You’re Free–Enjoy It!By
Driving home after work one evening I was suddenly jarred out of my drifting thoughts by the sound of a bull horn blasting. I was sitting at a stop light at the busiest intersection in Fresno, our “speaker’s corner.”
My 20 minute drive is a nice time to mentally process the day before arriving home to see Jennifer and starting our evening.
I was curious what he was saying so I rolled down my window. But because he was yelling through the bull horn the message was garbled. Then I saw a sign by him that simply said, “Pray Here.”
No one was.
My first thought, “Great just what we need another nut case yelling about Jesus. Interesting that Jesus never yelled about himself.”
Then, “I feel sorry for him. He thinks God somehow requires him to make a martyr of himself by standing on this street corner yelling. The sadness is God doesn’t. He’s simply making himself miserable along with annoying everyone else. And in the end giving opponents more ammunition for saying all Christians are wachos.”
I remembered many years ago, not long after we were married, we attended a fundamentalist charismatic church that my wife grew up in. “The Exorcist” movie had just been released and the news reported people coming out of the movie in psychological distress. It seems so bizarre now, but it really was a big deal at the time.
Christian groups were picketing the movie and our church organized shifts to stand outside the theater and offer spiritual help to those who wanted it. Our pastor told us this was our duty to God so we went one evening.
As the movie let out I was disappointed because I didn’t see anyone in convulsions or other obvious signs of demon possession. In fact people came out talking as they normally do after a movie.
One young man came up to me and said, “Have you seen the movie?”
I answered, “No.”
He responded, “You really should see it before you picket it.” Then he turned and walked away.
I never again picketed a movie. Soon after, we left that church. And I began to discover the freedom I have in God that has been a lifelong journey into joy and peace.
What bothered me about the street preacher and thinking back to my own experience is that it’s so different from the freedom I feel today.
Most of us want to live peaceful, happy, productive lives.
We want to get married, raise a family, have a good career. Yet, life throws at us a stream of curves. It’s constantly changing and with that comes pressure.
So when we see some street preacher we think, “That can’t be fun and I don’t need to live trying to please a God that requires me to make a fool of myself.”
Or we look at church goers who don’t seem any happier than we do and we think, “Why would I want to add on all the pressure they have. More rules, more obligations, more guilt. I don’t have the time or the desire.” And having lived there I understand that feeling.
Not long after the theater experience I read what Jesus said, “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” (John 8:36, NLT)
And I remember thinking, “Wow, that’s different than what I’m experiencing.”
Another scripture quote that changed my direction during that time was, “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. “(Galatians 5:1, The Message)
I’m already free. If I am not enjoying it it’s because I put myself under the pressure to perform.
Yet, it’s so easy to slip back into performance religion. I still struggle with it at times.
What has helped me through the years to stay in that freedom?
At the foundation, realizing I’m God’s child not because I earned it but simply accepted it. It wasn’t conditional upon my actions to begin with and now that I’m his child it’s not conditional upon my actions to remain. That’s liberating.
In addition when I start to get caught up in the legalism I remind myself that isn’t what God asks. I need to listen to his inner promptings for sure. But they flow through joy and passion. And when I live out my faith, enjoying the opportunities, it brings richness not dread.
And with that I choose to live in positive loving ways out of gratefulness for what I’ve already received not to earn more. It isn’t about rules to gain God’s blessings. I’ve those in abundance. Instead it flows out of the joy in sharing what I’ve been given already.
A quote I like, “Like the cellar-growing vine is the Christian who lives in the darkness and bondage of fear. But let him go forth, with the liberty of God, into the light of love, and he will be like the plant in the field, healthy, robust, and joyful.” Henry Ward Beecher
I want to be that fruitful vine growing in the sunshine. How about you?
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