“When Jesus saw THEIR faith, he said… ‘Son, YOUR sins are forgiven… Pick up your mat and walk.’” Satan tries to isolate us, but the truth is that everything in the Kingdom is in relationship. We NEED others, and others NEED us! To allow the Enemy to keep us from sharing God’s blessings is to remain in a cage of deception – but to love others as best we can, even though we’re still imperfect ourselves, is to be set free!
We sat down with Jim to hear some of his story.
Click here to see that interview.
Being paralyzed today certainly leads to difficulties, but in the first century it meant that life was basically over. So when the friends of a man who was paralyzed heard that Jesus was coming to town, they wanted to bring their friend to Jesus so he could get his life back. But the house was so packed that they couldn’t get their paralyzed friend into the house, so they climbed up onto the roof, made a hole in it, and lowered their friend on a mat down into the house. That is NOT something you just do – they could have gotten themselves in big trouble for destroying someone’s house like that, and they didn’t even know for sure how Jesus himself would react. But they wanted their friend to have his life back, so they took a personal risk.
Jesus’ response was this: “Jesus saw their faith”, forgave this man’s sins, and healed him. If these friends hadn’t had the kind of faith to do radical things – the kind of love to take personal risks – he would have spent the rest of his life unable to ever move again. So the credit for healing this man goes to Jesus – but some of it also goes to his friends. It was their willingness to take personal risks, and their faith in Jesus, that led to their friend being healed. This is how the Kingdom of God operates. God uses ordinary, broken human beings who enter into the process of helping others to be the vehicle through which others are healed. And in doing so, those ordinary, broken helpers get some healing, too.
This is built into the very fabric of your being – and into the very fabric of the universe. In fact, everything is what it is due to its relationship with other things – people for sure, but also trees, mountains, the earth, molecules, atoms, quantum particles… The relationships you have are part of what defines you – you could not be you without those untold millions of relationships with people, with air, with water, with gravity… Just like this formerly-paralyzed man from the Bible – the relationship with his friends will forever be a defining part of who he is – they will always be a part of him, and he will always be a part of them.
Since this is true, guess what the Enemy tries to do? He tries to sever relationships. He tries to separate us from God, from our families, from our friends… God created us to be mutually dependent on one another, so the enemy’s strategy is to cut us off from one another. Satan tries to make us believe we are an island so God and others won’t be allowed to love us, to help us, to bless us – and at the same time we won’t love others, help others, bless others…
Today we are taught to be strong individuals, and our society is becoming more and more isolated. But where God reigns, you’ll find the opposite of that. It starts with Jesus, who is the perfect example of what it looks like to live-out God’s will. Though he could have made himself rich, he emptied himself for our sake. He could have enjoyed great status, but he spent his time loving broken people, healing the sick, freeing the captives, even dying on the cross for all of us. And He did all this “for the JOY that was set before Him” – for the joy of being in relationship with us instead of separated from us! Even God doesn’t define himself apart from us. He makes our well-being His well-being. He’s forever going to be in relationship with us, and we’re forever going to be in relationship with him! “How deep the Father’s love for us”, and WE are made in HIS image! You were created not just for yourself, but for others. And you’ll only find the joy of your own existence when you accept that fact, and start pouring yourself out for the sake of the others that you were created to be in loving relationship with!
Everything that we see as being “for me” is still trapped in a cage of deception. Everything in the Kingdom is meant to be given away – that’s where fullness of joy comes. In fact, helping others escape their “cages” is often necessary for us to be able to completely escape our own cages – that’s how the Kingdom works, it’s like a web where everything is interconnected. For example, one of the big lies that Christians often believe is that we first need to get ourselves “cleaned up” before we can help others, but the truth is that it is only in helping others that we can fully escape our own “cages” in the first place. Loving others right where you are is the only way to love others, so start loving them right where you are! As you love them, you will help heal them, and in that process you will find love and healing for yourself, too!
1) Every good that’s intended for us is also intended to be shared with others.
2) Our motivation isn’t to be “because I’m supposed to”, it needs to become “because I care about this person like God cares about this person.”
3) Commit to pray for someone intentionally and consistently because you care about them.
4) Remember that the person is not your project. God is already working in their life, you’re just coming alongside them in a sense of mutuality – you’re a fellow broken person who genuinely loves them and is willing to share whatever you have with them.
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4 thoughts on “Extending Freedom”
It’s interesting in relation to Greg mentioning about individually nominating people to pray for. While this is a great approach, I think that we would find that most believers would have stories where those people may have been ‘found for us’ with little effort on our part. I think when the apostles were sent out by Jesus for the first time and came back telling their marvellous stories. But I also think of the story that Greg told in relation to the ‘trials’ he was having with his lady neighbour. Although we may think nothing of this or at best consider it a ‘coincidence’, I tend to think these matters, like a Job scenario, all play a part in our character development and maturity, just like it did for the apostles and the development of the Christian community.
With this background, let me repeat a situation that occurred to me today.
This morning I had listened to Greg’s message before arising and going for my usual morning walk and met my Christian friend. She was aware my wife was to go on a short vacation trip with one of her girlfriends and gave me some cookies she had made that may supplement my food over this time. Again, just a spontaneous display of her graciousness for which I thanked her very much but could have said, thank you but my food situation is well under control. In fact, I thought more than blessed being the object of her graciousness from a lady that has shown me so much through her actions and lifestyle.
After returning home I showered, dressed and set out for a walk to a nearby seaside suburb where I usually meet on a weekly basis another Christian friend and our church pastor for lunch and discussion. Unfortunately today the pastor was unable to make it, which was fine and my friend and I ordered some toasted sandwiches and drinks, sat down and were soon served with the refreshments. At this time a person who had the signs of a rough lifestyle came up to me and asked for some money to buy some food. While my actions in offering the food I had just been served would have happened anyway, the influence of my Christian lady friend made it absolutely spontaneous without a second thought….although I knew in these situations not to offer money. The reaction to this by the individual in question was first surprise and he then said that if I gave him my food I would have none – to which I said do you want the sandwiches or not? And he took them, thanked me and left.
My friend then offered me some of his and I said no I will reorder. As I moved to the counter some other patrons who had seen what happened criticized my actions, which was interesting…almost Pharisaic in their judgement of not willing to encourage my behaviour. But when I got to the counter one of the serving staff had also witnessed the incident and told me not to pay for a replacement the cafe will provide that free of charge; for which I thanked them for their kindness.
On reflection I thought would the situation have been different if the pastor had been present or, unknowingly, was this a ‘test’ situation akin to Jesus sending out the apostles into the community given the recent influences in my life.
While the forgoing is not necessarily the type of issues that may happen everyday, but how would you even set this up both in terms of the individuals involved and the timing to coincide with issues going on (ie Greg’s message and my gracious friend etc)….you almost feel like your playing the Jim Carrey role in The Truman Show! But in the end there are always tests of our character (like Job)….and those of the interacting characters as well, that at times, deep inside, just blow you away. Of course, not all events can be perhaps as joyous as these and there may be some like Greg’s, that can involve deep conflict and, at times, be even more perplexing in their outcomes.
However, the thrust of Greg’s messages against the kingdom of darkness is not only to assist remediation of refugees from this system but to enable even more to break-free from enslavement. All these works are those of Christ as He provides grace, to both release the captives and, the released captives. None is probably more so evident than the conversion of Paul. As one theologian described it,
“Paul can never think of grace as an element which Christ introduces or imparts. Grace is Christ himself in his action. Grace, so to speak, is only present when Christ is present, and that it is in the form and person of Christ himself we see easily enough, because this is how grace, ie Christ, met and transformed Paul. God revealed His Son in Paul, not only to Paul.”
“Paul’s experience and teaching leave us in no doubt. A man who has been redeemed by grace knows it. He can never speak beyond his experience with truth and conviction, but then he never needs to do so. To come into, and live under, grace, is the ultimate for a human being.
Paul, whilst having a dramatic conversion, is no exception to the general rule of coming into grace and living in its reality. As he did, so may we. So many times he confessed to being a weak person. He never saw his competency as coming from himself, but only from God (2Cor 3:5-6). Great visions placed him in danger of pride, as they would us (2Cor 12:1-10). Only when he was weak could God’s strength show itself.
When it came to doing good ‘of himself’, or refusing to sin ‘of himself’, he never succeeded (Rom 7:13-25). Only through the Spirit and through grace could he succeed (Rom 6:12-14; 8:13). In other words, he was a person who always needed grace. Whilst this is undoubtedly humiliating to the human spirit, the reality of grace can only be known ‘where we need grace’, and know that we need it.”
So it is by grace that the cage doors are opened and the captive set free and, as Paul considers his relationship with the Philippians (1:7-8),
“ It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.”
I found the following article quite thoughtful and would like to hear others’ response to the issues raised in it…
Death, the Prosperity Gospel and Me:
Tzong-Huei Emily Li,
Thanks for posting the link to such a powerful and spiritually salient article. Bowler’s got some serious issues and rightfully so! On one hand, there’s very little that one can say to a person like that in their situation with the knowledge and background that they possess – she’s seen, done and heard it all before. They are however, a couple of things though I’d like to point out about the article that I think are worth diving into. Firstly, she states –
“The most I can say about why I have cancer, medically speaking, is that bodies are delicate and prone to error. As a Christian, I can say that the Kingdom of God is not yet fully here, and so we get sick and die. And as a scholar, I can say that our society is steeped in a culture of facile reasoning. What goes around comes around. Karma is a bitch. And God is always, for some reason, going around closing doors and opening windows. God is super into that.”
Now, from the sound and tone of that comment, and I could definitely be wrong, it appears she’s more into and has potentially embraced theologically, a “Blueprint World View”; rather than a “Spiritual Warfare World View”. Now the differences are eschatologically immense and have been discussed at length on this forum by many. Greg has focused on this topic frequently and has written some excellent material on the subject – “God at War”, etc…
It surprises me that she doesn’t go there in her scathing review of ‘Prosperity Theology”, which is so chalk full of trite nonsensical duplicity, it staggers the imagination.
Having lost close loved ones to the horrors cancer myself, my own personal experience ties directly into a lot of what she’s shared. Recently, I’ve been reading an excellent book by Christian Wiman entitled- “My bright Abyss”. Christian has a rare from of cancer that is eventually going to take his life. This book is essentially about his poetic reflections on where his faith in Christ is encountering this monstrous thief. It’s a must read for anyone dealing with “the Beast”.
From the get go, Wiman lays out the fact, that woven within the matrix of his faith is an element of “contingency”. He doesn’t rage against it, blame God for it or sardonically or misanthropically lash out at others – he simply embraces it, acknowledges its presence and meets God with it firmly grafted into his being. Now that’s not easy! In fact, it’s perhaps the hardest thing of all to do in this life when pain and tragedy strikes close to home. Whether you believe he’s been given time to revel in it and or that ‘happenstance’ has enabled him to reflect deeply – he’s in that zone of “Grace” where he’s empathetically chosen to do something with the time he has left – he’s my hero! How could you not admire and love the courage of brother like that!
As someone who believes in the inherent freedom of ‘Will’, which emanates from the Triune Love of God, that he has bestowed on these fragile ‘flesh pots’ created in his image; I see the epistemological and ontological dilemma had he created an “Automata” universe where every action down to the subatomic was micromanaged by his sovereign will and degree. If God is truly “Love”, then in all fairness, he would have had to have healed instantaneously every scratch, every bump, every sickness, every disease, cancer, pain – physical or psychological, currently, as well as from the past, as well as the future of all those who potentially would be born. If this were the case, it would become a farcical world, a mockery of freedom, and the free-flowing Triune love that exists between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God does not micromanage every moment of our lives out of his Love for us but he can and will be present with us, in every moment of our lives – he saw and foreknew our potential dilemma and knows this was not as it was originally created to be for us [our epistemological and ontological rift] He beautifully ‘filled the gap’ if you will, by what he achieved through his sacrificial love on the Cross.
When discussing God’s ‘sovereignty’, Greg has mostly emphasized the “Openness” of the future and how often when tragic circumstances do come our way, they happen – “[With] a purpose in mind, rather than [For] a purpose in mind”. In other words, God is not willing into being the ‘Tragic’; spiritual or environmental but rather, guarantees creaturely freedom within the fallen context of this world but supplementing ‘Grace’ alongside the tribulations of this life. To do otherwise, would be to deny His essential nature [Love] and compromise our freedom to reciprocate that gift. We are not ‘Robots’ and he is not ‘The ‘Great Puppet Master’ in the sky waiting to punish us when we mess up.
So where does that leave us? As we watch those around us we love [or even ourselves as in Wiman’s case] consumed by dark and nefarious circumstances mostly out of our control, we ask that same question the Prophets asked millennia ago – “Why do the righteous suffer?” It helps to accept the ‘continent fact’ that we ourselves are not responsible for the chess game of life that is ensuing between the spiritual forces that govern much of the Universe as we know it. This is not to retreat into a kind of theological or scientific “medievalism”, but rather to acknowledge the spiritual dynamic of our lives and our existence and that our “apokatastasis” – the restoration of all things will consummate in our own bodily resurrection in the “New Heavens and New Earth” – this is the real “Hope” we must cling to with every ounce our being as we confront the absolute dark inequalities of this present world. What we can proactively do, is to be there for the ones we love, holding their hand, praying for mercy and sharing in their suffering and seeing them to the gate – that’s what he has called us to do – as he did for us by going to Calvary.
“There are”, “a brother”, “a cancer”, “decree” amongst other slop-think and predictive text typos – Ha!