Captive (Day 4)

As we’ve looked at the idea of being a held captive as a slave to disobedience (sin) we have seen a variety of ways we can be bound: outright disobedience, using freedom to disobey, and trying to be in a right relationship with God by following the rules. All of these are ways we can fall back into the slavery of sin. However, there is still another type of slavery we need to cover.

In Jesus’ time on Earth there were three major Jewish religious leaders: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. The Pharisees earned their religious status through hard work in school and memorization of rules & Scripture. The Sadducees were born into their leadership positions through family lineage. And the Essenes were those who studied hard and obeyed the rules of the Jewish religion, but they created separate communities where they could live apart from those who did not seek after God.

Think of it this way: a prisoner who has been set free from their jail cell and restored to life in a free world and then, being afraid to fall back into crime, lives alone in isolation to stay away from the temptation. How crazy would that be? In reality, that newly freed prisoner would become just as much of a slave to their self-made jail as they were in their original prison. They were missing the point of the freedom they had been granted.

Like the Essenes of Jesus’ time who did not want to live in the major communities with those who did not follow God and the metaphorical prisoner who chose to live in isolation we, as American Christians, often do the same thing spiritually. We may not become hermits who live by ourselves to stay away from temptation but we section ourselves in our social groups (churches) and do not have anything to do with those who don’t know Christ.

Many people have created grand excuses to justify this action. They say that if they surrounded themselves with normal (lost) people they would be tempted to fall back into their previously sin-filled lifestyle. They twist the Bible to justify their desires to be in community with other believers rather than drawn away by those who do not follow Christ. While there is some truth in these reasons (and the many others I have heard over the years), the best lies often have a little truth to make them believable.

The truth is that most Christians I know (and I include myself in this) have forgotten the point of being a Christian. If all God wanted to do was save us from eternity in Hell then after we surrendered our lives to him we would be instantly drawn into Heaven. But God also wants us to build relationships with those who do not know him to share the great news of his wonderful salvation!

Instead, we have built our own prisons through our close knit social groups, our routine lifestyle where we never build relationship with non-believers, and we go years without sharing our faith with anyone. What good does that do? What purpose does that accomplish? To quote the old adage, “What on Earth are you doing for Heaven’s sake?” What are we doing here in this temporary life to save other from eternity in Hell?

The passage I want us to chew on today is from 2 Corinthians chapter 4. As always I want you to read the whole chapter first for context. Now I want to marinate on these verses specifically:

2 Corinthians 4 (NLT):

[11] Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. [12] So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.

[13] But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.”[14] We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. [15] All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

Here Paul was talking about how his heartbeat was to share God’s great salvation to everyone no matter what the cost. He did not hide himself away in a tight knit community and forget that others were lost and dying. He was a former Pharisee, and could boast of the great things he had accomplished. He was made an Apostle by God and he could sit back and wait for others to come to him and ask him questions. But instead he dedicated his life to building relationships with those who did not know Christ and share God’s love to them.

What about you? What about me? Are we willing to face the dangers of this world and get out of our comfort zone? Are we willing to put down our selfish desires to simply share God’s great love with those who do not know him? If we answer yes, we have a lot of work to do. If we say no, then we need to hang up our hat and quit calling ourselves Christians.

Here is my challenge for today: examine your life and honestly assess how many people in your life you are on purpose building relationships with that don’t know Christ? How many times in the past week or months have you taken the time to share your faith with someone? How many times have you been broken hearted over someone who would go to Hell if they died today because they haven’t been rescued by Jesus?

We must see clearly that this life is temporary. We can’t take things with us. We should be prudent and plan to live long lives and pay our bills, work hard, save for retirement, plan for college, etc. But we should not go so wrapped up that we build a prison around ourselves and be held captive by our isolation. Let’s on purpose get out in the world and share God’s great love through word and action.

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