Last night a large group of men and women from Set Free Ministries came to our church to share their testimonies. The pews were packed, and the celebration was high. These people cherished their new life in Christ. They understood what it means to be set free.
One man took the mic and talked about how God had taken him from the streets, out of his mind and hooked on drugs, to victorious living. Addiction had robbed him of his family, but God set him free and gave him a wife. Another man followed, and gave a similar story. He was enslaved to addiction, and was losing his mind, but God set him free. Then a woman stood up. She looked to be seven or eight months pregnant, and as she talked about spending time in prison with no concern for herself or anyone else, then transitioned to the joy of sobriety and bringing a baby girl to term, I marveled at the peace evident in her features–how could such a soft woman have been so hard?
Testimony after testimony said the same thing: I was enslaved but God set me free. Many had lost their families, but God had provided a new family among their fellowship of believers. And yet, many of them had reconciled with their families. Moms, who’d lost their children to the state because of addiction, regained their children. Those who once slept on the streets now found employment and were now reaching out to others still buried in the mire.
We hear stories like these quite often, although, perhaps not often enough, because for every freed Christian, there appears to be many still clinging to their old life of sin. I say still clinging because it’s never an issue of ability. According to the Bible, if you’ve given your life to Jesus, you have been made new. Sin no longer holds you. You’ve been set free. Perhaps we just aren’t aware of our freedom.
According to Tony Evans, author of Free At Last, our struggles come because we’ve forgotten, or failed to fully grasp, our identity in Christ. True, there’s still a healthy dose of Adam in us, threatening to rear its ugly head when we’re spiritually unprepared, but our God is bigger, remember? Our God is stronger. Sin is broken. He has saved us.
I am reminded of a passage in Luke 17:1-10:
1 Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. 2 It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3 So watch yourselves.
“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.
7 “Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”
We like the verse that talks about faith, right? And we’ll use it when praying for something we desire, but notice the entire passage. Jesus isn’t talking about uprooting mulburry trees. He’s talking about forgiving someone when they’ve wronged us.
By saying, “Increase our faith!” the apostle was saying, “I can’t do this!” But Jesus said, “Oh, yes you can. You have all the faith you need.”
Notice the rest of the passage. Oh, how we like to pat ourselves on the back when we offer forgiveness to someone, especially if they’ve hurt us deeply. Or if someone gets in our face and we take the high road. As if our obedience somehow makes us super Christians. That kind of thinking only keeps us rooted in sin, making it appear as if we’ve somehow done something great by obeying God.
As I said when we first began our series on intentional living, the first thing that needs to go is, “I can’t help it,” type thinking.
Either God is sovereign or He’s not. Either we’re new creations or were not. Either we’ve been given the mind of Christ or we haven’t. It’s not like we get a small dose of the Holy Spirit when we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior. Those brothers and sisters in Christ who shared their testimonies at my church last night didn’t get an extra serving of God.
Christ lives within us and has given us everything we need to live victorious, peace-filled lives. It appears then, when we aren’t living in victory, the problem lies within us. And I would wager, it has a lot to do with our thought processes. This week I want to focus on taking our thoughts captive and making them obedient to Christ.
In the meantime, the next time you are tempted to say, “But I can’t help it!” meditate on this verse:
Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Jesus Christ, Creator of the universe, lives inside you. He’s given you everything you need to live a victorious life, an abundant life.
(And spend some time reading through Romans 6)