Monday, July 30, 2012

Dead's Dead, Baby

FREEDOM:  No More Bondage
In both Old and New Testaments, freedom refers to liberation from slavery, whether in a socio-political sense (see Joseph's imprisonment, Genesis 39:20-23), a spiritual sense (Galatians 4:21-5:15), or with regard to our mortality (Hebrews 2:15).
     Given this context, our freedom - whether political or spiritual - depends on God's initiative (Micah 6:4; Romans 8:2).  When Adam and Eve sinned, God came to them (Genesis 3:8) with the promise of freedom from sin's curse (Genesis 3:15).
     This promise was fulfilled when God sent His Son to be the Way to eternal freedom (Luke 4:18, 19).  We do not have to be slaves of sin (John 8:34), for the Truth (that is, Christ) can make us free if we will accept the price of deliverance (John 8:31, 32).  Paradoxically we are freed from sin's bondage for a purpose:  to become "slaves of God" (Romans 6:22).  We are free from the judgment of ourselves and others (Romans 5:9) and, at the same time, free for service to Him and others (Galatians 5:13, 14).  Ultimate freedom, that is, being ransomed from the slavery of sin, is vital to any understanding of redemption through the blood of Christ (Romans 6:15-23). 1

From as early as I can remember, I was raised up to call myself a Christian.  I was taught it ~ right along with my gender, race, nationality, etc., but it was in my early teens that I met Jesus for myself, and so began my personal relationship with Him.  It was peachy for a bit.

By my early twenties, life was anything but peachy and I'd become quite cynical of most everything within my sphere.  How I got to that is for other pages.  Suffice it to say, there was no shortage of encouragement to go astray.  Or, I should say, further astray. 

Chief among my sources was an author to whom I took a particular liking and who I will characterize as "liberal hippy rebel enchanter."  He shall remain otherwise unnamed.  I read - and was changed by - everything he wrote.  But there was this one book that seemed to climax in this profound sort of postulation, the essence of which was along these lines:

"If God really loves us so much, why enslave us?  If our end is either to serve Him forevermore or to burn in hell forevermore, no true freedom is to be found."

I cringe even to write that out now, but back then I bought it ~ hook, line, and sinker.

I never said, "I am an atheist," or "I hate God," (again, cringing) but I did decide to stop having a relationship with Him.  I chose to stop considering Him at all.

Years passed and here I will just point to Why I Believe In God.  One of the very first and deepest revelations that I had in those early returning days was that I had become very much a slave to my own destructive ways. 

These were, after all, the days when, just before, I'd been going to a different store every day to buy my 12-pack so that no one person would realize how much I drank.  These were the days when I would stumble to bed every night swearing that it was my last to do so - but knowing by 10 o'clock the next morning that I had to have a beer.  These were the days that I was afraid for most of my waking hours - consumed by the fear that I wouldn't be able to quit drinking.

I had the typical, accompanying lifestyle.  I smoked cigarettes, wasted money, neglected my kids - just to hit the highlights.  Any may call it what they like ... but I was living a deeply sinful lifestyle ... and I was under its rulership.

Now, I am no sage or learned scholar.  I read the Bible and I read the commentaries and the blogs and I listen to the messages about the meanings.  But what I am doing here with this space is telling you about my personal experience and I must do it with my own words.  God knows I pray to tell you rightly about the ways that God's grace and freedom work.

So here's what I've come to understand...

"God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8 (NIV)

Acknowledgement of that truth is the fundamental, elemental start of it, this liberation from the life which leads to death.

"When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.   What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." Romans 6:20-22

"Set free from sin..."  This part, or the nuances of this part, to be quite frank, I continue to ponder.  If you know me or have read previous posts, then you know that my struggles didn't end with the drinking.  (see Live Free or Die.)  There's still much that I don't understand about my own human nature.  There's infinitely as much that I still don't comprehend about God. 

But I'm thinking on it.  And I can do so with a sense of peace and security because, "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,  because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1-2 (NIV)

If freed from sin, then slaves to God.  But if slaves to sin, then freed from what?  To put it as simply as possible, every one of us will serve a master and we're free to choose which it will be.  The choice we make determines whether or not our freedom is everlasting.

1 The Woman's Study Bible, (Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1995), page 1440

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