“IT WAS the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair” . These words by Charles Dickens in his famous novel, A Tale Of Two Cities, so perfectly describe the cry of my heart as I walked through a Valley experience like no other. I invite you to come along, as I journey back to tell the story that I will refer to as — The Freedom Train.
Perhaps, it’s been stubborn pride or vanity that has strengthened my resolve to avoid wearing glasses all my life. There have been times when I have desperately needed them and have shunned the prospect. I have found the same to be true in my spiritual walk with The Lord; Having the tools and resources available to me, close at hand, but continuing on in my nearsightedness because I was comfortable in my Routine. The busyness of life has often gotten the best of me; Some call it the Martha syndrome or being “busy” for God. But in all my shortsightedness, busyness and pride, nothing could have prepared me last year for what I was about to experience: An intervention from God, a breakthrough…….a freedom train.
There are several stories in the Bible referring to Jesus healing the blind. Those men knew they were blind and needed healing; What happens though, when our spiritual blindness is so great we don’t even realize we need to ask for help? Praise God that he is our great physician and the author and finisher of our faith.
It all started several years ago, when I received an invitation to join a para-church organization that does in-depth Bible Study.
It’s so in-depth –it’s like seminary for lay people.
At the time, it seemed to be the perfect answer to so many of my problems. I had been experiencing several “mystery” health issues: new to the area, new to my faith, and unable to work, I was desperate to meet people and have some sort of structure in my life; so I leaped at the opportunity to immerse myself in scripture, fellowship and the study of God’s word. A year later, still young in my faith, I was asked by the staff to take a leadership position. Now –mind you, I hadn’t quite perfected the skill of “listening” to The Lord’s “voice”; In my haste, and my need to have some sort of “title” or “position” to give me value (due to my low self-esteem & believing the lies of the enemy), I plunged head-long into the waters of ministry and found myself practically drowning in the storm of my own making.
Three long years later, after experiencing almost endless trial and hardship — attacks from the enemy on every side; The Lord Jesus supernaturally intervened and brought me, by his sovereign hand ,out of leadership. It was a huge relief! Unbeknownst to me, not only had I ventured into a leadership position apart from The Lord’s calling but I had since fallen into one of the enemy’s greatest traps: Christian Legalism, Performancism and Perfectionism. “How”, I wondered,” could I have missed all the signs.” After my head stopped spinning , I looked back and could see how my Heavenly Father had been warning me that I had been going in the wrong direction. And the real clincher? For over a year or two I had started feeling devoid of all joy and peace; The zeal, I once had for Jesus and my faith, had been zapped. I hadn’t been “listening” to The Lord’s prompting. My stubborn pride had convinced me that I was suffering all this for the sake of God’s Kingdom and his calling.
Now –I’m sure when you hear the word “legalism”, you think of someone who believes they have “to work” their way into Heaven by being good and doing good; however, there is another kind of Christian legalism that is so subtle it can make your hair stand on end. You see, I have always known and believed that apart from the blood of Christ there is no forgiveness, redemption or salvation. But where I missed the mark, was the lie
that somehow in order to “stay” in God’s favor, I had to “perform” and be busy at “helping” God in the sanctification process, ( by “doing” bible studies, serving and teaching and guiding myself through the scriptures) for lo and behold, I would NOT be growing if I wasn’t “striving” in these area’s RIGHT? Now, don’t get me wrong. There is a place for these things that help us maintain our spiritual vitality………. but heed the warning; when all of your “want to’s” turn into “have to’s” or “ought to’s“, something is desperately wrong. Jesus began to show me how even my prayer time and bible study had become so “routine” that it was like a “work” and no longer a pleasure.
The salve for my problem: Repent — (cease my “striving) and ground myself in my identity in Christ and put a STOP to false guilt (like feeling bad and guilty for Not measuring up to My expectations or someone else’s expectations—–i.e.: ( like having to spend “X” amount of time witnessing, in bible study, prayer time daily ….etc). The Lord began to direct me to Galation 5:1 and other passages that spoke of the freedom we have in Christ Jesus our Lord. I needed to pull back from all the business and be a Mary for a while and meditate on my FREEDOM. Somehow, I entered ministry in Grace and fell into the lie that I had to “perform” for God to stay in his favor. One foot ended up in the Old Testiment and the other in the New. Tired and weary from several years of intense bible study and training I longed to just sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him. To let Him guide me. To let Him teach me. As it’s stated in 1 John 2:27 “As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things…..”
You see, I finally realized that God loves me — just as I am. I finally realized that I can’t, in my own strength, keep the commandments…..but only through the power of the Holy Spirit could I truly live out the Christian life. I have been freed, by Gods Grace, so that I can be the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. I’m righteous, not because of what I do or dont’ do, but because of what JESUS has done for me. It is the exchanged life.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” 2 Corinthians 5:21.
You see, my righteousness has no bearing on my behavior. This however, is not a license to sin as Paul points out in Romans 6, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? ”
My hope and prayer is that if you find yourself in a lifeless “rut” in your faith, “trying hard” to live out the Christian life, always feeling tired and weary, and perhaps even wondering if God is for you, that you would turn to the only ONE who can help you —-JESUS. Please don’t just sign up for the next Christian Conference, bible study or leadership position ……… but go to Jesus. Remember what The Lord said to the Pharisees of his day, “”You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” John 5:39. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” 2 Corinthians 3:17. Won’t you hop on the freedom train TODAY?