian coffee shops where we can debate the minute details of the Christian faith with other insecure and enslaved people.  The power of God will not be found in your theology debate club. No, it will be found in the bar or on the business trip.

True Freedom:

So how do we experience this freedom that doesn’t cause us to hide but rather to change the world around us?  In John 8:31-32 Jesus gives us a four-step path to freedom.

31So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Step one –  “If you abide in my word,”

So many times we want God to spiritually zap us in our weakest areas, and yes sometimes God does choose to set us free in an instant but this isn’t His main method. He wants us to spend time with Him in relationship, not getting a quick fix.  Jesus says we must abide, or continue in His Word. The Greek verb for abide here is written in such a way that we must be the one who does the abiding, we must continue to find ourselves in His word meditating on it on a daily basis.  Abiding is not simply reading. Further on in the exchange Jesus tells the Pharisees that they cannot bear His word.  These men had the first five books of the Old Testament memorized but yet did not have the freedom Jesus promised.

Step two – “you are truly my disciples,”

Disciple = Learner. The more time we spend in God’s word the more we learn about who He is, what He wants, and how He chooses to operate.  When Jesus promises that whatever you ask for it shall be given He was promising this to men that had given up three years of their life to be homeless and follow after Him.  One glance at my prayer journal shows how the prayers I prayed when I was new to Christ are radically shallow compared to now.  As we grow in Him we learn more about Him.

Step three – “and you will know the truth,”

We abide, we become learners, and then we know the truth.  We understand just how radical and powerful the words of Jesus are.  They become truth to who we are and how we act.  Another translation could render not know but “become aware.” The truth you come to know isn’t something you discover within yourself but rather something that is made known to you.

Step four – “and the truth will set you free”

Now here finally is where we see the transformation take place. Let’s take a deeper look and see who is doing the work here.  The truth is what is setting you free, not your own human effort!  I love how the Greek in this passage starts from you abiding to Him setting you free.  It’s the truth that is doing the work.  So instead of you changing your behavior from a list of don’ts, God comes in and sets you free to go back to where you were and proclaim freedom to the broken. So practically how can this work in my life you might ask?

Step one: Stop trying and start meditating on the Word that specifically deals with whatever sin you are dealing with.

Step two: Begin to learn what God thinks about who you are and what your sin is.

Step three: In the moment of temptation recall what the scripture says and know the truth about who you are and what your situation really is.

Step four: God will give you freedom.

Godspeed,

Pastor Jeremy DeBord (Twitter: @jeremydebord)