Are We Living in True Freedom?

Grace – the word grace fills my mind as I become quiet, waiting for My Lord to speak to me – He is giving me a picture of grace which appears almost like a cloud or a liquid which is being poured over me – the word in Ephesians 1 comes to mind “grace lavished on me” vs 8.

“Every aspect of your life is governed by My grace – it is so much more than what many understand by the simple explanation of ‘receiving what you don’t deserve’ – it describes My whole attitude towards you from the moment your life was conceived – it describes My whole plan for your life – every detail, every moment (was) is covered by My grace it is not only My attitude – it is the very power I release constantly for you to live your life – like I want you to – it embodies My love which is the attitude I have towards you and your life which causes Me to cover you with My grace. And while I encourage you to live one day at a time – as you look forward into the future – there should be one word that covers all that your life is still to bring – My grace – so be still – relax – give over and take comfort – My Grace covers you all the time – do not fret about anything”.

Last time we started talking about “freedom”, true freedom. May I ask you to stop now and examine the deepest thoughts of your heart and answer these two questions for yourself. What do I understand about true biblical freedom? Am I living in this freedom? Put aside the temptation to draw the narrative you tell yourself and start from the bottom asking the Lord to search you and show….. Psalm 139:23,24.

The key vs in Galatians is 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” It describes the moment that every Christian is set free and can from then on live in complete freedom. We have spoken about freedom from what? Bondage to the law, the flesh, the world and the devil. OK so we know that intellectually, but are you experiencing it in your everyday life. The point of Galatians is exactly, that although we have all, as Christians been set free, our tendency is to be drawn back into some sort of bondage again. In the first 4 chapters he is speaking about bondage to the law. But when he comes to ch 5 where he cries out “it is for freedom that Christ has set you free”, he brings the other end of the swing of the pendulum and that is the danger of seeing freedom as an excuse to fall back into licentiousness and the influences of the world and the flesh and the Devil from which you have also been set free but which are still lurking around the corner waiting to draw you back into bondage again.

Hence his grave warning in vs 15 if you keep on biting and devouring one another you will be destroyed by each other. And to counter all this is to remind each one of us that the entire law, to which we as Christians subscribe, is summed up in a single command “to love your neighbour as yourself”. So how do you live like that? He introduces his ‘solution’ in vs 16 “So I say, live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature”.

So do you as a Christian really believe that you never live to gratify the desires of the sinful nature? That is a myth. So this magnetic attraction to move back under the law or feel free to gratify your own desires is one of the greatest challenges that each one of us faces. Consider this carefully and next time we will look a bit more at the instruction Paul gives here at the end of the letter to help us live according to the Spirit. And the key to all this, of course, lies in the words at the beginning of this blog: His grace covers all.

True Freedom.

Today two words are going through my mind: “Power” and “Freedom”. And a question I have been pondering. “Can my service or anyone’s service for the Lord become so onerous that it in itself becomes a bondage?” I have seen ministers who have felt so overloaded and burdened that they become depressed and even leave the ministry.

I hear the Lord, “True freedom comes in living out the full potential you have in being Ian – the Ian that I have sculpted, prepared and loved you to become – as as you grow in that you will experience true freedom. Everyone is born into a slavery to the flesh, the world and the Devil – each one is born unable to help yourself – as you grow up you are being moulded by these forces – although in the background I have always been working – Jesus’ life and death has made it possible for you to be set free from those forces – to serve Me – NOTE: Matthew 11:28/30. Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest (freedom). Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light”. The burden of the world and sin is heavy and exhausting – depressing – you are set free – rather to serve Me with joy – ultimately your service will only be a burden if your attitude is wrong, if you lose sight of My love and My invitation, if you lose touch with the power of the Spirit. My yoke will never be a burden if you keep in step with My Spirit and walk by Him”.

This morning I was reading in Acts 20, how Paul had gathered a number of disciples around him and was delegating more and more tasks to them. So one observation I would like to make is that some ministers don’t understand and apply Ephesians 4:11,12 where the role of the pastor, teacher is to “prepare the people for the works of the ministry”, and end up trying to do everything themselves, for various reasons but often because they don’t trust others to do things correctly. We are all called to be ministers for God towards each other. If this is understood, ministry becomes a real joy.

So this morning on my early walk I saw a sad sight. A discarded mask, lying wet and muddy half under a bush. A feeling of melancholia swept over me as I thought “this is our world today. Everyone covered by masks and here is one discarded and useless just like the Lord has discarded the world”. I quickly realized that thinking was way off course. God hasn’t discarded the world He made. What He has done is put the world under a curse. But His purpose is NOT to throw the world and its people away, rather He has done it for a specific purpose: that many will repent and turn to Him as He prepares His bride. And the mask? Why, that represents the mask that every non-Christian hides away behind. That is the mask that God tears away when we realize that Jesus has set us free. That once we have been crucified with Him and you start living your new life in Him, you will never need again if you appropriate the freedom that God has given you completely.

That is the mask each one of us must determinedly toss away like the discarded one I saw today. The message of Galatians is much about those who, having had their masks removed, find them and put them on again. Hence Paul’s cry in Galatians 5:1 “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm and don’t let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Don’t go and find your discarded mask and try to put it on again).

So at the beginning of the week, go out and live and experience God’s freedom and if you still have a mask, dispose of it as completely as you can in Christ. I must confess it is so easy to slip back into bondage again so I am going to talk more about Galatians 5 next time. Bless you all in His name.

Not My Will.

As the words of the song “Not my will” are being threshed out in my mind I hear the Lord “I have a special message for you on this, your birthday – it is not a new message – it comes from the ‘Ancient of Days’ and is as old as I am. Look up at the mountain.” I look up and see a vast light shining on top of a tall mountain. “That represents my presence to you – Moses met with me on a mountain, Jesus had a special meeting on a mountain – Psalm 121 says ‘I will lift up my eyes to the mountain from whence comes my help – my help comes from the One who made heaven and earth’, so this is the message for you today – I am still with you – I am still pouring My love out on you – if I gave My Son on the cross for you, how much more will I give you all that you need – and mostly you need Me – you need My love. So this year you will continue to experience My grace – lavished on you, poured out without measure – and as you walk in step with the Spirit – will be helped to make the moment by moment decisions of ‘not my will but yours be done’. The big decision has been made but the moment by moment decisions can only be made as you come to them – that is how you grow in faith – making the decision, often difficult, which you believe by faith, is My will is instead of yours. So go out today and every day in My strength, grace and love which I will continually lavish on you”.

Just a short message today, but one that spoke powerfully to me. In Gal 4:17 Paul writes that “those people”, ie the false teachers, “are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may become zealous for them”. They wanted the glory, they had no desire to give God the glory for the salvation of the people of Galatia.

*** The whole fight, there in Galatia and the whole fight over the understanding of the gospel which is raging in the world on all fronts today, is not about the truth, it is about “my will against God’s will”. It is about me being right and getting the praise for it, which I can measure in the number of people who laud me and follow me. Don’t underestimate this battle. So for me as a teacher of the word, I have to be doubly careful that I submit to God’s word and His will which is revealed in it, remembering especially James 3:1-6. And for you folk it is your duty and responsibility to yourselves and to the church to make sure you are submitting your will to His and to listen to what He is saying to you, through His word and the teachers you listen to.

I am devastated at what I see happening around me in “Christian circles” as God’s word is being taken apart and submitted to the people by teachers who want to benefit from different “interpretations”. What they are actually doing is trying to make a name for themselves, like at the Tower of Babel. Following their own will rather than God’s will. That is why I chose to study Galatians and will tackle this again as I start to preach through it next month. Have a blessed day and thanks to all those who have wished me well on his special day

Some more on “The Promise”.

This is a week in which I feel I can start with excited expectation, – not because I have anything (except my birthday) planned – but because I walk with the Lord – that makes anything possible. As I remind myself to “be still and know the Lord”, He takes me back to Psalm 46 where that quote comes from. The whole theme of that Psalm is a picture of a turbulent world and a God acting in that world like a river of peace – a God not phased by the uproar of nations – a God not phased by corruption, plundering, Covid etc and in the midst of all these we can be still and know this God, who is our fortress, whose river makes glad the city of the Lord. In one way God has plucked us out (yes the Hebrew for salvation has this meaning) of this maelstrom of a world which is rushing along like a torrent, unchecked in a huge canyon – He has already plucked me out, He is plucking each one of His children out – but in another sense we need to remind ourselves that He is our fortress where we must constantly run for protection from the evil of this world – Praise you Lord you are my impenetrable fortress.

On reflecting on the words of Paul in our book Galatians, I am drawn again to the word “promise” which plays such an important part in his argument. He repeats it 9 times in ch 3 and 4. As fallible humans we may see this word perhaps slightly differently to what its biblical meaning is. When you and I may make a promise it would be like “I am coming past your place next week and I will pop in to see you”. Actually it may even be qualified with “I hope to pop in to see you”. The completion of the promise is dependent on many factors, not the least that one may change one’s mind. Because of this unpredictability of the outcome of our promises, we have taken ways of trying to ensure that an important promise will be fulfilled. Hence the practice of signing contracts so that the promise may be verified. In cases where the promises are reneged on there are courts of law which will adjudicate. All because the certainty and value of the promises are subject to so many variables in a world dominated by evil.

Now God made a singularly important promise to Abraham in Genesis 12;2-3, which makes up the central theme of the whole of God’s story, as told in the bible. This promise of bringing a blessing to the world, labouring under a universal curse, was based entirely on His character. Later to confirm it He made a contract with His people in the form of a covenant agreement which was instigated entirely from His side. All the people had to do was accept the conditions of the covenant and obey them to benefit from them. Something they proved unable to do in the years that followed, but this did not affect God’s promise at all.

On the contrary when God saw that the people could not obey, He put into action the ultimate fulfilment of the promise by sending His Son, Jesus, who through His death, put into effect that promise. In 1 Corinthians 1:20 Paul underlines this “for no matter how many promises God has made, they are yes in Christ”. Every promise that God has made is fulfilled in and through Jesus. That is how certain the outcome is. We simply need to stand back and look at the cross and its historic reality to know that whatever God has promised will be fulfilled.

Why am I making such a fuss about this? Because for us to benefit from this Promise we need to accept it by faith, before it becomes real to us cf Gal 3:14,24. And here is the crunch. Where does faith come from? Romans 10:17 faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ”. So as you read and ponder these things which are the message of God’s word, may this discussion strike virulence into your faith as you accept and believe the promises as laid out in that word. Because the opposite of faith is the often held misconception that you can somehow do something to facilitate your salvation, (obey the law) it is extremely important that we understand and apply this teaching to experience the freedom that we are going to talk about next time.

So when we say we have a hope it is based not on the vagaries of some human promise but THE promise and more from our God, based on His unchangeable nature and we can be absolutely sure that that hope which arises from it, will be fulfilled.

May you bathe in the certainty of His Promise based on His almighty power and love.