Naming Chains

As I enter into this Year of Jubilee journey, this season of getting free, I’m finding there is only one real starting place: Open Honesty.

The first step to getting free must be to name my chains. To recognize the things and people I have allowed to become lords over me.

If we don’t realize we are slaves it’s impossible to get free.

And here’s the truth, we all have them. We all have chains, we all have little lords.

From nearly the beginning, humanity decided God was not enough and we continue to do it every day. I decide God is not enough. I give things and people positions of power and importance over me. I don’t recognize it, but I am constantly setting up my own little gods, my own lords. I am enslaved, and I do it to myself.

Rather than be a slave to God, I become a slave to comparison, to fear, to my desires, to hurt, etc. I say I need this person’s approval, I need this person’s love, I need this position of importance, I need this job, I need this house, I need this comfort level, I need to be seen this way, I need to have these friends, I need, I need, I need. I forget to rest in trust, and I become a slave to my little gods.

Friends, it is not comfortable to recognize the things which hold us captive. It’s even more uncomfortable to name them and confess them.

I would rather move on to the upside of freedom. I want to just ignore the chains and pretend I’m already free. But, God keeps taking me back over old ground and pointing things out. “There. There’s a chain. There’s an idol. There’s something you are saying  you need more than me. There’s something you are slave to.”

There is a paradox here, friends. In Christ we are already free, yet God is still working out our salvation and breaking the chains that hold us one by one (sometimes over and over again, because like Israel we return to our idols, not once, but many times).

I look at my chains and face two temptations. The first is to try to brake out of these chains on my own. In my own strength. I can attempt to pull myself up from my boot straps. I can say well, I’m just not going to let that control me anymore. I’m going to give that up. I’m not going to care what others think. I’m not going to compare myself anymore. I’m not going to let that person determine my self worth. I’m going to do a, b and c and not do x, y and z.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I’ve tried tactics like that it usually backfires. I usually end up caring even more, comparing even more, letting that person have even more say over me, or whatever the particular scenario is. We can not break our chains ourselves. We can not get free ourselves. This path of trying to do it ourselves, it doesn’t lead to freedom, it leads to more chains.

The second is to wallow. I can choose to sit in my wretchedness, in my slavery, feeling sorry for myself. I can look at my chains and feel the weight of them and bemoan the unbreakable nature of them. “I can say this is just who I am, I can’t do anything about it. I’ve tried. Or I’ve watched others try. It’s pointless. Hopeless.”

That path doesn’t lead to freedom either.

Isn’t this what Paul talked about in Roman’s.

I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. - Romans 7 MSG

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! There is another way.

His burden is light and his yoke is easy. We name our chains, and hand them over to Jesus.

Friends, freedom doesn’t just happen. It does require effort, it does require something from us, but it is not the exertion of self-saving. We have work to engage in, friends, but it is the work of surrender. We have to be able to name the chains, and then, I think, we have to be able to confess them. To openly admit, “This, right here, this pulls at me. This controls me. This makes me act a certain way. This distracts me from the Center, from the Core, from seeking first God.”

We name our chains, and hand them over to Jesus. We let the Spirit free us. We REST. We trust that the Spirit will free us. We don’t strive, but we do respond. When the Spirit says move, we move. When the Spirit says we are loved, we receive that love.

Our job is simply to say to God, “Here’s this chain I’m wearing. I see it. I name it. I surrender it over to you. I submit.”

We let the Spirit of grace do the work in us.

That does not mean we just sit on our hands. It means we sit with the Spirit. We listen. We respond. We act upon what the Spirit prompts. We sit with love and grace and allow it to sink so deeply into our skin that freedom becomes the very breath we breath. We become as the little seed, planted in rich soil. We rest. We trust. We surrender. And we let God produce the fruit in us.

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. - Galatians 5 MSG

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. Can’t you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them! …May what our Master Jesus Christ gives freely be deeply and personally yours, my friends. Oh, yes! - Galatians 6 MSG

Oh, what a prayer!

May what our Master Jesus Christ gives freely be deeply and personally yours, my friends.

Oh, yes. Lord, you are my Master, and through Jesus Christ you have brought freedom and victory and life, to all people. I am free in Christ. And yet, I still wear the chains of old slavery. I don’t want to wear them anymore. You offer free gifts to your children, you name us heirs, sons and daughters, dearly loved. You give us a place at the table. Lord, would you, by the power of your Spirit, break the chains that keep me from accepting the gifts you freely offer. I want the life of the Spirit. Crucify the life of slavery in me, that I might live freely unto you. In the powerful and free name of Jesus. Amen.

Rejoicing in the journey, Bethany