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freedom is more than an optimistic sentiment

Posted in faith

While seeing friends in North Carolina we visited the Billy Graham library. Walking amongst items and testimonials of those Graham served alongside and those to whom he served up the transforming person of Jesus, I couldn’t help but marvel at the gift of my own salvation. Standing a few feet from where his and Ruth’s bodies now lay within a well-kept garden, a surprising word came bustling up through my soul: free. 

When I think of freedom, I think of wild horses bounding across an open field. I think of a rushing river, never stagnant. I also imagine its opposite: chains or a prison cell. Living freely felt bold and risky, and held at my arm’s length. For a rule-follower, freedom seemed unsustainable, untethered from anything solid. It was many years before I realized what freedom is Christ truly meant. Hint: it’s not simply an optimistic sentiment. 

Peter, a disciple of Jesus, challenges us to “live as people who are free… living as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16). Freedom is the way of life Christ purchased for us with His death on the cross. It’s not a special level we reach as we mature. It is not a temporary state reserved for the days we feel victorious. The moment we believe Jesus as Savior and Lord we become free people.  

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

John MacArthur says, “God’s gift of redemption brings salvation from both sin’s oppression and sin’s consequences—and one day from its very existence.” For us to live enslaved to our sufficiency, or fear, or success, or inability is like God presenting His gift, and us refusing to accept it. 

He says, You. Are. Free.

And our lives respond with, I’d rather not.  

My path to embracing freedom has been slow and a bit challenging. Why? Because for a long time I worked for God as if an employee, instead of receiving, as His child, all He wanted to be and give. 

In His presence is fullness joy, but as a worker bee, I struggled to hear His kind voice, to find His loving eyes, amidst the flurry of my efforts to please Him. I battled the lie that since God had done such a miraculous and wonderful saving of me, it was only right that I should respond with something in return. Freedom was transactional, elusive, sometimes foreign and oftentimes out of reach. 

I’ve long known the facts of freedom, but once my soul yielded to the tangible freedom Jesus held out to me, I took a step toward joy I’d never known before.

Living free is a continual coming to His glorious throne, knowing rest for my soul, whatever the circumstances. It is the gift of His presence in prayer and the Bible, no matter how faithful (or not) I feel, as a daughter enjoys the company of her Father.

To embrace our freedom, we must accept the unchangeable truth that we are in Him and He is in us. It is accepting what He says about us as true no matter what. We’re free to live by faith and not sight – “a life of joyful reliance on what God does for us, not what we can do for God” (John Piper). Our freedom identity stabilizes us when we’ve made mistakes, when we’re hurt by another, or when life threatens to unravel us. We’re free to enjoy creation and the Creator, free to walk closely with His Spirit. We’re free to love and be loved, to depend on His sufficiency every moment. We’re free to act on confidence in Him over insecurity in ourselves, free to confess and to forgive. And like Billy Graham, we’re free to speak the Truth boldly, surrender our passions to God’s purposes, and as we breathe our last, say ‘gain’ (Philippians 1:20-21).

Can you see freedom in your life? If not, what is stopping you? 

 


 

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

–Charles Wesley, “And can it be that I should gain”

What Resting in God Isn’t

Posted in faith

Lord, thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee. Saint Augustine

I am learning (slowly and clumsily) real soul rest in God. Rest – by grace through faith putting expectations and doubts and desires into His hands. Rest – connecting to Jesus as my source of joy, peace, and contentment in the mundane and mighty. Then, there are ways I think my soul is resting when it actually isn’t, so I flesh those out here.

Resting in God is not mustering up right answers we think we need.

Resting in God is not copying someone else’s personality or passions because they seem “better.”

Resting in God is not striving for acceptance from the world. 

Resting in God is not keeping busy to escape the loneliness, insecurity, or fear.

Resting in God is not fighting for a position of worthiness.

Resting in God is not anxiously living to be everything for everybody.

Resting in God is not working to constantly prove ourselves.

Resting in God is not tackling life alone.

Resting in God is not blindly walking through the day restless or overwhelmed.

The Christian life is a life of day-by-day, hour-by-hour trust in the promises of God to help us and guide us and take care of us and forgive us and bring us into a future of holiness and joy that will satisfy our hearts infinitely more than if we forsake him and put our trust in ourselves or in the promises of this world. And that day-by-day, hour-by-hour trust in God’s promises is not automatic. It is the result of daily diligence and it’s the result of proper fear (and awe of God). John Piper, italics added by me

To rest in God is to embrace His unfailing love for you.

To rest in God is to believe His words about you.

To rest in God is to trust that when life seems uncertain, it’s steady in His hands.

To rest in God is to find joy in His presence in the mundane and the mighty.

To rest in God is to know genuine peace in times of stress and worry.

To rest in God is to be upheld by His sufficient grace and power.

To rest in God is to position yourself beloved in His family.

To rest in God is to choose confidence in Him over the weakness in yourself.

To rest in God is to experience His fullness.

To rest in God is to cultivate listening ears to His voice.

To rest in God is to worship Him wholeheartedly, and be inspired.

To rest in God is to fear Him and live in awe of Him.

As we seek to be the church in this world, let us not seek to pursue abiding satisfaction and spiritual purpose by gazing inward or by probing the cauldron of mixed motives and fickle emotions that lie within the recesses of our hearts. Instead, let us simply remember what our hearts were created and redeemed for: to look outward in faith and to rest in the finished work of the One who loved us and gave Himself for us (Gal. 2:20). Scott Anderson

What does it mean for you to rest your soul in God?

 


 

We leave for Utah in a week!

(Photo of Bryce Canyon by Laura Agustí on Unsplash)

four questions that help activate faith in my life

Posted in faith

It was one weighty situation after another, and I felt paralyzed by the need to think, feel, and decide wisely. Choices of when to speak and when to be quiet, how to wade unfamiliar relational waters, and how to listen to God were all on full blast. I was in knots for days, and it dawned on me, how does my faith help me here?

The Self-Reliant Fixer and the Trusting-Surrenderer in me were wrestling, and I was weary. Where was my faith? It was in my feelings and whether they could be trusted. It was in my ability to solve problems, to be a good advice-giver. It was in the pressure-inducing lie of ‘choose well or it’ll be your fault.’

I was at a crossroad: continue wrestling anxiously with myself or allow God’s truth to clear-cut a new path of being. By His grace, I confidently chose the latter, and living by faith became less of an abstract Biblical idea and more of a tangible framework for the storm hidden under the surface. I’m learning faith is surrendering my way to deepen my capacity to know and pursue God’s way.

Here are four questions that have helped energize my faith:

  1. Who is being exalted here?

Me? or God? Living by faith in God decreases pride and self-reliance… why? Because we can’t help but be humbled in light of our perfect Savior. Like Abraham, who “with respect to the promise of God, did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Romans 4:20). My thoughts do more harm than good when not illuminated by faith, because faith glorifies God, not self, as sufficient. One of the most gracious things the Lord continually reminds me of is I am the creature and He is the Creator. We live by faith and not sight when we choose to find God in the midst of pain, uncertainty, or weakness, and exalt Him.

  1. What does the Bible say about this situation or my emotions?

Living by faith is a daily submission to the authority of Scripture and treasuring the truth of God. By applying His promises to our circumstances, we open ourselves up to flourish in both mundane and marvelous moments. Faith is allowing Scripture to inform our decisions and attitudes, conforming us to the image of Christ. We live by faith and not sight when we trust Scripture over what we see and feel.

  1. Is the gospel instructing my self-examination? 

In #1, I am reminded to submit to God in low humility and exalt Him. But my faith also states my position in Christ before God. Excessive self-demotion is contrary to the gospel that invites me into life with God. Living by faith in God promotes confidence and acceptance even when we fail… why? Because your failure can’t disqualify Christ, and you are in Christ. Focusing on ourselves too much is like quicksand. Allow the truth of Scripture to not only pull you out, but also to be the light that helps you see more clearly. Maybe you’ve heard these words by Robert Murray M’Cheyne: “For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ.” We live by faith and not sight when we see ourselves accurately: near God, raised and seated with Christ, walking with His Spirit on earth to declare praises of Him. (For more on how God sees you, click here.)

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