Independence Day

Two-hundred and forty years ago The United States of America was willed into existence as our forefathers adopted the Declaration of Independence declaring us a new nation free from the chains of England.  But it took much more than the Declaration to give us our freedoms.  It took a war.  A very high price was paid in order to have the freedoms that we enjoy today as Americans.  These freedoms were won by sacrifice. People died.  Homes were burned.  Possessions were destroyed and families torn apart in a bloody war that raged for years.  Freedom always requires sacrifice and hard work.  Always.

As an American, I am proud of my heritage and I am moved by the sacrifice of those serving in our armed forces and the families they leave behind.  I hurt for the kids whose mom or dad is not with them because they have been deployed.  We owe a great deal to those who choose to sacrifice for OUR freedom.  We shouldn’t take our freedoms so lightly…freedoms that I believe are slipping away from the American people.  But that is another blog for another day.

Today I am thinking about freedom in another sense.  According to the dictionary one of the definitions of freedom is, “the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved”.  Given this definition, I am wondering just how free our lives actually are?  If we stop to consider the way we live our lives can we say that there is nothing that imprisons or enslaves us?

My husband is a pastor and much of my adulthood has been spent in ministry to the church.  To Believers.  Here’s a question for all of us who claim to be Christians…are we living free?  In Ephesians 5 we see a command to be filled with the Holy Spirit of God instead of being controlled by wine (by getting drunk).  I’ve had a long conversation about this verse with my kids and have put it this way to them:  We shouldn’t be controlled by anything other than the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit in us unleashes power, strength, peace, truth and wisdom.  When we submit to that power we walk in the freedom that God intends for us.  But when we are controlled by other things rather than the Holy Spirit then we are slaves.  We are imprisoned.

As the church we are quick to point out the sins of the unbelieving world, but I’ve said it before…unbelievers act like unbelievers.  They don’t read our Bible or follow its standards.  They don’t know our God.  Instead, what they do is look at us to see how we live our lives.  What do they see?  Do they see us walking in freedom?  Unfortunately we often live defeated lives with no freedom at all.  You don’t believe me?  Let’s see.

Do you worry?  Do you watch multiple hours of TV every day while avoiding responsibility?  Do you easily fly off the handle and can’t control your temper?  Do you have a tendency to talk bad about people who rub you the wrong way?  Is it hard for you to wait to tell the last juicy bit of news you’ve heard about your neighbor?

Let’s make this more real.  How much time do you spend on Facebook?  Are you in debt because of overspending?  Do you look at pornography?  How do you feel and act when the bank account gets low? Are you “addicted” to books, tv shows, movies? It you aren’t sure then look at how you respond when the DVR doesn’t record something you wanted to watch. What about your relationships? Is there a person with power over you? How much stock do you put in the opinion of others?

And here’s a doozy…do you over eat or eat garbage?  I’m not trying to stir up a hornets nest.  Really I’m not, but I’ve recently had a revelation.  I hate to admit it but food is my drug of choice.  When I feel bad or am tired or irritable or sick, food is what I want.  A Mountain Dew and some chocolate to be exact.  And if there is anything in my life, anything at all, that I run to first, before God, then I’m a prisoner to that thing.

When you get stressed, angry, overwhelmed or afraid, where do you run first?  Whatever the answer is, that is what controls you.  If it isn’t God then you are not free.  You are imprisoned to that thing.  Now the question is, do you want to be free?  Do you really want freedom?  I do.  But it doesn’t come without sacrifice and paying a price.  The good news is that Jesus Christ already paid the price.  He bought your freedom with His blood as He died on the cross.

A few weeks ago I recognized that I was imprisoned by my eating habits.  I had no freedom from food and it caused me to make terrible choices about what I put in my body.  Further more, it will end up hurting my family.  Just like a drug addict has to decide they want to be clean before they go through rehab, I had to recognize that I was using food for comfort instead of God and finally admit it.  That’s not a physical issue.  That’s a spiritual issue that needs spiritual power.  The scriptures tell us that the Holy Spirit was sent to be our comfort, our guide, our counselor, but also our power.  So I’ve asked God to fill me with that power so I can be free from the power of food and defeat this enemy.  He is doing that because self-control is really about being Spirit-controlled.  He paid the price for my victory a long time ago and now He is honoring my obedience and my sacrifice.  Yes, sacrifice.  I am working hard to do the right thing…but in His power and not my own.

And that’s the key.  Freedom never comes easy.  We have to work and we have to sacrifice,  but Christ paid the price for our victory a long time ago and wants to help us.  He wants to empower us.  He wants us to be free.  I know this blog post sounds kind of preachy friends, but the truth is it hurts my heart to see the Bride of Christ wearing chains when freedom is what God longs for us.  Perhaps today is the day we declare our independence, go to war against our enemy, and let freedom ring.

 

Photo credit:  Visualhunt