Thursday, June 30, 2016

Independence Day. . .

John 8:31-36
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; (32) And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (33) They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? (34) Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. (35) And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. (36) If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

Interesting passage here. Jesus speaking to “those Jews which believed on Him”. I thought it interesting to lay out the statements as follows:

If ye continue in my word => then are ye my disciples indeed
If ye continue in my word => ye shall know the truth
If ye continue in my word => the truth shall make you free

Whosoever committeth sin => is the servant of sin
Whosoever committeth sin => the servant abideth not in the house forever

If the Son therefore shall make you free => ye shall be free indeed.

Coming up upon Independence day here in the United States, which is our celebration of our Declaration of Independence from the tyranny of the King of England on July 4th, 1776.

My mind is thinking of freedom, and what does that mean? Last night in the jail, I followed the trustee kitchen workers, in their red jump suits, back to the wards as they returned from working in the kitchen. The jail I work in is a long building, over 1000 feet from one end of the building to the other. There is a long hall which runs from the maximum security area in the north east, to the general population pods in the south west.

Aerial view of the Elkhart County Jail complex

The kitchen is located past the midpoint of the building, toward the maximum security end, so the trustees had a straight line walk of close to 750 feet from their place of daily work, back to where they slept. In your mind's eye you may have a vision of a person in prison confined behind thick iron bars to a 10’x10’ cell, but the reality of our jail, and larger state, and federal institutions is different. Most long term prisons have areas where the inmates can go outside and see the sky on a regular basis, but at that it is doubtful that many would think of themselves as free.

For two years I worked in a hospice. The residents there, while not confined by iron bars, were by their dire health condition limited to a small room beautiful though it was, more befitting the size of a Hollywood movie prison cell, than an actual prison inmate, but those in the hospice bed would be considered free in contrast to the jail inmates restricted freedom.

So what is freedom? Few prison inmates would trade the judicial freedom of the hospice resident for the concrete walls, and barbed wire that they reside behind. If restrictions placed upon your movement is the definition of freedom, then who is free? Can I soar like a bird, or explore the ocean’s depths like a fish? Am I not restricted by political reality, and financial insufficiency, and lack of vacation days from traveling wheresoever I might desire?

Then might I too be considered in a prison of limited movement? But then why, even within my limitations, do I feel free. . . totally free?

Sixteen years ago, before coming to Christ, I was in bondage to sin. Addictions ruled my actions, and had me living behind bars as every bit as strong and confining as the iron bars and razor wire of a maximum security prison. I was judicially free, but nevertheless a prisoner to sin.

Being freed, and delivered from my addictions was but the first step of my emancipation, but there is yet another level to this deliverance:

Philippians 4:11-13
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. (12) I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. (13) I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

I have received letters from inmates I have ministered to in the county jail, who now reside in state institutions. Some of whom, will in all probability leave the state prison only by way of a coffin. Their letters are letters of joy, and victory, and healing, and spiritual power and faith. To the carnal mind, this is foolishness. How can someone imprisoned for the rest of their earthly life, have such an attitude?

It is not possible you focus upon what you lack. . . but if your focus is on what you lack, then your attitude will never be positive, for there is never an end to lack. . . but if your newly found focus is upon what you have gained in Christ. . . absolute love. . . validation. . . joy. . . fulfillment. . . eternal companionship and rest. .

Philippians 1:21
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

1 Timothy 6:6
But godliness with contentment is great gain.

We were created to have a close relationship to God. When, because of our sin we were cast out from the Garden of Eden, and daily communion with God, we were left with a hole within us. We have tried to fill that hole with lust, with money, with drugs, with possessions, and all fall short of giving that which we seek. The only thing which offers us complete contentment and peace is an intimate relationship with God, and once we have that the world is powerless to defeat us. We are then become invincible.

Romans 8:35-39
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (36) As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. (37) Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. (38) For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, (39) Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am free. . .small words. . .but ones with eternal significance. . .

I love you my God. . .
I thank you my Lord. . .

By your imprisonment and death. . . I AM FREE!!!!!


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