WE ARE ALIVE! AND FREE???

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(This is a great follow-up to my post entitledFeelings……What’s Up With ‘em?”)

As I meet and observe the ecclesia (Church), I’ve come to realize that so many are living in bondage today.  We have become spiritually weak and anemic.  Please here me!  I am not saying this out of condemnation, but from a heavy heart burdened for the body of Christ; for I too lived a life in bondage for almost 20 years.

This is why this message is the cry of my heart to so many brothers and sisters in Christ I meet.  It is a message I believe today’s Church needs to here: we were born for freedom!!!

IN [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off] Galatians 5:1 (Amplified)

Are you living in bondage?  What is YOUR “flavor” of bondage? Is it a behavior? A substance? Another person?  An attitude? Religion? etc…etc…etc!!!!  Why are so many of us living in bondage and therefore living a life of fruitlessness?

In John chapter 11 there is a story that beautifully illustrates the predicament many believers find themselves.  It is the story of the resurrection of Lazarus.  Now, although I know there is much to learn from this chapter, I merely want to paint a picture for you.

Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days (so by this time he had stinkith…lol).  Jesus then “cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’ ” It is at this point I want to focus.

“The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth.  Jesus said to them, “Unbind him,and let him go.” John 11:44

So, when he came forth he had to be hopping, because it says he was BOUND UP still.  Here are the questions I want us to consider (thanks to Dennis Jernigan for these???):

1)      Was Lazarus as alive as he was ever going to be?  YES!!!

The bible says he did come forth.  Can’t you just see him hopping out?  Just picture a mummy hopping all bound up.  He was definitely alive.  So, if you are alive, you can’t get any more alive can you? J

BUT……..(AND HERE IS THE POINT)

2)      Was he as FREE as he was going to be? NO…..NO…..and a resounding NO!!!

He was alive yet still bound up in the grave clothes.  Therefore, he could NOT enjoy the resurrection life Jesus just gave him.  He was restricted by the clothes of death.

There are several points that need to be made that are very liberating.  They are all centered on IDENTITY!

First of all, the grave clothes are symbolic of your flesh.  Please note….they are separate from Lazarus.  For years in my sincerity for righteousness fueled by legalism, I was confused by what I identified as thoughts, actions, desires, etc. and IDENTIFIED myself with them and by them.  Why?  Well, did Lazarus’ grave clothes have the stench of death? Absolutely!  So, just because he stunk like death didn’t mean he was dead.  NO!  So too, because my thoughts, actions, etc. were very real and stinky, I would condemn myself because of them, and would beat myself up.

Like Lazarus, our flesh stinks, is filthy, (please get this) it CAN NOT be cleaned up (changed) and IT….IS….NOT….YOU!!!!  Your “flesh” is not a “sinful nature” as though you have another one.  You do NOT have two natures if you are in Christ.  You have the NATURE OF JESUS!

The Greek word used for flesh is “sarx”.  It is used 126 times in the NT and is ALWAYS used for the body (“flesh and blood”) or the “carnality” of man.  Now hear me, our “flesh” is merely what is left over from our OLD MAN.  It is the “grave clothes” if you will, of your old nature that is now dead.

“knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.” Romans 6:6-7

If you are in Christ “you are a new creation”……period.  This is your new (and only) nature.  Lazarus, who WAS dead, was now a new alive man, but he was not enjoying this new life.   Like Lazarus, many of us are identifying with the flesh because it APPEARS to be real……to be part of us.   But in reality, like the grave wrappings, they are all together separate from you.  They are NOT you!!!  You are not what you do….what you think…or what others say.  You are who Jesus made you to be:

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that WE might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Cor. 5:21

BELIEVE IT!!!

“for we walk by faith, not by sight—“ 2 Cor. 5:7 [nor by feelings]

The story continues.  Lazarus was brought forth to life in order to WALK…..to MOVE…..to function as he was intended.  So, too were you.  But how do we walk free from bondage.

“…you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32

If the truth sets you free, what binds you? Lies…..period!!!  Figure out what lies you are believing and substitute them with truth, and my dear friend you WILL walk in freedom.  The grave clothes of bondage will fall free not as you work hard in a 12 step program, or by utilizing psychological strategies, etc.  NO! We live free as we walk in truth.

Finally, Lazarus had a little help did he not?  John 11 says that Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” WOW! What a beautiful picture of the ecclesia (the Church) today!  When we see a brother or sister in bondage, are we supposed to condemn them, talk about them, and shun them?  Absolutely not!!!  If we TRULY understand this message of grace and freedom, we will excitedly and with joy, share the truth of their new identity and of their LIFE in Jesus with them…..all the while encouraging them to simply believe.

As the body of Christ here and now we desperately need each other to help “take off” the each other’s grave clothes.  How?  By walking in truth ourselves and simply and lovingly share that truth.

My dear family Jesus IS “the resurrection and the LIFE,” and if you are truly born again, then you were dead and bound, but now you are alive; alive to walk in freedom.

Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?  Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” John 6:29-30

Will you believe today?

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Is MY Experience the Normal Christian Life?

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I stumbled upon this on the internet and had to pass it on.  It is from Dr. Bill Gillham’s book What God Wishes Christians Knew About Christianity, pp 3-4.  The chapter is entitled: THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN’S EXPERIENCE IS NOT THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN LIFE.  I pray the Lord encourages your heart…blessings!

“…yet many have no knowledge of how Jesus Christ holds the secret to their victory over the flesh.

     The Spirit of Christ living through them can overcome their flesh.  There is nothing quite so sad as the tale of an effective Christian whose ministry was launched with the spiritual equivalent of a Super Bowl half-time show only to blow its fuses and leave the “spectators” choking on the smoke. Gang, moment-by-moment victory over evil is not a reality for many sincere Christians with a heart to glorify Christ. Their actions fall far short of their desires due to having no knowledge of how to let Christ express His overcoming life through them.

     Although this is the normal experience of many Christians, it’s a far cry from the normal Christian life that the Bible describes. I would guess that most Christians believe it’s inevitable for us to sin hundreds of times per day (when you include the sins of the thought-life), and they’ve settled into this fatalistic mode until they die or Jesus comes. The Bible does not teach that our physical death is God’s provision for our freedom. It teaches that Jesus Christ’s death, resurrection, ascension, and sending of the Holy Spirit is God’s provision for our freedom. Since that is so, then why is the body of Christ not enjoying this freedom?  What’s the problem? Did some significant truth that is able to empower us to victory either fall on deaf ears or fall instead through the cracks and leave many of us crippling along with dirty spark plugs? This was certainly my case. I never dreamed that God had a solution already installed in me. Perhaps this is the case with you as well. If so, let’s open God’s love letter to us and trust the only One who can teach us the mind of the Lord-the Holy Spirit-to give understanding of how to appropriate the victory that is ours in Christ.”