Feelings: Dictator or Indicator?

I mentioned this article at my workshop yesterday here at the Exodus conference. Posting it for you all to consider. First published in early 2010.

Feelings: Dictator or Indicator?

It had been a challenging morning. With a 2 ½ year old & an under 6 month old, I was still adjusting to life with 2 kids. I was feeling frustrating, overwhelmed & impatient. And it wasn’t even 9 AM yet!

I generally would have just gone & hid when feeling this way, , but in a moment of uncharacteristic wisdom, I stopped, bowed my head, and prayed, “God, just help me. Help me to be patient today, to be more like You.” And God answered.

God reminded me that in such moments I have a choice. I have a choice in how I respond to my feelings. I can allow them to be a dictator or an indicator. I can choose to allow my feelings to dictate the truth of my reality (if a situation feels hopeless, then things are hopeless because that’s how I feel) OR I can allow them to indicate some truth about my reality (if I’m feeling overwhelmed & without hope, my feelings indicate something, for instance that I’m likely disconnected and needing a break).

Jesus was in touch with his emotions. He wept with Mary & Martha as they mourned for their brother Lazarus. He rejoiced with the disciples as He watched them learn and grow. He became irate when He saw God’s temple being misused. And compassion welled up in His heart as He looked out at the crowds He was teaching, as they looked “harassed and helpless” (Matthew 9:6).

Since we are created in the image of God, we also are created to be emotional. Emotions are generally a very good thing. We get scared when we encounter danger. The adrenaline starts pumping, and it helps us to act quickly. We hang around people who are fun because they bring us joy and make us smile. We responded to God’s tugging on our hearts not simply because the Gospel made sense, but because His kindness led us to repentance (Romans 2:4). God commanded us to love Him with our hearts. He also asked us to rejoice with those rejoicing, and mourn with those in mourning.

For a long time in my life, how I felt about myself dictated my feelings of worth. If I felt good about myself, then I was happy. If I said something stupid, then I would dwell on it for hours, even days, and call myself an idiot over and over. I also allowed how I felt to dictate who God is. If I felt that God loved me, then He loved me. If I felt rejected, then He must have rejected me. If I felt ashamed, then God must be ashamed of me. If I was in a sticky situation and I felt as if God weren’t helping me in the way I wanted Him to, then He obviously felt I wasn’t worth wasting His time on. In other words, I allowed my feelings to be dictators, rather than indicators.

We could apply these truths to many areas of our lives. I know as a young person, I was rather taken aback by the feelings I was having toward a close female friend. I remember reading about homosexuality in a health & sex book I found, trying to make sense of what I was experiencing. In the book, it said that if you had attractions for someone of the same gender, and especially if you acted on them, then you were gay. I remember thinking, “There it is, in black & white. I must be a homosexual.” This book reinforced the lie that my feelings dictated my reality.

Since becoming a Christian 11 years ago, I’ve slowly been realizing the place emotions are meant to take in my life. God’s recent reminder that feelings can be indicators or dictators is evidence that I’m still working this truth out. The struggle manifests itself in different ways these days. I know that God is present and working in my life, and that it would go against His character to not be faithful & good & trustworthy. Most of all, I know my worth was defined once & for all by the fact that God created me and that Jesus died on the cross for me. Yet at times, I still struggle with feeling overwhelmed and anxious. I’m the mother of two small children who also directs a ministry – of course I’m going to feel overwhelmed at times. But I have a choice about where I allow my thoughts to go with that feeling. If I allow feeling overwhelmed to dictate my reality, then I start feeling like the worst mother in the world, that I’m in over my head, wishing I could jump back in bed and hide for the rest of the day. If I instead choose to allow my feelings to be indicators, I might instead realize that I haven’t had a break for a while, the kids are stir crazy, and maybe I’d set us all up for success if we went to the playground for a while. Then I’d plan ahead for the evening and decide I’ll go out for a child-less cup of tea after my husband gets home.

Jesus clearly expressed His emotions, but He also kept those emotions in the proper place. Imagine the emotions He was feeling as He poured out His heart to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. Now imagine if Jesus had allowed His feelings in the Garden to be dictators, if He prayed, “God, this is too much for me! This is completely overwhelming. There’s no way I can go through with this, God, so you’re going to have to find someone else!” Where would that have left us? Instead, His final prayer was, “Not my will, but Yours.” He chose not to allow His feelings and fears to be dictators, but instead poured them out before His Father and trusted Him with the result.

As Jesus modeled for us in the Garden of Gethsemane, just because we experience intense feelings doesn’t mean that we’re meant to be driven by them or to live according to them alone. We’ll be given an opportunity to experience this choice every day, as we’re faced with life and the inevitable challenges it brings. In those moments, we can allow our feelings to dictate the mood of our day and the direction that mood will take us, or we can view our feelings of indicators, submitting them to God and allowing Him to direct our day. We always have a choice in how we respond.

Freedom Friday: Brenna Kate Simonds at Exodus Freedom Conference, on Minnesota Public Radio

I’m at the Exodus Freedom Conference. The theme this year is “Made for More.” As I write this, we’re not even 24 hours in, and I’m already amazed at all God is doing.

On Wednesday afternoon, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Laura Yuen for Minnesota Public Radio.

The interview aired this morning. You can listen to it here, or read the text of the article, which is almost a word-for-word transcript of the story.

I am asked frequently about repression. It seems to be a favorite question for those trying to understand why someone who experiences same-sex attraction would make a daily choice not to act on those feelings.

I think Ethan Martin explained it so succinctly in his Wednesday night testimony (not an exact quote): “Jesus gave up His sexuality for me. He could have been married by age 33, but instead He was dying on a cross.”

This is a theme that has continued to come up at the conference, though I gave my interview prior to the conference start. Sacrifice. Pursuing Jesus above all else. Surrender. Laying down everything for Jesus.

Too often, we focus on what we have to give up and sacrifice to follow Jesus. What about all that we gain?

When I am asked about repression, I try to turn the question around. Jesus gave up everything for me. God spared no expense to restore relationship with me. The things I want to hold on to pale in comparison to what Jesus did and accomplished while hanging from that cross.

It is a privilege to follow Jesus. An absolute honor. Rather than focus on the things I may have had to release to Jesus in order to follow Him, I choose to focus on all the things I’ve gained. Unconditional love, real peace, pure joy, abundant life, and true freedom.

Last week, I mentioned this Freedom Friday would be about owning your choices. I am postponing the writing of that until next week. Thanks for understanding!

Monday Morning Meditation: Start Your Day with Power

What are you like when you wake up in the morning? How do you react to your alarm? Are you excited about a new day? Are you instantly weighed down by the worries of life? Do you hit snooze several times, unready to face the day?

I’m a morning person, without a doubt. I often wake before my alarm even goes off. I almost never hit snooze, but jump out of bed and usually either go for a run or have study time.

That doesn’t mean I always wake with joy or gratitude. As I hit the pavement or settle in for study, what pops into my head is often all the things I need to do or am concerned about. I struggle to focus as I become overwhelmed with what lies ahead.

“But as for me, I will sing about your power.
Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love.
For you have been my refuge,
a place of safety when I am in distress.” Psalm 59:16 (NLT)

Reading this psalm today was a powerful reminder for me. I have a choice in the morning about what I focus on. I can choose to focus on God’s power, His ability to take care of my concerns. I can sing of His love that has always been unfailing and will not change just because my circumstances feel insurmountable. I can make Him my refuge from my first waking moment.

What can you do to make God your focus in the morning? How can you sing with joy rather than wake with worry and frustration?

Freedom Friday: A Place for Obedience, Part 4

This is a continuation of a post from the last three weeks, part 1, part 2 and part 3.

Last week’s post ended with this:
Jesus also said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15) Depending on your background, when you read that passage, you may hear, If I loved God, I would obey Him perfectly, but because I’m not, I must not love Him. This is what I hear, through the filter of knowing God as patient and kind: If I fully love God with all that I have and all that I am, out of that heart of love and trust will flow obedience because I know of His goodness and faithfulness.

Jesus goes on to immediately talk about the Holy Spirit, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” v. 16-17

It is not a coincidence that Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit immediately after obedience. God gave us the Holy Spirit to help us love Him fully and to empower us to obey His commands. He sent us His spirit so we can act like the free person He already made us to be.

How do we act like a free person? We all have those moments where we are tempted to act like our old self and not like a free person, those moments where we are:
Tempted to sin
Tempted to see ourselves in any other way than how God sees us
Tempted to believe the lies we have bought into and fall back into old patterns
Tempted to take our unhealthy/unhelpful thoughts and run with them

A free person grows to realize the temptation she is experiencing is common to man. She chooses to act as if she were free rather than act as if she is still enslaved to that temptation and has no choice but to give in.

A free person would say to that lie about his identity, “That’s not what Jesus says about me!” A free person would say to that boundary violation, “I will leave the room if you continue to speak to me that way.” A free person would reason, “In the past, my emotions have felt overwhelming, so rather than choose to feel them, I chose to medicate my emotions through food, sex, power, escape. I can make different choices today, knowing that I can experience these emotions and they won’t suffocate me because I can handle anything with the Freedom Giver and other freedom seekers at my side.”

This isn’t just about saying no to sin, though that is an important piece. It’s about saying no to bondage in all its forms and saying yes to throwing off the chains.

We are training to run a new race.
When we were slaves to sin, our body and mind were trained, when faced with temptation, to respond a certain way. We gave in to the negative thoughts, we let our boundaries be trampled on, we believed the lies we’d been told. An athlete needs to discipline himself to train, when it might feel more natural to sit on the couch and watch TV. Similarly, we too need to train and discipline ourselves so that when we are faced with temptation, we, like Joseph in Genesis 39, flee the scene rather than give in to old habits and say yes.

“From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did. That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time―remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!―into God’s way of doing things. Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God.” Romans 6:11-14 (MSG, emphasis mine)

There are a million different reasons why we choose to give in to old behaviors/patterns/choices rather than choosing to act free. It’s not just because it feels good or natural. For many of us, these old ways of responding are all we have ever known. We may have begun self-medicating with various behaviors at a young age because we lacked coping mechanisms to deal with the painful trials in our lives. We wanted to escape uncomfortable feelings. We felt lonely, rejected, or unlovable – so we went out and tried to hook up with someone. We overate. We overspent. We fantasized. The feelings were still there, but we got to avoid them for awhile. We may have felt entitled to the temporary pleasure and relief of sin, telling ourselves, I deserve this. It has simply become a habit. It’s just the way we are, and what we’ve always done.

Except it’s not the way we are anymore! If we are in Christ, we are now slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:18). We have the capacity and ability, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to make different choices.

When we start actively saying no to our old nature and way of doing things, we need to make sure we have our support system in place to help us follow through (back to Freedom Step Two) and to hold us accountable. I heard someone who struggled with same-sex attraction share in his testimony that he would go to his counseling appointments, feel all these overwhelming feelings, and on the way home, he’d hook up with someone. Finally, he contacted a friend and said something to the effect of, “Look, I just need someone to hang out with me for a couple hours after my appointment.” Learning appropriate self-care is part of acting like a free person. Learning to voice your wants and needs is part of choosing to act like a free person. And learning to sit with those uncomfortable feelings, turning them continually over to God, is also part of learning to walk in freedom.

That is Freedom Step Five: Act like a free person.

Next week, I will write about owning your choices.

Monday Morning Meditation: Nearness of God

Good day, my Monday Morning Meditation readers 🙂

Last week, we wrapped up the Psalm 34 series.

Today, I’ll be sharing on Psalm 73:28 (NASB):

But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.

The nearness of God is my good.

Good, an adjective, is also translated as “a good thing, benefit, welfare, prosperity, happiness.”

The word nearness is only used twice in the Old Testament and also means “an approach, a drawing near.” The other occurrence in Isaiah 58:2 gives us a picture of what this drawing near looks like:

“Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways,
As a nation that has done righteousness
And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God.
They ask Me for just decisions,
They delight in the nearness of God.”

What is your good? Your benefit and happiness? And how do we experience the nearness of God?

Besides Isaiah’s instruction above, James also states it plainly, as does the psalmist:

James 4:8a (NASB):: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

Psalm 145:18 (NASB): “The LORD is 1near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.”

What can we do to make the nearness of God our good this week?

Freedom Friday: A Place for Obedience, Part 3

This is a continuation of a post from the last two weeks, A Place for Obedience, part 1 and part 2.

I state in freedom step three (Embrace Grace) that Jesus didn’t just die to modify our behavior. That doesn’t mean that the Bible doesn’t have guidelines for our behavior. Of course it does. Just as a good parent gives their children boundaries to live by, so does God. It would help us to reframe, in our thinking, both why God gives us these guidelines and what should be our motivation for following them.

I’ve shared here that I’m a mother. At the writing of this, I have 2 sons under the age of 5. I tell my children not to touch the hot stove because I don’t want them to experience the pain of being burned. I ask them to hold my hand when they cross the street because I am more aware of the dangers involved than they are, and am able to be more alert and observant of potential harm. I ask them to be kind to their parents, each other and others because they’d like to be treated kindly themselves.

When they do not listen or obey, I do not withdraw my acceptance of them. I do not withhold my love because they make choices contrary to my teachings. Instead, my heart breaks that due to their disobedience, they have now experienced a type of pain I hoped they could avoid. Even though they were disobedient, I still rush in to comfort them in their pain. Later, we talk, outside of the moment, about the cause and effect that was put into action when they disobeyed. We also discuss how they could make different choices next time.

Through all of that, they are still my children, and I would proudly say so, even in their disobedience. God says the same. Do you know that, before Jesus ever accomplished anything noteworthy enough to include in the Bible, God proudly declared, “This is my son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) I say this same of my children. He is my child, whom I love dearly. He is human. He will make mistakes. He will be imperfect, just as I am imperfect. I can model how to forgive, ask for forgiveness, and make different choices in the future.

God does not want to see us harmed. He urges us “to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1, NASB) He reassures us that “whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)

Has obedience become a dirty word in today’s church culture? I can understand the tendency to avoid it. Out of the holiness movement of the 20th century rose much legalism. Lots of rules were enacted to measure “good Christian behavior.” This is similar to what I did in my life. I was trying to “white knuckle” my way to holiness.

The backlash from this has been to more fully embrace grace. Now, it seems behavior is talked about much less. Pastors are afraid to stand in the pulpit and say, “This behavior is not God’s best for your life,” for fear of offending someone.

Where’s the balance? If it’s true that God’s grace empowers us, if it’s true that we are clothed in God’s righteousness, how are we to live?

When I left behind homosexuality in March of 2000, I made a choice. I chose to walk in obedience to what I believed God said in His Word about my sexuality.

Did choosing to obey make me more free? This is a question I have really wrestled with. If Jesus came to set us free through Spirit-empowered living, what part did my choices play in that?

We can ask the question from the opposite angle. If I had chosen instead to continue to walk in disobedience to God, would that have helped me learn to walk in freedom? Certainly not. Romans 6:16 (NLT) says, “Don’t you realize that whatever you choose to obey becomes your master?”

We can choose to obey God not because we are concerned His love for us is conditional. We can choose to obey Him out of a trust that He has our best interest in mind. We can obey because we believe He has good things for us.

When I began to walk in obedience, I obeyed God because I was afraid of His rejection. I thought His feelings were as fickle as mine: that if I made good choices, He loved me and was pleased with me, but if I made bad choices, He was immediately furious and turned His back on me.

That’s not the character of God. God said about Himself to Moses: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:6-7)

That’s the forgiving, loving, patient God I now know and try to love with all that I am. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) I can now obey Him out of a place of love and a deep recognition of all He did to give me life. Jesus showed His love by hanging from a cross. One way to show my love is through obedience.

Jesus also said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15) Depending on your background, when you read that passage, you may hear, If I loved God, I would obey Him perfectly, but because I’m not, I must not love Him. This is what I hear, through the filter of knowing God as patient and kind, If I fully love God with all that I have and all that I am, out of that heart of love and trust will flow obedience because I know of His goodness and faithfulness.

Jesus goes on to immediately talk about the Holy Spirit.

Continued next week….

Monday Morning Meditation: Redemption (Psalm 34 series)

This is part 6 of the Monday Morning Meditation Psalm 34 series. This will be the final post of this series.

Here are verses 19-22.

A righteous man may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.
Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord redeems his servants;
no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.

This section of the psalm begins with another declaration of God’s deliverance, but the context is a bit different when these four verses are looked at together.

Most scholars believe verse 20 is a prophesy concerning Jesus. John 19 describes how the two others being crucified with Jesus had their legs broken. “But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.” Not one of Jesus’ bones was broken, in fulfillment of this prophesy. This is why it is more accurate to say during communion, as Jesus said, “This is my body given for you” (though most pastors say “broken for you”) because not one of Jesus’ bones was broken.

If we look at these 4 verses in the context of this verse speaking of Christ, it sheds a different light.

God will redeems those who follow Him and serve Him. The word translated “redeem” also means “ransom, rescue, deliver.” If we take refuge in Him, as we talked about earlier in the series, we will not be condemned, which also means “to be found guilty or take punishment.” We will not be punished because He has already taken the punishment for us.

Isaiah 53:4-6 (NIV1984) says,

Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

God has ransomed us with His very Son’s life. Isaiah 53:10 says, “it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer.” God so loved us all that it was His will to suffer for us, so that we can find shelter and redemption in God the Father.

If we can see the big picture, despite this world’s troubles, we will be redeemed if we take refuge in Him.

In the end, we win because God wins.

Redemption.

I’ll end this series with the words of Jesus from John 16:33:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Freedom Friday: A Place for Obedience, Part 2

This is a continuation of a post from last week, A Place for Obedience, part 1.

Let me share another analogy. Imagine that a person who has walked with a limp his whole life finds out there is a procedure available to correct that limp. Because he has walked with a limp for so long, his muscles have actually conformed and adjusted to accommodate his limp. He has the procedure but still needs to undergo physical therapy to strengthen his weakened muscles.

He needs to relearn how to walk.

We as believers should not be surprised that we walk with a limp. All of humanity walks with the same limp. Yet, as believers, we have the opportunity to learn to walk in freedom through Christ’s work on the cross and the power of the Holy Spirit.

We can proactively make choices to act like the free person that we already are.

Here is the issue. This is what many of us might think it looks like to act like a free person.

We believe that God wants us to behave better than we are. We know God wants us to do certain things and doesn’t want us to do others. Thus, we gather knowledge, and with that knowledge, we try really hard to behave how we think God wants us to behave.

How does this pattern play itself out in our lives? Say you have a struggle with pornography. You know you shouldn’t view it. In fact, you get even further convicted when, after having an all-night Saturday porn marathon, you go to church on Sunday and the pastor preaches on the dangers of pornography. You go to the altar, you repent as best you know how, you might even ask someone to pray for you with some vague sharing like, “I just feel God speaking to me and need prayer.”

Then you go home and try harder. Maybe you even read some books on why pornography is bad, how the industry treats the workers, how the struggle enslaves a person, and maybe even some tips on overcoming. And you keep trying harder.

Then you likely fall again.

This is basically what I did, as described in Freedom Step Three. I would feel genuinely convicted about something. I would be truly grieved by my sin and exhausted by the insanity the cycle of sin produced in my life. I would gather materials to help me understand the struggles, and I would try and use that knowledge to inspire myself to better behavior.

I had sincere intentions, but I was going about it the wrong way.

How then would a free person act?

A free person actively overcomes life-controlling issues by becoming plugged in to the power source and remaining plugged in.

In doing a search in the New Testament for the word power, I noticed that Luke, in the gospel he wrote, talks about power more than the other three gospels combined. He talks about Jesus doing what He did under the power of the Holy Spirit.

Luke also wrote the book of Acts, often referred to as the Acts of the Apostles, or sometimes even the Acts of the Holy Spirit. In the beginning of the book of Acts, it is recorded that Jesus told the apostles to wait in Jerusalem because “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” (Acts 1:8) Luke had seen this power, the power of the Holy Spirit, up close and had experienced it intimately. He saw its importance. He observed the difference it made in the lives of the disciples, including Peter, who, on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon them in Jerusalem, shared the hope of Jesus Christ with the crowds, and 3,000 people believed and were baptized.

God is meant to be our source of power.

Through His Holy Spirit given to us as believers, we can be empowered to make better choices. Rather, what we often do is take our knowledge and will power and try to make these things our source of power for overcoming our struggles.

Bob Hamp gives this analogy. It’s like taking the ethernet cable (which connects your computer to the internet) and plugging it into the spot for the power cord. We try to take data, the knowledge we have gathered, and use that to fuel us into obedience in hopes that we will derive power from that data.

I quoted 2 Peter 1:3 earlier, that “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” Imagine that we, as believers in Jesus, are like a lamp. That lamp has everything in it that it needs in order to function as it was created to: electrical wires, functioning light bulbs, and a switch to turn it on, but if I do not plug in the lamp to the electrical outlet, it won’t work.

In the Garden of Eden, not only did we become disconnected from our source of life, we became disconnected from our source of power. That power enters back into us when we become believers, as every believer receives the Holy Spirit, but we need to continually reconnect.

That doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit comes and goes completely as it often did in the Old Testament stories, where we read about the Holy Spirit coming upon people so they can prophesy or be empowered for leadership or an event. The Holy Spirit always dwells in believers. Yet Paul commands the Ephesus church to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18) Why would Paul be telling believers to be filled with the Spirit? They already had the Holy Spirit in them. We can gather from the passage, then, that we are implored to “keep being filled.” The passage shows us that the filling of the Spirit is something we need to continually seek and ask for.

We need to continually be reconnected with our power source.

continued next week

Monday Morning Meditation: Close to the Brokenhearted (Psalm 34 series)

This is part 5 of the Monday Morning Meditation Psalm 34 series.

Today’s verses are 15-18.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

I used to read passages like this and think, I need to always do all the right things because, otherwise, God won’t see or hear me. That’s what it means to be righteous.

The reason we need Jesus is because we cannot be righteous on our own.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV1984)

Paul talked about “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” Philippians 3:9 (NIV1984)

He also implored Timothy twice to “pursue righteousness” (among other things) through the power of the Holy Spirit, so righteousness, much like freedom, is something we must learn to walk out.

Now let’s focus on the last verse.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

God is in the business of healing the broken. This is why Jesus, who had no sin, became sin for us, so that we would no longer have to live under the power of sin, and no longer be disconnected from our Source of life and our Creator.

If you are brokenhearted and crushed in spirit today, this verse is a powerful reminder that God is near. He liberates and delivers those who are crushed in spirit. You can cry out to Him; He is close and He will answer.

Freedom Friday: A Place for Obedience, Part 1

I may have shared here that I did the almost-final re-write of my book, Learning to Walk in Freedom. I rewrote entire sections, partially to clarify and partially to add additional information.

I also changed the order of the Freedom Steps:

1. Spend Time with the Freedom Giver
2. Spend Time with Freedom Seekers
3. Embrace Grace
4. Think Like a Free Person
5. Act Like a Free Person

I want to share one of the rewritten sections with you today and in the coming weeks.

The premise of Learning to Walk in Freedom is this: Scripture teaches that freedom is both a one-time gift and a process. The moment we come to Jesus Christ, He gives us freedom through the Holy Spirit, so that we are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:17-18), but that freedom is something we need to learn to walk out in our lives.

The order of the Freedom Steps is very strategic (you can read the series in its original form here).

In the presence of God is where we find out who we were created to be. It’s the place God tells us we were worth knowing, worth loving, and worth creating. It is the space where our identity in Him is concreted.

In the presence of others, we find healing. We confess, we receive prayer, and we find healing. We learn how to love, and we can share some of the practical steps of learning to walk in freedom.

As we learn who God is and who we are, in His presence and the presence of others, we can begin to embrace grace on a deeper level. Grace is not only forgiveness of sins, but it is the power to live as children of God. This is where we continue to learn to rest in God and trust in Him to guide us rather than rules & regulations.

Next, we learn to walk in freedom by thinking like a free person. Since Romans 12:2 says, “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think,” we allow God to renew our minds and transform our thoughts, as described in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. We learn to take every thought captive, and challenge the patterns of thinking that have become so ingrained in us.

Lastly, we act like a free person.

Notice that the title is A Place For Obedience. I added a section on this topic in the midst of Freedom Step 5.

If the word obedience sends shivers down your spine, I pray that you will read this anyway. I will not, at any point, be handing you a list of rules you must adhere to in order to be a good Christian. I have legalism in my background, which is why I did not initially have this section in the book. I decided it’s just too important to leave out.

Please be patience in the weeks to come as I set the foundation that we need in order to accurately address obedience.

Freedom Step 5. Act Like a Free Person
Part of learning to walk in freedom is choosing to act like a free person.

2 Peter 1:3 says that “His [Jesus’] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” (emphasis mine)

The Bible reiterates this point over and over again in verses such as the following:
Galatians 5:24 says that those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh (also called the sinful nature) with its passions and desires. It doesn’t say “are in the process of crucifying the flesh” or “will someday master crucifying the flesh,” but it says it has already been crucified!

Jesus Himself said in John 8:36, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

Galatians 5:13 says that the reason God called us was to be free, not so that we would struggle through life, just barely holding on till heaven.

Romans 6:6 says, “Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.” (NASB) Verse 17 says we used to be slaves to sin, and verse 18 goes on to say that “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”

If this is really true, if, as a believer, I really am a free person, why do I continue to act as if I am still enslaved to sin?

Shouldn’t it be easier, when we are faced with temptation, to just say no and walk away? Why, in Romans 7 directly after writing all these verses about not being a slave to sin, did even Paul talk about his struggle with doing what he didn’t want to do?

If we are already free – end of story – why do we even need the second half of the New Testament?

I shared in the introduction to this booklet how important it is to remember that freedom is both a one-time gift and a process. I also shared a glimpse into my own struggles with learning to walk in freedom. These are not questions I pose lightly. These are difficult questions, and the implications can be life-changing if we answer them accurately.

Let’s start, then, by considering some analogies that might be helpful.

In the circus, a common way to train elephants is to tie them with strong ropes and chains to a sturdy pole. An elephant is tied to the pole when he is very young and quite small. Naturally, he initially fights being tied to the pole, but eventually resigns himself to the fact that he cannot get free.

As the elephant grows, the pole and rope stay the same size. Though the animal has everything in him that he needs to break free, he stills acts as if he is in bondage to this pole and rope. The elephant is so used to being enslaved to the pole that he never takes the time to try and see if he could get free.

We believers often act the same way. We are so used to responding in a certain manner that we don’t realize we can make different choices.

We can act like a free person.

(I will continue this series next week.)