Abiding in Chaos – the Fight for Freedom

I’ve been wrestling for quite some time with this notion of freedom in Christ. What does it look like? Is it tangible? Can I see evidence of that in my life? Does it mean that I’m always smiling and kind? Does it mean that I lose some element of my struggle – my temptations, my fears, my doubts, etc? Does it mean that life somehow gets easier – less weighty? How do we have the abundant life of John 10:10 while still walking through the unpredictable – most of the times mundane, more times very joyful, and occasionally very sorrowful – moments of life?

As I’ve wrestled, my incorrect definitions of this freedom have caused me frustration time and time again. Perhaps you’ve found yourself here too.

Early on in this journey, I defined freedom in Christ as a release from the sins that so easily entangled us – and not just a release but perhaps even a decrease in temptation – an ability on my part to see a lessening of sin inside of me. (I giggle as I look back on this definition I had contrived…a touch of realism mixed with mostly dreams of the future grace to be extended to us.) You can easily see why I have ended up frustrated so often.

It was in the midst of that prior definition that I remembered we’re living in the time of the “not yet.” In other words, Jesus has yet to return and eradicate evil. And so as I have continued to search for this concept, by the grace, I have found myself leaning into the Lord – reading more from His Word, soaking in more truth. As Scripture states in Philippians 1:6, it is Christ who will finish the good work that he began in me – not me. This good work can’t be accomplished without walking through the yucky around and within me and watching the Lord remain faithful to His promises through it all.

I’ve been reading a short devotional most mornings entitled “Peace – Life in the Spirit” written by the great mind of Oswald Chambers (on whose words I frequently have to pause and think quite hard to understand). Anyhow, in one of my recent readings, I found myself challenged by one word in particular in Chambers’ thoughts – abide. Take a look at what he has to say.

After being born again a man experiences peace, but it is a peace maintained at the point of war. The wrong disposition is no longer in the ascendant, but it is there, and the man knows it. He is conscious of an altering experience, sometimes he is in ecstasy, sometimes in the dumps; there is no stability, no real spiritual triumph. To take this as the experience of full salvation is to prove God not justified in the Atonement.

(i.e. – to assume that freedom in Christ is the absence of struggle is to prove God not justified in the Atonement.)

To be a believer in Jesus Christ means realizing that what Jesus said to Thomas is true: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus is not the road we leave behind as we travel, but the Way itself. By believing, we enter into that rest of peace, holiness, and eternal life because we are abiding in Him.

The Spirit seemed to highlight the final words of that devotional thought for me: “by believing, we enter into that rest of peace, holiness, and eternal life because we are abiding in Him.” Scripture has much to say about abiding in the Lord. Take a look at just a few of the passages I found.

Psalm 91:1 “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”

John 6:56 “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”

John 8:31 “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.'”

1 John 3:24 “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”

This concept of abiding in the Lord is a closeness – an obedience – a trust in Him. We believe the words of the psalmist in verses 9-10 of Psalm 139: “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

Hidden in these truths is the secret to the freedom in Christ – the abundant life. It is not the absence of temptation. It’s the not the absence of sin and struggle and fear and loneliness and doubt. It’s not confining ourselves within safe zones so that we’re never afraid or weakened or alarmed by what is around us (although sheer wisdom in where we place ourselves is always a good idea). It’s walking through each of the unknown places of life looking forward to the journey of increasingly learning to abide in Jesus – in the Word – in what God says about us – not about what this life is shouting at us in each stage, as it will continue to do.

This past Sunday, as Pastor Mike spoke on the intended, contextual meaning of Jeremiah 29:11, the sermon’s big idea spoke such truth into the chaotic times in which we currently find ourselves. “In the middle of painful circumstances {or unknown situations, or big changes, or whatever unsettles you}, demonstrate your hope in God by growing where He has planted you.” In other words, I think we could say, abide in Christ. Abide in His Word daily. Abide in growing a trusting relationship with Him through prayer. Abide in and believe the truth of His Word over whatever else combats for our allegiance. And in this is there freedom in this life. In this can we find the abundant life in the here and now as we anticipate the evil-free, sin-free, perfect life that we are promised at the return of Christ. Praise the Lord!

Let’s remember this wonderful truth as we face the chaos of the world around us. As Pastor Mike said, let us build homes, plant gardens, multiply our families, pray for our land, and display the love of Jesus Christ to all around us here in this land. Through abiding in Christ in the middle of the chaos, we CAN bloom where we’re planted. This is graciousness to us.

 

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