“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
“Little children, let us not love merely with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18)
“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13)
From the deepest pit of suicidal depression to the highest peak of spiritual elation, the past seven months have proven to me that James was absolutely correct when he said, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like even tomorrow…” (James 4:14)
There is no way that seven months ago I could have known that God would have broken me free from slavery to man that I might experience the freedom in Him that Jesus promised when He was raised on the cross.
There was no way that seven months ago I would have thought that I was enslaved to man.
“It is for freedom that Christ set us free…” so that we would not become slaves.
Slaves to sin.
Slaves to fear.
Slaves to man.
Yet my life consisted of feeling totally trapped and totally enslaved.
How can one be free in Christ and yet remain a slave to all but Him?
It is because his freedom has only been realized, not actualized.
I knew that Jesus set me free from slavery to sin, fear, and man, but I chose to live my life as if I were still a slave to the trio. I chose to live as if the God whom I personally knew, and whom I have personally heard speak, was but a distant deity bent on making sure that control of my life was placed in the hands of others; in the hands of broken human beings who may try to take authoritarian control of it.
Time and time again my affections for Jesus would be stirred by the way that He was leading me.
By the way that He was leading me in His Word
… in adventure
… and in mission
Yet every time my affections for Jesus were stirred through the pursuit of mission, slavery to fear and man kicked into full throttle.
Do you know what it is like to be afraid that because Jesus is calling you to something that the entirety of your life as you know it may be jeopardized?
Do you know what it is like to be part of a culture in which deviation from the accepted ethos equates to rejection and ostracism?
Do you know what it is like to be afraid to fully submit to Jesus because you are committed to a faulty man made system that has been dogmatically taught as the “right” way of life?
Jesus said go.
And I said no.
To me, to lose my life meant to lose my life.
But that is not what Jesus taught.
Jesus taught that any man who wishes to save his life must first lose his life.
This life that Jesus wants us to save is the abundant life of freedom that is submitted to the leading and guidance of His promised Holy Spirit; the abundant life of freedom that knows His voice, because Jesus promised that His sheep would know His voice and follow.
To any of you that read this:
If something stirs up your affections for Jesus, pursue it and never look back.
Psalm 37:4 promises us that if we “delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart.” Delighting ourselves in Him produces the desire of our heart’s affections being stirred up for Jesus.
Why the heck would He not give us such a desire?
What stirs up your affections for Christ will naturally be what you talk about the most, what you put the most time and effort into, what you focus on when reading the Scriptures, and what you pray about.
Both 1 Peter 4:10 and Ephesians 2:10 make it clear that each of us have been uniquely created and gifted to serve God and others.
A “one size fits all” required method of ministry not only limits the outworking of the Spirit in the lives of the followers of Christ, it is patently unbiblical.
I have played my part in limiting individuals who have met Jesus Christ by trying to convince them not to pursue academia, careers, travel, mission, etc. all in the name of “commitment to Christ.”
I have spent seven months repenting of such egregious sin, and seven months praying that God would forgive my many years of trying to take His role in the lives of people He put under my wing.
For those that read this who know exactly what I am talking about in this reflection, I will make this caveat:
Sin never stirs up our affections for Jesus. When I talk about pursuing what stirs up our affections for Jesus I am talking about those things are Biblically amoral or morally upright.
If it is morally pure – or even amoral – and it stirs up your affections for Jesus, pursue it with zeal.
You very well may be asking at this point why I began this writing with three verses that appear to be completely tangential to the points I have been making thus far.
But, really, this reflection centers on those verses.
Because it is those verses that I have seen lived out by the individuals that God has given me the chance to serve with these past seven months.
And it is those individuals whom I have gotten to serve with these past seven months that have stood shoulder to shoulder with me against the forces of hell to expose the myths that have kept be bound as a slave to sin, fear, and man.
Because they have loved me…
… because they have encouraged me
… not merely with word or speech, but in action and in Biblical truth.
It is because of those to whom God has given me to stand alongside in this war against sin, satan, and death that I have been able to, for the first time in my life, truly experience the freedom and abundant life that Jesus promised on the cross.
A wise man once said, “And God works all things to the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes.” (Romans 8:28)
I understood that to be true before.
I experience that as a fact of reality now.
If you have been made new in Christ, you are free – you are free – to pursue Him with the unique talents and gifts He has entrusted to you.
And so what will you choose?
Slavery to sin, fear, and man?
Or freedom; freedom in Christ to be led by His Holy Spirit towards the things you were created to do?
As for me and my household, we will serve the living God and pursue Him in freedom with the things that stir up our affections for Jesus.