Sunday, August 12, 2007

Free To Live

I have finally returned to writing my blog. I hope to write more regularly from now on. I basically have been suffering from writer's block. I've had several ideas, sat down to write and come up with nothing. Then one day last week, after reading a passage in Colossians, it all just started to flow and it wouldn't stop. :) And that goes to prove that God's timing and wisdom is better than mine. And He knows the when's, what's, how's and who's of every situation better than I ever could. So now for the blog...

Free to Live

I have been struggling with some things over the last few months...learning to wait as it appears everyone but me is attaining their dreams and desires, not being afraid to live and enjoy life, not fitting in at all in the small town I live in, trying to figure out what living a Christian life really means...and the same question keeps popping up in my head.

Am I following a list of rules trying to make God love me enough and trying to please people or am I living freely in Christ? And yes, there is a BIG difference.

So many of us, me included, have wasted precious time worried about doing the right thing and making sure we don't make a mistake rather than worrying about loving God and loving others and making sure we take in all God has given us. We can't be afraid to live. I spent many years following a predetermined list of do's & don'ts that I perceived to be the way to live a good Christian life. While doing that, I've missed out on many opportunities that God placed before me, afraid I'd mess up. I guess I was kind of like the servant who buried his talent rather than investing it. Over the last couple of years, God has begun to change my heart and my way of thinking.

We can't be afraid to live! Yes, there are rights and wrongs and things that God has set forth that we need to obey. But we can't live life in a protective box afraid we'll mess up or succumb to temptation or say the wrong thing. Might we do those things? Yes, we might and usually do. But the cool thing is, the thing that brings freedom is knowing that if we do screw up, if we do sin, forgiveness has already been offered! Take the story of the prodigal son. His father loved him. It didn't matter what he had done, how he had lived...His father never stopped loving him. Did he have to suffer some consequences for his actions? Yes. I mean, he ended up living in a pig pen and eating their slop. However, when he finally came back home, did his father judge him or condemn him? No! He stood there with loving open arms and threw him a party and welcomed him home! Jesus told this story to give us a picture of God's love for us...and if God loves us with this kind of passion and abandon, shouldn't we love each other the same way? And shouldn't we live each day with that kind of passion and abandon?

We should be free to live and enjoy the beauty and joy God provided around us. We can miss out on so much when we live in fear. A person is not saved by following a laundry list of rules; a person is saved by the free gift of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. So if we aren't saved based on anything we do, why do we think we should live our lives based on a list of rules. Yes, when you are saved, you put off the old things and all things are made new. You live to please and glorify and worship God. But when you worry more about do's and don'ts than you do about loving God and sharing that love with others, your focus is on the wrong thing. Your focus shifts to what you do or don't do rather than to what God has done. And when you do this, you live in fear rather than love. I John 4:18 - 19 says, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us." When we are afraid that God is some big guy just waiting to pop us because we mess up, we have a very wrong view of God. The God I know loves me and forgives me and welcomes me back home every time I mess up. Do you know the freedom that gives you?? Not a freedom to keep sinning or keep doing wrong, but a freedom to live in love and not be afraid to take a chance or take a risk. A freedom to live and know that God will never leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5) A freedom to want to live the way you know will please God. A freedom to enjoy the life He gave you.

Over the last few months, my anthem per se has been Kelly Clarkson's "Sober." No this is not a "Christian" song...but you know what? I've found that God can use just about anything to speak to us, if we will only listen (but that's another blog for another time). The second verse of this song says: " the end of this road I might catch a glimpse of me. So I won't worry 'bout my timing; I wanna get it right. No comparing, second guessing, no not this time." How much time have I wasted worrying about timing? "I'm 33 and not married...oh my gosh!" (my own concern or a worry that the world has placed on me?). How much time have I wasted comparing myself to others? "I'm not thin enough, pretty enough, good enough, don't sing as well" and the list goes on. (again, my worry or something others have placed on me?) How much time have I wasted second guessing choices that I've made? "Should I have taken that job?" (did I pray about it and feel led to take it? does it make me happy?) We waste so much time worrying about all these things and more rather than living freely in Christ and just enjoying life and trusting His timing and wisdom.

Another thing we tend to worry about is our friends' and families' lives. It is not our place to judge. Last time I looked, God was the one in charge of that. Do I have friends who do things I don't agree with? Sure. But you know what? I guarantee you I do things they don't agree with.

Consider Colossians 2:13 - 3:15:

13When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. 16Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. 19He has lost connection with the Head (Jesus), from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
20Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21"Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? 22These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

This passage continues and tells us how we should live and how we should put off our sinful nature, but it also tells us to live with humility and love:

Colossians 3

1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
(Notice how in verses 8 - 9 he lists some more sins that we tend to not think of as being "as bad" as those listed in verse 5. Sin is sin. I have no right to judge someone who may be sexually immoral when I myself have a problem with anger or gossip/slander. That is why we need to leave the judging to God and we need to concentrate on loving others in the name of Christ.)
12Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

My job as a Christian is not to police others. My job as a Christian is to LOVE others regardless of what they do, who they are, anything. That is what God has done for us...why should we do any less? Look at it this way. Trust me, more people are drawn to God and salvation in Christ by people who have shown them love than by those who have judged or condemned them. And that is exactly what Colossians 2 - 3 says.

So I challenge you this week to start to live freely. Take time to notice the beauty around you and to live without fear. Might you mess up? Yep. In fact, you'll probably make a lot of mistakes this week. But you can live knowing that God is there, waiting with open arms to pick you back up and set you on the right path again. Take time to truly love others and focus more on the fact that they are wonderfully created by God, and that fact alone should cause us to want to share His love with them. Focus on being humble, gentle, compassionate, kind and patient with others rather than on pointing out what they've done wrong.

And most of all, start to live freely in Christ - the way God made you to live! There is more to life out there...take hold of it and live!