Despite Jesus offering freedom to all, there are many who aren’t experiencing the full, free, and abundant life that we so often quote is available to us. Sadly, many of those unfree people even claim to be believers in Jesus. Why is this?
Over the past year I’ve had the privilege to really dive deep into this question and it’s led me to my next book Forgiving Challenge available this Fall. In fact, on July 13th at 11AM CST, my wife Allison and I will be leading a FREE webinar talking about the forgiveness of God and going deeper into how Christians become forgiving people. Register here if you’d like. Did I mention it’s FREE?
How do we live with the freedom that Jesus has won for us?
When I think of freedom I think of ascending to the peak of a mountain. If our walk with God is like a long climb (isn’t that what it feels like at times?), there are different phases that we go through before we reach the top. It’s not always straight and easy to the peak. Sometimes we ascend quickly, sometimes we fall down, and other times it feels like we are just going through switchbacks. So how do we ascend to the top and experience freedom?
I believe it’s found in the 5 forgiving phases summed up with the acronym SCARS.
Let’s continue the analogy of the climb to see how this plays out in our lives.
It is difficult to get to the top of Freedom Mountain. You spent a lot of time training for this climb and now you’re mustering up as much strength as you can to begin. However, you are shocked as you struggle to take even a single, solitary step in the right direction. As you try to navigate your way to the top, you stumble and fall. You keep veering down paths you were never intended to follow. Your errors begin multiplying, and now an already difficult climb is becoming impossible. Every error adds heavy baggage to the climb, and you are exhausted. For some reason, even if you can’t rationalize it, you feel the need to keep holding on to the baggage. Now, it takes everything inside of you to attempt a single step. Eventually, you crash. The climb is over. You’ve failed.
You admit that there is no way to get to the top on your own. You confess that the mountain is too big, and you are too weak. Your journey is over. A deep sadness comes over you. But in your sorrow, another man suddenly comes down the mountain and finds you lying there. He’s got some exciting news to share with you. He asks you to follow Him. He lifts you up, leads you around a bend, and shows you a new path.
There’s something unique about this man, even if you can’t explain it. He claims this path will lead all the way to the top. But as you examine the path, it doesn’t appear all that impressive. It certainly doesn’t look appealing. It’s rather narrow. Nobody would choose this path on their own. You wouldn’t even know how to find it if it hadn’t been shown to you. You remind Him that even if the pathway leads to the top, you can’t get there. Your bags weigh far too much. You do your best to describe what is in each and every bag. But you’ve forgotten what is in some bags, while you remember only small details about other bags. As sorrow comes over you, the man shows great kindness. Nothing about the bags that you are describing seems to faze this man.
The man then offers to carry your bags for you. Honestly, you can use the break. They have been weighing you down, and you are ready to release them. As He reaches for your first bag, you notice a nasty scar in the middle of His hand. He picks up your first bag, then your second, your third. You lose count, and honestly you didn’t even realize how many bags you were carrying. Pretty soon, He has picked them all up. At first you were impressed by this man’s kindness, but now you’re staggered by His amazing strength. You would have never guessed by looking at Him that He could be so strong. The bags felt like bricks to you, but He throws them over His shoulders like bags of feathers. How is this possible? Surely this man will eventually tire, but it certainly doesn’t look like it anytime soon.
This man walks with strength, and there’s a joy in His steps. He never once complains about the weight of your bags or makes you feel guilty about having to carry them. Instead, He talks on and on about how excited He is for you to join Him at the top. He assures you it’s a view that you’ve never seen before. When you get thirsty, He asks for your empty water bottle, taps on a rock, and somehow water flows from the stone, filling the bottle. What in the world!? As you drink, this fresh water tastes like no other water you’ve ever had before! Somehow, even though you just chugged a full bottle, not a drop is gone. It’s still filled to the brim. This makes no sense.
There’s only a short distance left until you get to the top. The last steps are difficult, so you’ll need some nourishment to sustain you. The man starts a fire and begins cooking over this open flame. Soon, you’re eating the best fish you’ve ever had in your life. But where in the world did He get this fish from? After eating, He calls you to follow Him again. With every step up the mountain, He is more and more giddy. He’s so excited you are with Him.
You are almost to the top. The man runs ahead to ensure that everything is in order for you when you reach the top. But just as He leaves, you notice how steep and dangerous this last step truly is. If you don’t land the step well, it would have severe consequences. Because of the high grade, you can’t fully see what’s on the other side of the mountain. Doubt and fear begin to creep in. You wonder if the view is even worth it. You’re reminded that the path He led you on didn’t look that impressive. Maybe this view won’t be impressive either. Besides, you have made it up pretty far and can see some cool things where you are. Taking this final step would require great courage. Do you really have what it takes? In the midst of your doubts and fears, He shows up again. He can sense your nervousness, so He offers to take the step with you. He reaches His other hand out to you, and you see a similar scar on this hand as well. He invites you to take this nail-scarred hand and take the final step with Him.
Will you take the last step?
I hope you would say, “Yes!”
And yet, can you believe it, this is the step that keeps so many from total freedom.
In the above illustration, as in life, there are several exit points that you can take on your journey to be free. The earliest exit point is when you commit a sin. If you refuse to bring your sin to God, you will never be free. The next exit point is refusing to believe God paid the price for your sin. Another exit point is refusing to believe that God fully restores you. At any point, any of these refusals will only lead to more bondage.
The final exit point, however, is the saddest for me. It’s where I see so many leave the journey. What a tragedy that one can be so close to freedom, and yet they don’t experience it because they were one step short. Jesus didn’t do all that He did for you so that you stop short anywhere. Jesus stepped down so that you would step up with Him.
True freedom doesn’t happen until you step up into the freedom God has won for you and wants for you. This process of stepping into freedom is called sanctification.
The definition of sanctification is the process of being freed from sin. Other definitions of sanctification are to be holy, or set apart, but the ultimate purpose is to be free. It’s when we live a holy and set-apart life that we are truly free.
With sanctification, we participate in this process with God’s Holy Spirit inside of us. We cooperate with God in sanctification. However, the devil knows that the best place to attack us on our journey to freedom are the places where you and I are the most involved. He will throw everything that He can against us in this last and final step. This, by the way, is why so many leave the journey of freedom here.
In fact, Satan will make this last step seem impossible. But remember the Good News. God has called you to ascend to the mountaintop, and you can rest assured that He’s given you everything you need to make it all the way up. The God who was with you after you fell taking the first step is still with you as you take the last step. Come, and ascend to the top of Freedom Mountain.
My question to you again is: “Will you take the last step?”
Will you be free?
This devotion was adapted from Day 34 of Forgiving Challenge. This powerful new resource becomes available the Fall of 2021. If you are a church leader or pastor and need more information or want to launch Forgiving Challenge with the First Wave or churches, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for some crazy discounts and incentives ending July 31, 2021. And remember, sign up for Zach and Allison’s free webinar here.