Just walk out - the rope that you're feeling around your leg is just a trick of the brain, telling you that you're still in bondage! If I could communicate with an elephant with a silly rope around its leg, that's probably what I'd tell it. And when I see the elephants standing on one leg or mindlessly beating a drum, I'd be saying the same thing: "Don't you know you were created to be out wandering in the jungle - roaming the fields and in the company of your herd?
You were meant to be out in the jungle, not stuck in a circus entertaining us! But I also learnt something about our own human nature and the way we too respond to the things that enslave us as well - from the seemingly clueless elephant. Much like the elephant, we too can get more and more enslaved to destructive habits and selfish ways of thinking.
Eventually, maybe even when we're just teens, we are so completely selfish that we are convinced that a life enslaved to our selfish desires is the only reality; this was simply how we were made. But the message of Jesus stands in contradiction to that way of thinking. But this is not a message of principles and methods and pie-charts and methodologies.
Jesus through His thirty-three years of life here on earth actually charted out the right way to live - by constantly living by the grace of the Holy Spirit. But because we had already ruined our own lives by sin, He offered up His perfect and spotless life to help save us from our sins and addictions. Jesus sacrificed His life to break the thick chains that the devil had us tied up in. Then, when Jesus rose again after being crucified for our sins, He once and for all defeated the powers of evil, and now offers freedom to all who choose to come to Him for help.
See what Paul says in his letter to the church in Galatia: Galatians - It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Jesus is the only person in history who conquered the devil and the forces of evil, and He alone has the power to help us live in freedom from the evil forces that seek to oppress us. It is not that Jesus "will" set us free, or will set us free "someday" down the road. Jesus has past tense already set us free. His life in us is a life of freedom from sin and every selfish motive. There is NO part of His life in us that is enslaved to sin.
But there's a part we too have to play in our freedom. You see, the elephant still lives a life of slavery even when the ropes aren't tied to a post or a tree. So even though it is free to get out, it remains in captivity unless it chooses to walk free. I'm sure the elephant would love to be free, but because it is convinced from years of slavery and the feeling of the rope around its leg that it is stuck, it remains freed from the chains that bind it, but still under bondage to its captors. The feeling of the rope around its leg is what the elephant solely goes by - and it judges its freedom solely by that feeling.
How different it would be if it knew that the rope wasn't tied to a post or a tree anymore! In quite the same way, so many of us continue to live in slavery to sin even though Jesus has set us free. Jesus set us free with the intention that we walk in this world with a life of freedom. Since we never lose our free will and our ability to choose the path of sin instead of the path of Jesus, we have to make the choice to walk in freedom.
We don't lose our free will even after we choose to have Jesus in our lives, and not even if we have a spiritual encounter with Him.
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Jesus does not set us free in the sense that He gives us a magic pill that makes us invincible once and for all. Like all good parents that want their children to eventually choose good habits and honourable lives for themselves, so also God wants children that choose Him. He offers a life of freedom to those who choose it.
But it is not forced upon us!
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We walk through life and cry out to God and say, God, free us from this sinful habit and God says , "Jesus has set you free! Since we are bound by the temporary pleasures of sin and the fear of life without those sins, we remain in bondage. Jesus keeps trying to get our attention and get us to trust His Words and not our feelings. But we so often don't, because our feelings seem more real than His Words. So we remain in bondage. But the most tragic part is that we can live the rest of our lives enslaved to our selfish habits.
But when we die and face God, He will show us what we missed. When we put our trust in Jesus, every chain that bound us was blown away - just as His Word said. We however chose to walk a life of virtual slavery - a slavery that only existed in our minds and feelings! The Bible is clear. Jesus has set us free. He asks us to reject the lies that our feelings often tell us, and to stand firm in His Word.
He asks us to live a life of freedom - a life where this freedom spreads to more and more areas of our lives. He wants us to experience freedom from anger, freedom from degrading people, freedom from treating people without dignity and respect, freedom from anxiety, freedom from sexual lust, freedom from un-forgiveness, envy, and bitterness, and so on. All these addictions and every other sin as well can slowly lose their hold over us as we embrace the mind-set of one who has already been set free by the finished work of Jesus.
Let us walk in the freedom that Christ has already set for us. All of us have probably seen pigeons - they are abundantly common in the skies, although probably not as common in India as crows. In fact, as I was reading more about pigeons, I didn't realize how useful pigeons have been in India - and specifically, the homing pigeon.
The homing pigeon is a variety of the common pigeon that has the ability to find its way back home across long distances. In the wild, this means that they would be able to return to their nests and their families. When we humans discovered this trait, we used these homing pigeons to carry messages. Back in the day before text messages and e-mail do you remember such a time?
They called it pigeon post! Tipu Sultan, the famous Tiger of Mysore and freedom fighter, used pigeons to send messages.
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In fact, if you visit his headquarters at the Jama Masjid mosque in Srirangapatna, you can see the pigeon holes used. I also read that up until recently , homing pigeons were used in Orissa to provide emergency communication services following natural disasters!
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But have you ever wondered how homing pigeons have this ability to find their way back home from distant places they have never visited before? I did! What I found out as a result was fascinating as well as spiritually instructive. I discovered that most researchers now believe pigeons find their way home using a "map and compass " system. Their internal "map " helped determine which direction would get them home. And their internal "compass" helped them fly in that direction.
While there are still discussions on how pigeons "map " their way home, researchers are unanimous that a pigeon's compass is the sun and the earth's magnetic field either one or both if necessary.
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Through fascinating experiments, researchers found that pigeons were able to find their bearings in bright conditions using the sun as their compass. But even in overcast conditions, pigeons were still able to find their way home if they had a good sense of the earth's magnetic field. So when researchers went further and tied strong magnetic bars to pigeons on an overcast day, then the pigeons compass system became disoriented from sensing even the earth's magnetic field.
Just to prove that it was the magnetism of the bars, when non-magnetic brass bars were used, the pigeons reached their destination without a problem! The way magnets were able to disorient pigeons was a reminder of the way we Christians are often disoriented and distracted in our spiritual walks by the magnet-like attractions of this world.
Sometimes, things are great, life is easy, and we find it easy to resist temptation and be faithful to Christ. So like the homing pigeons on sunny days, we too are able to live as followers of the Son of God when things are nice and bright. We are able to see the Son in our lives as He walks with us, and we find ourselves motivated to follow Him. But then things can get cloudy. The Son of God isn't as clear in the tough times in our lives. Maybe it's a broken friendship. Or a failed job attempt, a tough co-worker, or a denied promotion. Whatever it is, we can't see Jesus, the Son of God, as clearly when things get cloudy.
We can feel alone and lost. This then becomes a breeding ground for the memories of our past addictions and bad habits to resurface and become enormously enticing again.
The attractions of this world suddenly seem a whole lot more gratifying and satisfying, while the words of God seem heavy and burdensome. So we choose to walk in the path of self-gratification and go back to our old destructive ways of thinking.
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And no matter how sincere we are in our desire and attempts to repent and turn back to follow Jesus, we keep straying far away from God - rarely thinking about what pleases Him, and choosing our ways instead of His ways. I thought of these as the magnets that the devil uses to confuse and disorient us - especially on the "cloudy " days in our lives.
The devil comes when he knows we're feeling down and discouraged and when it's dark around us. He'll come with his array of attractive magnets, trying to disorient us in our walk with God. He'll come offering us various things in this world that we find attractive and seductive.
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Or he'll seek to re-introduce those destructive habits that we vowed to leave far behind in order to follow Jesus. If we're not careful and alert, we'll find ourselves being oriented to the strong magnetic pull of this world. We'll calibrate our relationships and our priorities by the standard of this world, and we'll begin to conform to the values of this world. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
We have to renew our mind constantly, reminding ourselves of God's awesome promises for us. We have to renew our mind constantly, reminding ourselves of how really big Almighty God is. We have to renew our mind constantly, remembering again the boundless mercy of God in forgiving and cleansing us from our past sins.
We have to renew our mind constantly, recognizing our commitment to Him as sons and daughters of a Holy and Perfect God. As we renew our mind, we re-establish our compass. We reject the disorienting attractions of the devil, and choose God's Word as our moral compass.