Wow, it's been awhile since I posted last. Didn't realize THAT much time had gone by. There's been several reasons though, number one is that I was thick into getting ready for my firstborn daughter Sarah's graduation. (tears!). She just graduated and had her open house last weekend. And just as she is about to discover her own experience of new freedom, I have been experiencing my own.
I have found that this journey has become so intensely personal and as wordy as I am, I really am at a loss on how to convey it. To sum it up as succinctly as I can, I am discovering in a profound way just how free I am in Christ and what it truly means to be RELEASED from bondage, from the law (as in old testament), from this world, from sin and even from myself.
"For the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:2
One of the things that this discovery came through is in my search to get baptized. I felt the strong nudge to do so not long after my conversion but we were knee deep into winter at the time and most churches only do baptisms once or twice a year (really?????). That surprises me actually because from my bible reading and research it seems clear that conversion and baptism go hand in hand as close together as possible. Paul speaks with an urgency about it in his letters to the churches and John the Baptist sure had an assembly line of people parading through that river too!
Well, this spring the nudge came back with an urgency again and I called around to some churches who mostly said, in effect, here's our schedule, here's the hoops you gotta jump through and we'll get ya on the list. Uh Uhhh.....not for me.
So I did some deep praying and through that it was shown to me that yes, baptism is important, but it is more important to do so within the spirit of the act, not the "law" of the act. Baptism is for the person being baptized and is not an "obligation" that is "owed" to God or an act that must be crossed off the checklist of things "good Christians must do." It is not the act itself that does anything, rather the act is done in RESPONSE to what has already occurred. It is an outward expression of an inward change and is done with a genuine desire to demonstrate a commitment to turn away from my old life and begin fresh and anew in a new life in Christ. If it's done for any other reason, it means nothing. It is also not necessary for a "professional" to baptize. Any solid, mature Christian can baptize someone.
So once the weather FINALLY warms up consistently, I will be going down to the river we have running through our park in town and Jerry and my mother will baptize me. My 2 girls will be present as well. It's important to me also that it be "living waters" and not a pool or tub.
Another circumstance that further revealed to me the true meaning of being free in Christ came through some intense research I did into the Jewish/Hebrew roots of the Old Testament. I was studying the Feasts of the Lord (also known as the "Jewish feasts") and coming to find how all of the feasts were prophetic pictures of things that were going to occur. They were rehearsals for the eventual coming of the Messiah. The spring feasts, right down to the minutest detail all foreshadow the birth, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And the fall feasts are foreshadows of His second coming yet to occur. I found this guy (Michael Rood) who had a ton of videos detailing not only the feasts but many other revelations about the old testament and also about how pagan beliefs/rituals became so entwined with Jewish/Christian ones. For 2 weeks I was absorbed in it. I found myself feeling like I had to make all of these big changes in my life in response to the new information I was receiving.
Here's a link to an article that gives a very good and easy to read description of how the feasts all point to Christ.
Until one day, in one of his videos he said something that sent a shockwave through me. He said that belief in the messiah (he never called him Christ or Savior) was not enough, one MUST follow the old testament law as well or one is not saved. At that point, everything I had been studying from him came into question. At the same time (like literally within an hour of me seeing this video), my sweetie Jerry sent me several links in an email that exposed Michael Rood for who he really is. A false prophet. I won't go into the details of all this other than to say I am now aware of a big movement where there is a push to "homogenize" all of the various religions into one. One element of this is to convince Christians to "get back to their Hebrew roots." It's a movement that seems focused on putting the Torah (old covenant) into a more prominent position than what Christ did on the cross (new covenant). There's a LOT I'd like to write about this whole thing but I will save it for another post.
For me, this experience showed me how EASY it is to fall out of the Spirit and start following man/the world instead of Him. At the same time, I know He led me through all of that to find the gem that was meant just for me. And that gem was really GETTING now what Grace really means. How, through Christ, I am saved by GRACE and NOT works/acts or ANYTHING that I do. It is ALL about what HE has done FOR me. And in accepting this, I am no longer bound by ANY laws or rules or obligations. It's not about mechanically keeping commandments etc. (although these are important, if not done in the Spirit, they mean nothing).
It is solely and completely about where HE desires to take me, no matter how kaddywompus the path looks. I really GOT how I am FREE in this way. So much of religion is all about the rituals and about the do's and don'ts as well as the man made traditions that become obligations on how to be a "good Christian" or "acceptable to God." But when we are IN CHRIST (oh how I wish I could convey what I now understand this to mean) none of those things are needed. As I follow HIM, I am fully and completely accepted BY and THROUGH Him.
Ok, I like pictorals. I'm going to try and create one now.
Imagine a path, with curves and bends but always moving forward in one direction.
Along this path on either side are all these tents and booths like at a carnival.
At the head of the path is the gate where Jesus met me at my conversion. We began to walk along this path, dancing actually, twirling and hugging and totally focused on one another. Sometimes we will sit facing one another, foreheads touching and He reads to me from the bible. Sometimes we stand, hugging so closely that sometimes you can't tell where one ends and the other begins. But mostly, He takes me by the hand and we walk down the path.
At one point, I notice the tents and booths and I am curious. I go over to one and there is a very articulate speaker speaking his wisdom of the bible and of God. I learn a lot, but not much really "sinks in" as it is all head knowledge. I turn to see Jesus who's patiently waiting for me back on the path. So I go back and join Him and we continue on.
Further up the path, I spot another area that is all lit up and people are singing praises and dancing. I rush over and join them dancing and singing and praising. I feel so high and lifted up! But as soon as they stop singing, I feel deflated and alone. I look back over on the path and there is Jesus smiling at me. I run back to join Him and immediately feel fulfilled.
A little further on, I find a huge ornate building. It's absolutely breathtaking.
I find myself drawn to go inside. There are lots of people and a huge platform at the front with ornate tables and altars. I hear a soft humming of a choir in the background. There is a solemness to the room. They are doing some sort of ritual which I join them in. I feel like I am doing something very important but am not sure what. When it's over, they put the candles out, the choir stops humming and people leave the building. And once again, I feel empty.
With head hanging low, I leave the building. As I look down, I notice my own shadow. Seeing it makes me intensely aware of myself and I sit down in it and find myself getting depressed.
I forget all about the path and Jesus who is still standing there waiting for me to rejoin Him. I ponder why it is I cannot seem to retain the joy I feel when I am worshiping or learning about the Word or when I am giving thanks to Him through established rituals. I'm "doing everything right" but yet I still feel empty. Further and further I sink into despair.
After an unknown amount of time, I feel someone lifting my chin up. I look up and my eyes meet with His and instantly I am reminded of who I really am and where it is I am to go. I cry tears of relief as He takes my hand and leads me back to the path and we begin our dance once again.
As we are moving, I look down and realize I no longer cast a shadow, even though I am in bright light. I look back to Him and from then on, that's all that exists.
As we continue on the path, I still see the booths and tents, however now, I look to Him to see if it is where He will have me go and if so, we go there TOGETHER, hand in hand. And it doesn't matter if the people in the tents are whacky or if the speakers are interspersing their own idea of truth in the midst of the real Truth. With Him at my side, I am safe and He will show me all that I need from it. And when we go into the solemn buildings I am free to participate, or to simply observe. I am not obligated to do ANYTHING unless His spirit fills me with a desire to do so.
And as I walk in this way with Christ, IN Christ, I am seen by the Father at all times as acceptable to Him.
I'm aware this is a simplified allegory. I know there are other aspects of the walk I have not focused on here but I tell it the way I did to emphasize how keeping my focus on HIM and abiding IN HIM completely frees me to walk into any situation or through any circumstance without doubt or fear or any sense of obligation or requirements. It is through intimacy and communion with Him that my life is immeasurably enriched and becomes immeasurably pleasing to Him.
Abba (daddy), may my life always reflect your Joy, your delight and your blessings. I love you.