Have you ever had a night where your mind is so active that you cannot go to sleep? That happens to me more than I’d like. Most often, that which fills my mind is good, sometimes God’s attempt to get my attention.
Recently, as I prepared to lead worship for our Mind the Gaps missions conference, and after rehearsing the night before, the lyric, “Holy Spirit you are welcome here, come flood this place and fill the atmosphere. Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for, to be overcome by your presence, Lord,” was a sweet prayer in my heart, set to “repeat” as I tried to fall asleep (Holy Spirit by Bryan & Katie Torwalt). I spent the night tossing and turning in and out of that prayerful sleep, until I woke in the early morning hours with the word freedom running through my mind. I recalled the scripture, “17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17 ESV).
As the band gathered that evening to lead the opening worship, we took some time to pray. I asked them to each share one biblical word that describes what our expression of worship should be and then we prayed for those things. Words like joyful, thankful, reverent, Spirit-filled, truthful and honest came up. My word was freedom. The Lord was honored by our prayers and he gave us the desires of our hearts. The time of worship that flowed from those prayers for the next few days was beyond what we had asked for.
Freedom accompanies the presence of the Holy Spirit. Does freedom describe your experience as a follower of Jesus? Does freedom describe our experience as God’s people gathered to worship in his presence? Since Easter, I have sensed a growing spirit of freedom in our worship gatherings at Trinity Church. The worship team has prayed for this. God has answered by focusing our attention on Romans 8.
The theme of Romans 8 is liberty, and Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones has called it the Mt. Everest of the scriptures. It begins by declaring, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death”(Romans 8:1–2 ESV). The chapter ends with an amazing declaration that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Freedom begins when, through faith, we are found in Jesus Christ who instead of condemning us, forgives us, setting us free from the bondage of sin so we can truly live. This is when we are born again, and consequently given the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). The end result of freedom is no separation from the love of God, a good description of eternal life. The space in-between is where we live now. Liberty in the here and now hinges on one main theme that has been playing around in my head and heart as we have been meditating on, and teaching on Romans 8 over the past few months. Freedom is found in knowing that you belong to God … forever.
It has become my life’s calling to help people know what it means to be a child of God, belonging to him forever. God drew my attention to this in a very personal way nearly ten years ago as I began the process of adopting two of my children. He gave me a tangible heart-understanding of the biblical language of adoption when describing his love for me. I was reminded of this calling last summer during a rainstorm in the desert (See my blog entitled, The Lord’s).
Romans 8 tells you that you were set free for this: to know God in such a personal way that you call him, “Daddy,” the meaning of the word, “Abba.” “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God(Romans 8:15–16 ESV).
God doesn’t condemn you, rather he adopts you as his child. The Holy Spirit testifies to your spirit that this is true – you really are his child. You really belong to him. This is the key to living in what Paul calls “the freedom of the glory of the children of God”(Romans 8:21 ESV).
In your suffering, you can know that you have hope in the midst of our groaning, as your body ages and struggles with disease and decay. In the same way that your spirit has been redeemed, so will your body, along with all of creation. (Romans 8:23).
You can be secure in your weaknesses (insecurities) knowing that he who searches your heart, knows your weaknesses and intercedes for you through his Spirit, working out his perfect will (Romans 8:27).
Your Father works all things together for your good. Your suffering and insecurities are to be addressed within that context of hope and patience (Romans 8:28).
Your security comes from knowing that you are called, chosen by God and that he is at work in your life through the tough stuff (Romans 8:29).
God, the one we call, “Daddy,” is for us, so who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).
Ultimately, it is his loyal love for us that enables us to be “more than conquerors” in the here an now, because we know that his love indeed endures forever.“38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”(Romans 8:38–39 ESV).
All of our hope is anchored here. Because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we can say, “I am sure!” He gives us this knowledge and this confidence which results in experiencing our freedom in Christ.
I am praying that knowing these things in our hearts will lead us to a greater experience of the promised presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. As God does this in your life and in my life, imagine what will happen when we come together to praise him in our worship services at Trinity Church. Freedom.