The game-changer that sets you free
and how it works
The third of the seven game-changers celebrated in the SYNC annual cycle is the resurrection of Jesus, coming back from the grave as an actual person, not a ghost or a zombie. At first it is not obvious what that event has to do with our freedom today, but when we know the circumstances it becomes very clear.
1G - Game-changer How Jesus launched a new era of freedom
in the world
Before Jesus arrived, people already knew they should love God, be kind, etc. When Jesus taught about those things, he was not changing the game. He was affirming the familiar rules, but that was not his main mission.
He was sent to earth not to raise the standard set by familiar truths about love but to issue the Freedom Declaration, announcing a new era in the history of the world (Luke 4.44). His teaching was all about this new era. He was hailed by massive crowds in Jerusalem as their potential liberator. His main enemy was the religious establishment of the old era. And in God's timing, he was executed on the National Freedom Day or independence day, Passover, when the nation celebrated God's deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Everything about him was soaked with the smell of freedom.
So what is this new era? What changed?
The new era is "Freedom Time." Because of many prophets God had sent, Jesus's nation had believed for centuries that at some point God would send a Liberator. He would be the "Messiah" or "Anointed one," that is, the person specially appointed by God to lead the nation to freedom. As God's chosen king, he would go on to rule the whole world the way it should be ruled--with justice and fairness for the good of all--and his rule would never end. Under his rule, the world would be connected, healed, and blessed. The campaign that God started through Abraham would be completed through him.
Jesus's assignment was to say to his nation, "Time's up! This is it! This is the day you have been waiting for. God is taking over now."
When he talked that way, he put burning questions into people's minds.
"When does the new era start, and how?
What will it look like?
Are you the Messiah?
If not, do you know who he is and where he is?"
The first century grapevine must have been maxed out.
Most of Jesus' teaching related to these questions, but he did not give the expected answers. For example, people expected that the new era would come like a bolt of lightning, and he talked about it coming like a seed or a bit of yeast. They thought they could declare him king, but he turned that down flat. Still he kept teaching about the new era from many angles, typically starting his parables with the phrase, "The kingdom of God [that is, the new era under God's reign] is like . . ."
Jesus was careful to dodge the question about whether he was the Messiah. If he had admitted that in public, he would have been arrested for trying to launch a revolution, so he strategically beat around the bush until he knew the time was right. But meanwhile, people were connecting the dots. They heard him keep talking like a liberator, saying, "God is taking over now." Just like campaigners everywhere, he kept saying, "Follow me!" People also noticed that he never said something that all the other prophets had always said loudly and clearly, "Someone greater is coming." The rest was not rocket science.
But Jesus died young. How did he launch his freedom era without taking power?
He forced a showdown between the old era and his new era. Jesus sent out groups of followers in an awareness campaign, covering the nation with news of his Freedom Declaration. His following swelled. The authorities of the old era got more and more nervous. They tried to discredit him by asking several loaded questions in public, but he tied them in knots with their own words. Finally in desperation they arrested and executed him for saying during his trial that he was the Messiah, the person God sent to lead his nation and the world into a new era.
The authorities killed Jesus in order to prove that they were in charge, that the old era was still in place, and that all his talk of a new era was just talk. His death would make his Freedom Declaration null and void, or so they thought. The resurrection of Jesus validated the Declaration, and that is why the resurrection is the main theme of every record we have of every sermon Jesus's followers preached (all through the book of Acts). The resurrection amplifies the message, "This is it! The new era of freedom is here through Jesus the King!"
And the cross, supposedly the end of Jesus's freedom, turns out to be the ransom payment that sets us free from the kidnapper's hold. Jesus heroically gave up his freedom to win ours, to give us the right to become free citizens of his kingdom, members of his campaign team. That is a lot more helpful than just telling us we should be more loving. Jesus changed the whole game.
2G - Gift The gift of living free in Christ is available now
because the game changed
Each of SYNC's seven game-changers comes with a new gift for us. The gift we get from Jesus as Liberator is the privilege of becoming free citizens of his kingdom.
The way the gift works for each of us depends on what we need to get free from. Jesus freed people from blindness, disease, demon possession, even death. He freed them from wrong ideas about the era of freedom and how it would arrive. He freed up space in the Temple so that foreigners could worship in their designated area without being disrupted by people changing money and selling sacrificial animals. By his resurrection he freed his followers from the despair of thinking that all was lost, that not even God could turn things around.
As we discover the gift of freedom, the story of our lives gets more and more interesting. That leads us to the other half of the gift, the gift of being sent out as freedom activists, members of his freedom campaign team. People around us are in all kinds of chains that they do not need to be in, and we have the bolt-cutter that can cut those chains. We can set them free to enjoy all the privileges of the citizens of Jesus' kingdom.
We don't strong-arm them in. Jesus wants people to join his kingdom freely, and he leaves them free to walk away if they choose. But that is so sad! As activists we want to do whatever we can do to encourage people to join, and the best thing we can do is live free and tell our personal freedom story.
3G - Get it The gift helps us if we "get it"
that our old idea of freedom is now outdated
If we "get it," we realize that we had the wrong idea of freedom when we were thinking it means "no restrictions, no controls, free to do whatever I want."
We lived in Colorado for a while, and one of the things we learned as we were starting to ski was that a beginning skier who gets out of control on a steep part of the slope never yells, "I'm free! I'm free!" Freedom and control are partners, not opposites. When your skis get out of control, the first and only thing you think about is getting them back under control. Then you are free to enjoy the mountain. If you don't get them under control, your "freedom" may turn out to be a free ride off the mountain, horizontal on a ski patrol sled.
Similarly, professional football players do not complain that they are not free to skip a game when they want to. They are glad they get the privilege of playing on the team. Astronauts do not complain about any "loss of freedom" when they are strapped in for a launch or confined to a very small space for a long time. They are giving up some freedom of movement in order to gain the freedom to walk on the moon.
Christ's Freedom Declaration works like that. It doesn't give us freedom to do whatever we want. It gives us freedom to enjoy life under the liberating control of Jesus. Yes there are restrictions in the kingdom of Jesus, but they are all there in order to open up a whole new life for us.
Another amazing thing we realize when we get the meaning of Christ's freedom is that he, with his authority as the Son of God, established the freedom era. We humans had nothing to do with the announcement or the timing. We didn't earn it by keeping God's commands better than people in previous centuries. We didn't fight for it. We barely saw it coming, and as it arrived in Jesus, we didn't get it.
He had to do it all and explain it all, and it took a lot of explaining because he launched the freedom era in the most unlikely way--with no loyal followers, his own execution, and his resurrection. When we get that, when we realize what he did and what it means for our freedom, it is like a bomb goes off inside us. It blasts our old idea of freedom into a thousand pieces, and we don't even care. The new idea of freedom is a thousand times better.
4G - Go with it Once we "get it," we enjoy the gift
and work so others can enjoy it
After that, the natural response is to "Go with it," living like free people. Our old chains start dropping off--old addictions, old wounds, old attitudes, old fixations. Things we thought would never change start to change, and we may not even know how. God's Spirit, who is turning us into freedom activists, works at some levels deeper inside us than we can consciously reach.
As that happens, we discover one kind of freedom that we thought was impossible--freedom from the inner conflict of our desires. In our old lives without Christ's freedom, it was always necessary to suppress desire A in order to satisfy desire B or C. As an example, Let's say we suppressed our desire to get drunk all the time because we wanted to fulfill our desire to keep our job. Or we indulged our desire to get drunk all the time and we realized we had to give up our desire to have a happy stable family. Either way, we were only partly happy, and we did not think it could be any other way. It is just not possible to satisfy all our desires at the same time because they contradict each other.
But in Christ this problem gets solved. Christ does not have any internal conflict in his desires. His are all positive and all aligned in harmony. When we "Go with it," when we enter willingly into his new era of freedom, we submit our desires A, B, C, and all the way down to Z to come under one desire, which is the desire to please him. That integrates everything inside us. Jesus will not feed two desires in us that conflict with each other.
Yes, the old desires will still pop up, but we don't have to listen to them any more. When the voice in our head says we have no choice but to do what our desires are urging us to do, we remind the voice that there is a new sheriff in town, and he has created a new era for all the citizens. The old desires tried to stop him when he arrived. They threw everything at him, but they lost and they know it. He created the era that he came to create, and if any voice inside us tells us that he didn't, we call that voice a liar.
This is Freedom Time. That's our story and we are sticking to it.
5G - Genuineness As we "go with it," we become genuinely free citizens of the kingdom of Jesus the Messiah, the most authentic person who ever lived
When we "Go with" the new era of freedom, we become freedom activists. The world is living under a colossal hoax that the old era of bondage is still in force, and Jesus's death and resurrection didn't change that. We are calling everybody to wake up to the new era in which we are living. We are authentic human beings, grateful to our Messiah and Liberator for letting us become his citizens and his activists.
We know what true freedom is because of Christ, and in him we get to live the truth. We are in SYNC with Jesus's intentions when he first announced the Freedom Declaration in the synagogue in his home town (Luke 4.18-20). We never forget that he laid down his life for our freedom, and how could any authentic human being walk away from a sacrifice like that?