Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas greetings

May you all enjoy this time of celebration, knowing that one day... every knee will bow before the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Maintaining our freedom (6)

In my first post about freedom I mentioned that this series would be no more than a brief summary of the teachings we shared during the freedom conferences. I realize I am only touching the surface of this subject and I hope one thing will become very clear: in order to live in the freedom that Jesus purchased for us, we need to stand firm and not become a slave again... of anything or anyone.

Galatians 5:1 says, 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. That freedom is available for everyone who is willing to make a conscious decision to believe in Jesus Christ and to follow Him. Then... we need to stand firm and not let ourselves be burdened again. We can stand firm by 1) making the right choices (holy living), 2) receiving and giving forgiveness, 3) confessing our sins to one another and 4) understanding the power of Communion. That last thing is what this post is all about.

Jesus came to earth to set us free from sin, but (and this we find much harder to believe) He also came to set us free from sickness! We can read that in Matthew 8:16-17, When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.” Jesus literally fulfilled that prophecy. He came to deliver mankind from sin, but also from sickness and ailments (which are often the result from the Fall of mankind in general). The Bible continually confirms this, for example in Luke 13:10-12, where it is written about a crippled woman When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Jesus declares freedom from her infirmity. He delivers her from her infirmity as He delivers us from our sin. The word freedom or deliverance is being used in connection with sin AND sickness.

When we take a closer look at the prophecy Isaiah uttered about the coming Messiah, we will see that he also described the liberating work of Jesus in detail. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:4-5). All different aspects of human suffering are mentioned here: infirmities (physical), sorrows (psychological and emotional), transgressions (sin) and iniquities (immorality, often inherited). There is absolutely nothing that Jesus does NOT want to deliver us from. Another wonderful confirmation can be found in the Old Testament, and well in Psalms 103:1-5, ... who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases. Jesus wants to forgive and heal! Hallelujah. Personally, it brought me much joy and liberty when I realized that He came to save me from sin and sickness.

Maybe you are wondering what this has to do with Communion? I personally believe that the two elements of Communion (bread and wine) symbolize the two facets of salvation: deliverance from sickness and sin. If salvation is no more than deliverance from sin, then wine would be sufficient to symbolize the blood of Jesus that flowed for the forgiveness of all sin. So why the bread? Is there more than forgiveness? YES! The bread symbolizes Jesus' body, which was wounded for our healing. The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:23-31 about celebrating Communion. The Bible tells us there that some people were sick because they did not properly recognize the body of the Lord, some even died... Is it no more than logical to conclude that we can be healed if we participate in Communion in a right manner? That we will receive healing when we recognize the meaning of the wounded body of the Lord?

This is also an important key in order to stand firm in our freedom from sickness and ailments. I truly hope this series have helped you to stand firm too!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Maintaining our freedom (5)

In this series we are looking at biblical freedom as through a magnifying glass; the freedom that Jesus promises us. This is not the freedom to do or say whatever we want, but freedom from sin, guilt, shame and legalism, but also the freedom to choose. This freedom is a gift from God, but it is our responsibility to hold on to that freedom. Galatians 5:1 says 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.

Stand firm, then! How do we do that? In the previous post I mentioned that holy living is an important key in order to maintain our freedom. Purposely choosing to obey the Holy Spirit and not our own will. If we practice this more and more, we will experience true freedom, because where the Spirit is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3;17). Another important key to keep our freedom is the receiving and giving of forgiveness and the confession of our sins.

Jesus has set us free from sin, guilt and shame, yet, we often feel burdened. We allow the enemy to enslave us again, sometimes without realizing this. Quite often our feelings of guilt or shame can grow so big that they become a real burden. This is the stick the enemy uses to hit us with, He wants to keep us feeling insignificant and guilty, so we are afraid to go to God. It is therefore very important that we absolutely know that we are forgiven. The next step is that we need to forgive others as well. If we refuse to do so we will be burdened again with a yoke of slavery. If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:14-15).

Besides forgiveness there is also the confession of our sins, not necessarily to God, but to each other. Sin, forgiveness, healing, confession and deliverance... somehow they are all connected to each other. We don't need to understand everything in order to believe it. To be honest, I have enough questions of my own... But, let us take a closer look at James 5:14-16, Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. 

In these verses we can find wonderful keys that will enable us to stand firm, in order to keep our freedom. We can, yes, we must, forgive each other. And if we confess our sins to each other and pray... we will get well. Wow, that is awesome, who doesn't want that? I wonder why we don't practice this more often, in the church, but also in our small groups at home. We can take action today:

  • Do you truly believe Jesus has totally forgiven you? Say it
  • Are there people in your life you need to forgive? Give it
  • Is there a person you can confess your sins to? Do it
  • Pray together with that person. Ask it

PS: Is it truly possible to experience freedom from diseases and ailments and to stand firm? Did Jesus die for this too? We will talk about this in the next post.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Maintaining our freedom (4)

In the previous blogposts we have taken a closer look at biblical freedom. It is God's will that Christians should live in freedom. We are no longer slaves and we should not let ourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery... by nothing and by no one. Freedom does not mean we can say and do whatever we want (that would be anarchy), but biblical freedom means being free from sin, shame and guilt (and many psychological and physical problems that are often the result of this). That kind of freedom is only available through grace and our faith  in Jesus Christ.

Biblical freedom is also the freedom to choose. Galatians 5:1 says 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. It is somehow possible to become enslaved again. 2 Peter 2:19 clearly states that a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. Let's ask ourselves what has mastered us: worries, depression, sickness, addiction? We are meant to live in freedom; to not be a slave of anything or anyone. The apostle Paul gives us the key: stand firm then. In other words: protect your freedom, stand in the gap for your freedom, because the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. Let me put it this way: the freedom Jesus offers us is a gift, maintaining that freedom is our responsibility. For that purpose God has created us with a free will, we must do our best to make choices in order to maintain our freedom.

Making the right choices actually means to live a 'holy life'. When I was younger I thought that people who lived so called holy lives were boring; we used to make fun of them. Thank God I have learned that holy living means I have to make choices: one time for Jesus and after that every day... I must choose to do what my old nature wants (also called 'the flesh') or what the Holy Spirit wants. The Holy Spirit lives in every believer and talks to every believer, but quite often we are not so trained in listening. We need to silence many other voices (radio, television, news paper, thoughts, talking etc.) to hear Him. We must learn to listen in silence.

In order to stand firm we must make the choice to live a holy life, this choice is two-fold:
  • We must purposely separate ourselves from sin, and
  • we must purposely seek fellowship with God
Separation from sin means: not doing what everyone else is doing, saying no when we need to, never acting without thinking, but asking for guidance and listening. Seeking a closer fellowship with God can be trough our heart (prayer), our soul (music, worship), our mind (studying the Word) and our strength (service). In order to stand firm and to keep our freedom, we need to make the right choices, every day!

In the next post we will take a closer look at freedom from guilt and shame.