Years ago when my husband, Tom, and I were in youth group together, we went on a mission trip to Brazil. Our youth leader preached the same message in many different places, so we got to hear it again and again. One illustration in particular has stuck with me ever since. He told the story of a circus bear that had been caged for most of its life. For years, the bear would walk a few meters one way, then turn around and walk a few meters the other way. That was its life—a little bit of room to walk around, back and forth.
Eventually, some animal rights activists protested this confinement and were able to arrange for the bear to be released into the wild, but when the cage was opened and the bear was called out of the cage, he didn't go very far. In fact, he walked a few meters one way, then a few meters the other way, and back again. He was no longer limited by the bars of a cage and could have explored the entire landscape before him, but he kept pacing back and forth because that was all he had known to do. He didn't know what to do with his new freedom.
That's what a lot of Christians do. We've been conditioned to feel the limits of the law, respond to our failures with guilt and shame, and remain in almost the same condition as before. No matter how often many Believers have heard that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, they still live under condemnation long after they have been set free. Even though many talk about being set free from sin, they still see themselves as sinners. Regardless of the "not guilty" verdict God has declared over their lives, many Christians continue to feel guilty. And to think about living in holiness and righteousness, in freedom and power, seems much too presumptuous. They live in a constant hangover of guilt.
Very often, our guilt doesn't actually apply to anything specific. It's just a lingering after-effect of past experiences and mistakes. But we're used to it, aren't we? For most of us, it has been a lifelong experience, so we become captive to it, confined to the limitations we have imagined from our own experience, unaware that we are now outside the cage and can roam wherever the Holy Spirit wants to take us. We can become so conditioned to feeling guilty that we never actually explore what it means to be free.
Freedom from guilt and shame seems too good, too undeserved for us to apply to ourselves. This sense of condemnation—that we have been and always will be sinners, barely rescued by the grace of God, but who still continue to sin—keeps us from having confidence toward Him. And this lack of confidence undermines our faith, our prayers, and our ability to walk in God's power.
Why Your Freedom Matters
Scripture tells us that if we have confidence toward God, we can ask anything according to His will and know—be absolutely sure—that it will be done for us (see 1 John 5:14). It says we can live in this world just as Jesus did (see 1 John 4:17), that we can do the same works that He did, and even greater ones (see John 14:12). It gives us example after example of walking in power, demonstrating the nature of God, expressing His love with confidence and assurance, seeing His Kingdom break into this world through our thoughts, words, and actions; but not if we lack confidence before Him, not if we are captive to our guilt and self-condemnation. No one who is constantly kicking himself or herself is going to be able to live by faith and do the works that Jesus did.
Our captivity to guilt, shame and condemnation limits us. It keeps us from experiencing everything God wants us to receive by faith. If we don't know we're clean, we will not have confidence before God to ask for anything in faith, to know that He is the one at work within us to accomplish His desires, or to actually believe that we can have the desires of our hearts. Our history of captivity says, "Don't you dare consider yourself righteous, holy, or pure. Don't you remember who you are? Only God is holy and good; you clearly are not. Your dreams, desires, and hopes are all sinful. Don't even think that God might fulfill them." (Photo via Piqsels)
If we believe our own feelings rather than what Scripture says about us, we continue to live without freedom and without power. We live as if we are behind bars, even after the bars are gone.
Your freedom matters to the enemy too. He absolutely doesn't want you to experience it because he is seriously threatened by it. The last thing he wants is a bunch of Jesus-filled people walking in freedom, without any focus on sin, regret, shame, disappointments and other crippling things. He does not want a world filled with people empowered by the life of Jesus within them. He still wants to create the illusion of a cage.
Religion has told us that righteousness, our sanctification, is a long journey, a ladder to climb in order to attain a certain status that enables us to get answers to our prayers and walk in power. It puts before us an image of sainthood that we can hardly expect to achieve, or examples of a "man of God" or "woman of God" that only a few are worthy to be called.
Without walking in perfect holiness, our consciences are being continually bruised. Guilt and condemnation remain a constant battle. This battle consumes our energy and keeps us focused on something other than the faith and works God wants us to walk in, which is why the enemy would love to see us constantly preoccupied with it. He wants us to think we are still engaged in a battle that has already been won for us. This approach to righteousness, which we are always seeking but never quite attaining, is like bars of a cage that keep us longing for what's on the outside and regretting that we are still stuck on the inside. "Maybe one day," we think.
So what is the answer to a conscience weighed down by sin, guilt and shame? How can we be free from sin and the hangover of guilt? This is where the enemy's great deception comes into play. If we are Believers in Jesus, born by His Spirit, we must believe what He says about us.
Did you know that the New Testament always refers to Believers as saints and never as sinners? [The closest is Paul's reference to himself as the "chief" of sinners in 1 Timothy 1:15. But, Paul is referring to his old/past life as a persecutor of the Church.] Even Paul's letter to the Corinthians, a church with quite a few problems, addresses them as saints, holy ones, those who are sanctified in Christ (see 1 Corinthians 1:2).
The world may throw accusations of being "holier than thou," but the Bible doesn't. Holier than whom? God freely gives us His righteousness, and no one can get any holier than that. Nor do we have any right to declare ourselves less holy when He has given such a precious and priceless gift. He doesn't want us to be ashamed of ourselves and push the gift away. He wants us to know how absolutely clean and pure we are, to receive His righteousness, explore all of its implications and enjoy it fully.
"I just have a weakness in that area. It's inevitable that I sin." These sorts of comments are dangerous for Christians because they reflect a wrong belief that will cause them to sin by faith! Don't let these lies cross your mind or come through your lips. They are keeping you captive. If you believe you have power to make righteous choices you will walk by faith in righteousness. (Photo via Unsplash)
It is imperative to respond to these thoughts, feelings, and voices. The Bible says we need to demolish arguments and everything that sets itself up against the knowledge of God (see 2 Corinthians 10:5). I remind myself often: "Yes, God alone is holy, but it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. I have been raised up with Him to new life. I am now as He is in this world. I have received His forgiveness and carry His righteousness. I am filled with His Spirit. He is my life now. He has declared me holy, and any accusation against me is a lie."
You need to understand that these things are true whether you feel them or not, and whether you sinned yesterday or not. God is no longer counting your actions against you. You are not just a "little bit" righteous. "For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV). He remembers your sins no more. His payment for sin is finished. You are now fully, completely righteous.
Righteousness sets you free from the cage of condemnation. We enter into a new covenant, not through works but by faith in the Son of God. His Blood cleansed us from all sin, and it strips our guilty conscience of power. We have become "not guilty."
Far too many Christians are completely unaware of their vindication, except perhaps as a theological doctrine. They believe it intellectually, but they don't experience it. They continue to strive to be good, trying harder and hoping to measure up. The doors of the cage have been flung open, and they remain where they are, never really enjoying the fullness of the freedom Jesus has given us.
Our freedom is already true, but in order to experience it, we have to change the way we think. Instead of asking God to make us acceptable—which He has already done—we have to learn to say, "Thank You, God, for making me righteous, for setting me free, for making me holy and pure." Rehearse that truth and that gratitude repeatedly, as often as you can. There's no sense in asking God for what He has already given. Go ahead and enjoy it. See it as a past-tense reality.
You will behave according to your beliefs. That is certain. If you believe you are a sinner who never quite measures up, you will continue to act out that role. You'll live like a sinner who never quite measures up. You will sin by faith. But if you believe what Scripture says about you, that you are the righteousness of God in Christ, you will step into a new reality. You may experience some contrary evidence from time to time, but it is fading away. If you believe you are righteous, you will increasingly live righteously by faith. Then you will be able to walk in the freedom and power you have been given.
(Excerpt taken from Katherine Ruonala's book: Supernatural Freedom: Overcoming the Greatest Barriers to Fulfilling Your Destiny.)
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Glory City Church
Katherine Ruonala¬†has a prophetic and healing ministry and travels internationally as a conference speaker, bringing a message of love and hope to the nations. Katherine carries a strong, prophetic and miracle anointing, with many experiencing instant healing in her meetings. Reaching across denominational walls, her ministry is also used to spread the fires of revival and ignite a fresh passion in the hearts of Believers to go deeper in their relationship with God.
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