Overspiritualizing “freedom in Christ” is dangerous for Christians, because, in the safety of the assembly and the throng of “amens” we hear around us, we can sidestep practicality for the sake of spiritual-sounding adages. The Bible provides us with some applicable truths about how to experience complete liberation as a Christian. If you feel “locked up” today, take a look at this list. You can even mix and match!
Christians can get really nasty, especially when we insist on being right when the prospect of being wrong is on the horizon. The off-the-hip response is to get in people’s faces and tell them off — and this reaction isn’t exclusive to Christians, of course.
But Christians are called to be temperate. At first, Paul seems to demonstrate this when some lady follows him around making money off of his miracles. Paul endures this behavior for a while, hoping she’ll eventually go away.
However, after a few days of her shenanigans, Paul turns to her and commands the demonic spirit within her to come out. Immediately, her powers are permanently removed.
Especially when something is taking away from the glory of God, it must be removed if we hope to be free. Get rid of blood-sucking, itchy mosquitoes, and perhaps buy yourself a net.
You will certainly encounter two-faced people in your life. You probably already have. How are you supposed to respond?
Paul’s imprisonment is clearly unjust. Instigators, upset about their lost venture, demand Paul be thrown into prison for disrupting Roman society. It’s possible that Paul had the opportunity to clear his name, but he dismisses their accusations as trivial and accepts imprisonment — something he’d be getting used to.
Freedom doesn’t require you to out everyone and look “better”. In a competitive American society, winning is paramount, but the order of importance is reversed in the hierarchy of Jesus. If you encounter hypocrisy, it might be more liberating to just ignore it. You don’t necessarily have to get walked on, but there’s freedom in just letting go sometimes.
Focus on worship
Instead of wallowing in pity or demanding a fair trial, Paul spends his time singing hymns in his cell.
In difficult situations, divert your attention to God. This does require some discipline — it’s not a natural response — but the benefit is awesome, and it serves as a diversion from what’s going on around you.
Recognizing complete liberation
Having a relationship with Jesus Christ isn’t “magical” — we’re still susceptible to reality. The greatness of salvation, however, is recognizing that you are totally liberated from all transgressions, past and future.
Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.
The guilt and shame of your past is gone. The doors are opened, and the chains are loosed.
The correct response to deliverance
For those who have not embraced Jesus as Lord, noticing how free you are can be the deal breaker for them. And their response, certainly less dramatic in nature, should look something like this:
Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
The guard’s response above is after a miracle twice over: all of the doors and chains had been unlocked, and, more astoundingly, all of the prisoners were still there. I’d fall down trembling as well. The attitude of humility and the desire to know how one might be saved is the focus. If people recognize that you’re free, the inevitable response will be how one might acquire the same status.
Recognizing the source of salvation
Paul doesn’t waste any time telling the guard what’s up:
So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
Jesus is the only route to salvation. Don’t waffle on this subject; “adding” to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ only creates further doubt and confusion.
Why continue to let corruption entangle you, once you have been saved?
Paul doesn’t allow Roman authorities to take advantage of him and inherently dismiss God’s work once he’s been freed:
But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out.”
Likewise, must we remain in a state of darkness once we have been freed? Let us escape the shame of our past, recognizing the present liberation and eluding future pitfalls.
This life will provide many situations of deception and imprisonment. But as the hymn reminds us, “On Christ the solid rock I stand / all other ground is sinking sand.” Be encouraged. Stand firm in Christ, because where you stand, you are already free.