This weekend at The Gathering was the sixth installment of our series “Loving God.” I related my visit this week to a state penitentiary. And what I took away was, from death row to maximum security, to all the different sections of the prison, there seemed to be a normalcy, an acceptance of the walls and the barbed wire. And why not? If you’re living within a prison, within walls with bars, where your freedom has been taken away, you either accept it or go crazy.
This morning I really tried to use the illustration that we build prisons for ourselves. We live too far within our limitations. As followers of Jesus, we have this outrageous joy that comes from extreme freedom; a freedom that says that any and every day of my life I am able to live where I want to live, do what I want to do, with the people I want to do it with. I’m free to move, to quit one job, to accept another, to change a career. I am free to have ambition, to dream, to dare. I’m free to take risks because I have the extreme freedom that Jesus offers.
I talked about this freedom from three aspects: Freedom from the shame of the past and the fear of the future, which stills the self-condemning voices that whisper, “I’m no good and God wouldn’t want to bless someone like me.” It also stills the fear of abandonment inside.
I talked about the freedom under the loving leadership of renegade Jesus. It was Peter who said that a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. As a Christian, my great joy is to allow Jesus to master me, to get up every single day and to love living, to press so deeply into life that I’ll ultimately come to the essence of real life and that is Jesus – the creator and sustainer of all life.
I also talked about the freedom to, the freedom to dare great things for God. I love what Paul said when he said that God is able to do far more than we ever ask or imagine according to the power that is at work within us. Which to me means that God has given me everything I need to live the life for which I was created. I have the talent, the skill, the energy, the personality, and the intellect to fully embrace and fill every area of the life God ordained for me.
What a joy! What a freedom!
What did I learn today at The Gathering? I learned that people are hungry to be free; that of all the people in the world who live in bondage, religious people have the greatest bondage. It’s a bondage based on self-deception. Religion will not set you free. It’s only another form of prison where the morality police reign and fear and dread become the daily diet.
I invite you to move beyond religion to a dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who said He’s come to proclaim Good News to the poor and freedom for the prisoners, to recover the sight of the blind, and to release the oppressed, to proclaim that this is indeed the year of God’s favor.
God’s favor is yours. Live like it.