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
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
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
[By JIM KILLEBREW]
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