“For I will now break off his yoke from you and tear off your shackles.” Nahum 1:13
“Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.” John 8:36
I do some of my best thinking when I am pounding the pavement on a long run. It’s that time where all of the thoughts that zig zag through my brain become a little easier to snag and process. And so it was for me again recently on a run that I was thinking about the concept of Jesus Christ coming to save sinners and to set us free. How I have longed to be free from some things in my life, yet I have continued to live in a cycle of defeat. I asked Jesus why I so easily remained bound up to old things, to former behaviors, to detrimental thought patterns, and to lies I believe about myself. Where was the freedom in Christ? I want to be free from caring what others think of me. I want to be free from past regret and shame. I want to be free from who others expect me to be. I want to be free from a past that is less than pristine. I want to be free from the guilt of all the mistakes I have made as a parent. And the list could go on and on. I’m sure you, too, could answer the question, “What do you desire to be free from?”
We are promised that who Jesus sets free is free indeed. Obviously, it was not Christ’s desire for us to remain bound. He paid a high price for us be free; He bled and died for our freedom. As I ran, I wondered to Jesus why it was, then, that we so frequently live like we are still in chains. Jesus has fully redeemed me–all of my past, present, and future sins. Yet here I am, walking around with shackles on my wrists. Then the strangest thought popped into my head. My shackles have been unlocked yet I am still wearing them. What prisoner that has been loosed from his bonds continues to keep on the handcuffs day after day? I dare say not too many, if any at all.
Yet isn’t that what we do? We accept the grace, love, and forgiveness of Jesus and allow Him to unlock our shackles, but we hesitate to allow Him to fully remove them from our wrists. We have grown comfortable with them and perhaps we are unsure what to do were they to fall away from our wrists. We, as humans, tend to revert back to what is comfortable and to what we know. We know bondage to our feelings of guilt, shame, and regret. We struggle to envision a life without them, and we refuse to consider what true freedom feels like because deep down we don’t believe we deserve that freedom. Instead, we run around in our busy lives with our unlocked shackles dangling from our wrists, accidentally banging people with them and hurting relationships and ourselves because we don’t know any differently. And, even more so, we are afraid to trust God and to believe Him when He says that we are truly free. We cannot imagine what true freedom feels like because we have been bound up for so long, and we have grown scared to be released from them.
In my life, I have leapt at the opportunity to be free. I believe Jesus for His freedom–in the beginning. But then, old nagging thoughts and fears haunt me. They whisper lies that make me question whether or not I really should feel ashamed and guilty, or redeemed, forgiven, adopted, and chosen. Slowly, a little at a time, I begin to slide my hands back inside the shackles. Before I know it, I am running around again with unlocked shackles all the while singing of the freedom I have in Christ. When did the shackles become safe for me? When did I begin to use those as a shield rather than the name of Jesus? We believe that there is safety and security in what we know. Hasn’t it been said at some point that the enemy you know is better than the one you don’t? And we live our lives in bondage, without recognizing what it has cost us.
The apostle Paul was aware of the temptation to pick back up our shackles. In Galatians 5:1, Paul wrote, “Christ has liberated to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.” He warned us that, without deliberate attention, we would become enslaved again. “Stand firm”, he says. Let’s not make ourselves susceptible to becoming prisoners again.
How do we stand firm in freedom and not get caught up in the cycle of defeat?
- Know the truth. John 8:32 says, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The only way to know truth is to be in God’s Word. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). We get to know Jesus by being in the Word of God. God’s Word is truth. Unless we are in it, then we will not know it.
- Believe the truth. Every day we have a choice to make. We can choose to believe the lies the enemy tries to sell us, or we can choose to believe what God has to say about the matter. To believe God is not a one-time-for-all sort of thing. Yes, we believe on Him for our eternal salvation but we daily make the choice to believe Him and what He says about us.
- Identify areas of greatest susceptibility. We all have them, our default settings that automatically grab up the shackles and put them back on. We need to no longer be ignorant of what they are in order to best arm ourselves with the truth.
- Pray. Pray, pray, pray. Pray. When we seek God, we will find Him when we seek Him with all our hearts (Jeremiah 29:13). Remember, it was for freedom that Christ set us free. He is our rescue. When we feel the pull to grab the shackles, remember that Jesus has ripped off our shackles and beckons us to come to Him. When we are weak, Jesus’ power is made perfect, and He is more than sufficient to tear off the shackles with finality. When we ask Him to reveal to us where we are in bondage, He will faithfully show us. His desire is for His children to be free and to experience the free and abundant life He offers us.
When I run around wearing my unlocked chains, all I do is look foolish. Do I benefit from reverting to old feelings of shame, of guilt, of being unworthy, of feeling unlovable? Absolutely not! And neither do you, whatever your shackles represent. I think we tend to forget that just because we used to be one way doesn’t mean that we always have to be that way. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). When we finally shake off the shackles , we are released to experience a freedom far greater than anything our minds could imagine. Go ahead today and shake out your wrists from them and embrace your freedom!