“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from Heaven and forgive their sins and restore their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 NLT
Today is my nation’s 242nd birthday. People all over this country will be coming together to celebrate and pay tribute to the good ole’ U.S. of A. Star-spangled clothing will be worn; red, white and blue decorations adorned. People will host cookouts and barbeques. Lakes will be flooded with boats, floats and beach goers. Parades will march. Attendees will applaud Veterans. ‘God Bless the USA’ and other patriotic melodies will be performed. When the sun goes down, fireworks will explode as the grand finale of the nation’s greatest display of American pride. For most, today will be a day filled with fun, family, friends and many, many festivities.
A true Independence Day celebration reminds us of the sacrifices that were made for this country to have the freedoms we stand on today. The Revolutionary War was the start to gaining our freedoms. In googling statistics, according to World Book Encyclopedia, found at www.answers.com, 25,700 Americans were killed during this war. Traditional US History classes teach that this war came about to separate us from the tyranny of Britain’s then monarchy. Our US constitution was written to give and protect freedoms to its citizens. Since we became a nation we have engaged in numerous wars and military conflicts to ensure this country and its residences are protected and that freedom will forever reign.
One entity that is honored on Independence Day is our US military. We remember the fallen and we honor the living, those who have served and are serving. In fact, most Americans, when encountering a member of the US Military, will thank him or her for their service to our country because we recognize that military personnel sacrifice a lot during their time of active duty. They’re training alone teaches them how to be sacrificial and how to survive in the most dangerous and cruelest of situations. They are moved periodically to different states and most serve overseas on at least one if not multiple deployments. They sacrifice time with their families, their jobs, their health and even their lives to protect this nation and to especially protect this nation’s freedoms. One thing we Americans value is our freedom.
God also values freedom. Galatians 5:13a tells us “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters…” We read David’s confident statement in Psalm 119:45 when he declares that he will walk in freedom for he had devoted himself to God’s commandments. Again in 2 Corinthians 3:17, we are reminded that wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. As a Christian, we are called to walk in freedom. But what does that mean and how do we do that?
First we need to look at what freedom looks like to God. Freedom in Christ means freedom from guilt, shame, despair, bitterness, etc. It most assuredly means, freedom from fear and from death. If you’re an unbeliever reading this, you may question that last statement or possibly even mock it because people die every day. The death mentioned above is not a physical death, its freedom from spiritual death. This means after we experience physical death we are promised eternal life with Christ. (1 John 5:11) Just like a US military member pays a price to protect our nation’s freedoms, as a Christian, our freedom was paid when Christ died at Calvary and then resurrected three days later. Freedom is not free.
So if freedom isn’t free, then walking in freedom will also cost us. If my country’s freedom and Christian freedom were both paid by the sacrificing of lives, it only makes sense that in order to walk in spiritual freedom, we are called to sacrifice our lives as well. PLEASE NOTE! This is metaphorically speaking. This post is not leading to a call to drink some magic red poisoned Kool-Aid that would actually kill us. The life sacrificing I’m referring to is the sacrificing of lifestyles, life habits and negative thoughts that do not honor Christ and inevitably separate us from the freedom He has promised us.
Anything that is dishonoring to Christ separates us from His freedom. That can come in the form of deliberate sin such as a battle with lust, purposefully holding grudges, becoming best friends with pride, refusing to obey when God gives us a direct order. That can also come in a subtler form like battling with an addiction or holding on to wounds that Christ wants to heal and release us from. Whatever stronghold we allow in our lives becomes our way of life and keeps us captured in a spiritual roller coaster that simples goes round and round in circles but never seems to end. No matter what human effort you make, if you’re not willing to sacrifice the stronghold or repent of the sin, you will not know or be able to walk in Christ’s freedom. You will also grow weary and face conditions like depression, anxiety or physical health conditions that develop when we are wait down by burdens we are not meant to carry.
Can you relate to struggling with deliberate sin, battling with some sort of addiction or just feeling bogged down by all life has thrown at you? Do you long to feel free from past wounds? Do you want to guard your heart, as the Lord directs, without putting up walls that inevitably push others away? Are you willing to make the sacrifices required to know Christ’s freedom?
If you want to know and walk in Christ’s freedom, you (and I) must be willing to place all that weighs us down, at the foot of the cross. We have to humble ourselves before our King and confess the sins we commit, confess the hurts we hold on to and confess the addictions we wrestle with. We have to seek Christ’s forgiveness, choose to forgive our offenders and also, choose to forgive ourselves. This also means sacrificing ungodly habits such as gossiping, complaining, procrastinating, cussing, overeating or whatever else we may turn to in the place of Christ to “cope” with what burdens us.
This sacrifice is not a one-time event consisting of one prayer or even one fast. This is a daily sacrifice that involves refocusing our thoughts, asking Christ to renew our minds, softening our hearts to obey His word and practicing the art of discipline to refrain from turning to back to dishonorable behaviors. This sacrifice also entails understanding that making these kind of sacrifices, changing our coping skills, letting go of the past and forgiving those who have trespassed against us is a process. It’s a process that doesn’t come naturally and takes much discipline to master. It’s a process that has to be practiced every day and it’s a process that will include backsliding and failing. But it’s also a process that through commitment, God’s strength, His grace and your perseverance, brings victory and true freedom.
Zach Williams is a Christian artist who performs a popular song called, “Chain Breaker.” The lyrics to the first verse and chorus are this:
“If you’ve been walking the same old road for miles and miles
If you’ve been hearing the same old voice tell the same old lies
If you’re trying to fill the same old holes inside
There’s a better life
There’s a better life
“If you’ve got pain,
He’s a pain taker
If you feel lost
He’s a way maker
If you need freedom or saving
He’s a prison-shaking Savior
If you’ve got chains
He’s a chain breaker..”
As I am personally walking through this process of letting go of my strongholds in order to gain Christ’s freedoms, I recorded myself performing this song praising God even before the chains I have bound myself to are broken. Jesus is the chain breaker of all that holds us back from the life He promised us. When you’re willing to sacrifice what He’s calling you to let go of, when you’re willing to endure the painstaking process of confession, forgiveness and healing, then you are ready to chase after Christian freedom and walk in it, freely. Freedom isn’t free. But our Jesus paid the debt when He gave His life on a tree.