Tag Archives: Freedom

Sunday with John — Flesh and Blood

John 6
60 When many of his disciples heard it [55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.], they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”
61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?
62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)
65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 

What is the general theme of the passage?
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “flesh and blood? “Relatives and family, right?   That’s exactly what Jesus is aiming for — a family that will interact, hear, debate and accept His truth about walking through life in relationship with Him.  Jesus means to challenge all the faulty assumptions about what He has come to give them with this “hard saying.”

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus, knowing — some would “take offense at this” spoke this “hard saying.”   Jesus, knowing — “…no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Jesus, knowing —”It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all,” was forcing them to identify themselves because Jesus knew — He was going to have to love them enough to tell them truth that would make many walk away. “(…from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him) and that even His own God-given flesh was not going to be enough to convince them in that moment that He was the true food and the true drink that would make God and their eternity inseparable.

What does it say about people?
They walked away from Jesus because the truth He spoke was not just “hard,” it was literally shocking. It was certainly a far cry from the miracles they’d hoped to receive.  The only reference they would have had to flesh and blood were the temple sacrifices and by the law, that process kept them completely separated from any personal experience. They were comfortable with that separation.

Is there truth here for me?
Have you ever balked at Jesus’s truth that’s hard to hear?  Here’s my Good News: I have and I’m here!  I was slow to give up my separation and accept that my choice had already been the Lord’s choice for my salvation; “…I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”  I’ve discovered I finally have “free will.” I am awestruck by the faith God must have had in me to give me the ability to think. It was Jesus’s faith, not mine, that I would finallly begin to understand the freedom to interact, hear, debate and accept His truth about walking through life in relationship with Him knowing separation is no longer an option.

Exodus [The Road Out] – Remember!

Exodus 13:3 And Moses said to the people, “Remember this day, in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage, for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out from this place; no leavened bread shall be eaten. 4 This day you are to go forth, in the month of Abib. 5 And when the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jeb′usites, which he swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall keep this service in this month…9 And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt…18 But God led the people round by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle…

Remember…
“by strength of hand the Lord brought you out.”
Remember…

 

Memory of the Lord walking with us is still “the road out” of bondage!  The Israelites began their journey with the promise of an oasis, a land flowing with milk and honey.  But between their bondage in Egypt and that land of freedom lay a vast wilderness with other less obvious adversaries they would have to conquer.  Remember, their battle wasn’t just with an Egyptian army, a sea, a lack of water, unfamiliar food, dietary restrictions and years in a vast wilderness, but with themselves.  The Lord’s plan was to equip their memory by His faithful presence for an ongoing battle against the unrelenting, hidden influences of the other enemies that must be met and overcome along the way: the Hittites, broken and fearful, the Amorites, bitter, broken and babbling and the wicked Hivites. “And the Lord went before them” leading them by day and by night.  Remember!

Poetry by the Book – Galatians 5:1-15

Poetry: Literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style, rhythm and structure.a

You were running well!
Who hindered you from obeying the truth?
If you receive circumcision,
you who would be justified by the law,
you have fallen away from grace.
You are severed from Christ!
Christ will be of no advantage to you.
I wish those who unsettle you would mutilate themselves!
He who is troubling you will bear his judgment,
whoever he is.
But if you bite and devour one another,
take heed that you are not consumed by one another.

Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
For in Christ Jesus
neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail.

Every man who receives circumcision
is bound to keep the whole law.
A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
In that case
why am I still persecuted?
The stumbling block of the cross has been removed

if I, brethren, still preach circumcision.

I have confidence in the Lord
that you will take no other view than mine.
For freedom Christ has set us free.

We wait for the hope of righteousness,
through the Spirit, by faith;
faith working[made effective] through love.
You were called to freedom, brethren.

Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.
Through love be servants of one another.
The whole law is fulfilled in one word—
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 

a My poetry structure was created from the RSV Bible using sentences and phrases verbatim.

Second Chance: James 2

James 2:5-7 & 12-14. [NIV]

√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken

5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?…12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?

It’s only a few days until the celebration of our nation’s freedom. We’re in another time of turmoil about freedom now, but this time it’s not our own.  This time we’re confronted by the object lesson of current events demanding we consider who deserves to be free, what freedom demands of them and how much we’re willing to invest of what God has given us so they can be free?  We are dependent on the mercy of God triumphing over the judgment of men as we struggle to find answers to those questions.  Many others fought in 1776 for the freedom we celebrate this week but here’s God’s challenge for us to consider now.

“Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”

Our challenge is to have mercy for the reality of physical need not judge the integrity of their desire to be free of tyranny and oppression.  Our nation was built by many other people who were judged ineligible and exiled from their home, but by the mercy of God’s grace they were given a second chance to invest their lives and resources “in order to form a more perfect Union.”  Were they perfect?  Of course not! 

This is the truth of freedom then…and it’s still the truth of freedom now. God will hold us accountable for our actions “because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.”  It makes no earthly sense that “mercy triumphs over judgment” but it makes no heavenly sense that we have exploited the poor and honored “the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong.”  

Lord help us!  Help us this July 4th of 2019 to “speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom.”  Lord make us so “rich in faith” that we can honestly promise we’ll invest our blessings in others seeking freedom and in your truth that “mercy triumphs over judgment.”

The Firsts: Philemon 1 – Grace and Freedom

NASB Philemon 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
6 and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake.9 yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus—10 I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment,
16 no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Philemon is clearly the wronged party in this story of slavery and freedom.  The slave Onesimus has effectively stolen his “property” simply by running away from him.  Onesimus ran away hoping to find freedom in the crowded city of Rome. God had a different plan to teach him about a different kind of freedom from a man “now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus.”  The Apostle Paul writes of “my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment.” Onesimus found his freedom in the faith of Christ from a man in chains.

God led Onesimus to Paul in that crowded city.  It was receiving grace and freedom that made it possible for him to return to the master he’d run away from.  It was receiving grace and freedom that made it possible for Philemon to accept Paul’s word that Onesimus has become part of the fellowship of faith and “more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.  

What began as a story of slavery and freedom God turned into a blessing of grace and freedom for both Philemon and Onesimus.  

Connection

Psalm 7:6 Arise, Lord, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies.  Awake, my God; decree justice. 7 Let the assembled peoples gather around you, while you sit enthroned over them on high.  8  Let the Lord judge the peoples.  Vindicate me, Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High. 9 Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure—you, the righteous God who probes minds and hearts.  10 My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart.

The NIV describes this Psalm as a “Shiggaion of David.”  The specific character of such a Psalm is no longer really known but perhaps it means a “wild, mournful ode.”  It certainly is a picture of a man who is so confident in his relationship with God he’s free to advise God and demand action.  It sort of feels like David is bossing God around doesn’t it?  David trusted so completely in God’s Sovereign reliability there was nothing he ever felt he had to hold back. He had an aggressive faith and a uniquely personal relationship to God.  That’s the connection between this Psalm and our story.

God ultimately chose to intervene in his global creation through the life of Jesus and with the Holy Spirit for one specific reason: to make that same kind of freedom, personal relationship and aggressive faith with the all powerful, all knowing, ever present God available to each of us. 

Assurance –

Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

That phrase “continue to work our your salvation with fear and trembling” always catches me when I read it because of that other phrase “as you have always obeyed.”  Long before we even had a conscious awareness of our salvation we were learning there were times we could be disobedient and get away with it. Paul is challenging us to consider situational ethics and our faith. God has swept away old boundaries and brought new freedom to our lives. We have our doctrines, we have our statements of belief, we have God’s truth…but we still have our options.

I try not to be a “canned” Christian but it’s so easy to spout the truth you know as if you’ve really figured out how to live it. That’s the challenge of situational ethics. This last year our Pastor quoted someone-or-other with this [paraphrased] statement: “We judge others by their behavior and ourselves by our intent.”  Our freedom in Christ has faced us with options and our situational ethics. That’s why we need to “continue to work out [our accomplished] salvation with fear and trembling.” You don’t think God misses those times when you still get away with misusing your freedom do you? Not a chance! That’s the “fear and trembling” part but we have these words of assurance from Paul.  In the midst of working through matching up our situational ethics with our freedom we don’t have to rely on our doctrines or our statements of belief or our own will. This is God’s truth…”it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”  You can’t do it alone.

The Big Event – God Bless One Last Look

Romans 8: 1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

My whole theme for this year’s Big Event has been Blessing. I have practiced what I preached about trying to use my voice to bless others as I went about my Christmas preparation. It’s been a revelation to me that if your mindset is to do that, opportunities just seem to pop up where saying “God bless you”…for whatever…seems natural and right. It bears repeating all year long..

Your Savior has been born! Remembering the Big Event has come to an end. Now I’d like to introduce you to the grown-up Jesus of Romans 8. This is the Savior with treasured gifts for you this Christmas morning; forgiveness, freedom and fulfillment. I know this Jesus well.

I had a very special dream as a relatively new believer more than half a lifetime ago. Jesus had come to take me to see something with him. He held my hand as we looked at a grotesque museum style head-and-shoulders statue sitting alone on a pedestal in the room. It wasn’t until we were leaving and I turned to take one last look at that ugly thing that I saw it was me. That was “my” dream  but It has a reality that’s become my blessing for you this Christmas Day.

You have a grown-up Savior who loves you enough to hold your hand while you take one last look at who you “were.” It’s time to open those gifts of forgiveness, freedom and fulfillment. That is no longer who you “are.” Your Savior has been “born again” into your heart’s memory this December.  Merry Christmas and God Bless One Last Look.