Freedom Fridays: Act Like a Free Person, Part 2

Freedom Fridays: Act Like a Free Person, Part 1

Recap: we as believers should not be surprised when we fall into old habits and patterns. That’s why I call it “learning to walk in freedom”. We need to proactively make choices to act like a free person.

Acting like a free person means in those “moments of maybe”, as a former pastor called them, those moments where we are tempted:
Tempted to sin
Tempted to see ourselves in any other way than how God sees us
Tempted to believe the lies and fall back into old patterns, tempted to take our unhealthy/unhelpful thoughts and run with them

In those moments, we choose to act like a free person.

A free person would realize the temptation she is experiencing is common to man. That person would choose to act as if she were free rather than act as if she is still enslaved to that temptation and has to give in.

A free person would say to that dark thought, “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 say, “In the past, my emotions have felt overwhelming, so rather than choose to feel them, I choose 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 kill me because I can handle anything with the Freedom Giver and other Freedom Seekers at my side.”

So you see this isn’t just about saying no to sin. It’s about saying no to bondage in all its forms and saying yes to throwing off the chains.

Don’t forget it’s a process. We’re back to the analogy of training, running a race. When we were slaves to sin, our body and mind was trained that, when faced with temptation, we sin, we give in to the negative thoughts, we let our boundaries be trampled on. So like an athlete needs to discipline himself or herself to train, whereas it feels much more natural to sit on the couch and watch TV, we too need to train and discipline ourselves so that when we are faced with temptation, we, like Joseph when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him as told in Genesis 39, flee the scene rather than give in to old habits and say yes.

We read this in Romans 6: “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.”

There are a million different reasons why we choose to old behaviors/patterns/choices rather than choosing to act free. It’s not just because it feels good or natural. We sin because we have emotions, feelings & experiences that we have trouble dealing with. We sin because we lack coping mechanisms. We sin to avoid uncomfortable feelings. We feel lonely, we feel rejected,, we feel unlovable – so we go out & try to hook up with someone. The feelings are still there, but we get to escape them for awhile. We sin – because we’re used to the chaos.

So when we start taking a risk & saying no to our old nature, these feelings will come up & we need to make sure we have a support system in place to deal with them. 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, “Look, I just need someone to hang out with me for a couple hours after my appointment.” We need to learn appropriate self-care.

Next week we’ll find out the freedom step that makes it easier to say no to the old nature.

Did My Sin Cause My Issues? Christian Counseling Snafus

I recently got into a discussion about why I don’t recommend a certain local Christian counseling center.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m a huge advocate of Christian counseling. You can read about that here, here & here. I explain in those testimonies how the 3 years of Christian counseling I sought (after having gone through close to a decade of secular counseling) were life-changing to me.

But I’ve also heard some horror stories of how poorly handled Christian counseling can scar people.

A few years ago, I heard from a friend who went to the above-mentioneds local Christian counseling center. She is someone I know fairly well who is relatively well-adjusted, but went through a challenging time and sought out some counseling. The counselor’s philosophy seemed to be that all of your issues are related to your own sin.

I can’t help but think of the man born blind who was described in the Gospel according to John, chapter 9. The basics of the story were that Jesus was walking along and he ran into a blind man. The disciples wanted to know whose sin caused this man to be blind. The guy’s sin? Maybe his parents?

Jesus’ reply? “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Yet after the man is healed, people keep badgering him. How did this happen? Why did it happen? Who did it & where did He go? Finally the former blind man answered, “Listen, this what I know; I was blind, but now I can see!” You really need to read all of John 9 to get the fullness of this amazing story.

Like Jesus said: “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

What an awesome answer that is! And how particularly relevant it is to those dealing with life-controlling issues. We often dig and dig and dig into our lives and the lives of our family-of-origin to figure out why we are dealing with what we are dealing with. What if it’s simply so God can be glorified? That’s one reason a simple “your sin caused your issues” message is harmful and often wrong theologically.

There’s another reason. Our sinful choices often flow out of a deficit or brokenness in our hearts.

An old friend used to say sin is an attempt to meet a legitimate need in an illegitimate way. Though usually not consciously, we sometimes decide to take our needs into our own hands and meet them as we see fit. We think, “God isn’t going to meet this need, so I’m going to have to meet it myself.” We misunderstand or don’t know the fullness of who we are in Christ and who God truly is. Thus, we make broken choices out of our broken understanding.

Yes, sometimes, even as believers, we sin as an act of rebellion, but I actually think that’s pretty rare. I was making a conscious decision to rebel against God’s best for me when I entered into my last lesbian relationship. But underneath that rebellion was a broken child crying out to her heavenly father, “Are you really enough for me? Can I leave behind everything I’ve known and built my life upon for the unknown that is a relationship with You?” My girlfriend dumped me, and I decided to painstakingly, one-step-at-a-time, choose to trust God.

That’s why I think a simple “your sin caused your issues” message from a Christian counselor (or anyone) is harmful. It’s a total oversimplification. Maybe God wants to be glorified (actually, is there even a question there?). Maybe God wants us to choose to heal our brokenness rather than choose to act out of our brokenness (again, not really a “maybe”).

Check out some suggestions on how to find healing over at Freedom Fridays.