Encounter: One day this week, take a few moments in the morning, afternoon, and evening to pause and read Isaiah 43:1-44:5.
Next Monday, April 11th, Eden will be hosting a Messiah in the Passover event during which Rich Flashman, from Chosen People Ministries, will be leading participants through the significance of the passover meal. This will be a great way for us to begin our exploration of Holy Week as we continue our Lenten journey towards the cross on Good Friday and the empty tomb on Easter Sunday.
In his story of coming to faith, Rich explains the very real dangers of seeking after the ways of the world. Trying desperately to find fulfillment, or at least a sense of purpose, in the success-oriented and self-centered culture brought him to the end of himself, where he finally realized life is not about himself, but is rather a radical reorientation in which Christ is the center of life. Rich says, “[Life] is about me investing my life in His purposes that He has for me…now I realize that there’s a God and that He loves me. That love sets me free to love and serve others, to love and serve Him.”
The journey of faith God invites us into is epic because of the freedom that Christ offers. This freedom is far greater than any other freedom the world may have to offer, as Rich could likely attest to, but it is also quite unlike any freedom the world has to offer. Throughout Scripture, this freedom is described as both presently available and brought to bear in the future, enabled by the Spirit of the Lord and given by the perfect law. However, what is most counterintuitive about this freedom is that one must become a slave of God in order to more fully experience it.
In recent months, I have had the joy of diving into some of the beautiful paradoxes of the Christian faith, and this concept of freedom and slavery has been one that has stuck with me because its foundation in our identity. In Luke 17:20-37, Jesus talks with some Pharisees and his disciples about the Kingdom of God and how we live in expectation for it. Right off the bat, Jesus flips assumptions about the Kingdom of God upside down when he says, “...the kingdom of God is in your midst.” A few verses later Jesus also makes a statement about living life in the Kingdom of God that many of us may be familiar with when he says, “Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.” When we come to faith in Christ, we say yes to the way of life that Jesus offers, and we become citizens of the Kingdom of God. There are implications for this new citizenship as well as for our identity as dearly loved children of God. Paradoxically, it is the release of our worldly identity and citizenship that enables us to step into the new life that Christ offers, and in this new life, we become more of who God created us to be. As Paul wrote, “The old has gone, the new is here!” and as the prophet Isaiah wrote, “See, I am doing a new thing!”
Reflect: Have you ever felt pressured to conform to the world and its ways? In what ways did you feel pressure, and how did that pressure affect you and/or your view of the world?
Encourage: As Rich stated in his story of faith, God’s love sets us free to love and serve others. Think back on the BLESS practices: Begin with Prayer, Listen, Eat, Serve, Story. How is God inviting you this week to live in the freedom He’s given you to love and serve others through some of these practices?
Gather: As you meet in your Sunday Study Group, Life Group, triad, etc. talk about the newness of life that you have experienced, are experiencing, or hope to experience as a result of living as a citizen of the Kingdom of God.