Sunday, December 4, 2011

“Then I Will Go With You.”

Thoughts on the Sabbath School lesson for 12.10.11
“There is an old story [probably apocryphal, according to one Lincoln historian] that Abraham Lincoln went down to the slave block to buy a slave girl. As she looked at the white man bidding on her, she figured he was another white man going to buy her and then abuse her. He won the bid, and as he was walking away with his property, he said, ‘Young lady, you are free.’
“She said, ‘What does that mean?’
“‘It means you are free.’
“‘Does that mean,’ she said, ‘that I can say whatever I want to say?’
“Lincoln said, ‘Yes, my dear, you can say whatever you want to say.’
“‘Does that mean,’ she said, ‘That I can be whatever I want to be?’
“Lincoln said, ‘Yes, you can be whatever you want to be.’
“‘Does that mean I can go wherever I want to go?’
“He said, ‘Yes, you can go wherever you want to go.’
“The girl, with tears streaming down her face, said, ‘Then I will go with you.’”[1]
Whether or not that story is true, can we argue with the girl’s desire to go anywhere with the person who bought her freedom?  Wouldn’t we think it strange, though, if the girl, having just been freed, stepped back onto the slave block and allowed herself to be sold back into slavery?  We’d think that she was ungrateful and, quite frankly, crazy to give up her freedom.

What if, on the other hand, the girl accepted her freedom from Abraham Lincoln, but without so much as a thank you very much, ran off and, say, became a bank robber or a prostitute?  Yes, she’d technically be free, but would she be experiencing her freedom in the way Mr. Lincoln had hoped she would?

Jesus has bought and paid for our freedom from Satan.  Paul reminds the Galatians to be careful not to let their freedom slip away from them.  
“IN [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off].” Galatians 5:1 AMP
Paul seems to be worried about two specific problems that the Galatians were running into.  The first, Paul has been talking about all through the first part of Galatians:  legalism.  The other extreme, though, is also a threat.  
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”   Galatians 5:13
So, on one end of the spectrum we have legalism (I can save myself), and on the other end we have licentiousness (I can do whatever I want).  In the middle we have justification by faith.
It’s tough to stay in the middle isn’t it?  Most of us are so much more comfortable when we are given specific instructions for accomplishing something.  We like checklists and step-by-step instructions. 

Think back to when you were a teenager, becoming an adult.  You’d come to your parent for advice about what you should do in a certain situation.  When you were a little younger, your parent would have told you what to do, but now, he (or she) says something like, “It’s your decision.  Do what you think is best.”  Can you remember that frustration?  You wanted to be told what to do (even though if your parent had told you what to do, you would have argued about it).

One year in high school, the band needed to raise money for a trip we were taking.  We all split up and some people had bake sales and all kinds of sales or service projects.  My brother, some friends and I wanted to have a car wash, but we didn’t have a good place to have one, so we came up with an idea.  We would load up our parents car with hoses, buckets, and soap; go to a neighborhood and knock on doors and ask if the people who lived in the house would like us to wash their car.  Now the brilliance of this plan was not so much house to house part; it was the part where we didn’t set a price.  We did the job and when the people asked how much they owed us, we said whatever they thought the job was worth, or whatever they thought was fair.

That really put people off their guard.  They had to generate their own price.  Well they didn’t want to short change us because there we stood, sweaty, sunburned, soaking wet…we really made a lot of money that day.  And yes, we turned it all over to the band, but that was really an eye-opening experience for me.    People are much more comfortable when things are spelled out for them.
“An Arab chief tells a story of a spy who was captured and then sentenced to death by a general in the Persian army. This general had the strange custom of giving condemned criminals a choice between the firing squad and the big, black door. As the moment for execution drew near, the spy was brought to the Persian general, who asked the question, ‘What will it be: the firing squad or the big, black door?’
“The spy hesitated for a long time. It was a difficult decision. He chose the firing squad.
“Moments later shots rang out confirming his execution. The general turned to his aide and said, ‘They always prefer the known way to the unknown. It is characteristic of people to be afraid of the undefined. Yet, we gave him a choice.’
“The aide said, ‘What lies beyond the big door?’
“‘Freedom,’ replied the general. ‘I've known only a few brave enough to take it.’”[2]
What do you think?  Are you brave enough to take the freedom that Jesus has paid for with His life?  Am I?  If we accept that freedom, we also have to accept the change in our relationship with Jesus and with the world. 
“Christian freedom means receiving a new nature that institutes an internal transformation of behavior rather than an external regulation of behavior. The bicycle’s chain attaches to the rear sprocket and, from the center of the radiating spokes, transfers power that mobilizes the entire bicycle. Some motion could be accomplished by turning the tire outside the rim, but such motion is superficial when compared with the power radiating from the centered sprocket. Civil government does bear some responsibility for regulating society so that such egregious evils as violence, robbery, and so on will not go unchecked; but history has shown that spiritual revival is exponentially more effective in transforming behavior than is imprisonment and punishment. The Holy Spirit’s power, radiating from the completely surrendered heart, is humanity’s only realistic hope for lasting transformation and survival.”[3]
How will I serve my Savior?  By remaining a slave, by ignoring His wishes, or giving myself completely to Him?

[1] Steve Brown, Preaching Today, #58
[2] "Reasons to Fear Easter," Preaching Today, Tape No. 116
[3] Dan Solis, “Freedom in Christ,” The Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide

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