I’m on the staff of a wonderful church. They often pour into us as leaders and help us grow. A few weeks ago I was sitting in a training class listening to one of our pastors talk about the definition of freedom. We were being trained on how to help people become free.
I had some “aha” moments.
The first step is to become free yourself.
Because free people free people. Freedom is talked about in Scripture but we don’t often address how to become free outside of some 5-step program. In those programs you’ll be taught to use self control and your will to change. But Jesus said He came to set the captive free. That sounds like less of self effort.
I went to this training thinking I would learn how to help people, but I left seeing my own need for freedom.
I grew up in a time where the gospel was about fire and brimstone. If you didn’t do certain things, you were sure to be on the pathway to hell. I remember intently listening to a certain televangelist along with my family. I wanted to know the instructions to ensure my ticket to heaven. Traditionally, that is what I knew about freedom—to be free from sin and death, with the promise of eternal life.
Fast forward many years later to adulthood. Now I’m learning about freedom in a whole new way. I hear the pastor say “Freedom is about getting free from who you are in order to become who you are created to be.”
Wow, what a deep and powerful statement!
So now I have to die to who I was born to be in order to become who I was created to be?
How the heck do I do that?
I remembered Jesus came to set the captive free. I can’t set myself or anyone else free.
Now I could start identifying the things I need to be free from so I could be everything God wants me to be! That starts with asking God to show me the things are holding me captive.
After living in bondage for so long, would I notice the things holding me captive? Yes! Because that is the reason Jesus came! He wants to show me the things that are keeping me from being the person God created me and Jesus redeemed me to be.
I have to be free from:
- The things that I’ve learned and walked in for years—things that I’ve thought were protecting me but were actually keeping God and others out.
- The things that I let define me that aren’t in agreement with what God thinks of me—lies others have spoken over me that I’ve agreed with.
- The things that have a stronghold on me—habits and patterns that make me think I was born with this weakness and have stopped fighting to change.
Logically, if I’m not free, then I’m in bondage. I started wondering about asking God, “What am I in bondage to?”
Then the pastor said, “Whatever we seek first sets the focus of our lives. For example, if you focus on NOT being depressed, then depression has a hold on you. We give power to whatever we focus on.”
This struck me like lightening.
All of a sudden, I knew that my life had been focused on relationships. Not only was it about relationships, it was about what I wanted out of those relationships—love and belonging.
I was lied to about the source of power that would meet my need. I was seeking after something I would never get, because the search for love couldn’t produce love; it could only imitate it. It would only let me down because that’s what counterfeits do. They pretend to be the real deal, and in the end it doesn’t last like the real thing.
All of sudden I clearly understood that there was something fundamentally wrong with my definition of love.
Through many life experiences, I knew love to be something I had to earn. Love was conditional. If love was something I had to earn, then me giving love could only be contingent upon what someone else would do to earn it from me.
Have you ever heard the phrase, you can’t give what you don’t have? The opposite is also true. You can only give what you have. We can’t seek love and give love at the same time, and be successful in love. An empty vessel can’t promise to give anything.
In our selfishness, we seek to gain what we don’t have.
I Corinthians 13 describes perfect love. It describes love as patient and kind, not envious or boastful, not arrogant or rude. Love doesn’t insist on its own way; it is not selfish.
Not only was my definition of love wrong, but my focus of love was wrong.
Matthew 6:25-34 tells us not to be anxious about our lives. It says that we should seek first the Kingdom of God, and all the things we need in life will be added unto us. Well, seeking after love and relationships would definitely fall into the category of worrying about my life. God knows everything that I need. If He knows what I need, then this has to include the need to belong and to be loved.
His perfect love casts out all fear (anxiety). My desire for love is good, because He gave it to me so I’d pursue Him. When I keep my eyes on God as the source of power for the love I am seeking, I actually receive what He’s also asking me to unselfishly give away.
With or without a “relationship” on earth, I have the ultimate relationship with the lover of my soul.
That is what I was created for …