You are Free in Christ
No matter how things are going in your life right now, they don’t have to continue this way. You are not a slave to circumstances. You may be used to living, feeling, and thinking a certain way. You may have grown up in certain patterns of behavior. Despite this, you are not required to feel the way you do. There is absolutely no reason for you make the decisions you make or make the same old mistakes. You can always change the trajectory of your life, if you are in Jesus. This means that, if you are unhappy, you do not have to continue like you are for one more moment.
I promise you there is always a way of deliverance with Jesus. I know this personally. I once felt trapped by my past. I kept making the same mistakes that destroyed so many of my family over the years. I thought my following in their footsteps was inevitable. Jesus exposed these thoughts as lies of the enemy.
God broke your chains. You are free in Jesus! Yet, He will not force you to live as a free man. Your choice in how to follow Jesus is up to you.
A Poisoned Tree
I am working on a family tree with my daughter. Learning my family history is fascinating. It is also heartbreaking. A shadow of sadness hangs over my ancestry. I feel great sorrow as I trace how each generation seems to start with hope and the promise of a good life only to be destroyed by sin. Black and white photos show loving husband and wife joyfully cradling their babies as they look confidently to their future. Their youthful gazes are replaced all too quickly with that of resigned defeat as the consequences of bad decisions mount. The official records testify to the costs of addiction, abuse, divorce, and acrimony. The family lines split and diverge haphazardly as a result of shattered families and infidelity. It is a chaotic family tree whose most plentiful fruit is sin, dysfunction, and pain.
The destruction across many decades is terrible to see. It was hard to grow up in the midst of all the carnage. The collective weight of my family brokenness overshadowed me as I grew up. It was like being tied to an anchor as I tried to learn to swim through life. Pain, neglect, anxiety, and loss were constantly trying to pull me down since I was a little boy. They were so constantly present that I thought they were normal.
Why would I know what was good or normal when I never experienced it? It is like trying to tell which line is crooked when you have never seen a straight one.
This crooked mindset followed me as I reached adulthood. I began making all the same bad decisions that destroyed so many before me as a result. It was what I was raised to do. It made no sense, but I did not know any other way. My thoughts, emotions, expectations, and training all pointed me towards destruction.
I was following the very same path that destroyed so many before me, but I had no idea how to do anything different.
I eventually got so desperate that I turned to Jesus and begged for the pain to stop. I did not know what came next, but it had to be better than right then. Jesus answered and saved me.
If you are reading this, I pray that you already had this experience. If you haven’t, please read How to Know God.
Put Off the Old Man!
Jesus saved me. Please don’t misunderstand me, He did it. He is the author of my salvation. I could never do it on my own and this took care of my relationship with God. It guaranteed my place in heaven. It made me part of God’s family and washed away my sins. Yet, this was only the beginning of my transformation from a life of death into a life in Christ.
What was next? I had no idea at the time, honestly.
I was not raised in the church. I understood I was a new creation in Christ. Yet, salvation alone did not erase the years growing up in an alcoholic family. My toxic thinking, emotions, and actions did not just disappear. The harmful people, relationships and patterns that brought me to my knees in desperation did not either. These were all still lurking in me and just as warped as when I was saved.
I belonged to Jesus, My Master, but I had to choose what came next.
Would I leave the old life entirely behind and follow Him alone?
Would I treat Jesus as fire insurance on my life while continuing as if nothing happened?
Give Me Christian Liberty or Death
Christian liberty is so much more than freedom to eat pork or listen to secular music. It includes freedom to choose how you follow Christ.
Do you want to stay captive to the emotions, reactions, urges, and other fleshly motivations that compelled you before Jesus?
Do you choose to live free of all the junk, ties, addictions, and impulses the past tries to imprison you with?
Paul put the choice this way:
But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,
You were the old man before Jesus. That man was a slave to sin in his thoughts, emotions, plans, and life. This means that your sinful nature influenced every thought, emotion, and decision. It fatally polluted them. You may think you were a reasonable, level headed, and kind person before Christ. The truthis you were in rebellion against the things of God and headed towards judgment as a result.
Then Jesus saved you. You were born again through an awesome miracle of God. The old man died in this work of God and you came to life as a new creation. If you believe this to be true, then:
and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
Do you expect your life to be the same as before you were saved? Do you think you should like the same things, react in the same ways, and want all the same benefits as before Jesus rescued you?
That makes no sense. It is unbiblical. That old person from before Christ is dead and gone. You before Jesus was leading you as an enemy of Christ and to your eventual judgment. That cannot be you anymore. Why?
You are a new man in Christ. This new creation is totally and entirely defined by Jesus.
Have you accepted this reality? It is great news. You are no longer bound by what came before Jesus, no matter what your past looks like. You are free to grow as much as you choose – but choose you must.
Throw Off the Past
The words translated as “put off” in these verses mean to cast something away from you with disgust. They were applied to runners in ancient Olympics. These athletes were so intent on winning their races they would run naked rather then be slowed down. They would cast their outer clothing away when they began to get heavy with sweat rather than lag behind. They chose the glory of what was ahead over holding onto their stuff.
For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2
How was the old you trapped by life?
What pushed the old you’s buttons?
What made the old man sad or feel hopeless?
What mistake did the old man make over and over again?
Have you cast off the old man?
Since that old man is dead, none of your answer need to apply to the new you…unless you choose them. The old you was crucified with Christ and has no power over the new creation as a result, unless you give it to him.
Have you taken inventory of the old man’s baggage that you are needlessly dragging around with you?
Are you willing to throw it off?
Adding a Dash of Jesus
Many Christians get derailed at this crucial step. They flounder before ever really getting their Christian walk going. They treat Jesus like the spice you add to an existing meal. A dash of Jesus provides a little flavor to make things more tolerable, but doesn’t change the fundamentals of the recipe. This fight against the Holy Spirit has painful consequences.
It is like one of the issues raised in lifeguard training. They warn you that the drowning person is often the most dangerous aspects of a rescue. The victim you are trying to rescue will often vigorously fight and flail in their panicked desire to rescue themselves. They forget it was their own actions that originally put them in peril.
It is the same way with following Christ. You can forget that it was your decisions, emotions, plans, and even talents that led you to facing the truth of God’s wrath. It was your instincts and logic that placed you before God as perfect judge of all of your sins. Your way led to destruction and caused Jesus to pour out His life on the Cross. There is a way that seems right to you, says the Bible, it leads to death.
Are you willing to stop struggling and be rescued?
This starts by understanding that the old life and old man has nothing to offer in the Kingdom of God. It then continues by acknowledging your inability to follow God on your own based on you. It includes evaluating everything you do, think, feel, and the ways you react. The question to answer is whether each action or reaction is from God or simply a remnant of the old man rearing his ugly head.
This is hard work. It may cause you to make hard decisions about plans and relationships. It may have you question every decision to make sure it is from God.
But it is the way to true freedom. You will lose your earthly life, sure, but you will find something so much greater – life in Christ.
So what is your choice?