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The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 

Of all the lies Satan tells us, the ones that are the most damaging are the ones that take away our freedom. If there is one thing that can rob us of the freedom we have in Christ it’s the prison of bitterness. The Lie associated with the Battle for our FREEDOM is that ‘You don’t deserve to be treated this way’. The lie comes in various forms. It can be health related and involve you or a loved one: “I eat right and exercise and do all the right things to take care of my body. I don’t deserve cancer.” or “He/she is too young to have to battle all this illness. It’s just not right!”

The lie can involve relationships as well. We listen to the voices as work that tell us that we don’t deserve to be paid the way we do; that we do more for the company than anyone else and for the least amount of respect, and the voices go on and on repeating the poison that saps our energy and riddles our body with bullets of anger, leaving wounds that ooze bitterness.

We hear the voices at home demanding justice, fairness and respect. No one deserves to be treated as a second rate citizen regardless of gender or body size or sexual orientation or age or… (The list goes on). We fight back physically or emotionally or cower in the corner in self defense until, one way or the other we are released from the pain only to relive it in another relationship. The fight for freedom can turn ugly. For some, the fight for freedom has led to death. When we give up the fight, the enemy wins. 

As with most of the lies we’ve talked about, this lie is another example of the cunning methods the enemy uses to subdue us. Remember, Lucifer is the master of deceit and he loves to tweak the truth just enough to make the lie look wise. Half truths are his specialty. Do you deserve the abuse you are taking? Most certainly not! It isn’t just the righteous people who are created in God’s image. He created the wino laying in the gutter in the same image as the squeaky clean pastor in the cathedral where the bum lays his head to sleep, protected from the wind. The child molester is created in God’s image just as the terrorist, the adulterer, or the judge who seeks his own power and refuses to acknowledge the ultimate Judge or right and wrong.

The truth is, in one sense you don’t deserve whatever it is you are going through physically, emotionally, financially or otherwise. Your Heavenly Father created the Garden of Eden and all the animals, and we human beings so we could live in a world free of sin and in perfect harmony with nature and himself. When sin entered the picture it destroyed his dream for us…for now. The enemy doesn’t want you to know that when God sees the pain in our lives he weeps. His passionate heart is heavy when he sees the young person commit suicide, when he sees the cancer report, or hears the verdict from the judge’s bench. You don’t deserve what you are going through.

The adversity we face in life shouldn’t be surprising though. The Apostle Peter tells us: “Christ suffered here on earth. Now you must be ready to suffer as he did, because suffering shows that you have stopped sinning.” 1 Peter 4:1 (CEV) The Psalmist constantly talks of his pain, but in the same breath mentions the love and faithfulness of his God. (Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish. Psalm 25:16-17). 

The harsh reality is that while we are here on earth we will suffer in ways no human should suffer. It’s not whether we will encounter injustice or suffering in life. We will. Just as Jesus did. Regardless of how much pain you are going through or for what reason, none of us has suffered more than Jesus suffered for us.

The real question is how we will respond to the attacks. Will you dwell on the injustice or claim the freedom in Christ to rise above the adversity. Will you refuse to forgive and be prisoner of your own anger and bitterness or will you live in the awareness that just as Jesus suffered here on earth, we are destined to suffer pain. 

Freedom in Christ doesn’t free us from adversity, it give us strength to overcome it. That’s the Truth Statement the enemy doesn’t want us to hear in the battle for our freedom. Look at just a few verses the Bible tells us about our freedom in Christ. Truths that show us that we will suffer, yet our suffering won’t keep us from living free emotionally and can actually be used for the benefit of the Kingdom of God.

  • It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
  • Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32 (the truth! the truth about me. The truth about God’s love, grace, mercy and forgiveness!)
  • Brothers, understand what we are telling you: You can have forgiveness of your sins through Jesus. The Law of Moses could not free you from your sins. But through Jesus everyone who believes is free from all sins. Acts 13:38-39 (NCV) (the law (religion) was never intended to bring us freedom. The law was given to show us the need for freedom!)
  • Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17
  • But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. Colossians 1:22
  • The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:17

Freedom in Christ allows us to live in His strength regardless of what comes our way. Live free dear child of God. Live free of bitterness and anger so that others can see the truth of Christ in you.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus. I’m struggling under anger and bitterness. I’m living in defeat physically, emotionally and spiritually. I’m having a hard time keeping my eyes on you because this burden blocks my view. Empower me with your Spirit to live in the freedom you intended me to have. Amen.

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? James 2:14-16 (NLT)

One of Lucifer’s favorite tactics is to use half-truths to distract us and keep us from being the Christ-followers we want to be. When I was growing up I remember lesson after lesson about being ‘a good witness’. There was a saying going around at that time that said: “Each One Reach One”. The idea was simple. If each person would go out and win one person for Jesus it wouldn’t be long before the whole world was Christian. That was over 50 years ago now and obviously something went wrong with the theory.

Nevertheless, I tried. I became the ‘preacher’ in my elementary and Junior High School. I was passionate (in my own mind at least) about my faith, my love for Jesus, and my desire to show others the way to Christ. But no one seemed to listen. When my message fell on deaf ears I grew discouraged and began to feel like a terrible failure.

Simple childhood experience? Perhaps. But we struggle with the same thing as adults. It’s more refined of course, but Satan uses the adult version to dampen our spirits. The news media tells us over and over again that as Christians, proselytization is inappropriate in the workplace. Public displays that are sanctioned by any ‘government body’ are illegal. In some parts of the world people are even put to death for telling others about Jesus. In all these situations Satan attacks us by ‘reminding us’ that people don’t really care about our faith. That’s the great lie in the battle for our EFFECTIVENESS.

Again, as stated earlier, this is a half-truth. The Apostle James, and brother of Jesus, makes the statement in his letter to the church that ‘faith without works is dead’. As one pastor stated, preach a sermon every day and if necessary, use words! People don’t need to HEAR about our faith. People really don’t need to HEAR about how much Jesus loves them. People need to SEE the love of Jesus lived out in how we treat them, in how we react to adversity, in how we live lives of integrity. Faith without works is religion. Religion never brought anyone close to Christ, relationship does. An effective Christian is one that shows others what Jesus is like through love, acceptance and understanding.  

In the BATTLE FOR OUR EFFECTIVENESS, the Truth Statement is: People don’t want to hear about your faith, they want to see the love of Christ lived out in your actions. Don’t let the enemy keep you defeated in being an effective witness. Consider how Christ would react to the person who is rude to you. Consider how Christ would react to those of different races, different religions or different lifestyles. Then go out and show them Jesus!

PRAYER: Lord, I’ve been duped into thinking I’m ineffective as your follower because I don’t have words to say or a great ministry that wins others to Christ. I see now that I’m most effective when I am showing people what your love is like. Empower me with your Spirit to SHOW people your love, grace and understanding. Amen.

 Then he showed me another vision. I saw the Lord standing beside a wall that had been built using a plumb line. He was using a plumb line to see if it was still straight. And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” I answered, “A plumb line.” And the Lord replied, “I will test my people with this plumb line. I will no longer ignore all their sins. Amos 7:7-8 (NLT)

I remember a Sunday School story from years ago. It was the story of a little girl that got caught lying to her Grandma. After being ‘caught red handed’ the little girl confessed that she lied but it didn’t seem like such a big deal because it was just ‘a little white lie’.

The wise grandmother said nothing. She asked the little girl if she’d like to help make brownies, which of course, she did. After adding all the ingredients from the recipe grandma handed the girl a small bowl and asked her to go out to the barn and ask grandpa for a small bowl of manure to put in the brownies so they could finish baking them.

The girl was appalled! “Grandma! We can’t put manure in the brownies. It will ruin them.” Grandma assured her that it would only be a little bit of manure, not much, and she’d hardly taste it.” The argument continued until grandma smiled and put her hand on the little girls arm.

Honey, you’re right. We won’t put any manure in the brownies. Even a little bit would completely ruin the whole batch. But that’s like sin, even little white lies destroy our relationship with God and with others.

It was a lesson well learned by the little girl…and me for that matter. The enemy wants us to believe that small sins don’t matter. Especially those things we do in private that only affect ourselves.  “The Lie he wants us to believe is that “Little sins only hurt me.”

This lie of the enemy is flawed in two ways. First of all, there are no small sins in God’s eyes. Sin is sin. Period. It doesn’t matter how large it is or how small it is. It isn’t important if the thing you have done affects thousands or yourself alone. In God’s eyes there is no difference.

That’s a good news/bad news situation for us. Because there is no ‘sin hierarchy’ in God’s eyes then anything you have done that you (or others) consider horrendous is on the same level as what others may consider ‘minor sins.’ The bad news is that you are no better off than any other sinner! This puts us in the same class as a child molester, or a terrorist or any other person. Sin is sin. Period.

The other flaw in the enemies lie to us is that sin is something we do against God, not people. People may have the scars. People may bear the pain of our sin. But ultimately our sin isn’t against ourselves or anyone else. It’s against God himself. That makes his forgiveness and acceptance of us even more amazing.

When we buy into the enemies lie about sin we tend to rationalize about it (He did it so I can too; If you think this is bad, you should see what she did; I know it’s wrong but…) or we play the comparison game (at least I’m not as bad as…). When we do this we are trying to live by human standards and not God’s standards.

In Isaiah, God says, I’ll set the plumb line. I’ll do the measuring. If you fall short of my standards in ANY way you will be judged. Only by the Grace of God and the forgiveness offered through Jesus Christ can we approach God.

Increased love for Jesus leads naturally to obedience just as increased love for our lover drives us to want to do whatever we can to make that person know how much we love them. The sign of a person that loves you is that he/she encourages you to do what you excel at; supports your dreams; seeks your good, not theirs. That’s what Jesus has done for each of us.

In spite of our sin we are loved dearly by him. That’s why he came to die for us. God will do whatever he can to build a passionate love relationship with you but obedience is the key to that relationship.

Truth Statement: Sin is sin and affects our relationship with God regardless of how it affects others. (But complete forgiveness is available through Jesus Christ no matter what we’ve done, big or small!)

PRAYER: Father God, I’ve been listening to the lie about sin. I have many ‘little habits, or vices’ that I know are wrong but have overlooked them because I didn’t think they hurt anyone. Now I realize they hurt you and our relationship. Forgive me for the little things. Empower me to stop listening to the lie and live for you. In Jesus name, Amen.

(From the series “Lies that Keep Us from Loving Ourselves. Osceola Community Church-October 2011)

“Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:22 (NLT)

The little girl let out a piercing scream that brought both parents running to her rescue. She had been playing on her grandparent’s farm and building a ‘fort’ in the wooded area behind the barn. Unfortunately, she’d chosen to build her fort in the midst of a nest of wood ticks! Her parents spent nearly an hour picking ticks off the scared and crying little girl.

After a thorough inspection, a warm bath and a bowl of ice cream on Grandpa’s lap she felt much better. She got down to play but decided to stay near the house and play with her dolls.

“A little scared to go play in the woods?” Grandma asked her gently.

“A little maybe,” was her reply, “But mostly I still feel itchy, like the bugs are still crawling all over me.”

We can all, no doubt, identify with the little girl in the story. We walk through a spider web or discover some insect on us and for some time later still feel it’s ‘presence’ on us.

The same can often be true of sin. We fail to do what we should, or do something we know we shouldn’t. We may even wander far from God and live a lifestyle we know is wrong or become addicted to drugs, alcohol or lust.

Like the Prodigal Son, we come crawling back to God. We confess our sin. We work hard at cleaning up our act. But deep in the corners of our mind is this sense of guilt and shame that we can’t shake. We pray about it. Read Scriptures. We talk to counselors, pastors or trusted friends. Still we are haunted, sometimes day and night by the feeling of guilt on our lives. Much like the little girl continued to feel the wood ticks on her body.

So, why is that? Is God so angry with us that he won’t let us forget? Are the reminders of our past signposts to make us be sure we were sincere? Does God’s forgiveness fall short of our expectations because our ‘sin was so bad’ that he’s going to haunt us for the rest of our lives?

The simple answer to that is a resounding NO! The Bible is very clear in several places that once we confess our sins to Jesus and ask his forgiveness those sins are forgiven. The moment you asked, the blood of Jesus cleansed you from the penalty of that sin. We can still feel guilty though for a variety of reasons.

If you have asked sincerely for your sin to be forgiven and still feel guilty it could be a matter of healing and healing takes time. Sometimes that healing is made longer because people keep bringing up your faults. Sometimes it can be due to constant ridicule. Religion is a great source of guilt as well with constant reminders that we are bad.

The biggest culprit in our struggle with a guilty conscience though is Satan. That great enemy of Christ-followers wants nothing more than to keep you in the prison of guilt and remorse. He’ll lie to you. He’ll use other people to lie about you. He can even use religion to keep you captive. Don’t listen to him. Listen to the words of Jesus. “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more”. No matter how many times you come sincerely to Jesus he has promised to forgive you. Tell Satan to take a hike. Tell him to get lost. In Jesus Christ you are NOT GUILTY because of the blood he shed on the cross for you.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. I’ve been carrying this load of guilt long enough. I now realize that the guilt I feel is a false belief that I’m not forgiven. I renounce the efforts of Satan to keep me in the prison of my soul. From this day forward I’m going to live in the freedom of your forgiveness. Amen.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Romans 12:11

The Apostle Paul admonishes us to keep up the energy level in our lives. If you have ever been around a new Christian you have an idea of what he is talking about. Someone who has just accepted Christ into their lives seem to manage to include Him in every conversation. They are excited about the new life they have found and have a peace that nothing can shatter.

Then, gradually, that fervor fades. Sometimes old habits start to show up. Old life style issues raise their ugly heads, and soon it’s hard to tell the difference between them and the rest of the world. Paul tells us to keep that fervor. Keep that excitement. Constantly remind yourself of what Jesus did on the cross for you.

That’s easy to say, but sometimes reality deals us some ugly blows. Perhaps the biggest thing that can be a ‘zeal zapper’ is our own failure to conquer bad habits or addictions in our lives. “Jesus heals. Jesus forgives. So why can’t I stop smoking, swearing, looking at porn, etc. etc.” We keep adding ‘things’ to our list to try to do better but nothing works. With each failure on our part the enemy reminds us that we aren’t worthy. He’ll tell us we aren’t really Christians. He’ll remind us that God is displeased with us. (By the way, that’s a lie. God is never displeased with us. He may be displeased with our actions but NEVER us.)

Another Zeal Zapper is the comparison game. We look at how others in our groups, churches, etc. have ‘mastered the Christian walk.’ Some of them even (not so grace-fully) tell us how we too can be just like them. We fill our lives with all sorts of activities to try to be better and only end up wanting to give up all together or suffering emotional, physical and spiritual fatigue. We lose heart when we realize we simply can not be like them. (Did I mention that God never tells us to be like other people? He tells us to follow Him and He is NOT a cookie-stamper God).

Zeal Zapper number three is disappointment with other people. Sometimes our expectations of others falls short when we put too much faith in them. Sometimes our expectations are shattered beyond recognition by the way we are treated by  Zeal Zapping, Grace killing Christians who feel it is their duty to make sure you follow their ten easy steps to spirituality. There was only one person perfect enough for us to emulate. Stop trying to live up to the standards you place on yourself or others place on you. Allow your relationship with Jesus Christ to form your identity. Then, press on along the journey of life knowing that whether you walk confidently or stumble, Jesus is at your side guiding you all the way.

Zeal Zapper number four is disappointment with God. Your Heavenly Father loves you dearly. Sometimes He doesn’t do things the way we expect or want. Sometimes God’s ways are just plain confusing! But His ways are the best ways. Trust means that we give God permission to place whatever He chooses in our way in order to make us more reliant on Him.

Don’t let the Zeal Zappers take away the joy you have in Christ. Failure will come. Disappointment will happen. But He is always there wanting to encourage and energize you for whatever life places in your way.

PRAYER: Father God. I’m tired. I’m tired of trying to live by other peoples standards. I’m tired of trying to measure up to what I think you want instead of growing in relationship. I’m tired of being judged by others who seem to think they know all the answers to the easy spiritual life. I ask that you would forgive me for trying human things to accomplish divine results. Empower me with Your Spirit to live grace-fully for you. In Jesus name, Amen.

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