Guide for "Freedom Season"
April 5 - May 20, 2020
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No one in history ever explained freedom better, lived it more completely, or paid a higher price for it than Jesus Christ. And no one else can set you free like he does. So catch the spirit of Freedom Season, start celebrating, and spread the word!
You will know who you are, and you will like what you are becoming under the influence of Jesus' Spirit--a freedom activist, an embodiment and an agent of the freedom Jesus declared for the world.
During Roots Season (Feb. 26 - April 4) we saw how God created his own group of people through Abraham to bless all other groups and restore the kind of life he intended when he created the world. A main part of the blessing his group carries is freedom.
In fact, you could say that God's strategy was to turn his group (Abraham's descendants) into a huge band of freedom activists, a "Freedom Tribe." Freedom was branded into the soul of God's group when he delivered it from oppression in Egypt. Later it was the central theme of the message of Jesus, the Messiah, that is, the "freedom fighter" who will rule the world.
Of course, Jesus was no ordinary freedom fighter. He never organized an army or even a hit squad. But neither was he just an advocate of inner religious, spiritual, or psychological freedom.
Jesus' role in God's multi-century strategy to bless the world was basically to launch a new era of freedom at all levels of life. He was killed by the authorities to prove his Freedom Declaration was null and void. God raised him from the tomb to prove it was valid.
The empty tomb is the SYNC icon for Freedom Season because it shows that Jesus really is God's freedom bringer, and he has experienced freedom from death itself. His enemies--all the things and forces that enslave and oppress people--have run out of options to try to stop him.
In Jesus' day, a lot of people didn't get his teaching about freedom because it was so different from the way they looked at freedom. A lot of people still don't get it. Freedom Season is the time of year to discover what you may have been missing, get in on it, and join the activists who are spreading it.
The "5G Quick Overview" below will establish your high-speed connection to Freedom Season. You may start there or with any of the links in these two lists:
Whole Bible - the Freedom Rhythm as the main thread of the whole biblical story
Non-negotiables - the same for everyone, everywhere, all the time
As you catch onto the Freedom Rhythm and move with it, you will discover what it means to "See Yourself iN Christ." He connects you to the truth that sets you free from all kinds of things that have been tying you up and holding you back. People will like to be around you because your freedom is refreshing to them. Your assignment is to make sure the whole world gets the memo, "Freedom is here, and Jesus brought it."
Going with the "5G" flow during Freedom Season
1G - Game-changer. How Jesus launched a new era of freedom in the world
2G - Gift. The gift of living free in Christ is available now because the game changed
3G - Get it. The gift helps us if we "get it" that our old idea of freedom is now outdated
4G - Go with it. Once we "get it," we enjoy the gift and work so others can enjoy 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
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' 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.
Jesus' 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 a batch of 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 said 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," and "Follow me." They also noticed that he never said something that all the other prophets had always said, "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 to cover the whole nation with his Freedom Declaration, and 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' 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' 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. 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. 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's 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. 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 they say we have no choice but to do what they are urging us to do, we remind them 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, and we are calling everybody to wake up to the new era we are living in. 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' 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?
1. Wasn't Jesus' teaching mostly about love? Where does all this freedom talk come from?
Many people, including many Christians, have the idea that Jesus was a good teacher who emphasized the same things that people already knew (loving God and loving neighbor). They admire him for being so committed to love and non-violence that he died as a martyr. But they don't think he fundamentally changed the game. All he did was stand up strong and tall for things that people already knew were good.
That view, common as it is, misses the whole point of Jesus coming to earth. His God-given assignment was not merely to promote old standard truths like, "Be good, be loving." He was sent on a specific mission, which was more about a new age of freedom than it was about the abstract idea of love.
It is still very common to regard Jesus more as a good religious teacher rather than a liberating game-changer, the founder of a new era for humanity. But the opinion that he was a "teacher" and his message was all about "love" is 2000 years out of date. It belongs to the old era, not the new era he launched.
2. Are we seriously talking about a physical resurrection, not just a religious vision of a dead person? How unscientific can you get?
Yes, we are betting everything on the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus. We are with the Apostle Paul on this one. If the resurrection is fake news, everything else we are saying about Jesus and religion falls apart (1 Corinthians 15.14).
As for science, in the 20th century science thought it could make rules about what cannot happen based on what we know from our other theories and observations. In our century, science is coming around to a more truly scientific perspective. "Given our new technology, we don't really 'know' anything except that many of our previous theories were wrong. Our job is not to declare what cannot happen but to investigate whatever does happen."
As for philosophy, is the resurrection really that big of an issue? I recall a friend telling me about his undergraduate course in intro to philosophy at a major American university. To his surprise, the well-known professor did not give a panoramic view of philosophy as a discipline. Instead he spent the entire semester dealing in great depth with only one issue, proving that Jesus did not rise from the dead. He apparently believed that the purpose of his intro course was to clear the path to philosophical thinking, and he saw the resurrection as the main boulder to jackhammer out of the way.
As for history, especially in an era of fake news, we consider who has what to gain or lose if a certain event did or did not happen as they say. We gather evidence to ascertain as best we can what "really" happened. In the case of Jesus' resurrection, a classic example of this approach is Morrison's Who Moved the Stone? It was published in 1930 and is still in print.
Morrison was a lawyer who approached the resurrection as if moving the stone from Jesus' burial chamber had been a crime, and the court was trying to identify the culprit. His investigation was highly biased, aiming to pinpoint the human or humans who had moved the stone and stolen Jesus' body. That would disprove the resurrection theory. Spoiler alert: the evidence forced him to a conclusion he did not want, and the book explains how that happened.
3. What freedoms do I have to give up in order to become a "free citizen" of the kingdom of Jesus?
The list is really short, just one item. But it is still long enough that many people don't like it and won't buy it.
Jesus had a hallmark, and he brands us with it. He puts it into the passports of all free citizens of his kingdom as the sign of our identity in him To get the passport, the only freedom we have to give up is the freedom to do anything against that hallmark.
The hallmark was the core of Jesus' identity. It is what showed up in the most agonizing crisis time of his life, when he knew he was about to be arrested, condemned, and executed. In that time of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, he asked God his Father to find another way to accomplish his mission, but in the end he said the words that I call his hallmark, the defining mark of authenticity, "Not my will but yours be done" (Luke 22.42).
Bearing this hallmark, we go through life telling God at each crisis point, "OK, my King, your way not mine. Here we go." In ordinary times our preferences, comforts, and insights often line up with what God wants for us, but we all have some times when they clash. In those crisis moments, we lay down our freedom like Jesus did. That is the front door and the only door to free citizenship in Jesus' kingdom. "Whoever loses his life for me will find it" (Luke 9.24). As we lay down the freedom to live life our own way, we discover what real freedom is.