“Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” Galatians 5:1, MSG
On November 17th, 2018, our pastor preached a powerful message and I have been living in its truth and power ever since. I encourage you to listen to this sermon for more context (https://youtu.be/0LiSkci4mUo), but the power of this message sent me on a journey of profound breakthrough. The Holy Spirit’s power of revelation opened my eyes to the truth that a surrendered life brings more freedom than a life of fighting for control. The fight to control my life, to make life work for me, has been the harness of slavery I have worn for far too long.
Three questions came to my mind from this key verse the message was built upon: How has Christ set us free to live a free life? Why do we need to take a stand? How can we never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on us?
How as Christ set us free to live a free life? Christ can only set us free if we choose to allow him. We must surrender by asking him to set us free. Freedom starts only through relationship with Christ. There is no way around it. Becoming a Christian starts with surrender; your sin, your life, your will, and your soul in exchange for freedom and eternal life. Why then do we tend to stop surrendering when our entire Christian journey began with an act of surrender? Because our experiences in life, our wounds, pain, other people’s sin toward us, our own sin, and the lies of the enemy cause us to doubt the heart of God, his goodness, his trueness, and his love for us, so in return we take back control.
One of the key points our pastor made in his sermon was “Be careful what you surrender for things of convenience.” This simple but profound point is accurate and relevant to our behavior in today’s society. Everything in modern society is driving us toward convenience in order to achieve comfort. It’s been going on for nearly two hundred years since the Industrial Revolution began in the 1830s.
Think of all the modern “conveniences” we have in America: cars, smart phones, instant access to information, air-Conditioning/heating, online banking, indoor plumbing, voice responsive devices, same day delivery, drive-thrus, fast-food, 24 hour news cycle, airplanes, the internet, temper-pedic mattresses, smart homes, self-driving vacuums and lawn mowers. I could go on and on, but what are we giving up? Self-reliance and freedom in some ways. We are daily giving away our freedom in exchange for control and comfort. I am writing this blog post on a laptop while sitting in my recliner in a heated home listening to the Chiefs game, and yes I am very comfortable. We hardly have to think about our wants. We just click or speak a voice command and we have what we want. We have in many ways become slaves to modernity. We have become enslaved to convenience in order to control our lives so that life is more convenient. It is a circular cycle of giving away freedom for convenience. And I am afraid we have done the same with our spiritual life. I know I have many, many times.
I am not saying these things are inherently bad in and of themselves, but I am saying we have transferred those expectations to God and we are forsaking the truth that God is a God of process. When we don’t involve him intimately in our daily lives through daily conversational intimacy with him, instead we are striving to make life work for us through convenience because he’s not moving fast enough. The surrendered life is the inverse. We must surrender to him and wait on him in order to live more free. Why have I missed this truth for so long??? I believe it has been because I have lived under a self-imposed tyranny through a terrible misunderstanding of the theological doctrine of pre-destination. Thank you Jesus that our pastor cleared up my misunderstanding!!
The best explanation our pastor gave for the doctrine of “pre-destination” I have ever heard is as follows: “Pre-destination is NOT pre-determined or pre-decided; instead pre-destination is God’s foreknowledge. God knows everything already because he is not bound by time. He sees all of human history outside of time, therefore as far as God is concerned, all of human history has already happened.” I am asking you to take a moment and let that marinate in your mind and penetrate your heart. Having this category of understanding take root in your heart will change everything. God already knows what has happened and what will happen, but he does not determine our choices, in fact he cannot determine our choices. You can now step out of the fatalistic view that your life is already scripted, that you have no choice in the matter, that you should just throw your hands up in the air and check out of life because everything has already been decided. This mindset is called fatalism and my friends this mindset is not only dangerous, but it is a harness of slavery. There is not a drop of freedom in that way of thinking, none, zero, nada. Let’s step out of that mindset together and start walking on the path of freedom through surrender.
The next point our pastor made will give you hope beyond hope and truth beyond truth: “Everything that happens to you in life is NOT always what God wanted to happen.” Wait, what? How can that be? How is this possible? The answer is love my friends. This is the most important character trait of God, that he is love. Because he loves us, he gave us free will, the freedom of choice. He had to:
“7 My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. 8 The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love-so you can’t know him if you don’t love. 9 This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. 10 This is the kind of love we are talking about-not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.” 1 John 4:7-10, MSG
In order for freedom to even be possible, free will/freedom to choose must exist. Why?? Because God is love and God’s love always gives the freedom to choose. Secondary, but just as important and interwoven into his character is that God cannot lie. God is incapable of lying. Follow me here; if God is love, and he is, and if God cannot lie, and he can’t, then God would be both unloving and a liar if he did not give us the free will to not choose him; otherwise we would be robots, living and waiting for his every command for what to do next. We would have no say. Therefore, God would be interfering with our choices and controlling us, and in doing so he would not be love, so that is why things happen to us in life that he never intended, because he gave us the choice to sin, to choose to do evil, and go our own way. Ironically, by giving us this choice we can actually understand his goodness and his love because we have a contrasted understanding of what love and goodness is not, which is personified in the evil we see in this world and the evil that has been done to us. Thank goodness it is impossible for God to lie or not be love.
The good news is that by living surrendered and asking him what we should do or where we should go each day brings us into partnership with him and his will. We are playing our part in the larger story of life by choosing to allow his will to take precedence over ours. Otherwise, if we live striving to control life, we are forsaking his better judgment and desire for us. Why? Because our will is not his will and his will is not ours. His ways are higher than ours. The more we offer ourselves to him, the more he will guide us to do what he wants which will always be better than what we want, always. Make no mistake in your understanding though, we can always choose to reject his will. Ultimately though, by surrendering to his will we are more free than not because we will be operating at the highest and fullest capacity of love possible. By choosing our own will we are actually choosing the harness of slavery rather than the life of freedom. The simple truth is we are the most free by choosing to surrender!!
Why do we need to take a stand? We have an enemy!! You have an enemy!! “8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9 Stand firm against him and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.” 1 Peter 5:8-9, NLT
The enemy takes advantage of our freedom, tries to steal it, and bring us back into bondage. He uses temptation and tries to seduce us back into the flesh through the world. He is always trying to show us that God is not love and we are not free to choose. How does he do this? He uses religion, rigid doctrine, and he twists the Gospel into a false gospel of fatalism or works. He tells us the lie that life is already decided, everything that happens to us is from God, and everything bad that happens in life was meant to be, so it must have been from God. Friends, that is a lie from the pit of hell. We always have a choice to receive this freedom, to live in it, to surrender to it, to allow God to love us, and to listen to his voice. It is true however, we also have the freedom to not receive, to not believe, to live pridefully with hard hearts, to not let God in, to never surrender, and to ignore his voice. The scriptures are full of people who chose not to listen, to go their own way, to defy God’s commands, and wholeheartedly reject him and his love. Read their stories and see how things turned out for them. Even God’s very best, Moses, King Saul, and King David, to name a few, all chose their own way at times. They never lost God’s love for them, but God did not spare them from the consequences of their choices when instead of surrendering to freedom they chose to go their own way.
It is never God’s desire to choose for us. In his love he has chosen us, but he just doesn’t choose for us. He always loves, he can’t not love. He does not have the ability to not love. The decisions of our lives are always up to us. It is always up to us to choose him and take our stand against the enemy in the power of Christ!! We must choose to stand firm.
Because mankind chose the harness of slavery from the very beginning through Adam and Eve’s sin, from the second we were born we were guilty of not choosing freedom: “8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8, NASB.
God has always been innocent and yet he made a way for us to find freedom: “23 Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners…and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, 24 God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.” Romans 3:23-24, MSG.
Because of God’s love, he provided a personal and individual way for us to choose a life of freedom, but choose we must and act we must: “9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved… 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10: 9-10, 13, ESV
He has done his part, have you?
How can we never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on us? If we confess God made a way through Jesus, we believe he made a way, and we call on the name of Jesus to save us then he will say Yes to us and no one will ever be able to put the harness of slavery on us again!! His answer to a surrendered heart will always be yes!! The freedom to surrender is ours. Freedom has always belonged to us, the freedom to choose to say yes to God through Jesus has always been right in front of us all along because God made it possible. He loved us too much to leave us in our bondage. Why? Because he is love! Our freedom calls to us to choose daily to surrender to it, if we want the freedom he offers we must surrender to it.
The last question our pastor asked, and the most powerful question I think I have ever been asked was: “If God had his way, what would my life look like?” I have been asking myself that question every single day since November 17, 2018. For me, I have decided it looks like a life of surrender:
Father, I give you my life! Have your way with me! I surrender my life to you today in order to take hold of the freedom you offer, just as Jesus surrendered before he willingly went to the cross! He chose to surrender to your will and ransom his life for my freedom! Jesus, thank you for purchasing my freedom with your life! I invite you to be the Lord of my life this day and I surrender the throne of my entire life to you today. Come and take over. I will come back to you each day and surrender again so that I may have the freedom you promise. I will live surrendered as demonstrated in Matthew 6:25-34: “25 Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or What shall we wear? 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:25-34, NASB
I will conquer each day by choosing to surrender in belief to the power of your promises in Psalm 91:
1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
3 For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
4 He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
nor the arrow that flies in the day.
6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
7 Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you.
8 Just open your eyes,
and see how the wicked are punished.
9 If you make the Lord your refuge,
if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.”
Psalm 91, NLT
“Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” Galatians 5:1, MSG
May you find a life of freedom through surrender and never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you!
Merry Christmas to you and all your loved ones!