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Alpha Ministries, Inc

Church in the Woods at ....

Freedom Ranch

Choices

Dear Saints,

All of us are confronted with a multitude of choices to make daily. Many of them seem small and almost inconsequential while others seem overwhelming and life threatening. What makes life so complicated and hard is not just the choices we make but often it seems we really have no choice at all. Much of our confusion and frustration in life comes from the fact that we are not sure what choices we have, if we even have a choice, and exactly what choice we should make in any given situation. Welcome to the world of a control freak!

Seeking to control the people and circumstances in our life comes from a deep need to make ourselves secure in an insecure world. There is no guarantee that we will be unconditionally loved, accepted, and forgiven in this dog-eat-dog and often hostile world. In fact, chances are that we will be neglected, abandoned, or even abused. Likewise, unless we can control the people and circumstances in the chaos of this world it is impossible to find a real sense of importance, purpose, and competence. Wrong or bad choices seem naturally to lead to a meaningless and unsatisfying life.

Underlying all other choices we must make is the most important and basic choice. It is the choice the Bible urges us to make daily and describes it in a variety of terms. Jesus invites us to take his “yoke” upon us (Matthew 11: 28-30). Paul urges us to “present our bodies as living sacrifices unto God” (Romans 12: 1-2). James tells us to ask for wisdom from above (James 1: 5). Peter calls on us to “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5: 6). All these directives (and many more) have one thing in common…surrender. We give up trying to make it happen and let God do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

In the AA program of recovery the 3rd step describes this kind of surrender as deciding to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God. Making the choice to surrender all our decisions as well as our very lives to the control and care of God is the foundation and start of a new and satisfying lifestyle of grace in which God, through his indwelling Spirit, leads us, guides us into all truth, comforts us in our choices, reminds us who we are, and produces the very character of Christ in us. As Paul instructed the Philippians 2: 12-13, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have obeyed, not in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which works in you both to will and do of his good pleasure. “

The fundamental choice we all must make each day is whether we want to let God control our lives. It is really a no-brainer since he is the sovereign creator and sustainer of the universe and loves us so much he gave his life for us. For me it boils down to one simple prayer each morning, “Lord please remind me of who you made me to be in your son and guide me in how you want me to love others around me today”. I really do not have any other choice that makes sense.

John

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Preserving Our Freedom

Posted on 9 July, 2020 at 10:10

Dear Saints.

 

The July 4th celebrations of our national freedom always lead me to consider the true freedom God has given each of us in Christ. Paul urged us to, “Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5: 1). This personal liberty we have in Christ serves as the foundation for all other forms of freedom we may enjoy. And like all other forms of freedom it isn’t free. It was paid for with the sacrifice of God’s only begotten son.

 

Our liberty in Christ is not simply the freedom to do or say whatever we want. Unfortunately, many have confused the liberty we have in Christ with a liberation from any kind of moral or ethical restraints. They also confuse the grace of God with his mercy and consider themselves free to practice unrestrained hedonism (the philosophy of doing whatever feels good). The resulting lifestyle is self-centered and frustrated leading to all forms of addiction to whatever promises to relieve their pain. They have mistaken liberty for licentiousness and are still very much in bondage to their own desires for temporary satisfaction.

 

Neither is our liberty in Christ conditioned upon our own efforts at rule-keeping and strict adherence to a moral code. Many have fallen into a religious performance trap thinking their freedom in Christ is their own ability to know and do what is right. They often confuse the praise of men with the approval of God and go to great lengths to prove beyond doubt that they are indeed “the greatest in the kingdom”. Their concept of freedom in Christ is interwoven with their preconceived notions of “what would Jesus do” defined by their own interpretation of the law (the letter). Because their lifestyle is so obviously different than the licentious believer (they hang out in the church house rather than the crack house), they consider themselves free to criticize and judge those who are not like them. Their yoke of bondage, though different, is every bit as real as others.

 

The personal freedom we have in Christ is not about us doing whatever we want or even what we think we should but doing what God wants. The way we know and experience this freedom is through the personal leadership of the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, living inside the new person he has made us to be. Our decisions about what to do or say are not based on our own knowledge of good and evil, neither are they based on our natural desires for pleasure rather than pain. Like Jesus we do what we see the Father doing and say what we hear the Father saying based entirely on our faith in the personal leadership of the Spirit in our everyday lives. Our liberty in Christ is the freedom to do what the Spirit leads us to do.

 

Because God is love and Jesus gave us the new command to love like he does and the first element of the fruit of the indwelling Spirit is love we may be assured that our freedom in Christ is to fulfill our high calling of God to love others like Christ. In short, we are free to “be Christ” to others daily. It is in this freedom, paid for by Jesus on the cross, that we are called to remain steadfast. And doing so will keep us from becoming “entangled again in the yoke of bondage”. The freedom to love others like Christ is the underlying foundation of our God-given liberty as individuals and as a nation. Without our liberty in Christ we will soon lose all other freedoms.

 

John

 

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