Sunday, January 10, 2016

Free Indeed

“If, then, the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
John 8:36

Long ago, Jesus taught me to be like him and never put pressure on people to be a part of my ministry if their hearts were not in it.  Consequently, I have never gone out looking for “members”.  Nor do I put pressure on the people whom God did send to be a part of this ministry to stay once they come here.  I have never pursued anyone who chose to leave my congregation.  I thank God for every one He sends to help, and I thank God for every one He takes away.  Every person who is associated with me in my work knows that if he or she chooses to leave, I will not chase after them or try to persuade them to change their minds.  They all know they are perfectly free to do whatever is in their hearts to do.  I would not have it any other way because God will have it no other way.
Decades ago, the Lord told me to offer a “money-back guarantee” to any person who becomes a partner here with me, but who – for any reason whatsoever – afterward regretted supporting this ministry with his tithes and offerings.  God and His ministers are not beggars, for numbers of people or for money, and I have imitated my heavenly Father in making sure that every person working with me is doing so only because they want to.  I make sure they know (1) they are free to leave at any time, and (2) if they want their money back, they can have it.  (For obvious tax reasons, such a refund can only apply to money given within the most recent fiscal year.)
I have kept that promise on several occasions.
The freedom with which the Son makes us free is so real and so all-encompassing that it can be frightening to consider.  God is so much a God of liberty that He will have no unwilling servants.  Of course, there will be dire consequences for unfaithfulness.  We all will most certainly reap what we sow; still, God has determined that we are free to choose not to serve Him if we don’t want to.  He makes real promises, but He does not manipulate; He warns, but He does not threaten; and He pleads, but He does not hound those who turn from Him and go another way.  God’s wayward children may be dearly loved and sorely missed, but when Jesus makes us “free indeed”, part of that extraordinary gift of freedom is the freedom to cease from serving Him if we choose to love the world instead.  Jesus will let us go if we insist on it.  After all, if we are not free to choose disobedience and rebellion, then we are not free to choose love and faithfulness.  If we cannot turn from him and embrace eternal death, then we cannot “drink of the waters of life freely”, either.
God releases His prisoners if they want to escape from Him.  He loves us too much to hold us against our will.  He forces no one to serve Him, and if you feel discontent with Him, He would rather you feel content with someone else than to keep you bound in discontentment to Him.  Only God loves you so much and so purely that He wants you to be free to live the way you really want to.