The theme of the church service was, “Lament, Forgiveness and Renewal.” We had all experienced loss and sadness during the pandemic – some much more than others – and as we came together as a congregation we were led to a place of honesty where we brought our troubled emotions, sadness and sorrows to Jesus. We asked for forgiveness from Him for ourselves, made the choice to forgive others and asked for the renewing power of the Holy Spirit.
During this time a young man at the side of the preacher was painting a picture. As he began to paint, he had no idea what the result would be. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the finished picture was of a person in chains in a prison cell. A ray of bright light was shining into the cell, showing the trapped person in the arms of another. The strong chain that had bound him was broken. He was free and yet he remained in the prison cell. The painting now hangs on a wall in the church. It is a reminder that, even if we choose to stay in the prison, Jesus Himself has paid the price for our freedom. So, what from our past can hold us back?
The truth is that, when Jesus shed His blood on the cross, He purchased forgiveness and freedom for all who trust in Him. We become dearly loved children of a Father who desires to have an intimate relationship with us, enabling us to live in the joy of the perfect freedom for which Jesus paid the price on the cross. Jesus Himself proclaimed freedom for the prisoners and for the oppressed (Luke 4:18).
Jesus also said, “If the son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). He was speaking of freedom from slavery to sin. We are trapped by our past when we have issues from the past that have not been brought into the light through fear, denial, shame or unreality. We can try to bury the past but it is buried alive! This can close our eyes and heart to the truth that by His death Jesus has broken the chains that bound us.
We are told that “It is for freedom that Christ has died to set us free.” We are also clearly commanded to “Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). The first century Christians to whom the words were originally written had come to faith in Jesus but were still trying to obey the law. This was adding something extra to the perfect freedom Jesus had accomplished for them on the cross –with a view to earning God’s favour.
For us it may come down to being constantly busy doing good works, striving to read the Bible and pray more in order to please God and experience more of His love. Of course, it doesn’t work. We may know a lot about grace, but we need to experience grace for our minds to be renewed in order to move into the glorious freedom of the children of God. Freedom is living in the assurance that Jesus has done all that is needed to set us free from the past and from a guilty conscience.
In reality, being born again is a new beginning. It’s the beginning of a life-time’s journey of knowing Jesus more and more as our lives are set in a new direction. It is important to look back with gratitude at the blessings of the past and also to be willing to face negative and painful experiences of the past. Jesus is our healer and deliverer! He asks us to trust Him to bring us freedom and wholeness.
If we continue to blame the past for how we are today, we will be trapped there. We will keep going back to it. It’s good to remember that we have new life in Jesus. We are not victims of the past. The freedom Jesus bought by His death includes freedom from the consequences of sins we have committed and those committed against us. We can then sing with joy, “My chains are gone, I’ve been set free, my God, my Saviour has ransomed me, and like a flood His mercy reigns, unending love, amazing grace” (Chris Tomlin).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your amazing love in giving Jesus to set me free. Thank You that by the power of the Holy Spirit I am enabled to live a life of freedom in a broken world. Today I desire to live my life under the Lordship of Jesus, knowing that one day every knee will bow to Him, and every mouth will confess that He is Lord. Amen.
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