God’s Will/My Will: Freedom – Examine/Spiritual Disciplines
Gal 5:1 with Mt 3:7-11
Freedom! It is a beautiful state of being, worthy of pursuing, and a much desired way to live life. Freedom is something that people will risk their lives to obtain. Ever spoke to someone who has lived in an oppressive country, under an oppressive government? It’s powerful to hear their testimonies of what freedom means to them! Coming from ‘oppression and slavery’ to a place of ‘freedom’ is exhilarating – the gratitude is undeniable. Our country has long been a sought after place to come for safety and refuge, the promise of a better life that comes with ‘freedoms.’ My grandpa and grandma had a family of 7 when his country was rocked by a world war. How quickly everything changes! Simple everyday freedoms are gone in an instant and increased burdens on the human spirit grow – and the tragedies pile up. For many who have lived under tyranny in this world, who have tasted freedom, the fight for maintaining freedom, continuing to live in a state of freedom – is worth fighting for. Human freedom is a place where goodness can flourish. Human slavery is a place where misery abounds and the human spirit dies. Our own country’s history, of the schizophrenic existence of these two realities side by side, reveals the truth of both realities. We can learn from it.
Once our freedom in Christ is tasted, known, embraced – it’s worth fighting to maintain, to continue living in a state of freedom.
Our Text of the Quarter (TQ): “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Paul speaks of freedom in similar ways I opened with. Once our freedom in Christ is tasted, known, embraced – it’s worth fighting to maintain, to continue living in a state of freedom. What does Paul mean when he says, “Stand firm then and do not be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” It implies there are ways that freedom(s) can be lost, or at the very least constrained, diminished.
It reminds me of Ben Franklin’s spoken words to the assembly in Independence Hall, at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, we have ‘A republic, if you can keep it.’ It was spoken in passing at the end of the conventions deliberations, and was jotted down in Dr James McHenry’s notes. It speaks of a profound reality, lived out in the lives of humanity.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not making the parallel that our freedom in Christ, meaning our salvation, can be lost. Nor am I giving a naive glowing review of Benjamin Franklin. I am, however, making the parallel that any freedom can be constrained and diminished, including our freedom in Christ. Paul states it clearly here.
How can this happen? ‘Let me count the ways…’ There are many biblically revealed ways spoken of in Scripture. But I’ll focus on a couple. Freedom in Christ, freedom from sin and sin’s power and penalty, is a gift to be received. Jesus earned that for us. Keeping that freedom from being constrained or diminished requires ongoing engagement and growth in following Jesus, ‘a walk.’ And how we embrace and engage that walk with God leads toward continued freedom or toward a constraint, a diminishment of that freedom, call it ‘a burden of slavery.’
Just as with freedoms that come with living in a free society requires a continued walking in those freedoms to continue in freedom, so it is with freedom in Christ. And Paul is encouraging us to remain in freedom. Just as with diminishing freedoms a country and government can engage in, so too, certain followings of Jesus or lack thereof, or old patterns of sin, engagement with the ways of darkness, leads to diminished freedom in Christ.
For two weeks now, we have gained some knowledge of how to remain in God’s freedom. For two weeks, we have explored some practices that keep us in freedom: Embracing God’s grace and power; and embracing a life of forgiveness (receiving and giving of it). These things fulfill Paul’s prayer for us to remain in freedom and refrain from the burden of slavery. This week we explore another avenue for walking in the freedom of Christ: Examen. Examen is one spiritual discipline among many that helps us daily walk in freedom, keeping us from burdens that diminish freedom. Come and learn all about it, as we learn together how to live and walk in the freedom of Christ. Examen is only one practical way of MANY ways to continue walking in the freedom of Christ. I’ll name a few on Sunday.
See you Sunday,