21 May 2014 by Jason Law CM –
What differentiates Christianity from many of the belief systems out there is not just the value, but the understanding it gives to freedom. In order to get genuine freedom, we must know what it truly means. Like many people in the world, a huge number of Christians live their lives surrounded by boxes.
We cannot help certain things. We live in boxes known as houses, and in that box, there are many other boxes known as rooms. We go to work in boxes known as cars; some of us may go to work in boxes known as the bus, the commuter train, or LRT. Many of us cook our food in boxes and we often eat out of boxes. When we take our rest, we entertain ourselves by watching the box known as television. When we were born, and when we die, we were and will be put into boxes. There are many other boxes that many of us can think of if we contemplate about it.
Last Sunday, 18th of May 2014, Pr Kenneth Chin shared in Acts Church Subang, that if we’re not careful, we may end up living our Christian lives in boxes, and not the lives of freedom exemplified by Jesus and meant for us as Christians. He started off by defining what is genuine freedom and what it is not.
When a Christian talks about freedom, it is not freedom as the world understands it. Many people think freedom is the liberty to do anything they want, without anyone controlling them. They try to go for alternate lifestyles, only to find themselves lonely and defined by the boundaries of that lifestyle; in short, they have exchanged one box for another.
Many of us have experienced this before, especially in our younger days, and we know that the only thing such an outlook on life brings is loneliness, frustration, and a sense of being trapped, no different from our original ‘boxes’. True freedom can only come through God, and John 14:27 encourages us that the peace (freedom) Jesus brings is of a kind that the world cannot give.
John 14:27 NLT
"I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid.
During Jesus’ 40 Days of trials and temptations in the desert (Matthew 4), the devil tried to put Him in boxes, and Jesus set an example on how to respond to those attempts. This account shows the hubris of the devil, and if he even tried to put those boxes around Jesus, you can be sure that he will do the same to Christians. However, as Pr Kenneth shared, the devil picked on the wrong Person, and as Christians, called to be followers of Christ, we are meant to have the same strength and aptitude against the devil. The key is to break out of our ‘Me’ boxes, including fear, and what they can do to us.
First Temptation/Box 1: Instant Gratification
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’
The devil first appeared to Jesus when He was at His most vulnerable physical condition. Jesus had fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in the desert, very possibly even without much fresh water. The first temptation the devil put to Jesus was to turn the stones around Him into bread. The basis for this temptation was that since Jesus was the Son of God, He could feed Himself by using the power that was in Him, and that this physical suffering was needless. Jesus answered the devil through Scripture in Deuteronomy 8:3: Men are not created to gratify themselves through the things of the world which has no lasting value, but to build through the Word of God which has an Eternal one.
Many Christians live lives in defeat because we do so in the flesh. We easily get bored and often require new stimulus, we get impatient when we have to wait for anything beyond 15 minutes, we seek for recognition in our ministry, we want to climb the corporate ladder and be as rich as young as possible, and we want payoff in whatever we’re doing immediately, without waiting for it. Instead of achieving what we want, we often end up in a trapped live, constantly depending on these things, and once obtaining them, quickly getting bored with them again. We never get enough and we never find true peace. Genuine freedom comes through having the right focus in life.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 counsels us that there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the Heavens. As our Creator and the Omniscient Father, God knows our nature. He knows the best time to our prayers, and He always fulfills His plans for us when it will leave the most impact. Jeremiah 29: 11 is familiar to all of us; it tells us that God has good plans of hope and a future for us, and not to harm us. But we often forget the context in which it was written. The passage goes on to say in v12-14 that when we call out upon Him with all of our hearts, He will be found by us and He will restore us out of captivity. Lamentations 3:25 reinforces this.
Pr Kenneth shared that God is limitless and that the whole of Creation shows us this; the Earth and the Sun and Universe itself were not created in the shape of a box. When God created Adam and Eve, He placed them in a garden, not in boxes. Our God is not confined by boxes; He does not think in boxes, and the dreams and visions He gives us will often require us to break out of the box mentality. In those dreams and visions that we live with God, and when He brings us into His world, in there lies true freedom. When we live by the Word of God, we are already living outside the box; we can be anywhere at any time, and we can do anything as long as it proceeds from the Mouth of God.
Second Temptation/Box 2: The Dangers of Presumption and Pride
Matthew 4: 5-7
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
The second temptation of the devil shows him at his ingenuity. Since Jesus had answered through Scripture during the first temptation, satan tried to use Scripture (Psalm 91:11-12) this time. Herein lies a danger; satan is known as the Great Deceiver, and he knows how to use the Word of God against His people by quoting them out of context. We need wisdom from God.
This test is primarily about another box; presumption and the dangers of position. There comes a danger when our ministry is not focused upon God as it should be. We take Scripture that fits our agenda, and we forget the rest. Those Scriptures that we take, we squeeze them so that they are favourable to these agenda. Our study of the Bible becomes a self-centered exercise of self-justification, and ultimately, this will also land us up in danger and a boxed life.
This danger can also come through a pinnacle position. Years of success can make us drift away from God, relying on our own strength, and forgetting that the results of our work were because of the grace God had poured upon it. This occurs even among ministry workers.
Pr Kenneth gave a caution against pride. God wants to break us out of our ‘Me’ box, and the dreams and visions we have must be centered upon the One from whom they came. The little things that seem simple, innocent, and acceptable to us can easily become complex, corrupt, and unacceptable and the boundary line is thin. Jesus has come to set us free and break us out of our boxes, and we must have a spirit of discernment.
Third Temptation/Box 3: Idolism
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Pr Kenneth shared that as humans, we have a tendency of wanting everything in place and only then do we move on, but God does not work that way; He works outside the box. Throughout the Bible, we see one common thread connecting all its heroes together, and the Bible says in Hebrews 11:6, that without faith, it is impossible to please God. This is one of the most important verses in the Bible, and in it contains a key to our victory as Christians.
The devil knows the human heart. He knows that in the constant need for security, we often drift away from God in search of attractive things that we thought could give us wellbeing in life. And in the process, we sometimes end up being enslaved by these things and idolising them. The fact is, nothing in this world lasts, and the things that we thought could give us security may very possibly disappear one day. The only secure foundation is built upon the Rock of Jesus, and the Eternal, Unchanging, and Constant God. The devil tried to tempt Jesus by giving Him the world, if only Jesus would bow down to him. Jesus finally had the final straw, and drove the devil from His presence. As Christians, we are to do the same.
Pr Kenneth shared that the devil will try his hardest to attack us through all three parts of our being (body, soul, and spirit) but it is not about the boxes that we’re surrounded with; it is the box that is within us that will define us and which we need to take caution of. We must break out of the ‘Me’ box.
The devil, and very often the world, will try their hardest to put boxes around Christians, doing whatever they can to trap us in those boxes, and sometimes even labeling us. There is a presumption that Christians can be limited and bound by those boxes, and while by ourselves and without God that is true, it is untrue if we have God in our lives. The temptation may be strong to react in certain ways because of emotion and the wrong priorities, but God has given us strength and we can choose to refuse being defined by those boxes. We can choose to live a life out of the box, focused on God, accomplishing things for Him, and being truly free.
Note: This article is written from the perspective and interpretation of the writer, and to present its message in a readable format for the screen. Although it is not written precisely according to the message by the pastor, the article gives the gist of it and has been published with permission by the church.
References for pictures