Free, Indeed?

the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free … Romans 8:2 NASB

One of my favorite stories is played out in the movie, "The Shawshank Redemption". In this story, we follow the lives of men who are condemned to live out the rest of their days at Shawshank Prison for real crimes committed. Many of the inmates have committed murder early in their lives. Now we meet them as old men who have been imprisoned for decades. The movie actually tells a beautiful story of one inmate who refuses to give up hope. Refuses to see only walls, guards, and bars on his cell. He brings beauty, life, and purpose to the prison and to his friends by embracing hope. I won’t spoil the entire storyline for those who have not seen it but it’s a great read and movie. 

One of the understories in the movie reveals the journey of two men who are released near the end of their lives. The parole board no longer sees them as a threat to society after spending forty plus years, under the routine and oppression of prison life behind bars. They are now gray-haired and slow old men. As inmates, they established predictable roles and purposes while imprisoned. Then one day, they are set free back into society. They are given regular clothes and a suitcase. The men take a bus into the city that they have not seen for their entire adult lives. There is no one to tell them when to eat, where to go, how to spend their time. They are free…. or are they?

This new world frightens them. They are no longer seen as important men with important roles like they had in prison. These two are ex-cons. They are not to be trusted. The men no longer have their fellow inmates who became their friends and family. Years upon years behind bars killed their spirit to live with abandonment. With intention. In freedom. We watch both men with this new freedom that doesn’t work. They each take different paths to escape it.

I think about that story as I read God’s word. I think about us imprisoned by the past stories of our lives without Christ. Behind mental prison walls of shame, guilt, and unbreakable habits. Not living anywhere close to the life we hope. Then we are pardoned. In full. Completely. Jesus paid the price for our freedom from sin and death. Scripture tells us that Jesus essentially stamped our prison sentence, “not guilty”, with His very own blood. He has set us free! He opened the gates so that we might live life in all the fullness of an intimate relationship with Him. 

Yet, despite all He did and gave, we often continue to live our lives essentially “behind bars”. We continue to carry the heaviest burdens of guilt and shame. The sins and mistakes of our past continue to torment our hearts and minds. We do not see ourselves as free. We stumble over of how long we still need to go. We see ourselves in a new world, unequipped and unsure of our new freedoms. We lack the joy and passion for living a life that is contagious of the Good News. Then we wonder why the unbelieving world isn’t drawn to the Gospel like we hope. We fall into trying to make ourselves seem good with works or image-making, while inside we still feel imprisoned. We still are not free.

Paul tells us in the very beginning of chapter 8 in the book of Romans that there is now NO condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus. None. No reminders of our failures and shortcomings in the heart and mind of God. We are not guilty. The first essential key to living as free and redeemed people is knowing and believing the TRUTH that we are not guilty any longer. Jesus’ death was enough for all of it. For that thing that just came to your mind right now. Yes, even for that. No matter what your feelings or the messages of the past trying to remind you of, believing your past, present, and future is paid for by Jesus is the first essential step in walking in the Spirit of freedom.

But that’s not enough. We must turn our lives over to the Spirit every day and let Him lead us. The Holy Spirit is the guide, power, and life that helps us walk each day, not according to the behaviors and sins of the past but into the actions and love of our new lives in Christ. The Holy Spirit is the Helper that Jesus promised in the Gospel of John before His crucifixion.

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;” John 14:16 NASB

Every day? Yes. Each moment? Yes. He promises to always be with us but we often forget Him. We continue to live our lives outside of the power and guidance of the Spirit. Each day is a choice to surrender our lives to life in the Spirit. Prayer and time in His word will recalibrate our hearts with His. Worship and service aligns our will with the Father’s. The habits of walking in the Spirit invite Him to lead our lives into the freedom Jesus was sacrificed for.

That is life in the Spirit. It is the new creation we are promised to become. Without walking daily by the Spirit, we become imprisoned men and women. And though our gates have been opened, we are lost and alone in our freedom. 

Jesus promised us more. He promised us life. He gave it all so that we can have it all.

"I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." John 10:10b NASB

Mary Quillin is one of our Refres{her} bloggers. She is a city-girl-turned-country-girl in her new life in North Dakota. Mary has been married to her hubby for 16 years and has 3 wonderfully, different kids who have begun their teen years (and she would appreciate all the prayers as possible on that note). After many years in full time ministry, Mary is learning how to show up and daily discover the journey of being available for whatever Jesus leads her to. She spends her days trying to build a welcoming shabby chic home in the heartland of North Dakota while learning to write and run.