Living Free in a Captive World
COVID. Quarantine. Masks. Virus. Numbers. Social Distance. Racial injustice. Political agenda. Riots. Hearings. Mandates. Rights. Opinions. Freedoms.
Things. Of. This. World.
While there is nothing new under the sun, it certainly is true that 2020 has revealed manifestations of evil and consequences of sin many have never before seen in this lifetime. We’ve spent most of this year held captive by new restrictions and mandates. We’ve been tied up in knots over the racial and political tensions that surround us. We are enslaved by our worry over our kids and how to best educate them this fall. And we are imprisoned by our own opinions of how things should be. Fear has locked us up like never before. This world is bound up by all that is happening.
We are navigating what has been deemed “unprecedented times.” Every click. Every swipe. Every turn of the page. Every conversation, it seems, reveals more reason for discouragement or fear. And people are reacting—loudly! Never before have I seen so much negativity, so much anger and fear. Unkindness. Ugliness. Complaining. Bickering. Nastiness. Belligerence. Pride. And I’m not just talking about the unbelieving world. My newsfeed includes much of the same from believing friends.
So, I have to ask: what is it, exactly, that you are believing, friends? Are you held captive by the generated news or are you holding fast to the Good News?
Galatians 1:3-4 says, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age” (ESV). The Good News brings grace and peace, neither of which we are seeing enough of these days. I invite you, right now, even as you’re reading this, to pause for a moment. Take a deep breath. Allow the glorious grace and the unexplainable peace of God to wash over you. As you soak it in, remember that Jesus didn’t just come to save you from your sins (although that in itself would have been more than enough!). He also came to deliver you from this present evil age. Heaven knows that our world is a difficult place to live. It’s riddled with evil and certainly ruled by the prince of darkness himself. We must be sober-minded and watchful because he prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
In a world filled with obnoxious opinions, media-driven narrative, and conspiracy theories, it’s increasingly difficult to discern truth. But of this I have no doubt: this is about much more than what the eye can see. This is a fight for our souls. And the enemy is unrelenting in his attempts to suck us into the world’s darkness. But this truth also remains: God is still on the throne.
The good news is that Jesus came to rescue us; he came to pluck us out of the darkness. He came to break the chains of our bondage. Jesus came to set us free! He said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) Abundant life is a life of freedom! But this freedom doesn’t give us permission to do whatever we want, to indulge ourselves, to insist our opinion is always and only the right one—no matter what side of the coin (shortage) you prefer.
The freedom that Jesus brings allows us to humbly admit our own shortcomings and enables us to love and serve others. This freedom compels us to walk in step with the Spirit, giving him room to produce fruit in our lives. This freedom pushes us toward the goal of Christ being formed in us (Galatians 4:19). Christ being formed in you is not just about getting us into heaven; it’s about getting heaven into us, so that we look more and more like Jesus.
“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) Jesus didn’t die on the cross only for us to go back to a life of bondage. He died so the shackles would be shattered. He died so the chains would be broken. He died so the prison doors of our hearts and minds would be thrown open! Whatever it is that is holding you captive has been destroyed by what Jesus has done. This freedom is internal and eternal. This freedom has nothing to do with viruses, or politics, or race; it has everything to do with the Almighty God who reigns over those things. And nothing in this life can ever take this freedom away. But it is something you have to choose.
We were never promised that life would be easy. As a matter of fact, Jesus told us we would have trouble, but he also said, “Take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Because of his victory, for every trouble, he offers grace upon grace upon grace. And he reminds us that we are only here for a little while. How will we use the time God has given us on this earth?
We certainly are willing to put up a good fight to protect and defend our rights, our religious freedoms and political freedoms, and our personal freedoms. But are we willing to fight just as hard to keep and defend and LIVE in the glorious freedom for which Christ died? Choosing this freedom for our hearts and minds will produce internal fruit that will evidence itself in external ways. Our unkindness, ugliness, complaining, bickering, nastiness, belligerence, and pride will be transformed by the Spirit’s power into words and displays of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—things against which there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23); things which should be abounding in our churches and flowing abundantly from our Christian communities to those around us.
We may not be able to control the things of this world, but we are free to rest in the God who does. That is good news! And the freedom he gives remains real and true in our lives despite anything that may happen on the outside. As followers of Christ, we are not spiritually bound by the things of this world. Jesus came to set us free! By his Spirit, we can choose to live free in a world held captive.
People of God, we are called to be agents of the grace and peace of God and to show the world what it looks like when the Son sets you free. May our lives magnify Jesus and exemplify what it means to be free indeed!