Freedom Friday: Jordan River Assignments

Guess who arrived October 8th?

Baby girl at 1 month old

Baby girl at 1 month old

She’s actually 7 weeks old. We’re doing great! She’s a healthy little girl who is most comfortable in her mommy’s arms, so blogging time is extremely limited!

That said, I wanted to share about a moment a couple of weekends ago. I went to speak and exhibit at the district Assemblies of God Women’s Retreat (yes, with a 5 week old – I should have my head examined). I was sharing something with a woman named Michelle at the booth next to me, something I noticed about the story of Joshua stepping into the Jordan River. This story has been such a central theme of recent years, I shared, that my daughter’s middle name is Jordan.

At that moment, a friend joined the conversation. She jokingly referred to my daughter as “Jordan River Simonds.” Michelle misheard my friend as saying, “Jordan River Assignments.” Wow, did that get my wheels turning!

Joshua’s Jordan River Assignment began with camping next to a flooded river for 3 days – a river he knew he needed to cross in order to reach the Promised Land. Many believe that Joshua 1:11 implies this was based on a directive from God. The 2nd part of his assignment was to have the priests step into that flooded river and trust that God would provide a way where there was no way.

While the actual assignment for the Israelites was to cross the Jordan, the heart behind the assignment was a command to trust God and to not be afraid. This is why God’s first directive to Joshua was to be strong and courageous (said here and here).

When facing the Jordan, the Israelites could have easily concluded, based on God’s history of parting bodies of water, “But doesn’t God want us to walk on dry land?”

They could have determined that the way God behaves = the way He behaved when He parted the Red Sea rather than determining to believe the truth about God: that in the midst of His call to be strong and courageous, He will carry us through whatever He calls us to.

We all have Jordan River Assignments – things that seem impossible for us. I wrote about this a few years ago. But God truly is able.

Sometimes God’s assignment for us is to let us camp on the riverbank at flood stage.

Perhaps you are camped on the riverbank of an assignment that seems impossible for you. You feel the spray of every obstacle as it splashes against your face.

God is calling you today to look beyond the overflowing river that is before you and to see the Promised Land. All that stands between you and the fullness of all God has for you is a few Jordan River Assignments.

Freedom Friday: The Power of God’s Will

For it’s only in Your will that I am free*

Do you ever think about the Garden of Gethsemane? With Good Friday coming up, I’ve been thinking a lot about the words Jesus said as He prayed one of His final prayers here on earth.

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”**

Prior to this prayer, Jesus asked all the disciples to sit in Gethsemane while He took Peter, James and John further into the garden to pray. He stated, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

After uttering His first prayer of submitting to God’s will, He walked back and found His three closest friends – asleep.

“He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.'”

***********

I first heard the song “Jesus, All for Jesus” at a women’s conference. I was struck by its simplicity and depth and challenged by the lyrics.

But I find myself singing one line over and over as Good Friday approaches:

For it’s only in Your will that I am free

The only place we are truly free is in the center of God’s will. This was true for Jesus, too.

But how can horrific suffering that ended with death on the cross be freedom?

Isaiah records in a section of Scripture that prophesies of Jesus’ coming and is often referred to as “The Suffering Servant” that “it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer.”

The cross was God’s will for Jesus.

The first time I saw the above verse, I didn’t know how to respond – because I knew the implications. It was the fulfillment of God’s perfect will that Jesus die on that cross – for me and for you. It was the only way for us to be reconciled to God (Romans 5:10). And not a quick, easy death (because God could have done that), but one that involved being crushed and suffering immensely.

Jesus knew that there is no life apart from God’s will.  And so He surrendered to the will of His Father.

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:8-11

For the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2).

For our freedom (Galatians 5:1).

And for His glory (Philippians 2:11).

Jesus, All for Jesus
Jesus, all for Jesus
All I am and have and ever hope to be
Jesus, all for Jesus
All I am and have and ever hope to be

All of my ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender these into Your hands
All of my ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender these into Your hands

For it’s only in Your will that I am free
For it’s only in Your will that I am free

Jesus, all for Jesus
All I am and have and ever hope to be*

*Song lyrics are from Jesus All For Jesus (Featuring Robin Mark).

**The story of the Garden Gethsemane, as quoted above, is found in Matthew 26.

Freedom Friday: A Lesson in Priorities

I’ve been re-reading Joshua for my next book project (details later!). Reading at least a chapter a day of Scripture really has helped me keep the events in perspective as they relate to one another.

Chapters 7-8 is a slightly painful section of Joshua. After several stories of victory and radical obedience on the way to the Promised Land, Israel loses its battle with Ai. You can read the story here.

Here are some lessons we can gather from the story.

Ask God, Why?
Joshua immediately goes before the Lord. He tears his clothes, falls facedown, and begs God to answer his cries and pardon him.

Often times, we are told that good Christians don’t question God. Just accept His sovereignty and whatever He sends your way. While that can be very good advice at times, there is also wisdom in reminding God of His promises (I’ve blogged about this in one of my most popular posts) and finding out where you might have gone wrong.

James wrote, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking (1:5, NLT).” If you need understanding about a situation in your life, ask for it. If God doesn’t give you insight, then trust Him to guide you through.

Don’t settle.
Joshua does go immediately before the Lord, but his prayer is eye-opening. Rather than simply asking God, What happened? he says, in essence, Why did we ever cross the Jordan? This whole “getting into the Promised Land” is too hard! Why didn’t we just accept “good enough”?

Joshua, a man of great faith, was settling. He was falling into “wilderness mentality.”

Joshua likely spent decades in the wilderness. His traveling companions weren’t exactly pillars of confidence. If only we never left Egypt! they cried. Egypt was good enough!

Joshua was so happy to be out of slavery and out of the wilderness that he thought maybe the Israelites should have permanently made camp on the other side of the Jordan. It was, after all, “good enough.”

But it wasn’t God’s perfect plan.

So how did God reply to Joshua in this situation? Verse 10 records, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?”

This isn’t what I have for you, Joshua. Get up, and I’ll show you my best.

We must choose not to settle for what appears to be good. As a pastor of mine says, “The good is often the enemy of God’s best.”

Give God your best first.
In chapter 6, Joshua is clear in his directions to the Israelites as they prepare to circle Jericho: “Don’t keep any of the devoted things.” Achan disobeys and hides some things under his tent.

What made this account extra sad in my recent reading is that in the following chapter, when Israelites attack Ai again, God allows the Israelites to “carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves.”

Why would God do this? Why couldn’t they just take plunder from Jericho? Was it just an arbitrary lesson in obedience?

As I shared in this post, one of God’s main directives to the Israelites as they prepared to leave the wilderness behind was that they continue to walk in obedience to His commandments. They would not be successful in the Promised Land if they did not choose to obey whatever God required of them.

That said, I heard someone say recently that this is an example of the firstfruits principles. God wants our best first. He wants our offering (tithe) first. It can’t be an afterthought to be a worthy offering. Thus, God wanted the plunder from Jericho to first be an offering to Him. He was asking the Israelites to trust that they would receive their own blessings in due time.

God wants our best, and He wants to give us His best. He wants us to align our priorities with His priorities. We need to ask, we can’t settle, and we must give God our best.

Monday Morning Meditation: Positioned to Receive

Imagine you are watching the Superbowl.

The ball is about to be kicked for the first time. Everyone is all set to go. The kicker’s foot makes contact with the ball, and all eyes move in the direction of the offense – only to watch them all walk off the field. The ball hits the ground and bounces several times before rolling to a stop.

No one was positioned to receive the ball.

You’ve likely never seen this happen in a football game. You’ve probably seen people not quite be in the exact spot they needed to be in order to catch the ball, but the majority of the time, the players are on the field, ready, waiting with expectation for an opportunity to receive the ball from the kicker and take off, running.

I was listening to a speaker at church several weeks ago talk about our inheritance in Christ, and he asked us a pointed question: “Are you positioned to receive?”

I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

What does it mean to be positioned to receive from God?

Being positioned to receive begins on our knees. This is our starting position, our kick-off stance. It begins in prayer, creating the time and space to have a conversation with Him. Too often we come to prayer simply to download our list of needs and wants to Him. We also need to come to prayer to listen, to hear, and to learn.

“Listen to my words, Lord,
consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.” Psalm 5:1-2

Being positioned to receive happens in the Word. A football player cannot play the game without some knowledge of the playbook. Being positioned to receive in Christ begins with knowing who God is and who He says we are throughout the Bible. In our reading, we ask the Holy Spirit to help us be ready to respond, to guide us into all truth, to illuminate the Word for us, and to change us through our reading.

“I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I have put my hope in your word.
My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.” Psalm 119:147-148

Being positioned to receive continues with an open heart. A football player must be open to whatever might happen on the field and be prepared to respond immediately. A truly open heart waits with expectation, doing what God has said to do with a readiness to respond to whatever new thing He might desire from us.

“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” Psalm 5:3

Are you positioned to receive today? Have you started the day in prayer and in the Word, with an open heart, ready to follow where God may lead?

“Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.” Psalm 5:12

Monday Morning Meditation: Friendship with God (Psalm 25 Series)

Here is today’s passage in the Psalm 25 series (v. 12-14):

Who, then, is the man that fears the Lord?
He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.
He will spend his days in prosperity,
and his descendants will inherit the land.
The Lord confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.

What is fear of the Lord? We addressed this a bit in the Psalm 34 series. One commentator on Psalm 25 says fear of the Lord is “an attitude of reverence and awe toward God, which is transformed into an appropriate manner of living.” This goes hand in hand with the ESV’s translation of verse 14:

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.

To those who approach God with an attitude of reference and awe, He extends His friendship, his “secret counsel,” as a footnote says “friendship” can also be translated. According to the Hebrew, that word can also be translated “confidential talk.”

What an encouragement to get close to the Lord!

Lord Jesus, empower us to draw close to You today. Help to revere You by living lives of awe and obedience. Teach us in the way we should go, as the psalmist prayed earlier in Psalm 25, “for You are God my Savior and my hope is in You all day long.” Thank You, Lord.

Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1–50. Vol. 19 of Word Biblical Commentary Accordance/Thomas Nelson electronic ed. (Waco: Word Books, 1983) 221.

Freedom Friday: God’s Response to Ingratitude

I recently wrote this prayer:
You are good. You are faithful. You are showing Yourself to be so.

And yet, I mope. I don’t want to be in a position where I need to rely on You so heavily. Youch, can’t believe I just said that. It shows me the reality that I have been doing things in my own strength for quite some time, and it’s been working well for me.

Now that I’m again in a position where I can’t control much of what is happening and how it happens, I’m grumbling. Even when I see Your miraculous hand of provision, I withhold my gratitude because I’m a bitter, ungrateful child who wants more than manna from heaven.

Lord, forgive me. And more importantly, change me. I do want to be like Jesus. I really do. I want to exemplify His character. Yet what I’m finding in myself are some very dark places. Extreme selfishness. Pride. Self-righteousness. Just ugliness.

I’m so thankful I’m not in charge of fixing these things.

Strong feelings. Difficult to admit.
I’m not the first person to have struggled with these things.

We read in 1 Kings 18 that Elijah had just defeated all the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. He ran in the supernatural power of the Lord to Jezreel, where he heard that Jezebel was going to have him killed.

“And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life.” 1 Kings 19:3 (NASB)

He left his servant in Beersheba and ran into the wilderness, where he “came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.'”

Have you ever said anything like that?

God, enough already! It would just be easier for you to take me up to heaven right now! Then I wouldn’t have to deal with this pain.

A Juniper tree, from Wikipedia

While Elijah was sleeping under that juniper tree, God came.

“Behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, ‘Arise, eat.’ Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, ‘Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.’ So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.”

No rebuke, no harsh words, no reminders of how clearly God had shown Himself strong just days ago. No.

God reponded with compassion and tender care. He could have sent a bird to feed Elijah, as He had done before. Rather, He sent an angel, to touch Elijah, to be physically present when he felt desperately alone.
God let Elijah take a nap and then said, “Arise, eat.” More rest came and then a second time, “Arise, eat.”
After this supernatural provision, what did Elijah do once he arrived at the mountain of God?

He took up residence in a cave.

Yet still, no rebuke came. Instead, God’s gentle voice asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

God asks, Why are you hiding in this cave?

Elijah replies, “ I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
Everybody’s trying to kill me, God! I’ve served You when no one else would, I’ve loved You when everyone’s trying to destroy You, and this is the thanks I get!

So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave.

It took God’s gentle voice to draw Elijah out of that cave. God’s command to go wasn’t enough. Powerful wind wasn’t enough. Earthquake and fire weren’t either. But the sound of gentle blowing (another translation says “a gentle whisper”) drew Elijah of his complacency and self-pity.

“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” Romans 2:4
God then asks again:

“What are you doing here, Elijah?” Then he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”

Elijah emerges from the cave, possibly slightly more open to God’s leading, but still asking the same painful questions. If you continue to read 1 Kings 19, this is the point where God calls Elisha to succeed Elijah as prophet. Elijah no longer has to feel alone.

Ingratitude runs deep in the hearts of man.
Why is it easy for us to rely on God for one thing, and praise Him when He shows Himself strong, and yet in other things, we are angered we are in a particular position and annoyed and pouty when He still shows Himself faithful?
God, forgive me for taking lightly the riches of Your kindness, Your tolerance and patience with me when I take for granted Your provision, as if You somehow owe me. I give You my life again in gratitude for all that You are and all that I’m not.

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….

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

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.)