The big idea of Freedom Season
Here is the big idea, the Freedom Rhythm we focus on during Freedom Season:
God is proactively working a strategy to bring freedom, healing, and deliverance to everyone on earth. Jesus launched it with the Freedom Declaration, which is still in force.
Many people assume God is basically a killjoy, making rules and then making sure people keep them or else. They think of the Bible as the rule book so they don't read it much. Or if they do read it, they feel bad getting reminded of all the rules they broke.
They don't get the basic idea of Freedom Season. Something different and bigger is going on in the Bible, which is really one long story not a patchwork of rules. In the story, the victims get delivered from their cruel master by the liberator, the rightful heroic king, but not as in a predictable fairy tale. The Bible's story is more of a down-to-earth thriller with some amazing twists and turns in the plot.
Freedom Season celebrates the biggest twist of all--Jesus, the spearhead of God's Freedom Campaign, is rejected and executed, but God brings him back to life. That holds the entire biblical story together from Genesis to Revelation, and it puts freedom, healing, and deliverance within reach of all of us.
Here is the other half of the big idea of Freedom Season:
God's strategy is to have his kingdom of freedom go viral. The free citizens of his kingdom spread the news and infect others with their freedom until the whole world is drawn to Jesus, the Freedom King.
When someone is freed from prison, addiction, illness, or danger, there is always a huge sense of relief and joy. There is also gratitude to anyone who helped get the person free. God's strategy banks on that relief, joy, and gratitude.
As people accept the Freedom Declaration of Jesus and honor him as their King, they experience his deliverance. Often this is so thrilling and life-changing that they never get over it. It is like being "scarred for life" but in a good way. They are permanently relieved and full of joy, and they keep trying to pay off their debt of gratitude to Jesus.
How does he tell them to pay it? Pay it forward! Become freedom activists, telling your freedom story so that others want in on the relief and joy you have. Your freedom infects them, they join his kingdom, they experience his freedom, and their story infects others. This has exponential growth potential.
What works against God's strategy for exponential growth? Self-quarantine. When we say "Yes" to the freedom of Jesus but we do not become freedom activists, we get out of SYNC with the essence of God's strategy. He wants the freedom to spread; we bottle it up for ourselves.
This is extremely dangerous. God has a strategy, we know what it is, and we are working to sabotage it? That does not sound like we are free citizens of Jesus' kingdom. More like traitors. But we will excuse that behavior if we do not realize that God has viral intentions for his kingdom.
Bottom line of the big idea of Freedom Season:
We see ourselves in Christ as freedom activists, calling the world into the new era of freedom. We live in SYNC with God's intentions when he sent Jesus to issue the Freedom Declaration.
In SYNC with Jesus, we are rooted in Abraham. "And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you." (Galatians 3.29)
When you SYNC, when you See Yourself iN Christ as a freedom activist, you realize you are participating in the new era that Jesus launched with his Freedom Declaration. That freedom is for everybody, but not everybody knows it. Not everybody has bought into it yet, activated it, experienced it. That is your cause. Give everybody a chance to get free in Christ. You are caught up in that cause, energized by it, and delighted every time you have even a small success.
You want a freer world? So does God. Why not get on board with his plan instead of trying to work some other plan? Of course, you have to get over your view (if it is your view) that God is the great restrictor of freedom. If you are stuck there, read the story of Jesus for yourself (Mark 1-16; 30-min read). See if he looks like a freedom restrictor to you, and go from there.
Our role as freedom activists, calling people into the new era of freedom that Jesus declared
Here is the big picture, the flow of the story of Jesus.
He came to issue the Freedom Declaration
His teaching concentrated on unpacking the Declaration about his kingdom, his new era
His followers were eager for him to take power and lead into the new era of freedom
His enemies killed him to prevent him from taking power and leading his new era
God raised him so he would continue to lead the way into his new era
He sent out freedom activists to recruit more citizens for his new era/kingdom
No wonder we are celebrating Easter! In the flow of the story of the world, we are the current freedom activists taking the news of the resurrection of Jesus to the world. And enrollment in the new "kingdom" or era is still open to all. No one is disqualified by their past if they now freely choose to embrace Jesus as the Messiah, the Risen King. All we are urging them to do is to exercise that freedom.
If they do, they will start living in the new era of freedom and discovering a different kind of freedom than they used to think they wanted. They become like synchronized swimmers or ballet dancers, totally controlled by the music but not feeling at all enslaved by it. They are not free from the music, free to make any move they want at any time. They are free IN the music. They love the music and concentrate on it intensely, never wanting to miss any of it by even a fraction of a beat.
If you tell them that sounds so conformed, restrictive or even oppressive, they might say, "What are you talking about? You've never felt it, have you? If you had ever tried it, you would know how fulfilling and exhilarating it is." They would say the music sets them free to experience and display beauty and unity. And that is what SYNC says about the rhythm that Jesus set in his Freedom Declaration.
The big idea vs the Big Lie
If we get the big idea of Freedom Season, it protects us from the Big Lie, which is,
"Freedom means the freedom to be myself, express myself, be true to myself, follow my heart, do what I choose to do, regardless of what is going on around me. "
This lie has some truth to it. Oppression is a terrible thing. Life itself becomes suffocating and oppressive if we are overly concerned about other people's opinions of our choices. Integrity and strength of character are crucially important. But the lie will not lead us to the freedom and integrity it promises, and we know it.
We know that we have to take other people's welfare into account in our choices because our choices affect them. We know that huge things happen, like the current pandemic, and we are not free to ignore them. We know that we are not individual droplets floating around in a vast space, and we do not want to be "free" in that sense.
So we settle for the goal of living as freely as is realistically possible. Our ideal is the freedom to follow our heart. Our reality falls short of that. That's life, or so we think.
We may not realize there is a counter-intuitive way out of this half-free kind of living. Get a new "self," one that is capable of total freedom instead of just partial. The new self would be free to express itself completely and we could follow it 100% of the time, knowing it would never lead us to disrespect or harm anyone else. But does such a self exist? If it does, would we risk trading our current self, our core identity, for a "self" we don't know yet?
That is the trade that Jesus, the Freedom King, calls us to make, trusting his word that it will lead to total freedom in his new era of freedom. "Whoever saves his/her life ["self"] will lose it, but whoever loses his/her life ["self"] for me will find it ["a new free self"]"
This trade is what all the "Freedom" pages on the SYNC site are trying to make clear to people. Those who realize that the Big Lie is a lie will realize they do not have to settle for a half-free life. As free citizens of the kingdom of Jesus, we are new people, totally free because our new selves are totally aligned with the will and the reality of Jesus the King.
In a sense we are "under his control," but he is not Hitler, and this rhythm we hear is not for a goose-step march. This is a dance rhythm. It is liberating not confining. Jesus is the Freedom King, and our new selves love him.
Holidays and the big idea
Palm Sunday, March 28, 2021
Palm Sunday is the most bittersweet day of the year in the SYNC calendar. The human race almost got it right that day. We were so close, and yet so far away. The crowds hailed Jesus entering Jerusalem in exactly the way the ancient prophet had predicted the Messiah would arrive--on a donkey (Zechariah 9.9). They called out "Hosanna," which means "Free us! Liberate us!" They called him "Son of David," i.e., rightful heir to the throne of King David. (Matthew 21.9)
They were all thinking freedom, since Jesus's arrival was part of a huge influx of people coming to celebrate Passover, the national "Freedom Day," on Friday. He had never said in public that he was the Messiah, but he had fed people's suspicions. They all realized that Jerusalem would be the perfect place to declare he was the Messiah, and Passover would be the perfect day to do it. Then he would take power and his new era would begin. All of this is the sweet part of "bittersweet".
The bitter part of the day is the ominous part. Jesus's enemies also realized that with the crowds behind him, Jesus could declare himself the Messiah at any moment. They feared a bloodbath if he did, because under a Messiah the nation would revolt against the control of the Roman Empire. Jesus had no military experience. He would be leading a peasant revolt, and Roman legions would crush it in no time. He had to be stopped before he made his announcement. Palm Sunday convinced his enemies that they did not have much time.
With hindsight, more bitterness is seen in this day. In the following few days, the guardians of the old order used their power to arrest him, condemn him, beat him savagely, and execute him. Nothing could have been further from the mind of the crowd that wildly welcomed him into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
Maundy Thursday, April 1, 2021
Each of us has a few decisive moments in life, or perhaps just one—one moment, one situation, one decision—that changes everything from that point on. Everything else has led up to the moment; everything to come will be influenced by it.
For Jesus this was Thursday of what we call "Freedom Week," the week from Palm Sunday through Easter. Jesus the Liberator was on a roll this week—hailed by the crowds, successfully asserting his authority in the Temple, turning the tables on the religious “scholars” with their loaded questions, and speaking confidently about the end of the world.
But Jesus had no illusions that this roll would continue. He clearly sensed that the time of his ordeal had come, and he used his last available hours to full advantage. First he shockingly reoriented the Passover meal to himself, which would be a little like re-naming the Fourth of July “Biden Day,” using the traditional focus of the day only as a backdrop for celebrating the person who leads the new reality.
Then Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane for the final showdown, knowing his betrayer was on the move, bringing the forces to take him away to trial, torture, and execution. He was more than smart enough to make an escape plan or prepare some defenses, but he was wise enough not to. He only prayed. He knew that the real showdown was not with Judas and the soldiers, it was with his own desires when they did not match the Father’s.
The whole situation is reminiscent of another crunch time, a time in Eden. The question is the same in both: “When one option looks better for me and the other is the one God has decided on for me, which one do I go with?” Adam and Eve got it wrong, losing their freedom and ours. Jesus got it right, suspended his own view, signed off on the Father’s will at any cost, and won freedom for us all.
This and not Good Friday was the day Jesus “lost his life” in the sense he was describing when he told his followers, “Whoever saves his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Lk. 9.24). In other words, freedom is not freedom to indulge our desires and choose our preferences. The only way to get freedom is to lose it, losing ourselves in Jesus and his mission, laying down our personal desires for the sake of his campaign. There is no better day for that than Maundy Thursday.
Good Friday/Passover, April 2, 2021
“That’s not fair!” Those are nearly the first words out of a baby’s mouth after “Mama” and “Dada”. Nothing runs deeper in our psyches, and nobody ever had more profoundly justified reason to say, “That’s not fair!” than Jesus on the cross. No matter what you have been through, you can be sure of one thing--Jesus was more abused than you have been.
Is there a bigger tragedy in our world today than the tragedy that so many people are still defined by some victimization in their past or present circumstances? Laws and revolutions are attempts to end widespread victimization—a noble objective. But laws and revolutions focus on eliminating or crippling the victimizers. Jesus shows us how a victim can remain free even when the victimizers are still in full force, doing their worst.
The closest he came to sounding like a victim was, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But that is verse 1 of Psalm 22. For 20 more verses that Psalm goes on as the appeal of a desperate victim. Then it suddenly changes from, “Save me from the horns of the wild oxen” (v. 21) to, “I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you” (v. 22). Nothing in the circumstances changed between those two verses, but nothing from there on sounds like a victim, all the way to the final triumphant line, “It is finished” (v. 31).
In other words, freedom does not depend on a change in circumstances, an end to injustice, abuse, or betrayal. Before the circumstances change, the victim is already free to declare by faith that God is faithful. And there is more.
The victim is also free to forgive the victimizers, even before they realize what they are doing or begin to apologize for it. In other words, the victim still has the upper hand! The victim is still taking the healing initiative God wants instead of letting the evil of the victimizers define how he/she will react.
The cross is often seen as the cross that brought us forgiveness, which it certainly did, but we also need to realize that by setting us free from the victim mentality, the cross has freed us from the inner working of the most basic part of our own sin problem, the part of us that says, “The most important thing in my world is the unfair thing that is being done or was done to me.” The person who thinks that way has never really seen the cross, where the ultimate victim snapped the heavy chain of the victim mentality.
Note on Passover date. We list Good Friday/Passover as being on April 2; however, Passover actually starts on March 27th this year. By combining the two events, we are emphasizing that in the year Jesus died, his execution occurred on Passover. The reason they differ this year (and most years) is that the Passover date is still set on the Jewish calendar while Good Friday is set on the Gregorian calendar.
Easter, April 4, 2021
Yogi Berra famously said, “It isn’t over till it’s over.” Because of Easter we can go one better—“Even when it’s over, it isn’t over.” In other words, Jesus’s death and burial did not define him. The soldier who put the spear in his side defined Jesus as “dead,” and he was right—temporarily.
Easter shows us that the destroyer who seems to be in charge of the world is really not in charge of it, and the leader of the freedom campaign who seems to have been defeated is actually taking over. The plan to prevent Jesus from liberating the world backfired on Satan and all others who wanted this King dead. In fact, his death and resurrection empowered and accelerated his campaign instead of blocking it.
The risen Jesus extended the open enrollment period for his kingdom. Even after all he had been through, he still allowed people the freedom to choose whether to become citizens of the kingdom he rules or not. That is why he did not walk back into the court that had condemned him to give them an ultimatum to kneel or be destroyed on the spot. He only appeared to people who already believed in him, and he sent those people out to the world as his "witnesses," that is, the eyewitnesses who had seen him alive in his body after the resurrection (Acts 1.8). The people who heard the witnesses were free to believe them or not.
The witnesses were not supposed to start talking until they received "power from above" (Luke 24.49), but we will talk about that when we get to the Pentecost holiday, May 23rd this year.