I’m reading a book called Empowered which contains eleven short biographical sketches of women used by God (I’ll review the book on a later post). This morning I was particularly impressed by the life of Phillis Wheatley. Why have I, a former English major, never heard about this amazing woman? We don’t know Phillis’s real name because she was a slave, purchased in 1761 by the Wheatley family in Boston. In a time when many women, much less slaves could not even read and write, Phillis became not only educated, but a poetess. Her master decided to have her writing published and eventually she was freed. Much of her writing had to do with her faith in God and the freedom only He can bring. Below is her poem, On Being Brought From Africa to America:
Good morning! Today is July 4th. It’s a day that we, in America, celebrate our country’s independence. We celebrate with cookouts, spending time with family/ friends, and of course fireworks.
As I sit and think about the idea of gaining independence, my mind gravitates to thinking about the responsibility that comes with it. Being independent does afford us freedoms, but are we truly, 100% free? The answer is no. We are still under the authority of our government, in fact three branches of it, at national, state, and local levels. We are all under the authority of the law of the land and we must obey it. If you are still finishing your education, whatever level you are at, you are still under the authority of your school and your teachers. In the workplace, we are subject to the rules and regulations of our superiors. If you are still living in your parents house, whether you are an adult or not, you are bound to your parents rules and the way they choose to run it.
When we become adults, we feel as though we are free to do things we once weren’t allowed to do…drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, doing drugs, going to clubs, having a credit card, going into X-rated places, parading around at all hours of the night, buying your own car, buying your own house, marrying whom you choose to marry, speaking the way you want to, dressing the way you want to, acting the way you want to.
All of our freedoms come with great responsibility. Just because you are allowed to do things you once were not, does NOT mean you should. Each choice we make in life comes with consequences, both good and bad. Our choices don’t just affect us, but they affect the people around us as well. Let me give you some examples…
- you can choose to drink alcohol (and that’s fine) but it comes with the responsibility to not become so intoxicated that you harm yourself or other people
- you can smoke cigarettes (perfectly legal) but you are choosing to harm your body physically and harm the bodies of those most closest to you by breathing 2nd hand smoke
- you can choose to do drugs but once you take that first dose of poison into your veins the craving for it becomes stronger and ultimately leads to death…leaving behind love ones to pick up the pieces your brokenness has caused
- you can go to a club to go dancing (this can be pretty harmless) but it comes with the sexual responsibility of not hooking up with a different person each time
- as an adult, to gain credit worthiness in our world, you must have a credit card… but it comes with the responsibility to NOT live outside of your means and NOT to become loaded with a huge lump of debt that you cannot pay for
- you can choose to look at pornography or go to a strip club, but ultimately you hurt yourself and your relationships… both now and in the future… because those images are ingrained in your mind and lead you down a path that is very difficult to come back from (Just watch Ted Bundy’s last words and interview on YouTube, with Dr. James Dobson, before his death sentence was carried out… eye opening!)
- buying your own car and house are things we all have to do, but comes with the responsibility of paying your bills on time and maintaining your property
- Speaking how you want…dressing how you want…acting how you want… these are things that can be good, but come with the responsibility of being respectful of yourself and other people
All freedoms come with the price of responsibility, whether we like it or not. The responsibility we have keeps us in check, and ultimately keeps us from pushing the boundaries of sin. Freedom and independence are really about our relationship with God. If we are in an intimate, growing relationship with God, seeking to be more Christ like in our thinking and our actions, the more we understand the great responsibility we have and the price that was paid for it.
Jesus paid the ultimate price for ALL mankind when he took OUR sins, on HIS shoulders, and died on the cross. As sinners, saved by Grace, we have a great responsibility… and an immense freedom that comes with it.
Romans chapter 6 talks about freedom, responsibility, and being unified with Christ…
Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace. Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is THE ultimate freedom, THE ultimate independence, THE ultimate responsibility.
Are you living a life foundationally grounded in the freedom found in Christ alone? Are you unified with Christ so well that you understand the great responsibility it comes with? Or are you a slave to sin and have lost that freedom?
Ultimately, it is your choice… but I say CHOOSE CHRIST! There is no better way to live your life, no better freedom, no better responsibility, no better unification, than in an intimate, growing relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ! I pray that if you haven’t already, today you will choose Christ, and ultimately choose an eternal freedom found only in HIM.
God loves you and so do I,
photo courtesy of christbiz.com
We spend everyday making decisions in our life. What we are going to eat, who we will talk to, what we will wear, where we will go, and the list goes on. The most important decision we will make is which gate we will walk through, the narrow or wide one.
In case you are wondering where I am going with this – stay with me it will become clearer as I go on. A couple of weeks ago the gospel reading at the church I attend was Matthew 7:12-14 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” I am going to focus on verses 13&14. Jesus is talking about the path to Christianity here. I am not sure if I totally got it before the sermon that Sunday; but I can honestly say that I understand it now. The sermon spoke of how the narrow gate and the path will not be easy or smooth like the wide gate and that we only go through the gate one at a time not as a group. Now before you think I am not making any sense, I want you to think about it – We are told repeatedly in the Bible that the way of the Lord is hard and we will meet untold troubles on the way. So why do we think that all we have to do to get to heaven is accept Him as our savior with no real heartfelt desires to pursue His word. We should be grateful that we are even given the opportunity to be a child of God and be willing to accept what trials or troubles may come forth from it. The sermon went into great detail about the wide gate and how many will want to enter through there because it is the easy way to go and that the narrow gate is not the most appealing way but is the only way to follow in the footsteps of our Lord. To enter through the narrow gate we must be ready to let go of all the earthly baggage we have; whether it is material things we use as idols, emotional things we cannot let go of or just a basic refusal to accept the writing in the Bible as it stands without changing it to meet what it is we want.
I know I am not giving the sermon the justice it deserves by my paraphrasing here, but I hope you get the picture. We have the FREEDOM to make the DECISION to enter the NARROW GATE, I hope I see you on the path with me.
I want to thank the person who wrote and delivered that sermon; my husband Jim Edgel for opening my eyes to the path I need to be on. Thank you so much, and I love you.
God Loves You And So Do I
“For the body does not consist of one member, but of many. If the foot should say, ’Because I am a foot, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each of them, as He chose.” 1 Cor. 12:14-18
Listening to the world often makes us feel inadequate. There is always someone smarter, richer, more talented, or more beautiful. Christians are not immune to those feelings although we may judge ourselves by different standards – we’re not as generous, as pious as well-read in the Scripture as some other Christian we know. It’s so easy to start striving to become someone we’re not and being dissatisfied with who we are
Whenever I start thinking this way, I try to remind myself that God made me, and I have a purpose to fulfill that only involves being in step with His plans for me. In his letter to the Ephesians the apostle Paul puts it this way:
“For we His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
In Christ we are free to stop trying to be what we’re not. We are free to stop measuring ourselves by the world’s definition of success. We’re even free to stop worrying about whether we’re as good a person as someone we know. We are free from envying others. We can rest secure in our identity of beloved child of God.
Remember He loves you and so do I!
The following prayer is from the Via De Cristo Pilgrim’s Guide, given to each participant in the retreat weekend:
Lord God, I am your child. I call you Father because you are my Father. You named me with your own holy name before I could move a hand to help or prevent you. You insisted on having me even though you knew the end of my life as well as it’s beginning, it’s shame as well as it’s glory, it’s failures as well as it’s achievements, it’s bad as well as it’s good.
Why, Father, should I persist in resisting you? Why should I insist on my own way instead of knowing your way of grace and love? Why should I obey my own whims instead of letting your grace in baptism have it’s way with me?
Forgive me, Father, for so often wandering into a far country away from you, your forgiveness, your joy, your promises, your love in Jesus Christ. Help me to live in the freedom of my baptism, by the faith you have given me, in the life which you daily renew by your gracious forgiveness.
I am baptized. I belong to you, God. Amen
What freedom do we enjoy as a Christian? The freedom from death. We have eternal life through the salvation of Jesus Christ, not anything we do, but from God. Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I live in America, the land of the free, but unfortunately it seems that this country has lost the best freedom it could have. We live in a society where God is not allowed in school, business or government; and at the same time we have the audacity to ask Him to bless us. We want to have our cake and eat it too. We want everything we feel we deserve, even though we don’t deserve anything, and do not want to give anything back for it. I know some will be upset by what I am saying; but before you get all self righteous and indignant; ask yourself this question – Do you stand up for Him in your daily life? Or do you hide behind being politically correct? Remember Jesus told us “Whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father, who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33)
The freedoms we are taught that we deserve by being citizens of the U.S.A. are NOT the best freedom we have access to. That freedom is the freedom from death and the thought of eternal life.
God Loves You And So Do I
The sermon last Sunday was titled “Widen Your Hearts” and based on the following verses from 2 Corinthians:
“We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange –I speak as to my children –open wide your hearts also.” 2 Cor. 6:11-13
In this section Paul is telling the Christians of the church in Corinth that he loves and accepts them even though they seem to reject him. There are other Bible verses that speak of “enlarging” our heart or understanding. As the sermon progressed, I began to see that this widening or enlarging is the natural result of our freedom in Christ. When we live under the law, we judge others (and ourselves) and find them lacking. When we live under grace, as God’s beloved children, we are set free to love others in the same way and leave judgement to God. We can make room for people who are different from us, who disagree with us, even dislike us. Isn’t it a freeing experience to let go of prejudice, malice and hate? Those things bind and confine us. Love frees.
Here’s what Paul says about it to the Galatians:
“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another.” Galatians 5:13
I have one more thing to share that speaks to me about this enlarging. It’s a poem called Love Them Anyway.
People are unreasonable, illogical, and self centered. Love them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Be good anyway.
Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
People need help, but may attack you if you try to help them. Help them anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
So live large. Widen your hearts. Be free. God loves you and so do I!
In the United States we pride ourselves on being free people. Yes, we have laws but we can think and express ourselves as we want, and we can even do what we want within legal limits, which are there to restrain us from harming others. In Bible times the Jews thought they were free as well. Here’s what some of them said to Jesus:
“We are descendants of Abraham, and have never been in bondage to any one. How is it that you say, ‘You will be made free?'” John 8:33
I’ve often read this verse and wondered, who do they think they’re fooling? We’re they slaves of the Pharaoh in Egypt? And at the very time they are saying this, aren’t they under the thumb of Rome? These people are in complete denial!
Well, guess what, we’re in that kind of denial also, because if we’re not slaves to Christ, we’re slaves to somebody or something else. Maybe we’re enslaved by our job, or just the idea that we MUST have a certain amount of money to support our standard of living; maybe we’re a slave to a relationship we think we can’t survive without; maybe we’re a slave to what others think of us. We can even slide back into being slaves of the law when we think we have to do good deeds to earn God’s approval.
When we yield ourselves to Christ, we’re free from all those things and more. There is no greater freedom of than the freedom of knowing we’re in the place God wants us to be and using the gifts He gave us to do His will. Have you ever experienced this freedom? We want to hear your story.
In considering the topic of freedom in Christ, I asked myself, what exactly are we free from? Here are just a few that I came up with:
We are freed from our bondage to sin.
“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” Romans 6:18
We are free from being condemned by God for our sins.
“There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
We are freed from the power of death.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
We are freed from anxiety.
“And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be of an anxious mind….your Father knows that you need them.” Luke 12:29
We are freed from loneliness.
“….I am with you always to the close of the age.” Matthew 28:20
We are freed from the judgement of others.
If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31
There are probably others. What has God freed you from?
“When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness, But then what return did you get from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:20-23
I suspect a lot of people have trouble seeing Christians as free. They world (and the devil) tell them we are people who are governed by old fashioned rules and ideas; people who give up their time and money in an effort to appease an angry, unreasonable God who probably doesn’t even exist. Honestly, Christianity to many is a strange delusion, possibly even a mental illness. What could be the advantage of being a Christian?
In the verses above from Romans, the apostle Paul outlines how wrong this thinking is and exactly what a deal Christians have. Sin doesn’t make anyone happy. Eventually things like dishonesty, envy, greed, immorality catch up with us. We’re left with broken relationships, shattered reputations, increasing dissatisfaction, shame and yes, as Paul says, even death. The Christian deal sets us free from ALL of that.
Who wouldn’t want the free gift of God which brings peace and eternal life? Who wouldn’t trade conflict for brotherhood, jealousy for contentment, acceptance for condemnation, death for life? Tell someone today about the deal Jesus is offering them.