Liberty or Death…Why Do We Choose Death?

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

We Americans love the Fourth of July. We raise our flags proudly, celebrating our great nation and the freedoms it offers. And we applaud Patrick Henry’s bold cry, “Give me liberty or give me death!”

I get it. I love it too. But I wonder, dear one. How many of us really live free?

I know we live in the land of the free, but I’m talking about the freedom that comes from the One who gave it all for you and me. The freedom that poured out through the cross, triumphantly disarming every evil power.

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he [Jesus] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Colossians 2:15 (NIV)

Do you live celebrating that freedom, beloved? Do you even know what it means for you?

Most of us don’t really understand the freedom that’s offered to us. We’ve lived under the authority of evil for so long that we don’t even recognize its fingerprint. We’ve just gotten used to it.

So we live with it.

We tolerate our fear. We succumb to our depression. We give in to hopelessness.

Can you relate to that feeling of hopelessness, dear one? Do you imagine that your troubles are far beyond Jesus’ reach? Or perhaps you think you simply have too much to overcome.

Let me introduce you to a man drowning in hopelessness, living among the tombs in the Gerasenes, across the sea from Galilee. A prisoner to his mind, he had suffered a long time, an outcast welcomed only by the dead.

When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. Luke 8:27

You may have already tuned out at the mention of the word demons. I understand. The word makes us uncomfortable. We’d really rather pretend they don’t exist.

But scripture reveals that much of what we battle results from their oppressive influence over our thoughts.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 ESV

Whether we like the idea or not, evil is real, and its servants seek to exert its power over each of us. Perhaps it would be wise to learn to recognize their handiwork.

This man overcome by demons in Luke 8 offers a glimpse at what life can look like when evil influences are allowed to flourish unchecked in a man. Look at the devastation they cause in verse 27:

  • For a long time he had worn no clothes. They rob us of our dignity. The enemy loves to produce destructive behavior in us and then gleefully expose our shame. Then he uses that shame to keeps us securely under his thumb.
  • He had not lived in a house but among the tombs. They isolate us from our family and friends. Demons love to drive us away from the people who care about us. Loneliness and solitude are sure marks of evil’s handiwork.

They also make us self-destructive. Verse 29 reveals that when they put him under guard and shackled him to stop his tirades, “he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.” Under the enemy’s influence, we will even fight any measures put in place to protect us from ourselves.

No wonder God wants each of us to be transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). A mind influenced by evil oppressors eventually self-destructs.

 Verse 33 provides a clear picture of the enemy’s plans for us when he is left unhindered. When Jesus commanded the legion of demons to leave the man, they begged His permission to enter a herd of pigs, and Jesus gave it.

Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned. Luke 8:33

What does the enemy do when free to exercise his will? He drives us right over a cliff to the death of all that we are. John 10:10 says it plainly:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

That’s a heavy thought if that were the whole truth of it. But praise the Lord, Jesus offers the way for us to escape the enemy’s clutches and live the life God intended for us. He promises in that same verse:

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Beloved, while the enemy destroys, Jesus saves. And He’s come to set us free!

How did that translate in the life of our demon-possessed friend?

Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. Luke 8:35 ESV

Oh that we would come to understand the magnitude of an authentic encounter with Jesus! The man’s transformation was so radical, the people responded with fear! They witnessed a miracle in the life of a hopeless man—once without dignity and out of control, now clothed and sitting at the feet of Jesus; previously out of his mind, now clearly in his right mind.

Jesus set him free! A man abiding in death suddenly experienced the liberty found in Jesus’ name.

You can too, beloved. Jesus carries the power to rescue you from the dominion of darkness (Colossians 1:13). He longs to remove your shame and restore your dignity, to robe you in His righteousness and cloak you in His power.

Your situation isn’t hopeless. You just need Jesus.

Is This What Love Looks Like?

“Choose Love, not Hate.”

I believe it’s an excellent proposition. Everything in me agrees with its message.

But as I watch the behavior of many who presently proclaim that message, I find myself confused.

How does throwing water on people just trying to attend a party demonstrate love? When did hurling insults at strangers—or spitting on them, for that matter—become an expression of love?

Yet people claiming that “Love trumps hate” are doing these very things. In the name of denouncing prejudice and discrimination, they project hatred toward people who have done them no personal offense except to think differently about something.

Isn’t that discrimination, dear one?

What about the right to have an opinion? Isn’t that a human right?

It’s amazing what fear can do unchecked in the human heart. It brings out the very worst in us. And make no mistake. That’s precisely the intent of the one who invokes it.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

Whenever fear governs us, God does not. Instead we have allowed the deceiver to whisper his vain imaginations into our hearts and received them as truth, giving him control of our thoughts. That control allows him to manipulate our wills. And what he incites us to do will always reflect the ugliness of his nature.

Jesus clearly defined that nature in John 10:10.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

We are seeing these truths played out before us on our streets and video screens. People are randomly destroying property belonging to the very humans they claim to love and fight for—people they don’t know and who have done them no personal harm—out of an irrational fear of the power one man holds. A man the enemy has convinced them to hate.

Now they act from that hate while proclaiming a message of love. And they are blinded to their own hypocrisy.

This, dear one, is why Jesus came. He came to sever the power and influence the deceiver of the world wields over the minds and hearts of man. He came to restore love and prove its power over hate.

I can’t help thinking of Jesus’ words as He hung on the cross, He Himself a victim of the destructive power of a mob incited through fear.

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

How is it possible that people can be so deceived about their own actions?

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4

Our unseen enemy deceives and distorts, hindering our ability to see truth clearly. Jesus proclaimed that He came to restore our sight and set us free from the oppressor.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Luke 4:18

You see Jesus became to us wisdom from God (1 Corinthians 1:30). He came to reveal truth, to enable us to see.

James 3:13-18 reveals how we can distinguish between the wisdom that comes from the prince of this world and the wisdom that Christ brings.

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (emphasis mine)

Oh, beloved, may we seek God to become a people of true wisdom—wisdom that is pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, impartial and sincere. To receive that wisdom, we need only ask its source, the One who created wisdom before He created the earth.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Psalm 51:6

We have great and precious promises through the Word of God. But we must seek to know true wisdom through Christ, or we will be tossed to and fro. If we aren’t careful, the hatred of the mob will draw us in, and the pure love of Christ within our hearts will grow cold.

Jesus said it will happen to many in the last days.

And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 24:12-13

Oh, beloved. Let’s not follow lawlessness and be counted among the cold.

Love is our answer. Only enduring love can save.