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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Getting free - living free

Enable:  to make able; give power or ability; to provide the means; and to authorize a particular action.  If we consider what it means to be "enabled", then consider who is doing the enabling, we might just begin to see our course of action as different than what we might have originally believed it ever could be.  For example, if I believed I might be able to attend college, obtain a degree in a particular field of study, and then become a proficient member of that profession, I might take a certain set of actions to accomplish this dream.  On the other hand, if I know the cost of that tuition will exceed whatever my family could possibly afford, I might settle for a profession similar, but lest costly to attain because of those limitations.  I might pursue some educational grants and even some student loans, but I know these loans can cost me much more on the back end than they may be worth.  So, I might not find much encouragement there.  Yet, if a school sought me out, offering to pay my full tuition costs, even my books and lab fees, I might be encouraged on a whole new level, believing with a true assurance this dream was going to become a reality.  What made the difference is the "enabling" effect of having the huge weight of the tuition removed from the equation.  The school provided the means by which the dream could be accomplished. Yep, I would still have to work toward the degree with all the effort and tenacity of a good student, but what stood in my way would have been removed and that provides me with the ability to focus on those studies even more intently.  There is something about being enabled to do something which gives us a certain freedom or liberty to pursue it with a greater passion and purpose, isn't there?

God is the one who enables you both to want and to actually live out his good purposes. (Philippians 2:13 CEB)

Now, imagine your spiritual goals.  You should have some, you know!  If you don't, then maybe that is the place to start - with an honest conversation with God about what it is in your life which needs some adjustment in order to be a better example of his love and grace. Those spiritual goals may seem a little lofty at first - like wanting to be free of some life-dominating sin or point of consistent compromise in your life.  You might not imagine yourself fully "free" of those things, but you can "hope" there might be a point when you would be out from under their weight.  At first, the impossibility of "being on the other side" of the habit, sinful pattern, or consistent compromise seems a little bit like you will never be "truly free", but you know scripture declares that you are not only "set free", but being continually "renewed" in that pattern of being "set free".  This is referred to in two terms in theological circles:  Salvation and Sanctification.  Salvation makes you free (you are saved out of whatever it is you were in bondage to).  Sanctification makes you continually free (helping you to live free of those bonds over and over again until you stop returning to the place of your bondage completely).  

An elephant can be chained to the immediate ten foot radius around a peg and a chain attached to his rear leg.  For a while, he will pull and pull at that staked chain to attempt to be free.  In time he will come to think his "freedom" only consists of the ten foot radius around that pegged chain.  In a while, he could even be unlocked from that chain and he wouldn't move out of that area.  Why?  He has developed the pattern of bondage.  He has accepted his confined place and no longer believes he can escape it.  Sin is kind of like that in our lives - for a long time we might resist the hold it has on us and even chafe against it a little.  Given enough struggling to be "free" of that sin and we might just come to the place we give up on ever being free.  At salvation, the moment we say "yes" to Jesus, the chain is loosed and the shackle is removed.  If we only focus on the thing which held us in bondage for so long, we may never explore the freedom outside of that ten foot radius!  We will believe we are still bound - but if we get outside of that radius even just a little, we begin to experience life as it should be - free and full of good things God intends for us to enjoy fully.

God removes the shackles and even pulls up the peg, removing both the evidence of the bondage and the possibility of bondage from our path.  What he sometimes counts on us to do for ourselves is look beyond the rut we have dug for ourselves around that peg!  The elephant will wear a path in that ten foot radius - much like we wear a path into our lives with the repetitiveness of some particular habit or sin.  It may even take a little effort to get out of the rut if we have been traveling in that ten foot radius for a long time!  But...Jesus doesn't leave us in the rut, nor does he limit us in anyway.  He totally removes all the reminders of the bondage - but we have to change our thought pattern about our bondage. We need to realize we are free!  The elephant doesn't realize he is free - because he has accepted his position around that staked chain.  If we want to be free, we need to be enabled to be free (shackles / bondage removed) and then we need to be "authorized" to take the steps outside of that place of bondage (enabled again and again until we learn to walk in our freedom).  The elephant may need a little goading to move beyond the ten foot radius - we might just need the same!

No freedom comes without a little work on our part.  Jesus does the "lion's share" of the work - enabling us to be free and then authorizing us to live in that freedom.  Our part is to take the first step into that freedom.  Then the second, third, and so on.  Until we learn to stop returning to the place of our bondage, we won't be truly free.  Remember this - there is no stake or shackle left in that place!  It has been fully removed!  When we return to the place of our bondage, it is because we remember it well - we need to have our remembrance changed!  This is why God reminds us of the importance of daily renewing our thoughts - in order to begin to form a new view of our place of bondage - as something we don't really need or want to return to ever again.  It would be silly for us to stand around in the same place forever when all the shackles have been removed which held us in that spot for so long. So, let's allow the Holy Spirit to change our remembrance of the spot of our bondage and help us to form new memories of our liberty!  Just sayin!