Paul's Ponderings

Thoughts about following Jesus

Tag: Freedom (page 1 of 3)

Live as Free People

You and I have certain rights simply because we are people.

In the Christian tradition we believe that these rights are a gift from God. These inalienable rights declare that people are equal.

We are not equal in talent, intelligence, beauty, strength, wealth, privilege, or a number of other variables that set people apart from one another. We are equal in that we have the same right to life, self-determination, and responsibility as everyone else has.

The way this equality should be seen is in how people are treated under the law. It shouldn’t matter who you are, equal protection should be given to everyone.

You and I are free people, but that doesn’t mean that we are able to whatever we want to do. To protect the liberty given to us by God requires living in a certain manner.

Consider the following quote attributed to Samuel Adams:

He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man…The sum of all is, if we would most truly enjoy this gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people.

What does a free life look like?

According to Samuel Adams the person who enjoys freedom is the person who lives a virtuous life. This is a crucial thought.

Often when we talk about freedom and liberty the focus is on what we are free to do.

“Is this activity legal?” we ask.

We declare, “It is my life I am free to make my own decisions!”

While it is true that freedom often allows you to make all types of choices, that doesn’t mean that those choices are equally beneficial.

Enjoying the benefits of freedom is not the same preserving freedom.

I believe that the number one reason why people lose their liberty is because of poor choices. Yes, their freedom allows them to make those choices, but those choices end up stealing their freedom.

Should a person be free to use drugs?

Yes!

God has gifted them personal responsibility and free will.

Admitting that a person has the freedom to use drugs is not the same thing as proclaiming  drug use as a positive thing. The addiction and personality change that can accompany drug use, even with alcohol, is a terrible thing.

Addiction is a self created prison that many people cannot escape.

This reminds me of what the apostle Peter wrote.

In 1 Peter 2:16 we read; Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God (ESV).

Peter taught us that we are to live as free people.  The best way for us to live as free people is to live as servants of God.

I know this idea is counter-intuitive, that true freedom is found in being a servant, but when we obey God, we are not being oppressed by some tyrant. Rather, we are being directed by the Creator of the Universe: the One who knows the best way for people to live.

Ultimately freedom is found by living out God’s design for our lives. The way we enjoy freedom is to be faithful to God’s will for us.

Please understand this: No one can rob us of our freedom.

Even if someone takes over and destroys the Constitution, along with the Bill of Rights, we are still able to live free lives.

The reason for this is because it is not the government that makes us free.

Freedom is a gift from God. The choices we make, even under an oppressive government, are what enable us to enjoy God’s gift of freedom.

Have hope!

God, in His great wisdom and mercy, placed the control of our lives in our hands.

The choices that we make determine the level of freedom we enjoy. God left it up to us to decide whether or not we will live with freedom. This freedom is not about doing whatever we would like to do. Freedom is ultimately about choosing to live the life God planned for us to live (see Ephesians 2:10).

The ability to be free is discovered in the choices we make. Choose to follow Jesus and enjoy real freedom.

Choose the Path of Freedom

Choose FreedomOur freedom is a gift from God. Not only did God create us with certain unalienable rights, but He also rescued us  from slavery to sin.

Even though freedom is a gift, the choices that we make allow us to be good stewards of the gift of freedom or waste it.

For example, if you decide to murder someone, that choice will rob you of freedom. Even if you were able to get away with the crime and escape a life behind bares, the guilt of the deed you committed and the constant fear of being caught would hamper your ability to enjoy your life.

Another, much more practical, example is how we choose to use our money. The choice to use credit to furnish a lifestyle way above your means will lead to the reality that you will be enslaved to your creditors. By spending tomorrow’s money today you limit what you can do in the future, because there is a group of people who have a rightful to the money. Not only that, because of the interest that needs to be paid you will actually be paying more for your things than what they are worth. Your freedom is hindered by the choice you made.

Our choices will either lead us to greater levels of freedom or they will restrict the freedom that we already enjoy. There are many choices, both large and small, that we make that end up taking away our freedom. Our freedom and our choices are eternally connected.

Ponder for a moment what Erwin McManus wrote:

“Not all free acts lead to freedom. The choices you freely make may cost you a life of genuine freedom. This is why the Bible talks about the human experience in terms of being slaves to sin. Sin creates the illusion of freedom; it fools us into seeking freedom from God rather than finding freedom in God.

“Whatever else Jesus came to do, one thing is clear—He came to set you free. God is not a warden; He is a deliverer. And so earnest is He about your freedom that He was willing to be taken captive and crucified on your behalf just so you can run free” (Stand Against the Wind; p. 14).

If we are going to be free we have to make those choices which support the freedom in our lives. One of the ways we can make good choices is by thinking about the consequences of our choices.It is important to ask the question; “What is the true cost of my behavior?”

A second way to live a life of freedom is to follow Jesus. Contrary to popular belief obedience to Jesus doesn’t restrict our freedom, but allows us to live out the freedom God has given to us. Ultimately we have to realize that a life lived apart from Christ Jesus is a life that is devoid of freedom. Only Jesus has the power to rescue us from the slavery of sin.

In Romans 6:15-19 the Apostle Paul wrote:

15 Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not!16 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.17 Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you.18 Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.

19 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. (NLT)

 

We have to make a choice. We can choose to be controlled by sin, or we can give ourselves over to righteousness. To become slaves to righteousness means that we devote our lives to spiritual disciplines that enable us to live in the freedom that God created us to live.

The follower of Jesus is free because he has given himself over to Jesus’ way of living life. This is a life devote to the study of God’s Word, to being part of a Christian community, to participating in communion, and to seeking God’s guidance and blessing through prayer (Acts 2:42). There are other disciplines that I could mention, but these are the basic four that the early church used to grow in faith and freedom.

We need to be devoted to disciplines because that is the way we learn to live in freedom. A person of faith is like a jazz improviser. The improviser needs to have learned the chords and  practiced the music so much that he has become master of the song. The discipline of practicing gives him the ability to stay true to the song, even when he goes off on his own. The jazz musician has freedom to improvise because he have been a slave to the music.

When we devote ourselves to holiness through observing the spiritual disciplines of the Christian faith we are able to live with freedom because we know our purpose in life and we know where life is heading. These two realizations help us make the right choices in all the thousands of different situations we face throughout life. We are able to do the right thing because we have chosen to surrender our lives to following Jesus.

True freedom is not found in doing whatever we want to do, but it is discovered in choosing to do the right thing. We discover what the right thing is when we train our lives in righteousness, but we need to choose to surrender to the spiritual disciplines. Jesus came and opened up the way to freedom, now we have to decide whether or not we will follow.

A Bug’s Life…and Death

Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This is the first post from Nate Powell, a new contributor at Paul’s Ponderings. I met Nate in the summer of 1991, the summer before our senior year of high school, on a mission trip to Syracuse, New York. We hung out together during our time at Nebraska Christian College. Nate has been in youth ministry for much of his life after college. I am glad that he decided to be a part time contributor to the blog. ~ Paul Steele

Tales from the School Bus: Part 1

I drive a school bus. For those of you who don’t drive one, you have no idea the joys that are found in bus driving. The pulling out of your hair. The insanity. The daily frustration. And the interesting life lessons and parables.

One particular parable I received recently involved one of my students. We’ll call him “Chip”.

Chip rides the bus by himself. I pick him up from the school that he attends and take him to another facility in town. He is my only rider for just a few blocks across town, before I head to the school for another pickup. Most of the time our short 60 second conversation consists of “Hi”, “How was your day”, “Have a good night” type of stuff. But this day was different.

As Chip walked out of the school to meet me on this certain day, it was a crisp, cold 15 degree day with a bit of wind chill in the air. Needless to say, I was trying to keep all the heat in my bus that I could. As I looked out my open bus door for Chip to come, I noticed that Chip had stopped outside the front doors of the school. He was bent down close to a concrete pedestal that is located just outside the doors. He had an envelope in his hand, and he seemed to be tapping it on the concrete while talking to it. “Strange”, I thought to myself. After about 30 seconds of this behavior, he finally turned and came to the bus. He had a big grin on his face. I could tell that something was up.

“What were you up to, Chip?” I asked.

“Oh, I was helping a ladybug” he said.

“Oh, really?”

“Yes sir,” He replied. “I was in the school, and over close to the heat register I found this ladybug. It looked like it was trapped and bored and wanted to be set free. So I decided that I would carry it inside this envelope then bring it outside and set it free.”

“Ummm, Chip, you do know that it is like 15 degrees outside, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Heh Heh. Well I think that rather than freeing that ladybug, you just gave it a death sentence.”

“Oh,” Chip said with a serious face.

A slow grin slowly started to come over his face and we had a good chuckle about the Ladybug that he had just froze to death. It was just another day of bus hilarity. But as I thought about what had transpired that day on the bus, I realized that it is a parable of what sometimes happens in our lives.

Have you ever been to a church camp, a conference, a really good Sunday in Church, or small group? Or maybe you’ve just been involved in a really great quiet time with God. You know that feeling you have at the end of that time: your sins are forgiven, your batteries are charged, you are experiencing the freedom of life in Christ. In short, you feel like you are on top of the world. I think Galatians 5:1 summarizes the feelings we have when we leave these “spiritual highs” in our lives: “So Christ has truly set you free.” We love that! And we love to revel in it!

But don’t forget the next part of the verse where Paul gives a sobering reminder: “Now make sure that you stay free.” What is the implication of this passage? That when we encounter the freedom, love, joy, and peace that Christ gives us, we need to be aware that we will be tempted to be a part of a lifestyle that is not free at all.

One of the enslaved lifestyles we could live is one of being enslaved to the law … to be a Pharisee or a legalist. Paul warns the Galatian church against this lifestyle in Galatians 5:2-15. He doesn’t want to see the church caught up in a hairsplitting match or create a contest on who can keep this law and who can keep that law the best.

The other enslaved lifestyle is one of following our sinful desires. Paul spells these desires out in Galatians 5:19-21. These provide a clear definition of sin, and it’s the snare those sins create that can continue to enslave us in a lifestyle contrary to God’s will.

But enough of my rambling. What does all of this scripture from Galatians have to do with a dead ladybug? It is this: there are people, temptations, and ideologies which will try to take you away from your freedom in Jesus.(Tweet this) They will try to tell you that you are missing out, and that they can truly show you how to be free. But the freedom they have is a false freedom. And it will kill you. Just like Chip thought he was doing the ladybug a favor by giving it freedom, he was truly taking it away to its death.

Heed Paul’s reminder. Live in Jesus and his freedom. And MAKE SURE that you stay FREE.

The Importance of Purpose

July 31, 2012

Purpose. To have a reason for living is essential to living in freedom.

When I don't live with purpose I surrender the direction of my life to other things. I surrender it to my feelings. I will say, “I don't feel like doing that today,” and I won't do it.

A life without purpose is giving away to the whims of others. I lose the reason to say no, too good and bad things, because the overriding purpose of my life is not there it doesn't exist. So whenever a person places an expectation on my life, I will feel obligated to do it. I won't have a purpose to help guide my choices.

A purpose provides a direction for life. I have clarity on what I should be doing, regardless of my feelings, because there are things I need to do in order to achieve the purpose of my life.

Purpose provides a reason to get out of bed in the morning, even when depression and insignificance are overwhelming.

Purpose provides a reminder on why I need to fight through the struggles, the obstacles, and the doubts that seek to prevent me from living out God's design for my life. I think of the apostle Paul, who struggled in so many different ways so he could preach the gospel and experience the transforming power of the Spirit in his life. Paul lived a life of purpose.

Purpose is what we need so we don't return to a yoke of slavery to sin and the Law.

Purpose is the gift of freedom, but it also is one of the ways we keep freedom. Purpose is the gift of freedom because we are empowered to use our unique gifts and talents to build for God's kingdom here on earth.

Purpose is the means of freedom because it gives us a reason for living that is greater than the desires of our flesh or the expectations of other people.

If we are going to live in freedom then we need to live a life of purpose.

What does this life-giving and freedom maintaining purpose look like? It looks like being stewards of God's creation. It looks like loving God and loving people people. It looks like using our unique set of gifts and talents to serve those around us.

Saturday Video: My Chains are Gone

 

 

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