by Jeff Shaw, Director of Out of Darkness
This past weekend, people celebrated freedom all over the United States. There were cookouts, parties, trips out of town, professional fireworks shows, and…well…amateur fireworks shows too 🙂
There is a perception here that our society enjoys the ultimate freedom. We can work whatever job we want. We can listen to whatever music and watch whatever movies we want. We can worship whatever god we want. We can say or print just about whatever message we want. And it is within this context that we operate in the illusion of being free…
With our wealth we become enslaved to comfort. American churchgoers live in nice houses and condominiums. We maintain our perfectly manicured lawns. We dine at restaurants when we don’t feel like cooking, go on vacations when we don’t feel like working, and veg out in front of the TV when we don’t feel like thinking. And all the while a coldness creeps into our hearts, we keep our minds pleasantly distracted from the suffering around us, and we do little to participate with the Holy Spirit in the process of sanctification.
With our liberties we become enslaved to desire. In a land where food is readily available, we eat whenever we feel the slightest urge. In a culture where you can find any form of entertainment you could ever want to consume, we feast on a steady flow of violence, illicit sex, and instant gratification. In communities and homes where we learn to escape our problems rather than work through them, we become addicted to alcohol, drugs, pornography, spending, and social media. All under the guise of being free.
Looking to places like China, North Korea, and Iran, we mourn what it must be like to be a Christian there. Governments oppress and suppress. Certain choices that we view as rights can lead to imprisonment and death. In reality, the persecuted Church would probably choose its suffering and lack over our comfort and luxury 10 times out of 10. They have learned what it means to partake in the suffering of Christ, and have found a treasured joy. They have seen the power of God manifested, and darkness flee in response. They have experienced the ministry of comfort and conviction from the Holy Spirit, at depths that most of us never will. They have been moved with deep compassion by the pain of others. And they live sacrificing what little they actually do have. They are free.
I long for desperation. I want to know what it feels like to be completely and utterly dependent on Jesus. God’s word says that it harder for a wealthy man to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. In other words, it’s impossible. But praise God, Jesus immediately follows that truth with a promise, “But with God, all things are possible.”
Many of you are probably reading this and saying, “Well, I’m not wealthy.” And this is in comparison to millionaires and billionaires. But compared to the majority of the world, we are all incredibly wealthy. The truth is, we are all in desperate need of God’s work in our life to help us live a kingdom lifestyle that, in the U.S., we are basically born into the greatest challenge against achieving. You can’t simply create this desire or manufacture this longing on your own. Thankfully we have the Holy Spirit, and the Father invites us to cry out to Him to light an unquenchable fire within us.
So let’s stop plodding along in the illusion of freedom, and cry out for utter desperation for Jesus so that we may break free of the comfort and addictions that keep us in bondage. Help us, Lord!