Sunday, November 29, 2015

Freedom Reigns!

John 8:34
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.

My eyes snap open after an almost sleepless night, what time of the morning it is I do not know, I’m covered in sweat and feel as if I am shaking from the inside out. Panic and paranoia rule me. I have managed to stay sober for six days but I know without a doubt that today it is over, today I am using.

The only way I can even begin to explain what addiction is like to a person that has never experienced it is to think of having the most aggressive sales person you can imagine take up residence inside your head. This guy doesn’t clock in and out he is there to stay, his perpetual sales pitch gets quieter or louder depending on your level of intoxication. Sometimes he tells sweet lies and manipulates you with his charm; other times he just screams the same thing to you over and over, drowning out all other thought, until you obey just to shut him up. What makes his sales tactics so successful is the fact that your body and mind is crying out for the very thing he is trying to sell you. Imagine fasting for two days and then strolling past the food vendors at the fair. That pales in comparison but that may give you something to grasp at. I have a bit of a thing for fair food….

I can no longer continue my resolve is gone; I am completely and utterly defeated and just want to feel better. A single thought is shoved into my sick and shattered brain, PRAY! I dropped to my knees and placed my head on a chair. I prayed simply that if there was a God in this world to please take this away. My brain went quiet, by heart rate dropped, my breathing slowed and an almost tangible feeling of peace fell over me like my Mother covering me with a big warm blanket when I was sick as a child. I rose to my feet, slowly processing what had happened. I went out on the balcony of my apartment and looked at the sky and the trees, they looked different somehow. The overwhelming compulsion and need to use was gone!

The Salesman has been cast out, or at least tied up, gagged and thrown in a corner! That scene was thirteen(clean  & Sober) plus years ago now and I have to admit that for much of that time I have been like one of the nine ungrateful lepers healed by Jesus that did not return with the tenth one to even say thank you.
However I do know it is as he would have it be, and that profound experience set me on a course to be where I am at today being one of his disciples ever seeking him who set me free from a bondage that slowly robs a person of everything, including your very soul. Addiction will first take the people closest to you, then your possessions, and finally your very dignity, your very humanity. I and many others like me were once, and still are slaves to what I know today as just another snare of Satin.

This snare is an obvious one, it’s easily seen, at least by the people on the outside. Many of us can easily think of someone we know suffering the yoke of slavery this sin brings, but we don’t need to be addicted to a chemical to understand what it is to be a slave to sin and we also don’t need to be an addict to be in denial of what sin we are slaves to.
We can be addicted and enslaved by a multitude of sins.

What of the man that works all the overtime available to him, missing holidays, birthdays, and just the simple quality time that comes with spending time in relationship with those he loves in sacrifice for the glorious retirement he invests in that may never come?

What of the woman that only feels security and happiness, however brief, in the acquisition of a larger home or a newer car?

What of the adulterer that prowls from one extra marital affair to another seeking the temporary high and much desired ego boost it delivers?

What of the person that escapes via their television set or computer spending hours in a world of lust and covetousness? 

What of the man that returns again and again to rage filled rants, days spent in bitterness, and a mind full of resentment?

This list could go on and on, my point I think is clear, there are many forms of slavery we can allow ourselves to become yoked by, some can be more comfortable than others, we can rationalize and justify our enslavement but it does not mean that enslavement is not what we are submitting to when we practice these sins again and again. Our rationalization also does not diminish in anyway the damage being done to our relationship with our Creator.

 I have used the word Yoke as Jesus uses it for a good reason. The definition as in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is as follows-
1) A wooden bar by which two animals are attached doing work
2) An arched device laid on the neck of a defeated person
3) An oppressive agency
I for the purpose of this writing like 2 and 3 the best. I think it best likens itself to the sin and slavery of that we are discussing and serves to put things in perspective. I believe Jesus used this term to give people a picture of the real situation they were in with sin, he used it to describe the yoke that he himself offered but in the verse before it points out how heavily burdened we already are. He is telling us we will be yoked to something but that his yoke will give rest not burden.  The load of sin may be light at first but as we continue to delve deeper and deeper into sin, as always happens, the oppressive rule it has over us increases, this load, this Yoke gets more and more burdensome.

Jesus said we cannot serve two masters and he uses money as an example but it can be anything that is eclipsing our focus on him. When we see the eclipse of the sun we see first the sun in all it’s glory, all of it’s radiance being cast down on us here on earth and then very slowly we see a shadow begin, ever so slowly, to creep across its brilliance blotting out first ten percent, then thirty percent then sixty percent and next the shinning radiance of the sun is gone altogether. This my friend is sin! It rarely leaps into your life, no, it crawls in little by little and as it does the sunlight of the spirit of God gets dimmer and dimmer and dimmer until we are lost in the darkness, we are stumbling around in the blackness, our lamp has been removed, not by sin alone because light will always overpower darkness, but by our giving ourselves over to that sin! Having a moment of clarity we might see through our own denial and wonder how we have gotten to this dark place. 

2 Corinthians 3:16-17
16 but whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

There is Good News! All we need to do is what I did that day with my head on that chair, ask! Turn to him in an act and spirit of humble and sincere repentance and just as the father in Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal son, God the Father will run to where we are! He will celebrate at our turning from sin and shower us with love and peace when we repent to him! Then just as Jesus said to the adulterous woman we should go and sin no more. We should not repent for a sin we plan to repeat, the Lord knows our heart and mind better than we do. We should lay our sins down at the feet of the Lord having no intentions of picking them up again, even if that act needs to be repeated over and over. True growth cannot occur in us if we are resigned to continue being enslaved by the very sin we are asking to be forgiven for. If this is the case we are either not believing the Lord can deliver us from the oppression of that sin or we love the sin and are not ready to stop going back to our vomit- Proverbs 26:11 

Paul tells us to examine ourselves and our faith! 2 Corinthians 13:5 and that when tempted the Lord will provide us a way to escape. 1 Corinthians 10:13

The Lord knows we can not be perfect but we also cannot use that as an excuse to remain addicted to or stagnated by the same sin year after year. We should be sincere in our repentance not only believing we have been forgiven, no matter the number of times we’ve had to return to him being defeated by the same sin, but believing and having faith that we will not need to repent of this particular sin again.

Some might ask, “How this is possible?” “How can such a perfectly righteous being go on putting up with such a depraved and sinful people as are we?”
To that question there is only one answer, God is Love!
Paul tells us in Romans 5:8 but God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us.

He came and took our place, he came and he lived the life that you or I will never be able to live and he used that perfectly sinless life to pay the ransom for our sin so that we may in return have his righteousness, he literally died our death so we may live his life. So not only is he providing now our very existence but through his willing death on the cross is offering us everlasting life with him if we will only choose him and walk with him in this life.
We serve and worship a God that would pursue us while we pursue our own selfish desires and pleasures thinking nothing of him who gave us life and breath. A God that wants relationship with us so much he would come into our filth and save us from a death we rightly deserve.

Romans 8:1-2
1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Jesus said the truth would set us free and later before his brutal crucifixion told Pontius Pilate that he came into the world to testify to the truth.

That truth is him, it is his life, he is the way the truth and the life and it is through him only that we find true happiness, contentment, fulfillment and most of all Love. Pursuit of these things exclusive of our creator only results in enslavement but it is when we take on his Yoke that we are truly set free!