Set Us Free
“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”
–John 8:36 KJV
I purposely quoted the above passage using the King James Version because I think it captures the regal nature of this declaration—that the King of kings and Lord of lords has in fact set us FREE the moment we placed our trust in Him.
We are FREE from the penalty and power of sin. We are FREE from the fear of death. We are FREE from living under the expectations and pressures of pleasing others. We are FREE from worrying that we will not have enough. We are FREE from guilt, shame, and condemnation.
As precious and dearly loved children of the Lord God Almighty, we are FREE to live unhurried, confident, joyful, peace-filled lives. As He directs us under His watchful care and wise provision, our hearts overflow with gratitude.
I know with absolute certainty that this FREEDOM is mine, yet I must confess that I did not experience the full measure of my freedom for much of 2020. Our “fifteen-day lockdown” in March to flatten the curve turned into a year that limited our freedom, multiplied our fears, and inflamed our anxieties.
I confess that I often did not feel like “more than a conqueror” in 2020. Over the past ten months, I did not always experience the “peace that passes understanding” or the “power that raised Christ from the dead dwelling in me” leading me in triumphant victory.
We have all struggled, and still continue to struggle, as we cope, recover, process, and seek to move forward in 2021.
Like you, I’ve had scores of conversations with good friends I trust to help me think clearly, pray deeply, and follow Jesus wholeheartedly as we begin this new year. I have asked God very specifically to help me LEARN MUCH from 2020 and LEAN IN by faith to make the most of 2021.
In this month’s Coffee Break audio, I share my biggest challenges and where God is speaking to me as I prepare for 2021.
I have sought diligently to practice the A.R.T. of SURVIVAL and “count it all joy in the midst of these many trials” of 2020. But as my frustration and resentment grew with shutdowns, limitations on ministry travel, multiple disappointments, and the cancellation of a trip of a lifetime with Theresa, the Holy Spirit progressively changed my focus.
The external limits to my freedom were things I could not control, but the Lord began to show me that there were internal and invisible prisons holding me just as captive. Even more disturbing, I realized that most of them were of my own making.
As I traveled from Dallas to San Jose a few weeks ago, the Lord startled me. Thoughts came to my mind that I clearly recognized were not from me. In the midst of returning a rental car, social distancing in long lines, and wearing a mask and sanitizing my hands alongside a large crowd of anxious and angry people, I suddenly heard myself say to myself,
- I don’t have to control.
- I don’t have to hurry.
- I don’t have to fear.
- I don’t have to impress.
- I don’t have to complain.
It was downright weird. I know David spoke to his soul in Psalm 103 —“Bless the Lord, O my soul”— but this was an odd experience for me. Even more odd, I kept saying those phrases over and over in my mind as I walked by people and received my little plastic bag with a cracker and tiny water bottle. As I then squeezed into the fully packed plane, I had an unexplainable sense of calm, peace, joy, and FREEDOM.
It was both weird and wonderful. So not wanting to miss out on a good thing, I began to repeat those words multiple times throughout the next few days and began to meditate on Scripture passages that reminded me of why they’re true. Before long, I shared them with a friend and then with our staff, and finally I realized that these are the BIG LESSONS my Heavenly Father wanted me to learn in 2020.
Before I share the end of my story, let me ask you…
What are the BIG LESSONS your Heavenly Father wants you to learn from 2020?
I’m convinced that before we can really LEAN IN to 2021, we need to glean all we can from 2020. Yes, it’s been a hard year — overwhelming, challenging, and disappointing — but it was sovereignly allowed by a good God who is committed above all else to make you and me more and more like His Son, Jesus (Romans 8:28-29).
Put another way, let’s not waste 2020! Let’s not try to forget it, put our head down, and just get through it. Let’s allow it to serve its divine purpose.
Peter reminds us, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10 NASB).
Let me encourage you to block off a couple of hours and think back through 2020. Ask God to show you what He wants you to learn about Himself, about yourself, about trusting Him, about idols, about priorities, about family, and about your relationships. Then sit quietly and listen. Have a pen and paper or your journal close by.
Refuse to gloss over things. Let your thoughts sink deeply into your heart. Reject thoughts of condemnation, as they are never from the Lord (Romans 8:1). Instead, let down your defenses and allow the Holy Spirit to gently put His finger on any area of your life, relationships, priorities, attitudes, or behavior that He wants to bring more in line with the Father’s will. He wants to give you His very best.
Write down what you hear Him say, and then share it with someone you trust. Think about your dreams and desires concerning what really matters in 2021.
Then ask the Lord where to begin. Refuse to be overwhelmed, and don’t try to change too much too soon.
In my own journey, I realized after meditating for some time that I am FREE from control, hurry, fear, impressing others, and complaining. But that was only half the story.
Upon much reflection and doing the very things that I encouraged you to do above, the Lord showed me that I am also FREE to do certain things that pave the way to becoming the man I long to be and experiencing the life my Heavenly Father desires for me.
As you listen to the Coffee Break audio, you’ll hear about not only my journey and some absolutely amazing ministry reports but also a message that grew out of this process that I believe to be God’s marching orders for us in 2021.
I hope it will be a great encouragement to you, as it seems I’m not the only Christian who struggles with control issues, being in a hurry, fears about the future, impressing people, or complaining instead of giving thanks.
As I reflect on 2020, I’m so glad we’re in this together. It is such an honor to partner with you through both the great times and the hard times. I am humbled as I read reports from our team as well as your letters and emails and see how God is powerfully at work both in us and through us.
Together, by His grace, Christ used us to transform literally millions of lives, marriages, families, relationships, communities, churches, and pastors all across America and around the world.
Thank you for your faithful partnership, your prayers, your generosity, and your personal commitment to follow Jesus no matter what.
I could not be more excited about what God has planned to do in us and through us in 2021!
Pressing ahead together,
CEO and Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge