Walk in Freedom

The following is a guest post by Luke Larson


“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free, stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery.”
Galatians 5:1

If you were to describe your relationship with God, how would you describe it? Does it read the same as a relationship with a friend who you’ve fallen out of touch with? Or maybe even someone you have wronged and not yet sought forgiveness? Is it something on the back of your mind like a task that you know you should ‘get to when you have some time’ when you really just want to avoid it because it seems like too much to sort out?

This kind of thinking defined my relationship with God for many years. We all know the ways that we sin; we may be quite good at covering them up (although probably not as good as we think), but WE know the things we’ve done wrong. In our minds, these things create a mental rats-nest that becomes a barrier between us and God that only seems to get bigger over time. And as time goes on, it becomes far too overwhelming to sort out. So we go on with life, separated from God, living in a dull but constant guilt knowing that the barrier was built by OUR sin and one day we’ll have to answer for it. 

Here is the amazing truth of the Gospel: You don’t have to sort it out. You can turn to God from wherever you are and walk in freedom and righteousness today. Just imagine not having to carry the burden of your sin. No more hiding parts of yourself or trying to keep up appearances while you are dying inside. 

It sounds too good to be true, because social and civil expectations dictate that we pay for our mistakes. But don’t take my word for it, let’s look at what God’s word says about how He handles our sin.

“But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God IS love.”
1 John 4:8, emphasis added

“[…Love] keeps no record of wrong..”
1 Corinthians 13:5

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’”
Matthew 11:28

“For God so loved the world, that He gave his one and only son. That whoever BELIEVES in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” 
John 3:16, emphasis added

“But if we CONFESS our sins to him, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all wickedness.”
1 John 1:9, emphasis added

It is so clear that God is willing to forgive our sins. Most of us have heard this before but still, we tend to believe that forgiveness isn’t enough by itself. We still don’t know how to walk in freedom and righteousness. We know we can’t be perfect, even the Bible says we can’t. So once again, we feel stuck in a cycle of sin, guilt and shame.

Here is what God says about what to do next. 

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Galatians 5:13-14

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the spirit wants. And the spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires…” 
Galatians 5:16-17

Walk in freedom! Don’t spend all of your energy trying to be perfect, just go out into your daily life loving others and following the Holy Spirit’s lead.

And whenever you fail, as we all do, look up. Our instructions are simple. Bring your sin before the Lord, accept His forgiveness and move on.

We don’t have to sort it all out, we don’t have to correct our own ledger, and we don’t have to live in guilt.

Believe Christ is who He says He is.

Confess your sins to Him.

Love those around you and seek the Holy Spirit.

If you are doing these things, don’t let the enemy pull you back down into guilt and shame. 

And here is the most important part of all of this:

Take God at His word and TRUST that you are righteous in His sight. 

Christ died to make this way for you, don’t waste that gift by doing the process and not trusting Him with the result. You are a child of the most high God and He loves you with everything in Him. Try this now. Don’t put it off for another moment.

Do you believe that Christ is who He says He is? 

Now confess your sins to Him, whatever they are. He can handle it. Are you angry with Him? He can handle that too.

This is the path to freedom and righteousness. This is the way that Christ made for us. He says that you are clean (1 Corinthians 6:11), a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), righteous before God and free from the bondage of sin (Romans 6:7,18)

So here is the question:

Do you believe Him?

A gift of right perspective

I’ve been a little too lax in terms of my diet lately. If you don’t know anything about my last year in food discoveries, I found out this spring that I had SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and in order to help my gut heal I had to stay way from coffee, peanuts, almonds, dairy, and all grains, among other things. My gut is healing though and I have hope that someday I’ll be able to add some of these back in, as I’ve been able to do with tomato paste. But for now this is what I’m living with.

None of these are full out allergies, but they are bad enough that my quality of life drastically goes down when I have them. For instance, grains make me depressed and sometimes anxious for days. I don’t really know the science behind why, but I’ve experimented over and over again and this continues to be the case.

When I’m faithfully staying away from all these categories, I can have the occasional “dairy” treat if I take a lactase enzyme. And I can handle going out to a restaurant if there are trace amounts of gluten. But the last couple weeks I’ve taken full advantage of those lactase enzymes and we’ve eaten out several times. And last night I was in the dumps. It was like I couldn’t think straight. Logically I knew everything was fine, but it’s like I was paralyzed from being able to do life as I normally do. Depression and anxiety does that.

This morning I’m feeling better. We stayed home from church so that I could get a good long night of sleep in. Sleep is so important when I get to this point. And I had a dream that had me waking up feeling incredibly thankful for the home that I have.

To give some perspective, I make 90% of my food from scratch these days so that I can know they’ll be free of all of the above (which is why Danielle Walker’s cookbooks have been such a lifesaver for me.) And while I love cooking and it’s been fun, I also get frustrated that so much of my time is spent “working”. I work a 40hr a week job and then come home and work at home cooking and cleaning. It’s hard to find time a good balance where I am also able to have fun and adventures.

But this dream I had last night helped me to appreciate all I have. In my dream Luke and I were living on a college campus, as dorm hosts of some kind. We had gotten the tiny dorm perfectly cozy when another couple came to move in. They also had a crazy intense friend who declared he’d be over all the time and we should “be ready”. All of a sudden the only space we had to ourselves was this little loft bedroom we couldn’t even stand up in. It was a shock to both of us.

So waking up in my own home, with just the two of us and our dogs, I felt like I had hit jackpot. I have that entire kitchen to myself to do all my cooking in. I can stand up in all parts of the house. Instead of having no privacy like in my dream, I have full privacy in a home that is cozy, quiet, and cabin-like.

It was impactful for me because when I am thrown off balance by poor eating choices, these are the things that keep me grounded. And I have this beautiful environment to keep me going strong. It’s a lot of work, but life is work, right? They key is being thankful in the midst of it and enjoying what we have. And then when we’re able to do something special and out of the ordinary, it’s extra sweet.

My to do list is pretty big today, but I’m fully equipped to handle it. Physically, and now because of a good night sleep and God’s encouragement as I slept, mentally as well.

Perspective is a powerful thing. When life gives you lemons, it makes it a little easier to make lemonade.

The Gardener

John 15:1-17 is a classic passage where Jesus talks about the importance of abiding in him. It speaks to finding your life in the Lord. The first two verses say, “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.”

I’m struck by the significance of these two verses. God is the gardener, trimming and pruning the grapevine. Jesus is the core of the plant – the stock, the roots, the strength, the source. We are the branches, growing out of him and producing leaves and fruit. Our life is fueled by the nourishment we receive from Christ. It’s just as it was written in Deuteronomy 8:3 where it says we do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

What’s amazing is that it’s not enough that we would produce some fruit. But God cuts away the dead or overgrown stuff in our lives, even sometimes the beautiful things, so that we might increase in fruitfulness and growth!

In James 1:2-4 is says when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. We’re able to handle life’s trials, and God’s pruning, when we’re connected to the vine (Jesus) – when we are abiding in him.

The Lord is asking us to stay with him. To stay with him means that he is allowed to work a deep work in our lives. Our lives are made of so much more than what we can see in the physical world around us.

A sobering thought is that we see in scripture that he cuts off every branch that does not produce fruit. To him, that branch is useless. They’re gathered together to be burned. Nothing comes of them. It is as though they never existed, never benefiting anyone.

But you who remain?

You bring great glory to God.

So lean in to the good work that God is doing in your life. Trust his timing and his methods. He is the gardener. Jesus is the vine. And we are the branches.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
Philippians 1:6 NLT