Monthly Archives: April 2020

♣ Free Despite

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” – Luke 4:18

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” – John 8:36

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” – Galatians 5:1

HOW OFTEN WE forget that the New Testament church encountered her greatest times of joy and freedom in the midst of acute persecution, civil liberties being stripped away, confinement to prison to the cost of lives; no other time has the church accelerated in her growth, turned the world upside down than when the kingdom of darkness used worldly powers to inhibit, stunt and annihilate those who pledged their allegiance, not to Caesar but the Lord Jesus Christ.

Many of Paul’s greatest epistles were written while confined in chains; John of Revelation saw his greatest vision of Christ (greater than when he followed Him for three years) while exiled and stripped of freedoms; John Bunyan wrote one of Christendom’s most impacting literature (The Pilgrim’s Progress) while bound in prison, not to mention other leaders and believers, while having their freedoms denied, eternally impacted the world beyond measure.

The greatest power next to God is sin; the most powerful enslaver of humanity is not an oppressive rule by governing authorities, but human nature predisposed to hating God and loving darkness. For this very reason Christ came to set us free – free from the coming judgement of God, free from bondage to darkness, free from the power of sin that ends in torment, unending destruction and decay.

We are not promised exclusion from certain hardships in this life. “In this world you shall have trouble”, our Lord said, so there is a balanced expectation of opposition. What we should be surprised at, as Christians, is not at the rise of evil in this world and how that may affect each and every one of us, but rather that any good still exists that God permits; it is only by God’s restraining hand that evil does not have complete sway in our world and that all (the bad aspects) things work together for our best (Romans 8:28).

God is in ultimate control of every governmental institute; every power of evil no matter how much they may intensely limit our physical freedoms; no power of communism, no tyranny, or any arising new world order can thwart God’s purposes down to His minute details. It is through the sorest persecutions and severest limitations that the Church has been greatly used to advance the kingdom of God and it has been in the gravest moments that God has victoriously shamed the powers of darkness.

It has been a testing time to the world-wide church in refraining from physically gathering despite the use of technology for ways and means to meet corporately and individually online – but what if that also became limited or even postponed altogether? As mentioned before, there is a distinct difference between socialising and fellowshipping and dare I state that we have made an idol out of socialising, replacing closeness with God (alone with Him) with running first to our leaders and other fellow believers. Authentic fellowship is an overflow of our experienced union with Christ. 21st century Christianity has it the other way round and we wonder as to why our world ‘impact’ sorely lacks the power that saturated the early church. We gain our ‘security’ from the recognition and praise of others; we gain our ‘assurance’ of our salvation by hiding in the faith of others instead of encountering what it really means to be led to the Rock that is higher than ourselves, tasting that we are safe in the shadow of His wings.

If, as Christians, our freedom is dependent on physical liberties we have failed to grasp and encounter what authentic freedom really is in Christ. If we find ourselves dampened and disheartened by our recent isolation to where we cannot function, we are too settled and comfortable in this world; we are controlled by the system and powers of this age. How we are reacting in the current situation is the revealing factor.

Physical restraints, whether that be confined to our own home with additional restrictions or even prison shall not overcome us, for “in all these things we are more than conquerors” in and through Christ. What our perspective is makes all the real difference. Someone once gave an illustration of two prisoners in a mud hut where one prisoner stared at the mud in despair while the other looked up at the stars with hope. Positive thinking some may say, for both were in the same circumstances but with different view points, but as Christians we go way beyond mere positive thinking; our hope is a fixed eternal reality, more real than the three dimensional world we are accustomed to. It is in the darkest moments that we explore the treasures of God just as the glorious array of stars are not beheld in all their glory except against the backdrop of a pitch black night sky.

Raised and seated with Christ in the heavenlies, our lives securely and eternally hidden in Christ – that is our status. Children of God, a Royal (immeasurably more royal than our earthly kings and queens) Priesthood unto God. What God thinks of us and how much He infinitely loves us (for He cannot love us any less or more) – that we are heirs of Him, He is our inexhaustibly rich inheritance, no matter what our financial status may be – ought to take pre-eminence as Christian thinkers; our vocational titles do not spell who we really are, whether nurses, doctors, teachers, engineers, scientists, artists…; all that can change in an instant; our job security is as certain as the changing winds while God eternally remains the same.

God will have His way with the Church and if we are to hear Him but have rather been distracted by our ineffective enterprises He will use and even ordain confinement until He has our attention where the imperatives resurface and remain. We can be smitten with missions, evangelism and even church while forfeiting our First Love – the very atmosphere to make us lukewarm. The Church impacts the world only when Christ is the all-consuming vision.

God’s faithfulness is demonstrated by using whatever means to draw us back to Himself just as David penned the words, “Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life.”

 

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