Jesus revealed Himself and His purpose on earth with these words: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor." Luke 4:18-19
I have a pyracantha bush outside my front door. Pyracanthas have huge, mean thorns that hardly make having one worth it. But in the fall, they produce bright orange berries that set against the evergreen of the bush are gorgeous. My problem is for the last two seasons my pyracantha has produced zero berries. No fruit. Only thorns. Definitely not worth it.
My Christian life has resembled my pyracantha in many ways. It has continued to grow, lush and green. It definitely has its thorns. But in many ways has shown little fruit. My friends and family would probably disagree. I love God. I teach Bible studies, homeschool my children, attend church, listen to "Christian" music, and otherwise do all the things a Christian woman would do. So why do I say I've produced little fruit?
Because freedom is the fruit of grace. It is the proof that I have been set free from slavery to sin. As a Christian for most of my life, I have known the truth of the Gospel and God's unfathomable grace to me. But many chains have bound my heart.
Satan isn't choosy about the material he uses to bind and enslave our hearts. Long heavy chains work well . . drugs, sex, abuse, etc. The ones we quickly recognize. But anything will do.
Dental floss can hold you bound just fine. He's happy even to use God's good gifts to bind up our hearts and enslave our souls. Anything is material fit for a chain in his crafty hands. He'll use our children, our husbands, our church, our ministry, our vocation, our homeschool, our house, our body. Whatever lays around, unclaimed, unconsecrated, unsubmitted to the overarching kingdom and will of God, is a potentially enslaving chain in the enemy's hands.
John Calvin said, “The human heart is a factory of idols . . everyone of us is, from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols.” We take God's good gifts and fashion our idols to whom we bow. Consider the Israelites. Their plunder from the Egyptians was meant to sustain them on their journey and replace the inheritance that had been stolen from them. They turned it into a bovine idol and sacrificed to it.
We are made to worship. Every heart has an altar filled with sacrifice. The question is to whom has my altar been built. The surest way to consecrate my life is to bring myself and all I have to the altar of God. Daily.
In Galatians 5:1, Paul warns us "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." The yoke of slavery Paul speaks of was religiosity. The presumptuous, proud, and pitiful efforts of man to add to God's grace, and, in so doing, encouraging not freedom but a return to the slavery from which they had been set free.
The first year, my pyracantha's fruitlessness was due to disease. Like sin, it infected and robbed the bush of its fruit. But the second year the fruitlessness was due to improper pruning. My ignorant efforts to make it bear fruit. It's not the perfect analogy, but it speaks one thing clearly. The capacity to bear fruit lies in the DNA of the plant. It is made to do so. There are many threats, but given the right environment it will do what it was made to do and produce.
When my life is not producing the fruit of God's great grace and love. When I am bound, defeated, worried, anything but free, it is time for prayerful reflection and determination to stand by the power of His enabling spirit in the freedom Christ bought for me.
Because freedom is the fruit of grace.
(This is the message of my heart and one that will direct my writing for awhile. I pray God uses it to reveal and break the chains that hold your heart and the hearts of those you love.)