Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Your Freedom Song

My little songbird, Riley Grace, is a magnet when it comes to music. She can hear a song once and pick up the tune and lyrics immediately (Side note: which really causes me to evaluate the music I listen to and let her little ears hear!). When the song plays again (because she often asks for a particular new favorite song to be on ‘repeat’), she already knows it! She absolutely loves music. She sings in the car, around the house, at school, outside, walking to the mailbox, in the bathtub, in her bed while she’s supposed to be sleeping literally everywhere. She plays with her toy music set and sings in her “Frozen” microphone all day long. The majority of what she says in conversation (or talking to herself throughout her day) turns into a song with a familiar tune and made up words. I love that she loves music because I love music. But, I will admit, that some of the songs she asks to be put on repeat get a little old after the 50th time that day. J

About a month ago, I was introduced to the song, “No Longer Slaves” by Bethel Music. This song was an immediate favorite for me. Read the lyrics of the chorus and bridge below (all credit to Bethel Music):

“I'm no longer a slave to fear / I am a child of God
I am surrounded by the arms of the father
I am surrounded by songs of deliverance
We've been liberated from our bondage
We're the sons and the daughters
Let us sing our freedom”
(Bethel Music)

As I sit at my computer, Riley Grace is currently twirling around the living room with her Disney Princess umbrella (Thanks, Grams!) singing, “I’m no longer a slave to fear / Yes, I am a child of God” on repeat. The song is not currently playing aloud, but it’s always on repeat in her head. Her little heart and mind have no clue what no longer being a “slave to fear” means, but she is belting it out as if singing with great conviction and understanding. Her sweet voice, moving lyrics, and passionate tone bring tears to my eyes as I anticipate the day when she truly knows these lyrics in her heart because being a “child of God” is real and personal to her as she trusts in Jesus Christ!

Listening to her sing these lyrics over and over and over again have prompted me to evaluate what it means to be a slave to something. Scripture explains that we can either be a slave to righteousness or a slave to sin (whether that sin is fear or something else). Choosing sin is NOT freedom even if it seems that way. It is bondage, plain and simple, deadly bondage.

Let’s read Romans 6:11-23 together. It’s a long passage, but it’s so rich in its explanation of how we are either enslaved to sin or righteousness. Romans 6:23, the culminating verse in this passage, is a very common verse within the Christian setting. Reading the verses that precede it truly make Romans 6:23 come alive! Let’s read together:

“So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Slaves to Righteousness What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:11-23 ESV)

Wow! Here are a few thoughts and questions I had for myself after reading this convicting passage:

1.      NO LONGER ENSLAVED TO SIN: As a believer, I am no longer enslaved to sin because Christ’s sacrifice has freed me from that bondage. However, there are many times that I still live as if I can’t escape from sin’s traps. Why is that? Why do I allow myself to be lured by seemingly enticing temptations, when I know in my heart that freedom truly comes from Christ and sanctification and pursing righteousness? Our pastor recently explained the definition of sin as “missing the mark,” as in aiming an arrow at a target but missing it completely. He then stated that many times, we aren’t even aiming for the target (the target being godliness)! Many times, we aren’t running from sin at all; rather we’re running toward it because it has become an idol for us. But we HAVE to remember that Jesus died a terribly excruciating death so that we could be FREE from the bondage of sin.
2.    THANK YOU LORD FOR SAVING ME: Praise the Lord! Sin no longer has dominion over me! Thank You, Lord, for offering me a life of freedom from and victory over sin. I need to actively pray for the Lord to give me the strength to live in that freedom.
3.    PURSING RIGHTEOUSNESS IS NOT A BURDEN: All people are enslaved to something. Romans 6 explains that we can either be slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness. This does not mean that if you’re a Christian, then you’re bound to feel like a slave as you try to follow a religious list of do’s and don’ts. (IF religious routine/ritual is all Christianity means to you, then it will feel like slavery!) The Lord doesn’t want religious ritual. He desires true sacrifice and heartfelt obedience, not outward Pharisee-like behavior without heart transformation. He desires for His people to be so in love with Him and so in awe of His sacrifice that we are truly no longer attracted to sin, but rather, we are attracted to His righteousness! Then, being a “slave to righteousness” is not burdensome; rather it is appealing because we desire to be sanctified through continually pursing Christ. 
4.    WE REAP WHAT WE SOW: Being a slave to sin = death. Being a slave to righteousness = eternal life in Christ. Simply put, what do I want to sow? Are earthly pleasures and sinful encounters worth it? No, not in the least bit, even though sin can blind us while we’re in the moment. However, eternal life in Christ is worth it! I need to make daily decisions to pursue a righteous life out of love for Christ because HE is worth it and the reward is so great! Yes, I am made righteous through Christ’s sacrifice, but ongoing sanctification is not just going to miraculously happen without my consistent and genuine pursuit of Christ. The devil, my adversary, is active. He doesn’t want me to be sanctified. Therefore, he is prowling around attempting to tempt me and ultimately destroy me. Am I actively pursuing God and protecting my heart and mind against the devil’s schemes? Am I prepared for his attacks? If not, then, of course I’m going to fall (or run) into sinful behaviors!

-       READ: Reread Romans 6. Read Romans 8:15, Galatians 5:1, 16-26, Hebrews 2:14-15, and Titus 3:1-11. Don’t skim them! Read all of them!! J
-       STUDY: Study the scriptures listed above. Consider what they say about either being a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness.
-       EVALUATE: What do each of these Scriptures reveal about your relationship with Christ, your bondage to sin, and your pursuit of righteousness? Evaluate your life against the standard of the Word. To what are you currently enslaved, sin or righteousness? Is there a particular sin that continues to enslave you, regardless of the fact that you know its wrong and desire to be free from it? Or is there a particular sin that you willingly run to, as if you’re not even aiming for the “mark” of righteousness? How can you live your life in a manner worthy of the Gospel (Philippians 1:27) a life that pursues righteousness out of a heart that is in love with Jesus? What practical things can you do to live an obedient life? What practical things can you do to flee from sin (2 Timothy 2:22)?
-       PRAY: Ask the Lord to guide you as you pursue Him and flee from sin. He knows your deep struggles. He knows of the sins that enslave you personally. He knows what you need in order to be successful in pursuing Him. He knows the abundant life that you can have if you will trust Him and be free from the bondage of sin. AND He loves you deeply and intimately in a way that no one else can. ONLY the Lord can fulfill your deepest desires the very desires you try to satisfy with sin He is what you need even when you think you need something else. Pray that He will change you from the inside out!

I pray that your heart is encouraged and challenged as you fill your mind with the Scriptures listed above. I pray that the Lord gently speaks to you and convicts you in the areas where you need to be convicted. And I pray that the lyrics that “YOU are no longer a slave to fear / YOU are a child of the living GOD” replay in your mind and soul over and over again so that when the adversary and the world try to lie to you about whose you are and the allure and false satisfaction of sin, you will remember the TRUTH that you belong to God, He loves you, and pursuing righteousness is rewarding! THIS is your freedom song!

Always, Jacquelyn