I stood in the lobby of a hotel recently, watching singles file one by one into a huge banquet hall. The sign outside the hall read: Creative Singles' Party. It was a Sunday evening, supposedly the most depressing day for lonely people.
What a tragic sight it was. Some were nineteen and twenty; others were in their sixties. No one was smiling. They looked as if they had all come from the same funeral. You could sense their emptiness, their loneliness. There was a horrible sense of sadness about it all. Every one of them headed right to the liquor table and filled their glasses with alcohol. And four hours later, they filed out-even sadder! They walked out the revolving door, as if to say, "Is this all there is to life? What a downer!"
But I can take you to the steps of almost any church today and show you the same depressing sight. They come walking into God's house and hardly anyone is smiling. You can read their faces, and you can see written there the same fears, the same loneliness, the same emptiness you see at a singles' party.
Stand in front of any school on Monday morning and watch the kids dragging into their classrooms. Their faces are long; they are half asleep. They look bored, and they seem to resent "having to go" to school. They count the minutes until lunch time.
It's the same thing on the job-Monday morning blues. The employees act like they are drafted and are being sent to the front lines to face a firing squad. They soak themselves with coffee till noon. Listen to their language, "Oh man, another long week ahead. I can't wait for Friday."
And now we've got the "Sunday blues"-kids who resent being forced to go to church; dads who prefer to sleep in or who say to their wives, "the preacher had better not go past twelve. The Cowboys play at one o'clock, and I don't want to miss the kickoff." Two-thirds of the crowd keep looking at their watches; the other third is checking out the crowd, inspecting what others are wearing.
Most tragic of all, a majority who attend the church services don't expect to get any help! They are glad the service lasts only an hour and a half. If it lasted three hours, few would attend. It's an hour and a half to ease their consciences; an hour and a half to keep up the tradition of going to church on Sunday. They walk out just as they walked in: bored, worried, frustrated, and full of fear and anxiety.
How it must break the heart of God! We are turning His house of deliverance and prayer into a place of bondage and boredom. A recent national survey asked the question, "Where do you get the most bored?" The majority answered, "In church."
My friends, when the house of God is no longer a place where people can find strength and liberation, it needs to close its doors. If there is no shout of victory, no glorious joy, no liberating power-it is no longer God's house. "Icabod" should be written over its doors-"The glory has departed."
How sad, but true, that a great majority of all the people god created will die and go into eternity having never really lived. Most people simply endure their life. Their life has been one long private war. Even when it's at its best, it is never what they think it should be. There is always something missing. No one seems to know what it is, but everybody is searching for it. They keep looking for what they call "the meaning of life." A voice deep within keeps whispering, "There has to be more. Somewhere there is something better-better than living with constant guilt; better than just existing, dragged down by habits, sins, and weaknesses. Life is supposed to be FREE. It should never keep me a prisoner. It should be liberating."
Centuries before Christ was born, the Prophet Isaiah prophesied that God would send a deliverer to mankind who would liberate life. Jesus Himself stood in a Jewish synagogue one Sabbath and reminded to world of this prophecy:
"And when he opened the book Jesus found the place where it was written by Isaiah, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,...This day is the scripture fulfilled in your ears" (Luke 4:17-21)
Jesus was telling the whole world, "My mission on earth is to liberate every bruised life." To liberate means to set free from all bondage; to release from all slavery; to do away with everything that oppresses. If you believe Christ is telling the truth, then you must believe He is saying to you and to me, "I am sent to liberate your life, to release your life from all oppression and bondage. I come to set your Spirit free."
Paul also preached that Christ came to call every believer to a liberated life. "Brethren, ye have been called unto liberty?" (Galatians 5:35)
"Christ has liberated you, so make sure you stay free and don't get tied up with the chains of bondage again" (Galatians 5:1)
Paul preached about "the glorious liberty of the children of God" [See Romans 8:21]
That is what God wants to know!
"But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?" (Galatians 4:9)
It must be so frustrating to God when so few of His creatures take seriously His offer to liberate them. The children of Israel never accepted His offer. He brought them out of Egypt, the house of bondage, and promised them a liberated life in Canaan, "but some, when they heard, did rebel?" Paul said they came short of finding their liberation because the word they heard did them no good-because they did not really believe what they heard. Paul tells us that God's offer to bring us into the rest of a liberated life still stands today.
"God's promise that all may enter His rest still stands, and we ought to tremble with fear because some of you may fail to reach it" (Hebrews 4:1 Paraphrased).
Since the children of Israel failed to accept His offer, God set another time for people to experience liberated life.
"He has set another time for coming in, and that time is now" (Hebrews 4:7 Living Bible).
"There is a full, complete rest still waiting for the people of God" (Hebrews 4:9).
Think of what God is saying to us today, "If you aren't careful, just like the millions of Israel, your generation will go through life without coming into the liberating rest I've promised." Look around, folks, It's true! We have failed to reach this rest in our lives. We are still restless and troubled. And our disbelief in His glorious promise of liberation grieves God.
"But with whom was God grieved forty years? Was it not them that sinned? Why couldn't they go in? Because they didn't believe Him" (Hebrews 3:17-19).
Why did millions of Israelites die in a snake-infested wilderness, after living forty miserable years in sorrow and fear? Why did they stay in a desert wasteland when they could have moved right into a land flowing with fruits, vegetables, honey, and all things to make life beautiful? Why did they wander aimlessly in tents, eating dust, when they could have owned their own homes on their own land?
The answer seems incredible! It was too good to be true. They simple could not believe that God loved them enough to trade off their misery for such a wonderful life. They had grown so accustomed to misery, they thought that was the way life was supposed to be. The spies that came back from that promised land of peace and rest told them all about its beauty; about springs and rivers of water; about vineyards, fig plantations, herds of milk cows, an abundance of honey, green pastures. It was all that God said it was!
But some of the spies added, "Don't get too excited about this new life you've been promised. There's a catch. There are some giants in the land also." The people's hearts sank within them. They began to murmur and complain, "I knew it-I just knew it! It was too good to be true; too easy; too much like a fairy tale. It's all a false dream. Such a beautiful life in a beautiful land is impossible."
Caleb cried out, "Let us go at once, and possess it, for we are well able to overcome it" (Numbers 13:30).
But listen to them as unbelief takes over: "We be not able to go up against the people for they are stronger than we are" (Numbers 13:31).
Joshua stood up in the middle of this unbelief, and God spoke through him in one last effort to get them into a new life.
"The Lord loves us. He delights in us. He wants to bring us into this place and give it to us. Don't be afraid; don't reject God's promise. The Lord is with us. Not even giants can stop us" (Numbers 14:8,9 Paraphrased).
But the people almost stoned him instead. "And the Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? And how long will it be ere they believe me?" (Numbers 14:11).
This is what God has been dealing with me about lately. He has been asking me the same question, "David, when will you believe Me and take Me at My Word? When will you enter into this life of liberty and rest I've promised you?" He is warning me to be careful, lest I, too, fail to enter into the liberated life, His abundant life-free and restful. Are we ready to finally believe what Jesus said? Or will our unbelief rob us of His promises?
He said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).
He also said, "I am come that you might have life, and that you may have it in its fullest measure" (John 10:10).
And again this promise: "I have come to bring liberty to everyone who is bruised" (Luke 4:18 Paraphrased).
We are just like the children of Israel. We think a life totally free of fear and guilt is too incredible. Life lived in its fullest measure? Life with 24-hour-a-day rest and peace in my soul? Life without a heavy burden of condemnation or depression? Life in the presence of a loving, gentle Savior who cares about all my needs? Life without turmoil; without worry; without the fear of falling?
Does it sound too good to be true? Is it just a tease from God? Not at all! This is exactly the kind of Liberated Life Christ wants every one of His children to have. Not just a few of His children-but all! Not just for those who break some kind of theological code-but all who simply trust Him for it! Even Christ Himself admitted He could do no miracle for those who had unbelief in them.
"Let us do our best to enter into that place of rest...being careful not to disobey God as the children of Israel did through their unbelief" (Hebrews 4:11 Paraphrased).
Isn't it shocking that the children of Israel believed God could get them out of Egypt, but they couldn't believe He could get them into the promised land? They had survived ten supernatural plagues. They watched in horror as death claimed all the firstborn children in Egypt, and not one of them died. They had witnessed the unbelievable sight of a sea piling up on both sides to open a dry passage right through it. They walked through a sea! They watched in amazement as the sea fell in on Pharaoh and his army, drowning them.
"Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore. And the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord."
How excited Israel was! They were now saved! The old life was gone; new life was theirs. They danced for joy, filled with anticipation of a glorious new life in a land of beauty and rest.
"Thou shalt bring us in, and plant us in the mountain of our inheritance, our own homeland, the place you have meant for us to dwell in" (Num 15:17 Paraphrased).
Six weeks later, they were down in the pits of despair! They were miserable; they were troubled; they were complaining; they forgot all about God's miraculous power. They were fearful and afraid.
"The fifteenth day of the second month after leaving Egypt the whole congregation murmured against Moses...moaning...'Oh that we were back in Egypt, and that the Lord had killed us there. He brought us into this wilderness to kill us all by starvation'" (Numbers 16:3 Living Bible).
In the months ahead, these same people doubted God on ten different occasions. God said, "That is enough! Their doubt will keep them out. These men have seen My glory; they've witnessed My miracles which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and they have doubted and tempted Me these ten times. And they have not believed My promise. Therefore they shall not come into the land, but their carcasses shall fall in the wilderness?"
They were saved, all right, but for what? To spend forty miserable years in a scorching wilderness, living in spiritual poverty, murmuring and complaining, bowed down with feelings of rejection, depression and daily sorrow? Afraid to die and yet not wanting to live? Living under the fear of God's wrath? That is not what God wanted for them. That is not why He saved them. They got themselves bogged down in a desert rat existence because they lost their faith in God.
It makes you want to scream, "Israel, wake up! You don't have to live like that. There's a beautiful place for you, a wonderful and liberated life just over the hills. Don't be so stupid! Believe God-it's true!"
Even more tragic than this is that so many today are stuck in that same old wilderness of despair. We are just as blind and unbelieving. We believe God to save us in eternity, but we won't believe Him to give us abundant life right now. We have been told in no uncertain terms by God that we have a life of complete rest and liberation waiting for us.
Jesus said, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom?" (Luke 12:30).
Did Jesus say what I think he said? God wants to give me a kingdom? Where is it?
"The kingdom of God does not come to you visibly...The kingdom is within you?" (Luke 17:20, 21).
Oh great! That means from now on I'll be rich, increased with goods, and in need of nothing. No! It is something you possess in your inner man. It is a liberated life!
"For the kingdom of God is not what you eat or drink...but it is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Romans 14:17).
What is it going to take to get us out of our miserable lives of guilt, fear, and depression? What will it take to make us see there is a far more glorious life awaiting us?
Paul said, "Give thanks unto the Father which hath made us fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light" (Colossians 1:13).
Do you want this liberated life? Do you believe now that it is your inheritance? Do you now believe God wants desperately for you to have it? Then accept it by faith! Move into it! Claim it as your own! Paul says, "Haven't you suffered enough? Haven't you learned your lesson yet?" In other words, "Aren't you sick and tired of living a life of fear and mental torture? Haven't you yet learned there is a better way?"
"The just SHALL LIVE by faith!"
You simply put your faith in what God said He would do for you. This liberated life of righteousness, joy, and peace in the Holy Ghost is a gift. You can't work for it.
The greatest joy of all is to know you are no longer "guilty" before God. It is the joy of knowing your faith makes you right before Him.
"Blessed, and to be envied...are those whose sins are forgiven and out of sight...What joy there is for anyone whose sins are no longer counted against him by the Lord" (Romans 4:7,8).
Abraham became the father of nations, simply because he took God at his Word. He could have doubted and lost everything.
"But Abraham never doubted. He believed God, for his faith and trust grew even stronger, and he praised God for this blessing even before it happened. He was completely sure that God was well able to do anything he promised. And because of Abraham's faith God forgave his sins and declared him 'not guilty.' Now this wonderful statement, that he was accepted and approved through his faith, wasn't just for Abraham's benefit. It was for us, too, assuring us that God will accept us in the same way he accepted Abraham-when we believe the promises of God who brought back Jesus our Lord from the dead" (Romans 4:20-24 Living Bible).
We believe Him to forgive us in order to save us; we must believe that He will keep us. The power that saves us keeps us! The faith that brought Christ into our lives keeps us from falling.
"So now, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith in his promises, we can have real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be" (Romans 5:1,2 Living Bible).
Do you face an overwhelming temptation? Is there a besetting sin that keeps trying to drain your life? Put it in God's hand! Believe THIS promise and leave it Him to fulfill it:
"Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling and present you faultless before the throne of God with exceeding great joy?"
But there's a warning also: "They believed not for his wonderous works...therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble?" (Psalm 78:32,33).
They suffered mental anguish, feelings of worthlessness, and years of trouble-all because they didn't trust in the wonderful love and power of God.