Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Freedom Replacements

This morning’s theme was simple: we experience freedom from the bad things by replacing them with God’s will.

By “bad things” I’m thinking of anything that holds us back through guilt, shame, or fear. I’m thinking of bad habits that spring from not knowing Christ well enough to treasure him above all things. I’m thinking of childhood experiences that remind us of trauma that debilitates our relationship with Christ every time they flash through our minds. And, of course, I’m thinking of all the ways the world, the flesh, and the devil, take hold of anything we give them in order to steal, kill, and destroy whatever good our heavenly Father is working into our lives.[1]

I could go on with more specific descriptions of what I mean, but I simply want us to be able to attach to the stuff that goes on within us that often hinders our relationship with Jesus Christ when we could bring the very same underlying issues to Jesus Christ in a way that helps our relationship with him flourish.

Here are some examples of how we replace the bad and harmful things with a change of direction in seeking after the things of God:

The Do-Not’s
The Do’s
I Peter 3:13-17
In relation to those who seek our harm, “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled”
Instead, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy”
Romans 12:1-2
“Do not be conformed to the world”
“be transformed by the renewal of your mind”
Romans 7:6
“now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive”
“so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”
Romans 8:4
We are those “who walk not according to the flesh”
“but according to the Spirit.”
Romans 8:5
We are not those “who live according to the flesh” and “set their minds on the things of the flesh”
“but those who live according to the Spirit” and “set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”
Romans 8:15
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear”
“but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”

This morning I experienced this huge reminder: when I looked back at the section in Romans 7:6 and context, it stood out to me that in order for us to experience release from the negative and debilitating things that hold us back we need to live like we are released from the law. In order for us to be released from the power of sin, and of the sark/flesh, we need to grasp how every believer in Jesus Christ has been released from the law and is no longer in subjection to it.[2]

So much of what we call “bondage issues”[3] are exacerbated by law-based thinking. We mistakenly see our struggles as an issue with the law, and freedom will be when we are free of that unlawful habit or compulsion and can now keep the law. It is this law-based thinking that then snares us over-and-over again, just as Paul describes later as the sark’s inability to do the good we want to do, or to resist the bad we do not want to do.[4] When the law is removed from the picture, there is no longer this tyrant of a task-master constantly accusing us of our sins and holding us back because of all the guilt, shame, and fear that come up whenever we do sin.

Instead of measuring our freedom in relation to the law (which is now dead to us), we measure our freedom on the basis of the Spirit. Instead of a law that WE must keep in order to be right with God, we are already right with God and have the SPIRIT at work to make us like Jesus.[5] What we are looking for is the freedom to set our minds on the Spirit, and the faith that leads the way in doing so.

This means that, in relation to the stories of the debilitating thoughts, feelings, memories, habits that consume us, God is not telling us to just do the right thing. He is at work to get us setting our minds on what he is doing in our lives through his Spirit. When he tells me that I must avoid the temptation to fear and, instead, honor Christ the Lord as holy in my heart, he is telling me what HE is doing, and he wants me to set my mind on his Spirit because he is the one through whom this work is applied to my life.

This simply reinforces all the more that my problem is not whatever wounds are underneath the worthlessness and hopelessness that has long consumed my innermost being. My problem is all the sarky ways I have tried to handle my broken soul-condition. And the only way to stop doing the sarky thing is to bring all my brokenness to God by setting my mind on his Spirit, and listening to whatever he is saying to me through his word.

In other words, we don’t set our minds on the Spirit by denying that we are wounded, but by denying our sarks the right to handle our wounds and bringing them all to the Spirit who will heal the brokenhearted and bind up our wounds.[6] Instead of denying that we are oppressed by compulsive thoughts, feelings, beliefs, or habits, we deny our sarks the right to handle those negative things and pour out all our negativity before God in the power of the Holy Spirit to present them all to him as the only one who can help us with those destructive enemies of the soul.

As I prayed about this, one more example of the “Do-Not’s” and “Do’s” came to mind:

The Do-Not’s
The Do’s
Philippians 4:6-7
“do not be anxious about anything”
“but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God”

What is the result of replacing a bad thing like anxiety with a good thing like faith-filled prayer? It is this promise of God: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

There are so many such promises of God that are not waiting on our good-boy or good-girl performance according to the law, but on us turning attention from the sark’s incessant demand that we ought to let ourselves be in charge of how we handle our hurts, fears, and anxieties, and setting our minds on the Holy Spirit and whatever he is doing to fulfill the gracious promises of God in our lives.

For starters, I encourage you to take anything you feel anxious about, any bitterness and resentment you feel to people who have hurt you, any childhood wounds that just won’t heal, any compulsive habits that express how worthless and hopeless you feel deep inside, and, instead of sitting in some sarky hole obsessing about what a miserable life you have, direct every thought and feeling to God in prayer.

He WILL do what we could never accomplish. And he will even give us growing experiences of his peace as we wait upon him for the fullness of his will. As the prophet of old continues to speak to our souls, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”[7]

See that?! Even in the Old Testament they knew that we experience the peace of God by faith. And we have all the more reason in Jesus Christ to experience that today even while our need for peace is staring us in the face.

© 2017 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] John 10:10
[2] I encourage everyone to read from Romans 7:1-8:39 in one sitting and see the glorious transformation that comes to our lives by setting our minds on the Holy Spirit, an experience that begins with our release from the law so that sin can no longer find a way to have dominion over us.
[3] These are things Christians feel in bondage to, whether it be compulsions to sin, or debilitating beliefs they can’t shake, or anything that consistently stops a child of God from attaching to their heavenly Father in obedient faith.
[4] Romans 7:18-20 (context: Romans 7:13-25)
[5] II Corinthians 3:18
[6] Psalm 147:3
[7] Isaiah 26:3