Friday, March 1, 2013

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What Truly Sets A Person Free?

In today’s world, we often seem to relate our ability to live a successful Christ filled life to the level to which we can raise our understanding of a situation through the basis of labels and terminology. I am really seeking to gain an understanding of the relationship of the importance of the practice of labeling or defining everything and the degree of importance it may play in the final outcome of success that may be obtained in attaining a positive change, deliverance or healing in one’s life. For example, there is a teaching that one must label alcoholism as a disease, and it must be recognized as such before a person can be totally healed of this condition. However, to prove or disprove the validity of this statement of belief is not the ultimate goal of my search for understanding. Instead, I am searching for God’s overall view of any condition in life that could possibly be an obstruction to fulfilling God’s purposes in our lives.

Could it be that in our search to understand the conditions often found in our daily lives that we may be creating an imbalance between the importance of establishing terminology to define those conditions and circumstances in life as opposed to the importance or significance of one’s willingness to accept personal responsibility for our own choices, circumstances, actions, or conditions in life, regardless of what label or terminology that may be used to define any given condition? I happen to be a person that has a condition that has the label of epilepsy. Other possible labels are: seizures, fits, or terms such as sudden bursts of electrical brainwave activity. The cause of the condition could be a genetic predisposition, brain damage due to an accident, or even pressure in the brain caused from another source, or an abnormality in a certain part of the brain, etc.
In the Bible, demonic activity was presented as a possible cause when an account was given of a man was miraculously delivered and healed of epilepsy. Regardless of the cause, or whatever terminology may be used to describe the condition, the level of control attained over the adverse effects of the condition, is not dependent upon my understanding of the cause or the terms used to define it. I don’t deny that they may be helpful, but my understanding or even awareness of such terms or root causes do not take priority over the importance personal responsibility of my own actions necessary to be successful in overcoming its effect in my life. I must acknowledge that the condition exists and be willing to take whatever action is necessary to gain control over its influence in my life. In my case, I know that this is going to require personal commitment to make changes such as getting enough rest and the discipline of taking required medication. Without my acknowledgement and related choice of action, no level of dominion over the condition can be attained regardless of my understanding or acceptance of the validity of any of the terms used to define and describe it. I can’t deny that it exists in my life, but I don’t have to let it define me either.

According to the Bible, isn’t anything that separates us from God a sin? When God created the earth and all that is within it, He looked at it and said it was good. That says there was no sin or evil in it. It was the fall of man that opened the door for sin to exist in the world. God did not create it that way. Because of the fall of man, all of us are subjected to the consequences of sin in the world. Yes, bad things even happen to ‘good’ people. None of us is ‘good’ in the pure sense of the word, for none of us is free from sin. Only Jesus was sinless, and being God incarnate, He alone was qualified Him to be the sacrificial Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world for whoever would believe in Him as Savior and Lord.

Terms and labels for the conditions of mankind can often be used in perverted ways, resulting in the rewriting of what is right and wrong for the purpose of condoning what seems right in man’s eyes as opposed to recognizing the truths of God. We don’t like it when our sins of the flesh are called sins. Instead of calling the condition of gluttony a sin, we are much more comfortable with calling it an ‘eating disorder’. Lying is no longer referred to as a sin, but rather it is said that we ‘misspoke’. Homosexuality is no longer a sin, but rather merely a different or ‘alternative lifestyle’ that is just as valid, right, and acceptable as the ‘heterosexual lifestyle’. Some have even argued that being a homosexual is how God made them. According to that way of thinking, the alcoholic/drug addict who may have been born with a predisposition to becoming addicted to alcohol/drugs was also ‘created’ like that by God and so nothing is wrong or has to be changed to overcome the condition. Abortion, the killing of an innocent unborn baby, is not a sin but simply a woman’s right of choice. I don’t argue that there is never a reason to abort a pregnancy; however, though its original intent may have been prevention of the death of the mother, it has become a right to terminate the unborn for little or no cause, or simply because the pregnancy is viewed as an inconvenience, or even because it’s the wrong gender. When we get into the game of compromising the will of God revealed in the word of God, we set ourselves up as gods giving ourselves permission to rewrite right and wrong as it suits our own agenda at any given moment.

In my daily reading of the word, I found a scripture that was especially helpful to me for settling the question of what was more important between definitions and labels of conditions found among mankind and the significance of personal responsibility. I don’t mean to imply that this should be the answer for everyone, but merely that, for me, it seems to put my quandary about this subject into perspective. It is written: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; (emphasis mine) who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” (Hebrews 12: 1 – 4) For me this sheds light to my understanding. Any adverse condition of life could be labeled as a ‘weight’, ‘sin’, ‘disease’ (Did not disease enter the world as a direct result of sin in the world?) For me, this tells me my first response should to acknowledge the ‘weight’ as something that is detrimental in my life, something that I need to take action to do all that is necessary to cut it out of my life, or as the scripture says, to “lay it aside”.

For further insight and encouragement, I found helpful the following commentary notes concerning Hebrews 12: 1 – 4 written in the Life Application Study Bible pg. 2469 – 2470:

12: 1 “Their (the cloud of witnesses) faithfulness is a constant encouragement to us. We do not struggle alone, and we are not the first to struggle with problems we face. Others have run the race and have won, and their witness stirs us to run and win also. What an inspiring heritage we have.”
12: 1-4 “The Christian life involves hard work. It requires us to give up whatever endangers our relationship with God, to run patiently, and to struggle against sin with the power of the Holy Spirit. To live effectively, we must keep our eyes on Jesus. We stumble when we look away from him to stare at ourselves or at the circumstances surrounding us. We are running for Christ, not ourselves, and we must always keep him in sight.”
12:3 “When we face hardship and discouragement, it is easy to lose sight of the big picture. But we’re not alone; there is help. Many have already made it through life, enduring far more difficult circumstances than we have experienced. Suffering is the training ground for Christian maturity. It develops our patience and makes our final victory sweet.”
12:4 “This verse can also be translated, “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.” These readers were facing difficult times of persecution, but none of them had yet died for their faith. Because they were still alive, the writer urged them to continue to run their race. Just as Christ did not give up, neither should they.”

In addition, further assurance that our response and/or choices of action are of more importance than labels, terms, or definitions. We are encouraged to keep our focus on Jesus as our first and foremost priority as seen in the following scriptures: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh unto God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4: 7, 8, 10) “Neither give place to the devil.”(Eph. 4: 27) “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.” (I Thess. 5: 21, 22) “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Eph.6: 10 – 13)

I am not presumptuous enough to expect others to come to same conclusions as I have concerning being set free from the “weight(s)” that can so easily ensnare and enslave us. I don’t claim that what I have determined for myself is a ‘program’ that others must adhere to. For the Christian, we all know that the first step in truly being set free from the conditions and temptations of life is to repent and be born again. For it is the gift of the Holy Spirit who indwells us and gives us understanding and power to stand against the temptations of the flesh, world, and Satan. If using certain terms, labels and definition helps one to gain understanding into a situation is helpful as a tool and step towards being set free, then I say by all means make use of them. But for myself, I choose not to place the use of terms in as having any top priority to be concerned about, and again I urge the use of terms can also be used to pervert and rewrite or rename conditions so as to depict ungodly views as right and Godly views as wrong in order to place the views of the secular world as acceptable and Godly views as mean, bigoted, intolerant and unacceptable. I refer back to such examples as discussed on page 2 paragraph 2 of this article.

My personal choice, with God’s help, is to focus more upon my need to recognize that I have a problem that needs to be removed from my life, no matter what term is used to describe it. According to my understanding, anything that may draw me further away from God is a sin and, for my own good, I must ask His help to “lay it aside” that I may rest peacefully (even in the midst of the storms of life) safe and secure under His wings of protection when the circumstances, conditions, and fiery darts of the enemy may seek to destroy me. He has promised me “life more abundant” if I will trust in and be obedient to Him. Does this mean that putting my trust in the Lord places me in a realm where I will never face trials and tribulations? No way, for I know Satan is real and he never gives up on trying to devour, destroy, and even kill any one that he can. The scriptures also remind us not to fear who or what can destroy the body (for it is only temporary), but to fear that which can destroy the soul. We will all exist for eternity, be it in Heaven or Hell depends upon whether we accept the gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

I also know that I must submit all of my ways to the will of the Lord if I am to be successful in my daily struggles against the temptations of my own flesh. I know that if I make provision for ready access to harmful and destructive things, I am contributing to my own downfall. When it comes to bringing snacks and goodies (or ‘badies’, as in my case) into our house, for me they are detrimental and I struggle against the sin of gluttony. Someone else may be able to have a bag of potato chips, eat only a few, and a month later there’re still a few left. But in my house, if I ‘provide’ it, I am setting my own self up for failure. By my own hand, I have opened the door that leads to my own destruction. When it comes to some foods, I don’t seem to be able to practice the Godly principle of ‘moderation in all things’. For someone else, the trigger might be drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, adultery, and so on. It’s like choosing to buy a gun to shoot myself in my own foot, or worse. I just had a glorious thought. How wonderful it would be to ‘over eat’ from the word of God. Though I don’t think it’s possible to have too much of the word in one’s life. Like the scripture says: “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” What an absolutely glorious and fantastic meal, and the only kind that is truly satisfying to one’s soul. I think that’s what it must mean by ‘keep being filled’ by the Holy Spirit.

I don’t deny that Jesus has, and still does, miraculously deliver some from their situations, etc. But, for His reasons and purposes, that is not always the case. His ways are higher than ours. Some addictions, sins, weights, diseases, whatever you want to call them, can create such a stronghold in one’s life that one must seek the help of others in order to remove the destructive ‘weight’ from their lives. It could be one of those ‘thorns in the flesh’ that one may constantly struggle against. giving into it. No one ever promised us that life was going to be easy. The shame is not in failing to succeed in the struggle to succeed. The shame is giving up in the race to endure, and not even trying to overcome that which would ensnare us. I think the motto is, “If at first you don’t succeed, then try and try again.” Or as the scripture says, having done all to stand, stand. “With God’s help all things are possible.” All God asks of us is to have a willing heart, and He will help us through it all. He is not going to put your shoes on for you. Being a Christian does not mean one gets a free pass to just sail through life with no action on our part. It’s all a process. No one should be so prideful as to think that their sin is so great that the blood of Jesus is not sufficient to cover it. Seeking help from God and others is courageous, not a sign of weakness or something for which to feel ashamed. Letting pride stand in the way is itself a sin. Refuse to take part in it; get rid of it!!

Am I making the assertion that only Christians can be set free from addictions, disease, etc.? Absolutely not!! Am I saying that you have a disease as a direct result of sin in your life? No, not necessarily. I may have a disease simply because I live in a fallen world where disease exists as a result of the fallen state of our world. Remember, when God created the world, he said “It was good.” Mankind is the one that caused the fall of the earth giving entrance of disease, sin and other evils. Neither can we just claim; O, the devil made me do it, or act as if we have no personal responsibility when it comes to what we allow in our lives. We can’t always control all factors, but we can have control over our personal responses and actions as we learn to submit ourselves to the will of the Lord. We are not alone in our struggles. This is the way I look at it. The law of gravity exists and works whether one knows the word or even understands all of the labels that could be used to define and describe it. So it is with Godly principles. They work and affect the life of all who practice them whether they believe in the One who established them or not. Though a person may not trust in the Lord for things of eternal value, practicing Godly principles can make a difference at least in their temporary life on earth.

We have three scriptures posted in different areas of our home. Above the entrance to our family room it is written: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”(Phillip. 4: 13) On the back door exit it is written: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”(Psalm 139: 24) On our back porch you will find written the following scripture: “I am the true vine, and ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15: 5) Doesn’t that really say it all? Mankind can do his best to define, describe, and promote understanding, but in the end all depends on the power of the One who is the source of all deliverance and healing. In our kitchen there is written on a plaque a true statement, even though it may not be a direct quote from scripture, it asserts the following: “Earth hath no sorrow that Heaven can not heal.” May we always have a contrite heart that seeks the kingdom of God first that we might forever praise the Lord and do that which is pleasing in His sight.

Finally, this is my basic question; In seeking healing or deliverance from any adverse condition in life is it more important to accept a certain definition for that condition, or is the greater priority to recognize it as something that has either a positive or negative affect in my life. If it is negative, based on the wisdom of God’s standards, it is my responsibility to do all that I possibly can to rid my life of it, or at least reduce it as much as is possible, in order to live the “more abundant life” that God has purposed and intended for me. For me personally, I have concluded that the latter is of far greater importance whereas the former is simply a tool that may or may not be helpful in determining the final outcome in my life. With God, all things are possible, regardless of our human ability to have complete understanding. Some things in life may forever remain a mystery to us. I put my trust in God, not in the terminology created by mankind. Mankind’s ideas and thoughts are always changing, but God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Virginia Rahn

Look at the Serenity Prayer which is relevant to many conditions in life:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.

It seems to me that this prayer settles the point that definitions or labels are not of the utmost significance. The focus seems to be entirely upon seeking God’s help to recognize what needs to be changed and the power to change what can be changed.
I have a ‘condition’ that is said to be as a result of a concussion, yet the doctors shake their heads and have no specific definition, name, or cure for it. In spite of that, if I am willing to ‘change’ certain things, I can still lead a ‘reasonably happy life.’ So I don’t focus on whether it’s a disease, genetic disorder, brain damage, or whatever any one might want to call it, but rather upon doing all that I can, with God’s help, to live the ‘more abundant life’ that God has purposed for me, one day at a time.

Ginger Rahn


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