Emancipation Realized

Exodus 6:6-7

Jesus came to deliver us from bondage to sin–not just in word but in reality.

With all due respect to my pastor, he erred this weekend when he spoke about Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation. When Lincoln, in 1863, issued that executive order, he didn’t really free anyone. Why do I say that? The Emancipation Proclamation supposedly freed the slaves in all of the Confederate-held territories. That would sort of be like the United States today giving the vote to everyone in North Korea. We could say it easily enough, but to actually achieve it, we’d have to face some struggle.

Had Lincoln made his proclamation and then the Union forces lost the Civil War, those supposedly free slaves would have been no better off. When you make a bold declaration–such as the Declaration of Independence in 1776–you have to be able to back up your words with power. That’s what Lincoln had to do after January 1, 1863.

At that last Passover dinner with his disciples, Jesus made some pretty bold claims. He promised more abundant life and freedom from bondage to sin and the law. And Jesus had to go through a struggle to prove that He had the right to fulfill those promises.

It took Abraham Lincoln and his armies about sixteen months to prove their authority to free the slaves–and even then, the process was imperfect, lingering to the present day. It took Jesus just a few hours to forever win the battle against sin’s mastery over human beings and a few days to prove, on Sunday morning, that his victory was absolute.

  • What has the freedom from sin’s bondage meant in your life? If you don’t know, you need to consider this question thoroughly.
  • How do you live out the freedom into which Christ has delivered you?
  • Do you live a life worthy of a freed person? Can others see your liberty clearly?

Not in Part, But the Whole

Exodus 6:6-7

Jesus came to give us freedom from sin–permanently.

Toward the end of last month, I renewed my Costco membership. Now, when I need enormous bales of toilet paper or a package holding three dozen eggs, I can walk through the door of that store, smugly hold up my card, and stroll on into the land of endless excess. My only complaint with having that Costco membership is that I have to pay for it each year. Next March, once again, I’ll be reminded that renewal is once again due. And next year the price will be a few dollars higher.

It’s marvelous that Jesus came to forgive us of our sins, but the real marvel of it is that He didn’t just forgive the sins I had committed when I first trusted Him. Instead, He forgave the continued stream of sins that has followed in my wake over the years. He forgave the sins from today, and He’s already forgiven the ones for tomorrow.

As I reflect on that, I’m reminded of the lines from “It Is Well with My Soul”:

My sin–Oh the bliss of this glorious thought!–My sin, not in part but the whole.

That first Passover cup, the cup of sanctification, would be amazing if it just cleared the ledger up until the time of salvation, but it makes the ledger incapable of ever recording another negative item. That’s pretty incredible.

Sure, Costco might have Jelly Bellies in huge containers for a low price, but until they offer things for free and forever, they’re not even in the ballpark of this Savior of ours.

  • How often do you take stock of the sins in your life? How regularly do you sincerely thank Jesus for His forgiveness?
  • Does your awareness of sin’s price on Jesus cause you to live differently? How?
  • What habitual sin would God want you to work on eliminating from your life this week?


Using God’s Keychain

Mark 11:22

Make Your Faith Like God’s Faith

Somebody who knows Greek better than me–which would be knowing it at all if I’m honest–explained that when Jesus said, “Have faith in God,” that could more accurately be translated, “Have a God-like type of faith.”

I have to admit that it struck me as odd to consider God having faith. What would God have faith in? God is supposed to be the object of our faith. Faith in anything else would seem rather pointless. Or maybe not.

This morning, in the two hours I have been awake, I have demonstrated faith–a sort of expectant dependance–in a number of things: my alarm, the water in the sink, the lights, my car, my driving ability, the key in my office lock, this computer.

You’ve probably trusted each of those things in the past as well. How do you know you trusted or had faith in them? You were surprised when they failed. Have you ever put a key in a lock and been confused when it wouldn’t turn?

God doesn’t have those moments of confusion, because God doesn’t pick the  wrong key. He could turn the wrong key into the right one. We don’t have that level of control, but we can exercise God-like faith when we recognize that all of the power of the One who designed and created the universe is at our disposal–all for the price of a tiny speck of faith.

  • Do you trust in the power of God as much as you trust in the power of the physical things in your life?
  • Do you actions and choices suggest that you actually trust things more than God?
  • Pray this week that God will help you develop God-like faith as you strive to follow His will.

The Mountain You’re Stuck On

Mark 11:23-24

Consider Your Favorite Mountains

I suggested yesterday that mountains have their good qualities, lest we go about dropping them into the ocean without thought and thereby raising the sea level to a point that Atlanta is on the coast. But I’d like today to dwell a bit on the negative aspects of mountains.

Mountains can be seductive. Think back to that story about Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter–foot in mouth as usual–got so excited that he wanted to build houses on the mountain to stay there. In Exodus 33, after the débâcle of the Golden Calf, the people of Israel mourned when directed to leave Sinai.

It’s possible that a really great mountain isn’t standing in your way in the sense of blocking your route. Instead, maybe that mountain is standing in your way by keeping you in place. I didn’t think I was going there when I started writing this, but it occurs to me that our current struggle over renaming our church could be such a mountain.

We like this name. We like our identity as “First” or “Baptist.” And indeed this name has served us well for years. But if we linger on a mountain when God wants us to move on, if we cling to particular music or a particular style of teaching or a particular paint color on the walls or anything, then that has the potential to be a mountain that doesn’t block our way but instead prevents us from moving on our way.

Tell it to move. It’ll move. And if it doesn’t move, then maybe it’s a good mountain.

  • What are the mountains in your life that cause you to avoid stepping out on the path God has planned for you?
  • Are there good mountains that we ought to preserve at all costs? Or that we should just preserve for the time being?
  • Pray this week that God will give you the insight to distinguish between the mountains that should move and those that should stay.

A Mountain in the Way

Mark 11:23

Know Your Mountains

This idea of moving mountains is in all four gospels in one manner or another; thus, those who read the New Testament  regularly run across it. How many times have you read about moving mountains out of your way or dropping them into the sea and thought, “Oh yeah, Jesus, you’re really going out on a limb there!”

Mountains, either in our own lives or in the context of the Bible, are marvelous things. Without mountains, the whole world is Kansas. Where do we ski? Where does the Von Trapp go to escape the Nazis? In the Bible, mountains provide terrific places for important things to happen. Would it have been exciting for Moses to receive the law on the plain of Sinai? Would it seem right if Jesus had met with Elijah and Moses anywhere other than the Mount of Transfiguration? And speaking of Elijah, I think his most dramatic action, facing off against the prophets of Baal, would have seemed less impressive had it not been on Mount Carmel.

Mountains are great until you have a mountain in your way. Jesus was not anti-mountain, but He used the idea of a mountain to suggest an obstacle. When we are trying to get where God wants us to go, when we are following in the way that He has designed for us, then the obstacle of a mountain should go. In fact, every mountain and hill should be made low and the crooked parts of the route made straight. Didn’t Isaiah say something like that?

The idea of moving mountains is not a parlor trick, just as the idea of killing a fig tree was not one. I can’t imagine when it would be proper to drop a mountain into the sea, but if that mountain stands between you and God’s will for you, then it will move at your word.

  • What “mountains” or obstacles stand between you and what God wants for you?
  • How many of those mountains are ones you placed in the way yourself? Which ones are barriers established by others?
  • Are you in close enough communication with God to know the mountains that you should move? What can you do to improve that communication today?

…and my lungs and limbs and all the rest of me.