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Freedom and independence

Part 2

By Jim Killebrew

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[April 12, 2014]  In Part 1 of this article we learned that when we accept Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, who gave Himself as a ransom by willingly presenting Himself as a sacrifice and giving His life to purchase back the freedom of directly relating to God the Father, we have yielded ourselves to Him and therefore have been bought back with a price of His blood. But when Jesus talked about yielding ourselves, becoming a servant, even a slave to God so that we can grow in our knowledge through the work of His Holy Spirit unto holiness that allows God to work through us, we sometimes have a bit of revulsion to the idea of being a slave or servant to anybody. We maintain that we are "free" and are independent by our very nature.

Freedom has a different meaning to those who live in the parts of the world that allow people to exercise personal freedoms. In America we are proud that we live under the Constitution of the United States. Likewise, in other Western democracies the people are proud of the fact that they live under freedom where the government derives its power and authority from the people through some kind of elective process. Through all the hard work of fighting the wars against tyranny, establishing ourselves as a people of laws and declaring ourselves as living under a freedom by democracy, we claim independence and will fight to maintain that freedom.

When we read about Jesus wanting us to submit ourselves to Him, or become a slave to God, our John Wayne instincts of rugged individualism rear up, leaving us in a "fight or flight" mode to either fight the one who suggested submission, or run away from the idea entirely. Even in our marriage vows that once held words that suggested obedience and submission, there have been changes to more words that suggest tolerance and less permanence of the state of matrimony.

We are a culture that "raises ourselves by our own bootstraps" and have "independently" tamed those pesky hindrances that "saddle" us with loads that increase dependency on others. Throughout the world, not just the Western world, the "maleness" of our species projects us to "territorial" markings that propel us to defensive positions when stranger encroachment is eminent. And the truth of it is ... we love it.

We love the dueling that protects our favorite positions on issues; we love to be right more than being wrong. We love our routines and our excitement. We love moving throughout the states without passports and visiting cities that look alike. Our favorite cup of coffee can be purchased at the fast-food store from Vermont to New Mexico. We have permanence and stability; we know our rights and will fight for them. We are satisfied when we win and disappointed when we lose.

Yes, we have our ups and downs; we live high sometimes and have to tighten the belt on occasion. The market goes up or comes down, but we love the free market and the capitalism that stands behind it. We have our issues that are met with conservatives and progressives; but in the end we fall asleep at night feeling contented that we live in a time and place that affords us so many choices of variety that we have assured ourselves that we are truly blessed. But sometimes I wonder if Jesus looks over our lives as He looked over Jerusalem and turns away and weeps at what He sees.

I wonder if Satan isn't using a tool of prosperity and ease the same as he used the great lie with Eve and Adam in the garden. We are in a garden of sorts; across our land we have great houses of worship from High Church to Pentecostal. We have been lured into thinking we have a choice when it comes to our religion, whatever its flavor. We can "go to church" anywhere we want to, visit anyone we desire, and then live as we please most any time we want. A mosque on one corner, a temple across the street, a Baptist house of worship next door and a spiraling, massive cathedral for Catholics to have Mass. We have it all, and by gosh, by golly, we built it all for ourselves and delivered to ourselves our own independence.

Now enters Jesus, telling us we need to look closely at our politics, economy, education, religion, career, job, security, our very freedom and independence, and turn to Him in submission as a bondservant. During Roman times, independence for Jesus and His fellows in Nazareth was nonexistent: They were captives as an occupied nation. They had no democracy; no freedom. If a Roman soldier demanded a common, ordinary person who was not a Roman citizen to carry their battle gear, the person was required by law to carry it for a mile. People hated that so much that they laid stones along the road one mile apart: mile stones. Jesus preached about different rules.

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Jesus said don't carry the soldier's gear for just one mile, carry it two. If someone asks for your inner coat, give them your outer coat as well. These people who occupy your land and persecute you should be prayed for; they may be your enemies, but you need to pray for them as well. His was a radical message then and still is today.

The people in Jerusalem, Judea and the world over at that time were without the outward freedom. They were enslaved by a strong nation that became even harsher as time passed. History records that the Roman soldiers would tie people to stakes, or crosses, and dip them in pitch to light them on fire to serve as lights during the night. There was no outward independence or freedom to make the choices that come with independence. But the independence they were being offered by Jesus was an internal independence, an independence that was rooted in the heart.

Ours is an external independence. We have it all: an independence that is guaranteed by the laws of our land. I believe that it is much more difficult for us to yield to the calling of Jesus to be His bondservant now than it was then. Our freedom and independence has become a millstone around our neck. It weighs heavily on us because we believe that to accept a position of being a bondservant for Jesus is to abdicate our external freedom and independence. There is one thing we are failing to understand.

When we yield ourselves to Jesus, accept Him as our Lord and Savior, are buried with Him into baptism, we are made free in Him. We are given salvation in Him because of the work He did on the cross once and for all, and have died to sin and have been made alive in the law of life and righteousness by His shedding His own blood. He doesn't just "repair" us or "fix" us as the old self with a new coat of paint; He makes us a new creation and breathes into us his Holy Spirit Who has the power to grow us in that new creation as we keep our focus on Jesus and what He has done through His sacrifice and having redeemed us.

As we submit ourselves to Him, we still live in America, we still have freedoms externally and are protected by the laws of the land, but now, with the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit, we are sanctified, which is just a fancy word for "growing toward God's righteousness and holiness." The difference is we are not "independently" doing anything on our own; we are now operating under the power and strength of the Holy Spirit Who lives within us. This gives us the internal freedom that God offered then, and now. As we continue to yield ourselves to Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit continues to work in and through us to grow us toward our dependency on Him.

When we submit to Jesus, we no longer want to "pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps," but we want to live in the power of the Holy Spirit as He lives in us and makes us a new creation to grow in Christ. Our focus shifts from our narcissistic selves of operating under our own power to that of yielding to Jesus, Who sends the Holy Spirit, Who offers the power to work through us to accomplish His work of growing us and pointing others to Jesus through us. This is accomplished not as a result of our own independence, but the power of the Holy Spirit working through us and letting all the glory flow to God.


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