STAYING FREE IN GOD
Because our souls are used to thinking in certain ways, and our emotions have been responding accordingly our whole lives, it may take a while for our souls to catch on to what our spirits are learning from God. You may find yourself having to make choices to obey God and change how you have been thinking, or even living. These changes will often come to us in the most natural ways as we walk through our lives, though you may find that there are definitely some things, or even some people, that need to be removed from your life if they have contributed to ungodliness in your life. You will know if your peace is disturbed and you feel an uneasiness that something needs addressing. This is the Holy Spirit telling you what is not profitable for you.
It could also mean staying away from angry or negative people who complain or gossip about others all the time. Such people can pollute your spirit with their negativity and bitterness. You may want to point out to them there’s another way to look at things, and try and lead them to the Lord, but if they don’t want to change, you may want to do the changing in your relationship with them. If the Spirit is telling you to step out of such a relationship, there will be no doubt in your mind as to who they are. Please note that this does NOT extend to stepping out of a marriage. God has special grace for a person with a difficult spouse. Scripture is clear that if an unbelieving spouse is content to live with you, then you are to remain married, believing God to save them and unify your marriage in Him. (Please see 1 Corinthians 7 for more specific information.) Stepping out of an unprofitable relationship applies to other relationships than a marriage, such as social or business relationships.
Perhaps even as you read these words the Holy Spirit is bringing someone to mind. You may feel a struggle to let go but the sooner you do, the sooner you will find yourself in God’s peace. His peace is the most precious thing we have in our lives. We can go through anything as long as we have His peace which comes from having confidence (faith) that He is with us and that we’re in His will. This does not mean that you are to be friends with only believers. How else will others know of Yeshua if those of us who know Him don’t tell them? Yeshua was with “sinners” all the time. That’s how they soon became believers. Share your testimony of how you came to know Yeshua and what He’s doing in your life. You may not know a lot of Scripture (yet), but no one can tell you that your experience isn’t valid. Just be sure you’re not involving yourself with their worldliness and sin. If you find yourself being weak and vulnerable, obey God and head for safety and righteousness in Him. Flee if you must, as Joseph did from Potiphar’s wife (See Genesis 39 for the story.)
We may often find ourselves faced with a crisis in which we are confronted with a choice to do things God’s way or not. We have been given the power by the Holy Spirit to make the right choice to follow God’s will. He has promised us that “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Neither can we say that God has tempted us because God does not put us in the place of temptation. The devil does, but we are not following him, we’re following God. Choosing God’s way will always bring us peace. You will get better at choosing God’s way as you become increasingly sensitive to Him speaking to you. But what about if you make a wrong or bad choice and do what you know you shouldn’t do?
Sometimes we don’t realize until after the fact that we’ve disobeyed God. Either way, the way back is to repent. Here are some very good verses that define a life of godliness before God. If you take these verses apart and look at the different aspects, you’ll find some good advice and wisdom here. “In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us. Urge (employees) to be subject to their own masters (bosses) in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Messiah Yeshua, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:7-14).
What Does It Mean To Repent?
Repentance means, first of all, to agree with God. He’s always right and His ways are always just and everything He does is good. If we find ourselves acting or thinking outside of His justice or goodness, then we need to repent. Repenting is not the same as telling God we’re sorry. We might do that because we’ve been caught or found out, but we repent upon realizing that our sin has caused some level of separation between us and God and that we have offended the holiness of God. Repentance means we turn away from the sin and are no longer involved in whatever the sin was. To repent means literally “to turn” away from something detrimental to you or ungodly and “to turn” to God. The Hebrew term is shuvee, meaning to turn (away from sin).
A wise man once said, “If you ever feel like you want to blame God or doubt God, take a dive for His feet.” In other words, humble yourself before Him; We cannot overemphasize that God is always right and good and just! A good part of our trust in God is because He is the embodiment of those qualities. He cares so much about our wellbeing that He withdraws Himself somewhat when we are in sin so that it gets our attention and we turn back to Him. Does that mean that He forsakes us or He leaves us? No, He has promised, “I will never desert you nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). But it does mean that we may not sense His presence or that our fellowship with Him is disturbed until we make it right. Then He welcomes us back lovingly. When we realize we have sinned, we must bring our repentant heart immediately to God. But His constant willingness to forgive genuine repentance does not give us a license to sin repeatedly or intentionally. We are not to tolerate ongoing sin in our lives, figuring we can ask for forgiveness again and again.
God will not be duped. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). If you plant the seeds of sin, you’ll get a crop of judgment! However, once you realize you have displeased Him, be it immediately or months or even years later, the immediate thing to do is repent. Come to God and acknowledge your guilt and ask Him for His help to completely turn from it. He will give it to you. That’s one prayer He’s always willing to answer. Once you do this, if you are in earnest about it, you are immediately restored. This would be a good time to thank God for “the blood of Messiah Yeshua that cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). The other side of repentance is to turn the matter over to God once you repent, believing that He has forgiven you and rest in Him while He fixes whatever needs fixing and changes you. We sometimes strengthen something we want to be rid of by focusing on it. Focus on Him instead, on His great grace and mercy, on His goodness, or even on His suffering but without sin. Fill yourself up with Him and don’t leave room for the devil or the hurt. Forgive where necessary and enter back into God’s rest. It can be done by the grace of God.
God always required a blood sacrifice to atone for the sins of man. Countless animals were slaughtered for that purpose. Yeshua, the perfect Son of God, fulfilled the entire required atonement as the final Sacrifice dying once and for the sins of all people. His blood was shed when He was beaten unmercifully and when He hung from the spikes driven through His wrists and feet on the cross. God’s word to Moses for Israel was of His requirement for blood: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement” (Leviticus 17:11). Yeshua basically bled to death which had to happen because every animal sacrifice had to be drained of its blood. His blood is still effective for us today to cleanse us of our sin. It may sound strange to you now, but in time you will thank God for the shed blood of Yeshua. His blood ushered in the New Covenant which allows us to come into God’s presence by His Spirit. It is His blood that is the currency of the Kingdom which bought us the freedom He offers us so freely today.
There is probably nothing more critical as a believer in Yeshua than the matter of forgiveness. Since Yeshua died to forgive our sins, if we hold unforgiveness against anyone (including ourselves), then we are saying that His death and His Blood were not sufficient for that person’s sin. Wouldn’t we then be in the place of saying our judgment displaces God’s mercy. We are setting our unforgiveness up as a higher law than God’s law of forgiveness. It’s as if we are challenging what Yeshua did and saying it was not entirely true, that it doesn’t apply to the one(s) you won’t forgive. God has accepted His death as forgiveness for all persons everywhere. So as between us and God, if we hold bitterness and unforgiveness against someone, we are as an unbeliever, because we are not believing in the all encompassing power of His atoning blood. That’s pretty serious because unbelievers, those who do not believe in His forgiveness, do not spend eternity with God.
They remain under the judgment of God as if they hadn’t been forgiven for their sins. Yeshua said, “If you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15). If He has suffered on our behalf that we might be forgiven, then He has also suffered that those who have sinned against us may be forgiven. When Yeshua was dying, after having been betrayed, tortured unmercifully and nailed to a Roman cross in inhumane relish at his suffering, He cried out, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing ” (Luke 23:34). No one, if they were to know the eternal consequences of either their sin or their bitterness against others, would continue in them. Yeshua knew well what He was saying that they “do not know what they are doing.” We would all flee to Yeshua and His mercy if we could see what terrible consequences eternal separation from God would bring to us. Yeshua talked about hell more than He talked about heaven.
It is a reality He warned us about over and over. It’s not that what may have been done to you is brushed off as insignificant. Injustice is always something God will hold people accountable for. Either they will see their sin and repent and accept Yeshua’s forgiveness or they will suffer the judgment for it. God does not wink at sin. It does not mean it was okay for you to be hurt or violated. But it does mean that you give up not only your desire for vindication, but you give up your right to be right about it. Turn it all over to Him. Let Him cut the emotional ties between you and that person so that you can be free in your spirit. You may want to think of it as a triangle, point at the top. Yeshua at the top and you at one corner, with the other person at the other base corner. We forgive by going up to Yeshua for His power to forgive first. Then we extend it to the other person. It’s Yeshua’s forgiveness we enter into.
We forgive to honor Him and what He has done for us. We forgive because we don’t want to dishonor His precious Blood that bought us our own forgiveness. We forgive in the reverential fear of the Lord. What a great release you will find if you have held unforgiveness in your heart. To God be the glory for His forgiving mercy! When you’re forgiving someone, don’t just speak a general one-size-fits-all forgiveness prayer. Be specific. What are you forgiving them for? There may be several aspects to what you’re forgiving them for. It may have affected you several ways. If you feel that you must, forgive them for what the LORD brings to your mind about the situation. But don’t go digging in your soul for things. This isn’t psychology. You don’t need to re-experience them or look for things inside. Just forgive as things come to your mind. Forgiveness becomes a way of life, just like repentance. As something comes up, either in experience or in your memory, just release it to the Lord in forgiveness and stay in His peace.
This also applies to unforgiveness we may carry against ourselves. The same belief that you are forgiven applies to yourself as it does for you to forgive others. To hold onto any unloving thoughts or feelings toward yourself is still not forgiving. You’ve still held onto standards that are higher than God’s. You need to repent if you’ve been unloving toward yourself. Do not let the devil tell you you’re not worthy of forgiveness, or that your failure was too bad to be forgiven. That’s keeping you focused on what you did or even what you think you are, rather than on what Yeshua accomplished on the Cross. Focusing on your sinfulness rather than His righteousness will not get you free of sin or guilt. And self-recriminations will never get you the forgiveness you need. It will, rather, act as a blessing-blocker.
Only humble repentance and thanking God for His mercy and forgiveness will restore you to His loving presence as you accept His love for you. Be humble enough to accept His forgiveness. He didn’t die for you to carry your guilt around with you. Some religions, even some forms of Christianity, heap guilt on you even though Yeshua died to take it from you. This comes because of a misinterpretation of Scripture. He died to set you free and to give you joy. The more we walk in righteousness, the more joy we will have. Yeshua told us, “The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). You are one of the “they.” Enjoy it! Never carry an awareness of sin for longer than the time it takes to say, “Lord, I’m sorry. Please forgive me for______” and name your sin. It is a good idea to verbalize your commitment to turn from the sin and line up with God’s Word. You might want to pray something like, “Lord, I now renounce (come out of agreement with) ________ (identifying the sin).
I no longer will be identified with that sin. I choose you, Lord. Thank you for forgiving me and strengthening me against it so that it has no power over me anymore, in Jesus’ name.” Be specific about what you’re renouncing. Then receive from the Lord by faith the forgiveness. Count it as yours! Once you have forgiven yourself, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to now be the perfect believer. It’ll never happen. That’s like standing on a scale and holding in your stomach. Trust God to make you righteous one decision at a time, one day at a time. Trying to be a perfect believer is an exercise in futility because our self-effort is works, not trust in God. Yes, we want to walk in righteousness and yes we practice walking in love and integrity, etc. but even the apostle Paul confessed, “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
He meant by this that God’s strength comes in when we are weak and when we remain dependent upon the Lord rather than on ourselves, He can get the job done much faster and better than anything we could do. This is the secret to resting in the Lord. If we could fix ourselves Yeshua wouldn’t have had to come and die. We can embrace our weaknesses, knowing that God will work it all out as we keep our faith in Him to do so. Pray with thanksgiving, and keep on praying until you see what He will do in your life. In the meantime, enjoy Him with thanksgiving. Enjoy that you can trust Him with your weaknesses and your life. God is most pleased with us when we are enjoying and resting in Him!
QUESTIONS TO PONDER
1. Read Genesis 1:26-31. Does that sound like a life of freedom to you? In what ways? In verse :31 what does God say about all He has created? What do you interpret those words to mean? Read Genesis 2:15,16. How do these verses enlarge on 1:26-31? Now read 2:17. Does God’s freedom include restrictions? How would a violation of this restriction affect the “good” that the man had been created to enjoy? Do you think, then, that remaining free would also include restrictions for our good? Give an example. How has the world misunderstood freedom?
2. Read Acts 2:38. What is required for the forgiveness of sin? In whose name are we forgiven for our sins? Read Acts 2:39; 5:31. To whom was the forgiveness offered? Are you among those in 2:39? Why?
3. Read 1 Peter 3:21. What is the appeal to God here? What would it be based upon? Read Psalm 32:1. What is the blessing here? Read Acts 10:43. To what did Israel’s prophets bear witness? (Note: God required a blood sacrifice for forgiveness of sin. Yeshua’s holy blood has satisfied that requirement counting those who accept what He did as righteous in His sight. For those who receive this as truth, their sins no longer separate them from God.) Read Genesis 15:6 and Romans 4:3-7. What does it say about Abraham? How do you enter into this righteousness?
4. Read Ephesians 2:7-9. By what are we “saved”? By whose doing is it and is it not accomplished? Read Romans 4:13. (Note: Abraham lived before God gave Moses the Torah so God’s promise to him was not Torah-bound.) What was God’s promise to Abraham based upon? What, then, could we have done to earn salvation (being saved)?
5. Read Acts 2:41-46. Does this sound like a community of “free” people? In what ways? Give some thought to being part of a large community of people who have been released from guilt and failure to love God and one another from a cleansed conscience. (Note: that kind of freedom means freedom from intimidation, from fear of rejection, from competition, etc.) Read 1 John 4:7. How can you see this being applied in your own life?
6. Read Galatians 5:1. What did Messiah (Jesus) come to do? What are we to be careful to do? What would a yoke of slavery be? Read Galatians 1:8-9. What are we to be careful to avoid? Read Colossians 2:18-19. What kind of influence would be fraudulent (not really worshipping the LORD)? How would each of these qualities listed keep a person from true freedom in Messiah? What is the only thing we are to hold fast to in order to remain free?
7. Matthew 18:21. How many times must we forgive others who wrong us? (Note: seven is God’s number for completion.) Is that a specific number or do you think it means always forgive completely? Read Hebrews 12:14. What are we to pursue? With whom? Whom does that leave out? In what ways should you pursue peace with people you know? Read Luke 11:1-4. What did Yeshua teach His disciples to pray? What does :4 say about forgiveness, in the receiving and the giving of it?
8. Read Ephesians 6:10; 13-15. This armor is spiritual. Consider how each piece of the armor is meant to protect you in your spiritual walk with God. What does :15 say about peace? Does it sound like something that should be prepared, or decided upon, before an incident occurs? To walk always in peace may mean having to forgive. We can choose to forgive whatever may come. What do these thoughts bring to mind for you? Is there anyone you need to forgive? Will you do so now? Have you felt God’s freedom when you relinquished the hurt and forgave someone? If you have, you will want to protect that freedom by staying in forgiveness.
9. Read Luke 10:27 and Leviticus 19:18. How are we to love our neighbors (meaning anyone who can affect your life, or you theirs, in any way)? If you loved your neighbor as you love yourself, how good a relationship could you have? Can you truly love your neighbor if you do not love yourself? Matthew 6:15 and Mark 11:26. What is the connection in these verses between forgiving and receiving forgiveness? Do you think that unforgiveness toward someone else might be a cause for a lack of self-love? What would be the remedy?
10. Read 1 John 4:16. Spend some time this week thinking about how God is revealing His love for you, starting with drawing you to Him. What does having His love mean to you? Is it changing you? Do you feel more loving toward others? Toward God? Toward yourself?