Stay Free

Stay Free

This morning, I feel that the Lord would like to address the topic of freedom with us.  We are creatures of habit; created for good habits.  We were created to exist within rhythms of life that enable us to live life to its fullest!  We see this all throughout God’s creation.

Night, day.  Spring, summer, fall, winter.  Plow, plant, harvest.  Wake, work, play, sleep.  Birth, childhood, adulthood.  Hunger, eat, exercise.  Thirst, drink, pee.

There are so many rhythms of life!  Most of them are good and beneficial and God-purposed.  They lead us to experience a fuller and better life.  If we neglect one part of these rhythms, our live becomes unbalanced and we sense it.  We become bitter, unhappy, and discontent.

If we neglect sleep or play, we wear out quickly as our body and mind sets off all kinds of alarms to lead us into them.  If we don’t work, our body and mind does the same thing longing for fulfillment and purpose.  If we set aside proper and routine times for all three, then we live in peace and contentment.

There are rhythms, however, that we get caught up in that are destructive and steal away from our lives. 

Rhythms of addiction.  Trigger, craving, use, temporary relief, guilt from using.

Rhythms of bondage.  Difficulty, backward to comfort/familiarity, negative from that bondage, forward into freedom.

Our souls long for freedom.  However, we’re often uncomfortable paying the price of freedom; responsibility.  If I’m doing what someone else tells me to do, then the results fall back on them.  If I’m doing what I freely choose to do, then the results are my responsibility.

1 Corinthians 10:23

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.

God saw this destructive rhythm within His people and desired to break this cycle.  He wanted His people to get set free and to stay free!  He had made a covenant with them based on a shadow copy of the perfection that was in Heaven.  That wasn’t working.  Instead of worshiping the Creator, they kept turning back and worshipping created things.  God chose to form a New Covenant available to all mankind!

Hebrews 8:7-13/Jeremiah 31:31-34

7 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8 But God found fault with the people

Take note of this subtle, but critically important phrase here.  The problem with the first covenant wasn’t with the covenant itself, nor the God who created it.  The fault was with the people. 

The people would cry out to God for salvation and turn away from their wicked ways.  God would save them, bring them all back together, and bless them richly.  Then, they would become content and selfish and began to turn away from God and His ways once again.  He honored their choices and let them walk away from Him.  Without God, things would get bad and so they would cry out to God for salvation and turn away from their wicked ways.  And the cycle began again…

God had enough of all of that…  He said:

“The days are coming, declares the Lord,

    when I will make a new covenant

with the people of Israel

    and with the people of Judah.

9 It will not be like the covenant

    I made with their ancestors

when I took them by the hand

    to lead them out of Egypt,

What an awesome picture!  God taking His people by the hand and personally leading them out of their bondage.  Then, He let them enjoy that freedom to do as they choose.  They eventually chose to turn away from the God who took them by the hand and back to their bondage.  The problem wasn’t God nor His covenant, it was His people.

because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,

    and I turned away from them,

declares the Lord.

So, time to try something different!

10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel

    after that time, declares the Lord.

I will put my laws in their minds

    and write them on their hearts.

I will be their God,

    and they will be my people.

11 No longer will they teach their neighbor,

    or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’

because they will all know me,

    from the least of them to the greatest.

12 For I will forgive their wickedness

    and will remember their sins no more.”

13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.

As we learned last week, God chose to do away with religion.  No longer would His people walk by faith in the God that they were taught about and heard about.  They would have a direct relationship with Him.  Through the infilling of the Holy Spirit, His ways are written on the tablets of our hearts by Him.  Not pen and paper to be argued with intellectually, but Spirit and flesh to be personally witnessed.

We are not just set free from some physical bondage as in the case of Egypt and lead by the hand of the Lord, we are set free and then dwell with the Spirit of the Living God, His very Presence which is freedom, itself!

2 Corinthians 3:17

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Yes, we still have the freedom to choose and we still pay the price of freedom, which is the consequence of our choices.  However, we can have boldness and confidence because we can choose rightly having the Spirit of God within us to guide and to lead us always by the hand further into freedom and into His righteousness!

2 Corinthians 3:4-18

4 Such confidence we have through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.2

7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Just like the glory of God, the freedom of God does not need to be for us a one-time encounter or event.  It doesn’t have to fall on us and then fade away.  We have the divine opportunity to walk continuously in freedom.  We get to not only be set free from God, but we get to stay free with God! 

We can boldly break the chains of bondage and oppression and shame!

Not only can we break that chain, but we can then transition from that chain to the chain of freedom that gives life!

This is recovery!  We live life within a rhythm.  To break cycles of death and transition to cycles of life is dependent on what we choose to grab onto between the steps of these cycles.  It’s like swinging on monkey bars. 

When we are on the bar of difficulty or on the bar of our emotional trigger, the only difference between freedom and bondage is what we choose to grab onto next!  Are we going to grab onto that addiction or put our hand back onto that familiar bar with both hands or are we going to grab hold of God through faith? 

It’s easy to grab onto the addiction or to go backwards and put both hands on the same bar because they are right there for us calling out to us.  Grabbing hold of the things of God is tough because it’s new and different and unknown.  However, it’s the only bar of freedom!  It’s the bar that begins a new cycle of life and abundance and blessing!  It gets us onto the right rhythm of life that we were designed and purposed for.

The first bar is the toughest.  After you taste and see how good that bar is and how much fun and how much easier that cycle is, you want to grab for more and more.  You are encouraged instead of discouraged.  You are strengthened instead of weakened.  You are excited instead of frightened.  You are emboldened instead of ashamed!

Learning how to ride a motorcycle can be a bit intimidating at first.  You’re a bit shaky jumping on and each turn and curve requires complete focus.  You make mistakes.  You realize that any one of those simple mistakes could easily wreck not only your bike, but he rest of your life. 

The more that you ride it and learn it and experience it, the more comfortable that you get with it.  You gain control and can maneuver it with ease.  Fear is still there, but it is no longer in control.  It’s a healthy fear.  It is no longer you trying to control the motorcycle, the motorcycle becomes part of you and you move together as one.

You transition from being a bit nervous getting on it to daydreaming about the moment in the day when you get to hop back on it!  Instead of being afraid because there is nothing between your body and the pavement, you anticipate the freedom of having nothing between you and God’s amazing creation surrounding you!  You find freedom!

That sign up ahead warning you about a U curve in the road no longer causes panic and fear, it causes eager anticipation and you can’t wait to hug the road and maybe even scrape that foot peg a bit as you feel the thrill of taking it just right.

That sign up ahead that warns of fresh tar and chips is a welcome warning to stick to the highway and avoid that back road.

This reality is really no different than our relationship with God.  Sure, there is a healthy fear of Him still there of Him, but there is a cooperation that takes place as you become One.  You find freedom!  His word is not a bunch of ‘thou shall nots’, it is a map of ‘thou shalls’ that guides you into complete freedom and into the greatest thrill of a ride with gas stations at just the right times to keep you fueled up for the long haul!

Jeremiah 31:21

Set up road signs;

    put up guideposts.

Take note of the highway,

    the road that you take.

It’s the one thing that we find recorded that Jesus prayed for you and I; that we would find this freedom as we come together as one.

John 17:20-23

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Difficulties will come.  Your triggers are going to happen.  Even Jesus was tempted in every single way that you and I are.  The only difference is what He chose to grab onto mid-swing of that temptation.  He never shrunk back in fear and He never chose the lie of ease.  He always boldly grabbed hold of the Father’s plan through faith!  He forged a new rhythm of life for us to follow.

He’s calling you and I this morning to simply follow Him.  He wants to break the cycle of addiction and comfort and lead us into true freedom!  Not just a freedom here and now, but freedom each and every step of life’s journey!