Call Me By My Name – Free

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” – John 8:36 

I stood before the judge. On my left, was a tightly sealed door; laden with iron bars and locks, a panel of fireproof glass around it – showing that whatever was put behind that door was meant to stay behind that door. On my right, there was an open doorway with a glowing EXIT sign, leading out of this room and far away from that terrifying door. 

However, there was a wall of files and papers standing in my way, barricading my path to bolt for the exit. The files had different notes sticking out from them, different colored papers with notations and markings flagged specific areas of the files. Each file listed – in detail – each of the crimes that I had committed in my life. 

I was on trial for the value of my soul. 

The prosecuting attorney had an easy job: all he had to do was list my crimes against the Judge – the original creator of the laws that I had broken. Even just one of my crimes would be more than enough to convict me, but he had over 21 years of crime stacked against me – each year worse than the previous one. 

On that day, however, my attorney had a much more convincing case. 

He stood before the Judge, clothed in righteousness, and said “I am Your Son, whom You love. I have paid the cost for this woman’s crimes for her whole life. You are looking for a debt to be paid that I have already fulfilled. By paying her debt, I have set her free.” 

With these words, each of the files on my crimes began to disappear. One by one, they were removed and the case against me crumbled. 

Raising His gavel, the Judge declared “Whom the Son sets free, is free indeed.” 

With a slam of His gavel, the last of my crimes dissolved, leaving me free to go. 

I feel like the story I just shared is a little cliché – how many times have you heard the forgiveness of your sins be compared to a court case? However, it’s not an inaccurate comparison; our sin bears a penalty, a penalty which we should have to serve, but Jesus paid it in our place so that we are now set free.

That’s where most people end the story.

But if that were where the story ends, then you’d be missing out on the greater life that your freedom provides you. 

When you have been set free, you don’t just HAVE freedom, you ARE free. Freedom becomes your new identity. You walk in Freedom. You breathe Freedom. “Free” becomes a new adjective attached to your identity.

And then just when you start to feel like a strong, free person, dancing away from the bondage of your sin, and more in love with Jesus than you’ve ever been…record scratch..

Hey, you. Look over here. 

Something changes. Something catches your eyes and distracts you. Where you were once focused on Jesus, the love of your life, who set you free, you start looking around you. You stop seeing the world the way Jesus sees it.

A heart filled with love turns to envy. A heart filled with kindness turns to pride. A heart filled with joy turns to spite. A heart filled with forgiveness turns to resentment.

Past sins start to haunt you. Old habits come back. Suddenly, the colorful world that surrounded you looks like a cluster of black and white rules, with tempting grey areas in between. Then the rules start looking less like direction and more like legalism. And the legalism becomes bondage. Because the rules we follow don’t feel like loving direction, but instead, constraining chains. So in order to free ourselves of these “chains”, we dive head-first into these grey areas, hoping to find relief from the ache in our hearts where our sin has burned and bruised us. We use excuses, our own intellectual justifications, as an attempt to absolve our sin, immersing ourselves in a world that believes denying yourself of any pleasures, is simply too high of a calling for a mere human.

Hey you, look over here. You’re one of us now. 

The branch has leapt from the vine and burrowed itself in the dirt; Trying to create new life, new purpose, new direction, apart from it’s maker. 

What happened to our freedom?

God gave me a picture lately – He does that sometimes – of me trying to come to Him in prayer. But I wasn’t running like a child excited to spend time with her Father. I was dragging my feet, because I was being weighed down by chains binding my limbs. The key to be rid of these chains was in my hand. Over and over God was saying to me, “Grace, take them off. Run to me.” But instead I’d shake my head and say “I got this. I can keep carrying these.” I hadn’t grown tired of my bondage. Many people around me were carrying similar bondage. I prioritized fitting in with the crowd around me, dragging these oppressions made up of anger, pride, lust, deceit, hypocrisy and gossip, rather than to be free to run to my Father. 

My freedom was never taken from me. I traded it in myself.

We forget that our freedom in Christ isn’t freedom to sin – it’s freedom from sin. (“Let’s Go To A Wedding” – I love pulling quotes from my own posts.)

The world tries to convince us that the freedom we have in Christ is incomplete. The world sells us on the idea that we will be so much better off, if we loosen the reins on these wild horses we call hearts and submit to their racing desires. Pretty soon, we aren’t even driving the horses anymore – we’re just hanging on for our lives.

Pretty soon it starts to feel like a never-ending cycle: I drop my chains, run to Jesus, live in fellowship, lose focus, slide back to my bondage, crawl aimlessly for a while, convince myself I’m happy, then the iron shackles around me start to leave bruises and burns. So I drop my chains, run to Jesus…and the cycle repeats. I become like the dog described in Proverbs, returning to my own vomit just to repeat my folly (Proverbs 26:11). 

If the story ended with nothing more than our sins being justified, then you would be right to feel doomed to this cycle of sin and repentance. 

Psst – but it doesn’t. 

God has called you to so much more.

You see, when you stand before the Judge, convicted of your sin, and it is revealed that the penalty is death – and then the Judge’s Son emerges, claims you as His own, showing the Judge the wounds in His hands and His side, proving that He has paid the price for your crimes, ultimately setting you free…something else happens too.

You don’t “just” walk out of the courtroom, lifted from your burdens.

You get so much more than that.

We don’t walk out of our trial emptyhanded. The Judge loves us too much for that. We walk out, now a member of His family. We are given a new heart, a new way of thinking, and are endowed with a new spirit to guide us.

Ezekiel 36:26-27, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my commands.”

Ephesians 1:13 “In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,”

Pastor and author Francis Chan has described the Holy Spirit as being the “Forgotten God” when it comes to the Trinity.

When you have the Holy Spirit, you, as a Christian, are no longer a “mere human” – Romans 8:9, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”

When you have the Holy Spirit, you, as a Christian, have a new value placed on your physical body – 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” 

When you have the Holy Spirit, you, as a Christian, have a built-in connection to God, through the Holy Spirit – Romans 8:26. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” 

Are you still human when you become a Christian? Yes. Do you still have a sin nature? Absolutely. But the beautiful thing about the Holy Spirit is that where you were once powerless against your dark heart and sinful nature, you now have the power to overcome any evil that sets it’s sights on you. Your sin is now forgiven, but being human is no longer an excuse. 

Final Call: The conversation around the Holy Spirit impacting our lives after becoming a Christian is often a closed, non-disclosed, borderline-uneasy conversation. Our purity before God demands change from who we once were. Our purity before God demands that we acknowledge we are no longer slaves to our sin, and to put down these shackles we convince ourselves that we need. Our freedom in Christ is something so easily given to us, and so quickly exchanged by our desires to be in “control” of our lives. What we find, however, when we run headfirst into our pursuit of God and listening to the Holy Spirit, is that our new hearts beat new blood into our veins. Where our hearts once whispered of our own pursuits, we find a new song being sung – one of love, forgiveness and humility. Where we once chased shadows, hoping to find seclusion from the Light, we now are in pursuit of Light, aiming to reflect it and give hope to everyone else around us as well. A new life begins to take shape – one that is too big for the shackles we sometimes try to conform ourselves back to. I said once, “the world has grown cold with the lack of the Holy Spirit moving through Christians.” I want to add to that statement now:

The church has grown cold with the lack of the Holy Spirit moving through Christians. We are the church. Therefore, our own hearts have grown cold with the lack of allowing the Holy Spirit to move through us. 

“Whom the Son sets free, is free indeed.”

Go forth, therefore, remembering that you are now free. Free from all of your past struggles, knowing that not only are they no longer held against you, but that you are newly equipped – clothed in a piece of His righteousness – to overcome any evil that besets you.

 

 

 

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