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Action or Reaction? The call to a better kind of freedom.

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10 May 2015 by romanin

Odyssey-full-sails

No matter how hard a captain would try, a sailing ship will not move without the wind.  A sailing vessel cannot take credit for the wind that drives it; it can only take credit for having its sails dropped.  A ship moves, then, as a reaction to the wind.

The bible says that we are saved by grace.  Ephesians 2:8 says that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”  And again, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:10 that “by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”

If then the Christian life starts with Grace, then our part is a reaction to that Grace; it is passive in that we receive it with thanksgiving, we do nothing to earn it.  Without the grace of God, our “sails” would be useless, for we cannot save ourselves.  Watchman Nee, a wonderful Chinese Preacher and Author who lived and wrote during the WWII and Cold War eras wrote a book called “Sit, Walk, Stand” expounding on the book of Ephesians.  He saw that the beginning of the Christian life must begin with the posture of sitting.  Why? Because Jesus by Grace invites us into a finished work, as he so exclaimed on the cross.

So what of the sermon on the mount?  In this famous monologue, Jesus expands on the law seemingly making it weightier and more impossible to bear:

He says “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21-22)

He then says “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)

And the list continues.  Does this not look like more rules?

I believe that in this “posture of sitting” and being thankful for the grace of God, when we are truly focused on Him, we are set free from anger, lust, vengeance, and a thousand other selfish compulsions.

Jesus is calling us to a better freedom!

You see, to keep with the sail motif, God is the one who moves us, our movement, growth, strength, salvation, is a reaction to God’s moving.  However, when trials and temptations come, we tend to roll up our sails and try to go it alone.  Here is where anger, lust, vengeance, selfishness, greed, etc. come in to play.  We, in a lapse of trust in the father to handle the situation, try to work in a human way to achieve the peace that is freely given to us by God.  So we attempt to avenge our anger, to slake our lust, to fill our greed, to satiate our anger ourselves.

However, we get the opposite results.  Our anger begins to destroy our relationships with people; our jealousy robs us of sleep; each pornographic picture deepens our lust and erodes any genuine relationships we have.

Yet God says in Romans 12:19 “Vengeance is mine”, Proverbs counsels us to “Enjoy the wife of [our] youth” in Proverbs 5:18, and the book of Hebrews says in 13:5 to “be content with what you have.”

I truly believe that anger can come from a fear of unfairness or injustice.  Greed can come from a fear of lack, or a selfish ambition to have more than one’s neighbor.  Jealousy and malcontent can come from a lack of hope.

But God promises justice, God promises to provide for our needs, and Jesus gives us eternal hope.  We are set free from fear.  Jesus’ charges on the sermon on the mount are not more rules that we MUST follow in order to achieve heaven, but a picture into what life would look like if we fully trusted him.

Of ourselves we cannot achieve these goals, and we therefore cannot be righteous.  But as a reaction to Jesus free gift of righteousness and grace, we can trust in God enough to be set free, and in the freedom of the cross, we can be free to love our enemies, be content with what we have, love our wives sacrificially and unconditionally, and respect with joy everyone made in God’s image.

Let down your sails, He is more than enough!

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