Set Free

Set Free
   American flags, apple pie, parades, picnics, and fireworks: words symbolic of our national holiday commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, declaring the Colonies to be free and independent of England. This proclamation evokes an additional word associated with our nation’s Fourth of July celebration: FREEDOM. Hundreds of thousands of colonists fought for the freedoms that you and I have today as guaranteed in the documents created and signed by our founding fathers. As Americans, we are free to pursue life, liberty, and happiness in this lifetime.
   While we experience these freedoms as American citizens, another type of freedom exists from the One who came to set us free from sin and darkness: Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. He purposely went to the cross for us to have an abundant life full of the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. His resurrection from death was the final victory that gives us hope and is our victory to claim as well. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV). Are we walking victoriously in our own lives, or are we walking in bondage to our past, to addictions, regrets, pain and suffering, guilt and shame, fear, hopelessness, and unbelief? What shackles are keeping you from experiencing the purest and deepest kind of freedom that Jesus offers and wants so desperately for you to accept?
   I have been shackled over my lifetime to lies from the enemy and unbelief. I can relate to the Israelites’ plight in the desert, wondering if they would ever make it to the promised land and experience freedom from the yoke of slavery. Like them, I cried out to God to release me from the chains that seemed to get tighter and tighter the more I wandered. The psalmist, David, was someone who I could relate to in the numerous times he cried out to God. One day, as I was reading Psalms, these words spoke life into my dry bones: “Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free” (Psalm 118:5). Cue the tissues. A glimpse of hope that if God could set David free, He could set me free as well. Oh Lord, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
   This hope continued to grow the more I sought Jesus. He was dissolving my unbelief one prayer at a time, one conversation at a time, one sermon at a time, and one day at a time spent in His word. The more I sought Him, the more I found Him. The more I sought truth and wisdom, the more I realized just how much Jesus has been pursuing my heart my entire life. His Word which tells us, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” was evident when I was praying with other women during a Zoom session for the National Day of Prayer (John 8:32). One woman was praying aloud and thanking Jesus for setting her free from the bondage that had her shackled for years. I almost blurted out, “Wait! You mean I can be free from this as well?” In that moment, a flood of hope overflowed my heart. I knew those words were meant for me not only to hear, but to also release me from the burdens I carried far too long. Those burdens were never meant for me to carry; their weight was entirely too heavy. It was time to trust Jesus at a deeper level than I had ever experienced or thought possible. I took those burdens to the cross, laid them down, and asked Jesus to heal the broken parts of my heart, so I could give my heart fully to Him. My words proclaimed victory over lies and unbelief and then gratitude for His endless love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. I claimed the promise that Christ offers in Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I was free from condemnation because I belong to Him; I am the daughter of the Most High.
   God put a song in my heart as I was preparing this message of freedom in Christ. It was a hymn I had learned as a child, not realizing just how much those words would illustrate my life today. “Shackled by a heavy burden; ‘neath a load of guilt and shame; then the hand of Jesus touched me, and now I am no longer the same…He touched me, and oh the joy that floods my soul…He touched me and made me whole” (Gaither, Bill. “He Touched Me”). My prayer for you is that you walk boldly in confidence, believing that you can be set free from your shackles and live with victory in Jesus.
-Shelley L. Myers, Coordinator for United Campus Ministry at Pennsylvania College of Technology, a ministry of United Churches of Lycoming County