Freedom in Grace

Romans 6:14-18 “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under the law but under grace. What then” Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means… But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient form the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and having even set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

Do you know the freedom you have in the grace of God?

Grace frees us from the bondage of sin. When we are chained to a sinful life we are slaves to unrighteousness. But when Jesus died on the cross, He offered each of us robes of righteousness. His blood washes away our sin as we confess Him as Lord and Savior. We can be cleansed.

So if we are covered by Jesus righteousness, what does that mean for us? It means freedom, not freedom to do whatever we please but instead it means freedom from slavery to a life of sin. Instead we no have become saves to righteousness. Righteousness meaning rightness with God. When we live in sinfulness, we are not right with God, because God is a holy God and does not tolerate sin. but grace through Jesus blood covers us in righteousness.

Galatians 5: 13 says, “For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve on another through love.”

So, we aren’t to use our freedom to just satisfy our flesh or satisfy our selfish desires. Instead we are to use our freedom to serve each other out of love.

Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:16, “As God’s slaves, Live as free people, but don’t use your freedom as a way to conceal evil.”

We are to use our freedom to serve God. Bother of these verse are saying that we should allow our faith to be the diving force to holy living, to loving others.

It sees that we can see an important correlation here; to the level we understand and know the gracious heart of God is the same level to which we know how our sinful ways measure up against His holiness. And, in knowing that, our hearts should be prompted to live a life that pleases God. Not because we can earn our way to heaven, but because we love Him so much that we desire to please Him by living for Him.

It is in this freedom through grace that we find permission to stop striving.

We have freedom from condemnation. 

Romans 5:1 give us this hope: “Therefore there is now no condemnation from those who are in Christ Jesus.”

We have freedom from sin.

Romans’ 1:22 tells us: “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God the benefit you reap leads to holiness and the result is eternal life.”

We have freedom from fear.

Romans 8:15 says, “For you did not receive the Spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons by whom we cry, Abba! Father!”

We have freedom from the fear of death.

Hebrews 2:14-15 explains: “Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through His death He might destroy the one holding the power of death–that is, the Devil– and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death.”

This is our hope: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. stand firm, then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

We no longer have to live in fear. we are free to rest and trust in God’s love for all of life.

Yer, we so easily become entangled and become slaves to shame, to expectations, and to self-doubt. Do you find yourself in any of those? We are so easily enticed by what we see and want. We have been set free for the purpose of focusing on God’s grace, His love, and His Son Jesus.

 

Are you living free in the grace Christ bought with His blood? Where do you find yourself enslaved? Take time to talk with the Lord about this and ask Him to help you know your freedom in Him.

What’s in Your Treasure Chest?

What are you filling your treasure chest with for assurance and hope?

When we feel empty within, we search for things outside of ourselves to fill us. Shauna Niequist, in Present over Perfect, tells how she filled up on busyness, performance, recognition, and accomplishments, but ended up empty. Trying to find what will fill the emptiness, people reach for so many different things. It may be sex outside of marriage, alcohol, shopping, chocolate, drugs, or more and more work. What fills your emptiness within?

I have come to describe my heart to be like a sieve because the need for love within feels so great at times. It seems to get filled and then empty out, a constant cycle. Only God’s love, only God’s presence, only relationship with the Lord can fill or refill the holes.

Shauna says that when we carry God’s love and true peace in our souls as if our souls were a treasure chest, it is then we recognize that we don’t need to keep reaching and striving for more. The need inside feels so great but the Lord’s love is greater.

We need to consider what we are filling our lives, our hearts and souls with? What are you treasuring, running after, striving for? The Lord sees it as idolatry or adultery when we cherish anything more than HIm. He is the Treasure, His love is the gold that should fill our treasure chests. We should delight in Him above all.

Yet, we so easily get caught up in reaching for something here in this world when He holds out His arms and calls to us. He pursues us. Psalm 23:6 says, “Surely, your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Literally, that means He chases after us with His loving-kindness.

Take a moment to create a picture in your mind. First of all, picture yourself striving for, running after whatever it is you think will fill you. Now, look behind you, look again, do you see the Lord following after you yelling your name? He is chasing you, He has so much to give you, so much loving-kindness to bring to your heart, soul, and life. Did you get a clear picture of that in your mind?

How silly we look. Think of it this way, it is like you are running away from someone with a ton of gold, calling to you, saying “this is for you.” But yet, you continue running towards whatever you think will fill the emptiness. The Lord chases after you with His love and mercy.

Over and over again in the Bible the Lord displays His love to men and women who do not respond. The Israelites repeatedly turn their backs on Yahweh and sin. We do the same thing, sometimes not even realizing how we have been overcome with desire for some thing or some one more than what our desire for the Lord is.

What are you delighting in, putting your hope in, banking your assurance on? It if isn’t the Lord, then turn to Him and talk with Him about it. Why are you running from Him? I don’t think we even consider that we are actually running from Him, yet we do “run” after other things.

We don’t need to continue striving to fill that emptiness. It is in relationship with Him that we can find the love and peace to fill the treasure chest within. It is an ongoing choice throughout life. We have to choose to reach for the Lord daily, and especially in our desperation and emptiness rather than for some quick fix.

Proverbs 4:23 tells us that we need to guard our hearts. We can get influenced by so much in this world. So, as you go through your day, guard your treasure chest. Keep finding God’s love to fill it. He wants to fill your treasure chest with His love. He wants to give you abundant life as only He can.

Love

Where is love in your life? How do you get the love you need? These are questions I had to ask myself as I read Ann Voskamp’s book The Broken Way.

The love we receive from the Lord and the reality of how He demonstrated His love is all wrapped up in two words: unconditional and sacrificial. It has been said that our hearts have a God-sized hole within and that until we come to know Him we search a million places to find something to fill the emptiness inside.

I guess that is why it made so much sense to me when I read this in The Broken Way, “…everyone is always asking only for one thing- will you love me?” I thought, “yes, that’s true.” I know in my own mind and heart that it is what I desire. I also know that I keep my need for love mostly hidden. It is not something that I easily want to admit to or am vulnerable to share. I believe that this is true of most people, I think that we often try to hide our neediness.

People want love, acceptance, and belonging. We search for these throughout life. We desperately want the emptiness within filled. And we try to fill it with so many things. We grasp at the air.

So, where can we get our love-tanks filled?  The surest way is in coming to the King of Kings to be filled. He is available, generous, and gracious. He demonstrated His amazing love in sacrificing Jesus, His only Son, on the cross for us. He loves us that much. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

When we come to know that nothing else can satisfy, nothing else can fill that void, when we finally come to the realization of our need for God, we must cry out in the desperation of a beggar. He is the one Who is able to fill our hearts.

Once we have the joy of knowing Jesus and His sacrificial love, we find our own hearts filling with love as we feel His presence in our lives, as we learn to know His comfort, His peace, His hope, and His faithfulness.

But we also can lose sight of this. Unless we keep feeding on His Word and receive His nurturing in our relationship with Him, we can grow hungry and needy again. And, I believe until we reach heaven we will always feel a certain emptiness.

Recognizing my own desire to be loved, being made aware of this again through reading Ann’s book, helped me to think in a new way about others. It made me to see people as needy, needy for love. And it doesn’t matter who they are, what financial tax bracket they are in, what they look like, we all struggle with emptiness. We all need love. People especially need love from us as believers. As believers we can be filled moment-by-moment in our relationship with the Lord.

People need the love that says, I see your sad eyes, I see your homelessness, I hear your hopeless words; all of these are a cry for different ways to be loved. Maybe a word of encouragement, maybe an invitation to conversation or lunch, maybe an offer of prayer.

Ann says the following about love:

“…it is always sacrifice for someone” (p. 104) and it is “the willingness to be interrupted … the willingness to be broken into” (p. 177).

Love, a sacrifice, a being broken into, a being interrupted. Love takes time and effort, giving and responding and willingness to risk being hurt.

God sacrificed, God gives love and He wants to live through us, we are the conduit of His love to others.

Next time you are feeling lonely or empty, reach out with love to another, it will change the way you feel. It is too easy to throw a pity party in wallowing in our own loneliness, when all we have to do is reach out. Next time you feel resentful or frustrated, remember Jesus sacrifice on the cross. Let His love fill your heart and readjust your attitude so you might respond with love. Everyone is looking to be loved. Maybe it is your child, your aging parent, your neighbor, your bossy co-worker, maybe it’s the tired clerk at the store, or the pregnant waitress or the overworked tax accountant. They all want love. Thinking about this changes everything. Most of all hopefully it changes the way we live our lives.

How will you let love change you? How will knowing people’s need for love change the way you live and respond?

Take time to consider these questions. It may mean a softer answer, a helping hand, a bigger tip, a listening ear, or maybe just going out of your way sacrificing your time for another. Whatever it is, give love, show love, and live love. It really can change everything, but most of all it can change our very own hearts.

 

Givenness

Is your heart open to giving? Are you available to give?

We often think of giving as being in terms of material things or in terms of money. But there are so many other creative ways to give.

I was at a coffee shop recently and there was a physically handicapped man sitting at a table next to me. The tables surrounding us were filled with groups of people talking and there he sat all alone. The thought went through my mind of how lonely he must feel with no one to talk to. I have seen him there often, and always alone. This tugged at my heart, so I made a point of starting a conversation with him. He had difficulty speaking but seemed eager to share how he was doing. A simple connection brought a smile to his face. A caring of the heart can mean:

  • Taking time to be aware and notice another
  • Thinking about how one may feel in whatever their situation might be
  • Considering a need
  • Helping someone
  • Sharing in a conversation

Each one of these ideas fit under the label of givenness. And it probably will only cost a couple of minutes of time to show care.

During that same visit, I spoke with an elderly woman who was unsure of where she was in line. She was obviously frustrated and confused, she responded curtly. After she realized that I was trying to help her, her whole demeanor change. All she wanted was a glass of water, so when I got to the counter I asked the barista to get it for her. The woman was so pleased, she thanked me repeatedly. She felt seen and cared for.

It is funny, because these two incidences happened without me thinking about being intentional about giving. These situations just were just random opportunities given to me to be available to touch a couple of hearts. I know all too often I am so focused on where I am going or what I am doing that I am totally oblivious to those around me. It often take a little extra effort to remember to be present where you are but it can make a difference.

Being seen feels like love, I know that sounds silly, but think about it, when someone takes time to notice you it make’s you feel cared about.

I know I have shared in a previous post about how the Lord has shown me through His Word how He sees me. It has amazed me how much of a difference that has made to my heart. The realization of that fact changes how I feel in many situations in life. It changes how I respond to others as well, because I am comforted by His presence. Being willing to give out of our hearts, just showing special care as we see others around us can change their feelings, make even make their day..

In The Broken Way, Ann celebrated her 40th birthday with a day filled with givenness. She shares so many great ideas in her book of how to live given, ideas she put into action. Her words really have encouraged me to want to live intentional about givenness. It was interesting to see that when she initially considered giving something, she recognized that she really did not feel like it, but as she continued to give, her heart changed and her desire to give grew. I think that this is often true of us as humans we have to push ourselves a little, and our hearts follow, and feelings begin to change.

What ideas come to mind for you when you think of living given?

How will you be intentional about living surrendered and sacrificial?

There are simple ways and extravagant ways, but they all begin in the heart. Take time today to give away some of the love Christ gives to you.