Christianity 201

July 6, 2021

When You’re in Bondage

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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This is the third time we’ve featured the writing of Scott Savage whose writes frequently at the website of  Air1, a multi-location Christian 24/7 Praise and Worship radio station in the United States. Click the header which follows to read it there along with some social media graphics you can use.

How to Experience True Freedom in Christ

What snuck up on you over the last year or so?

Was it a sense of exhaustion and burnout with all the changes and time online?

Did you go back to normal clothes only to discover some unwanted weight gain?

Have you found an increased sense of cynicism about people and the future?

Are you finding your reactions more and more driven by anger?

Starving Baker Syndrome” snuck up on me last year. This syndrome is based on the old parable about a baker who finds himself drowning in overwork due to the success of his bakery. One day, his customers started forming their normal line outside his store before it opened. On this day, however, opening time came and went.

After a lot of grumbling and peering in the windows, a man showed up and dispersed the crowd with a shocking message. The bakery would not be opening as the baker had died. The customers were shocked to later learn the cause of death.

Starvation. How on earth could a baker starve surrounded by food?! The parable ends with a reminder that we can be surrounded by the food we eat, only to starve because we are consumed by feeding everyone but ourselves.

Starving Baker Syndrome snuck up on me because as a parent homeschooling kids and a pastor leading a church, I allowed myself to be consumed on far too many occasions by the needs of others. By the grace of God, I didn’t starve and the reality hit me with enough time to adjust. But, I was surprised when I found weariness and skepticism reared their ugly heads in my life.

Throughout the Old Testament, the people of God have a similar experience. Surrounded by everything they needed to enjoy freedom, the people had the Law, including reminders of what would happen if they abandoned their covenant with God. In addition to a record of God’s faithful love towards them, they celebrated annual festivals, reminding them of how God had moved on their behalf. Yet, they were wooed away from God by idols which left them in bondage.

While the people of God in the Old Testament were often wooed away by literal idols (man made images which they worshiped), many theologians have taught that you don’t need a physical image to worship in order to be practicing idolatry. In his book on this topic entitled Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller wrote,

An idol is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.

According to Keller, any gift from God can become our god. When we look to God’s gift to His creation rather than the Creator Himself for our hope, we surrender the freedom Christ purchased for us.

This is why the Apostle Paul pleaded with the believers in Galatia to remain vigilant about their freedom.

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.

Paul seemed to believe that spiritual bondage could sneak up on followers of Jesus who had experienced freedom in Christ. When we shift our heart’s affections away from Jesus and onto anything else, we’re moving away from freedom in Christ and towards idolatry.

Our idolatry reflects a foolish ignorance. Jesus has shown his willingness to give everything for our freedom and flourishing. As Paul later wrote in Romans, since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?

While you’re reflecting this summer on the freedom you’re enjoying as an American, consider the freedom which goes far beyond that – the freedom you have because of what Christ did for you on the cross and in the empty tomb!

In reflecting on your freedom in Christ, consider spending some time with these 3 questions: 

1. What did I do the last time I was overwhelmed?

2. What is my reason for hope about the future?

3. What is my source of confidence amidst my current challenges?

After you answer those questions, compare your answers to these two reminders of our identity. In his new song, “House of the Lord,” Phil Wickham points us to the truth of 1 Peter 2:9-10. Phil sings:

“Now we’re royalty
We were the prisoners
Now we’re running free.”

We don’t know if Peter sang as beautifully as Phil, but he did write this poetic reminder of our identity as people freed in Christ.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

We may have been born into freedom as Americans, but we weren’t born into spiritual freedom. Our eternal freedom is only made possible by trusting Jesus alone. This weekend, pause and give thanks for your freedom in Christ!


Related Content: “House of the Lord” by Phil Wickham


Scott Savage is a pastor and a writer who leads Cornerstone Church in Prescott, Arizona. He helps hurting people forgive others through his Free to Forgive course and you can read more of his writing at scottsavagelive.com


Subscribers: In the introduction to yesterday’s devotional and its writer, we used the terms he and his (no less than four times!) when it should have been she and her. We’ve corrected the text, apologized to the writer and apologize to you for the error.

 

June 23, 2019

The Various Idols We Worship

For today’s Sunday Worship column, we’re featuring an author who is new to us. Jack Garrott is what is termed a “Third Culture Kid.” That’s what it means when the country you think of as home is not the same as the country on your passport! He writes, “Raised in a missionary family, I’ve been steeped in the Bible from infancy, and my life has been a journey of learning to apply it. I’m far from perfect, but it is a joy to me to share with you some of the things God shows me day by day.” His website is Virtual Vitamins. Click the title below to read today’s article at source.

Idols

1 John 5:21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

I’m sure I’ve never written on this verse, but I was drawn to it by the very fact that it’s not underlined in my Bible! Why would this be the final word in a letter from “the Apostle of Love?”

I think it comes from the broader definition of “idol” that we use today, rather than the stone, wood, or metal sculptures that were widely worshiped at the time John wrote this. That is to say, an idol is anything the devil uses to distract you from God, to steal your devotion away from Him. Defined that way, modern society is absolutely rife with idols. We even have the honesty to call popular entertainment figures “idols.”

For some people, computer games are idols. For many people, their smartphones are idols. Actually, in both those cases and in a lot of others, the real idol is being entertained, that is, self. Countless people worship sex, in one way or another. Money, prestige, security, the list goes on and on.

Almost none of these things are originally or fundamentally bad in themselves, but the moment they become a distraction from God, they become an idol. It indeed comes back to lordship, which is an issue I’ve touched on a great deal recently. We must constantly be on our guard to be sure that Jesus is Lord in all our decisions and activities.

That certainly doesn’t mean we aren’t to relax and have a good time; Jesus Himself went to dinner parties, not to mention taking His disciples away from the crowds from time to time to relax. However, our goal should be a constant and growing awareness of God, our place in Him and His place in us. Idols are anything that distracts from that.

My understanding of this has been weak at times, but has grown greatly in recent years. I am interested in a vast number of different things, from physics to electronics to biology to history to geography to many more, and often enough I have allowed those interests to distract me from the One who creates all that.

I’ve never been particularly taken by the “entertainment industry,” but recently politics has been quite a distraction. I need to keep my focus on the “God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:6) At the same time, since I deal with so many distractions myself, I need to have grace and mercy on those around me who are likewise distracted. I need to keep Christ in focus myself, and seek to help those around me do likewise.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Father, thank You for this reminder, and for directing my attention to a verse that wasn’t underlined. Help me not set up expectations that cause me to miss what You are saying to me, but rather listen always for Your still, small, voice, to obey You with all I have and am, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!