What we should all be. This will set you free.

Posted: May 16, 2014 in Thoughts on God
 good samaritanIn his book, All I Want Is You, Bishop Sandy Millar describes attending a conference in California some years ago at which he saw the Spirit of God working in powerful ways. When it was over, he went for a long walk along the coast. He writes, ‘As I was walking I was caught up with the excitement of all that lay ahead and the thrill of the Spirit of God. I was saying, “Lord, I will give you anything you want … I will do anything you want me to do.”… And I confess I was rather immodestly listing one or two of the things I thought he might want me to do – to contribute to the kingdom of God. It wasn’t a very long list for obvious reasons. I can honestly claim to have only heard the Lord speak about three times in this way, but as clearly as I have ever heard him speak, he said, “All I want is you.”  I found that really hard to take. Because I can cope with people who are cross with me, offended or upset. What’s much harder is to see this love from Jesus, and yet we let him down again and again. And all he wants is us – all of us. It was the most humbling thing … He can do anything he likes. But all he wants is you.’  
PSALM 61:1-8

1. Be led by God

Do you ever find yourself overwhelmed by all the issues you face in life? David was ‘overwhelmed and fainting’ (v.2, AMP).

He was a leader (‘the King’ (v.6)). Those who lead others need themselves to be led by God. This prayer is applicable to us all. He cried out to God to listen to his prayer and to lead him (vv.1–2).

Above all, this prayer is a prayer for protection. There are times when we want to run and hide. God provides us with ‘a place to get away from it all’ (v.3, MSG). He is a ‘safe-house’ (v.4, MSG). He provides us with ‘physical protection of rock-like strength’ (v.2), the emotional protection of ‘his arms around us’ (v.4), and the spiritual protection of ‘love and faithfulness’ (v.7).

Thank you, Lord, that in your presence I experience your love and faithfulness. Lead me into your presence today, and lead me in all the decisions I make, the conversations I have and the words that I speak.

JOHN 8:31-59

2. Be liberated by Jesus

Do you want to live a life of unquestionable freedom? Jesus is the great liberator. If Jesus ‘liberates you then you are really and unquestionably free’ (8:36, AMP).

This chapter in John’s Gospel revolves around the question, ‘Who is Jesus?’ (vv.12–59). Indeed, Jesus is asked that very question, ‘Who do you think you are?’ (v.53). His answer points to his unique relationship with his Father. It culminates with the extraordinary claim ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ (v.58). This was exactly the same way that God had revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). Jesus uses language that only God could use. His opponents pick up stones to stone him for blasphemy (John 8:59).

Although Jesus’ relationship with his Father was unique, through Jesus we can all come to know God. The relationship brings freedom to your life. Jesus says, ‘If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’ (v.36). But what does this freedom mean? 

Jesus says that to know him is to know the truth, and that ‘the truth will set you free’ (v.32). In Judaism, the truth was the law; and the study of, and adherence to, the law made a person free. Jesus says, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples’ (v.31).

Christians are sometimes accused of being narrow-minded or anti-intellectual – as contrasted with those who call themselves ‘free thinkers’. Jesus says that, in fact, the opposite is the case. Following Jesus is the way of intellectual freedom and integrity.

Truth is revealed by God. Jesus is ‘the truth’ (14:6). He is God’s ultimate revelation. Knowing the truth is not about assenting to propositions, but about knowing a person. Knowing Jesus broadens your mind, increases your depth of insight and widens your scope of understanding.

This does not mean that we have all the answers but that we have a true framework of thinking. Scientific laws provide a framework that gives freedom to investigate in the physical realm. God’s revelation provides the framework that gives intellectual freedom to investigate in the spiritual realm. Belief leads to understanding.

The response to Jesus’ words were, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?’ (8:33). It would have been absurd to claim they had never been in political subjection – but the claim is that they had never lost their inward freedom of the soul.

But Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin’ (v.34). Without Jesus Christ, all of us are slaves to sin. But, ‘if the Son liberates you, then you are really and unquestionably free’ (v.36, AMP).

  • Freedom from guilt
    Jesus sets you free from guilt. He died so that you could be forgiven and your guilt could be taken away.
  • Freedom from addiction
    He sets you free from addiction – being ‘a slave to sin’ (v.34). On the cross the power of addiction was broken. Although you may still fall from time to time, the power of the addiction to sin is broken when Jesus sets you free. While some may receive complete freedom from a specific addiction when they come to Jesus, for others it may be a longer process.
  • Freedom from fear
    Jesus sets you free from fear. He came so that ‘by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death’ (Hebrews 2:14–15). Jesus says here, ‘I tell you the truth, whoever keeps my word will never see death’ (John 8:51).

Death is not the end for those whom Jesus has set free. Rather it is the gateway to heaven. When Jesus sets you free from the fear of death, he also sets you free potentially from all other fears.

  • Freedom to know God
    Jesus sets you free to have a relationship with God like his own. Jesus is the supreme example of a person who is led by God. He says of himself, ‘I heard from God’ (v.40). But he also goes on to say, ‘Whoever belongs to God hears what God says’ (v.47). It is possible for us all to hear from God.

Jesus says, ‘I know him’ (v.55). He makes it possible for you to know God. Later he will say to his disciples, ‘Everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you’ (15:15).

  • Freedom to be yourself
    Jesus sets you free to be your true self as God intended you to be. He sets you free intellectually, morally and emotionally.
  • Freedom to love
    Jesus sets you free to love (the opposite of the self-centredness of sin). This is true freedom: ‘if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’ (8:36).

Lord, thank you for the freedom that you bring to my life. Thank you that I can know you and hear your voice. Help me to walk in this relationship today, to get to know you better, to hear you and be led by you.

JUDGES 20:1-21:25

3. Be loyal to God

As the account of this chaotic period in Israel’s history comes to an end in the book of Judges, the writer concludes: ‘At that time there was no king in Israel. People did whatever they felt like doing’ (21:25, MSG). God had given them a political system based on loyalty to the one God. But that loyalty was short-lived and the whole system began to dissolve.

As we will see when we look at the book of 1 Samuel, the provision of having a king in Israel was not seen as wholly positive. Yet it was preferable to this chaotic state of affairs where everyone did just ‘whatever they felt like doing’.   

Even in the midst of the chaos, there were moments when the people of God ‘enquired of God’ (20:18). They asked to be led by God. The lesson of staying in constant communication and consultation with God is so prevalent throughout the Old Testament. If Israel made a mistake here, it was that they did not ask God whether or not they should go into battle – they only asked how the battle was to be waged.

We also learn that even if God is behind a scheme we may suffer great setbacks, as the people of God did here. Even though God promised victory there were casualties along the way. If this is true of the physical battles they faced, it is certainly true of the spiritual battles that we face. We must not be surprised by setbacks. It does not necessarily mean that we are not being led by God. The lesson of the book of Judges is that whatever happens we must stay loyal to God.

Lord, help me to stay constantly loyal to you. May I not be put off by setbacks. May I always seek your will in my life.

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