Breakthrough! Unstuck & Unhindered
This past Sunday, we began our Winter Teaching Series called, Breakthrough: Unstuck, Unhindered, and Unbelievable Freedom! So, over the next several weeks, we’ll be diving deeper into some of the patterns and pitfalls in our thinking, relating, and living that can keep us feeling stuck in life and missing out on the freedom that Jesus came to bring to us. Over the next several weeks, the Daily Reading will be designed to not only help shed some more light on these dynamics, but give you some practical exercises to help you reflect and work through some of these things with Jesus. So read on!
Day 1: Read Ephesians 2:1-10
In these few short verses, the Apostle Paul paints a comprehensive picture that serves as a diagnosis for all the experiences we’ve had that leave us feeling stuck, hindered, and held back from becoming that people that we’re meant to be.
Paul says that there are three inter-related, destructive forces that are all at work in our lives:
- The Flesh: not our physical bodies, but our human nature, which though beautiful and full of wonder, is also broken and flawed on every level. This is why as human beings we are capable not only of incredible acts of creativity, compassion and ingenuity, but equally so of greed, hatred, and violence.
- The World: the systems, institutions, families, and organizations that make up our communal experiences. These are the things that make up the social and relational environment in which we live.
- The Devil: Paul calls him the “ruler of the kingdom of the air” – in essence the one who is constantly at work to taint “the air we breathe”. The problem is not just “in here” (the flesh) or “out there” (the world), but actually all around in the spiritual realm as the enemy of God seeks to bring destruction to everything good.
Now, the truth is, this probably isn’t a diagnosis that is easy to hear. Paul is, after all, saying that all these things add up to us having a life experience like “death” (Eph. 2:1). So much about Paul’s words rub our humanist sensibilities the wrong way. These sensibilities tell us Paul’s words can’t be true. Because humans after all are inherently good, wise and capable. Therefore our desires should never be questioned and certainly not suppressed. The world is full of beauty, opportunity and knowledge, not brokenness. And the devil? We’re past believing in such archaic ideas.
Of course, a humanist worldview is incredibly attractive for all kinds of reasons. The problem is that it just can’t explain our experience – whether you’re a person of faith or not. Paul’s diagnosis might not be easy to hear. But it’s hard to ignore. It makes a lot of sense. And not just that, but if we listen closely enough, it actually gives us a lot of hope.
Because while all these forces are at play to work out “death”, Jesus has come to make us alive (2:4)! He has come to pour out love, mercy and grace (2:4-5). And not just a little. Not even just enough. But bucketloads! He has lavished it on us, like a ridiculously rich father would lavishly overspend on a gift for a child he loves.
We may have a lot working against us in our pursuit of freedom, but Paul wants us to be sure – there’s a lot more working for us in this whole thing. Jesus himself! The one who was raised to life from death. And he’s not going to stop until we are too!
- When you think about the impacts of “the flesh”, “the world”, and “the devil”, is there one that you tend to focus on more than the others in your own life? Why do you think this is?
- Ask Jesus if there is some particular aspect or example of being “stuck” or “hindered” in your life that he wants to speak to you about now. Ask him to show you how your “flesh”, the “world”, and the “devil” are each involved.
- Invite Jesus to lavish His life-giving love, mercy and grace into this area of your life. Ask him to breathe His resurrection life into any area of your life that feels dead. Thank Him that His grace will not stop working in your life.
Day 2: Read Romans 7:15-8:11
Once again, another passage written by the Apostle Paul that is not easy to read, but hard to refute. We can all relate with our own experiences:
I want to do good, but find myself constantly falling short of it.
I want to avoid evil, but I find myself constantly being drawn toward it.
How can this be? Why didn’t God just make us to always choose right; always choose the good?
C.S. Lewis explained it like this:
God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them [humanity] free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.
So here is where we find ourselves. Loved and dignified by God so much that He has given us complete freedom to respond to him with either goodness or evil. But broken by our own inner inclinations and choices that constantly lead us away from good and away from God.
So what do we do?
We learn to live not according to “the flesh”, but according to the Spirit – the One who raises our dead hearts to life and opens us up to the transforming love of God. There is no formula or “technique” to this. Rather, it’s a whole new way of relating to God – inviting Him to have control. Inviting Him to lead. Allowing Him to have access to all that we are. Receiving all of His influence and love.
You can do this now. And you can do this every day, every moment. Ask the Spirit to fill your life. To fill up your heart with the love of God. To fill your mind with the wisdom of God. To overflow from your life with words and actions that bring His goodness to others.
- Read again Romans 8:1-11. Allow these words to settle into your spirit, and ask Jesus to bring to light anything in particular from them that He especially wants you to know.
- Pray, asking Jesus to fill you with His Holy Spirit through and through. Ask Him to pour out His love, and renew your own thoughts and desires. Listen to how He may want to speak specifically to you in this moment.
Day 3: Read 1 John 2:15-17
I suppose Paul isn’t the only New Testament writer that knows how to tell it like it is. The Apostle John doesn’t mince his words either. There’s no middle ground in what he’s talking about. To love “the world” is to reject the Father.
So, what does he mean here by “the world”?
In a broad sense, when biblical writers talk about “the world”, they’re referring to the systems, institutions, families, organizations, cultures and world views that make up our communal experiences. These are the things that make up the social and relational environment in which we live. Beautiful in many ways, but broken through and through, and now at odds with the Father.
John is putting his finger on this antagonistic dynamic, using imagery that goes all the way back to when it was first introduced into the world: the fall of Adam and Eve.
“The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life…” Read Genesis 3 in light of these subtitles…
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” 4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
These two impulses seem to be at the heart of what has made our beautiful world so broken.
“The lust of the flesh and lust of the eyes” – the impulse to trust that our own desires and perspectives are always good, even if they lead us straight into destructive consequences.
“The pride of life” – the desire to be our own autonomous gods, independent, self-sufficient, and without anyone else calling the shots.
These two impulses have the ability to live in so many forms: individually and communally, in scientific study and religious piety, in family values and corporate structures.
As John says, these impulses don’t come from God. They come from the world. They work against the will of God – which has always been that we might live forever. They bring death – the warning that God gave Adam and Eve all the way back at the beginning.
So we need to learn to recognize these dynamics both within us, and around us; and over and over, come back to the One who is able to set us – and the world – straight again.
- Take a few moments and ask Jesus to show you how and/or where these two dynamics are at play in some way around you (ex. Work environment, family dynamic, etc.). Are there any ways that you are actively or passively contributing to this dynamic?
- Ask Jesus to speak to you about this. Does He want to correct you? Encourage you? Exhort you? Heal you? Coach you? Ask Him to show you how to go back into the situation with renewed impulses and desires that come from Him and not from the world.
Day 4: Read Ephesians 6:10-20
C.S. Lewis wrote: There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.
The biblical writers were certainly clear in their conviction that Satan is real and is actively at work in the world to steal, kill, and destroy. But they are even more clear that through Christ, Satan has already been defeated. And in Christ, we too can live in victory over the devil’s schemes.
As Paul writes, we are in a battle against the Enemy. Yet we don’t fight with swords or guns. We fight with an armour that is uniquely designed to empower us to stand strong in the spiritual battle.
Truth: like a belt that holds everything together.
Righteousness: like a breastplate that guards our heart.
The Gospel of Peace: like sturdy shoes that keep us anchored and firm.
Faith: like a shield that can make light work of the enemy’s lies and accusations.
Salvation: the reality in which we live; like a helmet that remains firm over our minds and thoughts
The Word of God: like a sword that can be wielded well to make Satan run.
Ironically enough, this passage that Paul wrote is really about prayer – which in many ways, is about as opposite an activity as you can get to “battle”. But it’s in prayer where we do this battle. It’s in prayer where we take up the armour of God. And it’s in prayer where we are able to see God actively involved in the battle as well.
Take some time to pray now…
- Where do you recognize spiritual battles in your own life?
- Where do you feel dressed in God’s armor to fight them? Where don’t you?
- Write a prayer using the armor of God described in this passage. Go through each piece of the armor and how you will “wear” it in your life to stand strong against the enemy.
Day 5: Read Romans 6:1-14
In this passage, the Apostle Paul gives us an incredible description of what is meant to happen when Jesus becomes Lord of our lives. He uses our baptism as the analogy (and really, it’s much more than just an analogy). Paul says that our baptism is like being buried and rising again – just like Jesus was buried and rose again. We go down into the water, representing that our old life has died. And we come up out of the water, showing that we’ve been raised to a whole new life, with Jesus as Lord. Our old ways – the ways of the flesh and of the world and of the devil – have passed away, and we have begun a whole new way of life – no longer slaves to these things, but now following a new Master, Jesus Himself!
It’s a beautiful image. And even more, it’s an amazing reality that we get to experience.
Freedom from sin! New life in Jesus!
Of course, none of us are fully there yet. We continue to be on a journey, each day learning to die to the patterns of our old ways, and live in the new, life-giving Way of Jesus.
But one thing that is at the heart of every step of this new Way is that we are following a new Master.
Jesus – our Lord.
And the journey now involves learning to come out of the slavery to lesser masters that we have allowed ourselves to be under, and into the new Way of following Jesus.
One tool that can help us gain some new awareness of where we’re at in this journey is called, “The Lordship Prayer”.
It’s a beautiful prayer that takes the time and thoughtfulness to actively give Jesus Lordship (leadership, centrality, authority) over every part of our lives.
THE LORDSHIP PRAYER
Lord Jesus, I acknowledge my brokenness and need of You.
Thank you for dying on the cross so that I could live.
I accept you as my Lord, my Saviour, my Deliverer, my Redeemer and my Treasure.
I invite you now to be Lord and to have leadership and influence over every area of my life.
Be Lord of my spirit and my relationship with you.
Be Lord of my conscience, my worship and my spiritual understanding.
Be Lord of my mind, my thoughts, my attitudes, my beliefs and my imagination.
Be Lord of my will, my desires, my intentions and my decisions.
Be Lord of my emotions, the expression of my feelings and all my reactions.
Be Lord of my body, my physical health and strength, my senses and appearance, my actions, exercise, rest and diet.
Be Lord of…
My eyes and all that I look at;
My ears and all that I listen to;
My mouth and what I speak;
My hands and everything they touch and do;
My feet, and everywhere I go.
Be Lord of my sexuality and its expression.
Be Lord o my marriage or singleness.
Be Lord of all my relationships – with my family, my friends, my church family, my coworkers, bosses and employers.
Be Lord of my time, my work, my serving, my leisure, my rest, sleep and dreams.
Be Lord of my finances, my home, my possessions and my needs.
Be Lord of my plans, my ambitions and my future.
Be Lord of the timing and nature of my death.
Thank you Lord Jesus that you shed your blood for me so that I might be free. Help me continue to surrender to your leadership and influence as the only rightful King of my heart.
In your name I pray, amen.
We can pray this prayer as both a way to worship and a way to reflect.
When we pray it as worship we are affirming that Jesus deserves to be Lord; we want Him to be our Lord; and that He is the Lord above all other lords.
When we pray it as reflection, we are inviting Jesus to show us any area in our life where we are not currently giving Jesus Lordship; where we are not allowing Him to be our Leader; where we are not running to Him as our Treasure. Where the flesh, the world, and the devil still have some reign. These are the places where we have more room for more of Jesus – to forgive, to heal, and to renew, as only He can!
Pray the Lordship Prayer
As you pray the prayer, REFLECT.
Is there anything in this prayer that you don’t believe or don’t want to pray?
Is there anything in this prayer that makes you feel angry, ashamed, afraid, or sad?
Is there anything in this prayer that brings up a specific memory or situation from your life – either recent or distant?
Ask Jesus what He wants to say to you about any of this.
Repent of any way that has kept you from trusting Jesus’ Lordship.
Pray the Lordship Prayer once more, but this time as WORSHIP.
Give Jesus Lordship over every area of your life, even the areas where you struggle to.
Affirm in your heart that Jesus is worthy to be Lord over your whole life.
Thank Him that He is Good!