STRUGGLING WITH FREEDOM
In recent months, we have been thinking about the three pillars that together when present sustain the Culture of Honour: Love, Freedom, Truth.
I remember my internal resonance the first time I heard Danny Silk teach on the Culture of Honour. I had never heard such a compelling thesis on a relational culture that was designed to contain and sustain God’s life and create connection.
So gripped by it was I, that I decided to try to reengineer my family’s culture with the view of raising up a tribe of powerful people who would grow up to be Jedi Masters in the art of love, truth, freedom and the Biblical way.
Being the leader of my little tribe I knew I was the one that needed to pioneer this way of life to life. What I quickly discovered was that it was easy to speak love, and speak the truth in love, but I struggled with the whole practice of freedom thing. Many of my efforts at freedom were just control dressed up in drag. I sounded Danny Silk on the surface but control still lurked behind my actions and words.
“Hey I am not enjoying this behaviour that you are doing right now, it’s making Daddy feel sad. I am going to give you two amazing freedom choices that will honour you as a powerful person who has been created with extreme significance… You can clam yourself down and stop acting up, or I will pick you up and put you in your room to make you feel ashamed and BTW, you can stay there until Jesus returns…. What are you going to choose?”
“Hey do you want to speak respectfully while you’re so upset or do you want to see me get angry and yell at you to help you adjust so I don’t feel so overwhelmed?“
“Are you ready to be fun or do you want to loose your XBOX for a month?”
On the surface I sounded “KYLO” but in reality I was still operating in a culture of control. Try as I might, I was still addicted to control, and as convinced as I was about the Culture of Honour, I was not prepared to surrender it. Apparently I am not alone in my struggles. Christian commentator Carlos Rodriguez says:
I realize now that most of the issues the church has created are based on its addiction to control [not freedom].
We have confused salvation with behaviour management, and we have traded the good news for good advice… our exclusive, only we are right, advice. We want others to do less ____ (drinking, cursing, fornication, etc.) and more ____ (praying, tithing, serving, etc).
But we have to ask ourselves honestly, do we want them to start doing those things for their benefit, or ours?
The Culture of Honour, for it to become an ecosystem that sustains God’s life, requires all three pillars to be in place. I discovered in my own life that much of my reason for not surrendering control was that I didn’t fully believe that this was a value that God Himself operated in; if my Father in Heaven didn’t operate in freedom then I, His son, wasn’t going to follow suit.
1. We were created to be free
Danny Silk, in his teaching on the Culture of Honour remarks that, in the beginning the Bible tells us that God created Adam and Eve to be free! God said about their state “this is very good!” Before the Fall Adam and Eve were were running around in their birthday suit, as naked as the day they were created, and they did so with no shame.
I recently was brave enough to look at myself in the mirror naked. Trust me, it was not good! When Adam and Eve looked at themselves but naked in the mirror, they said, “I like that dimple. That cellulite sure makes me look cute.” But what made them free wasn’t that they were comforable in own their nudity or that they hadn’t sinned up to that point. The thing that made them free was the presence of a tree, The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
If there had not been a Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in that Garden, Adam and Eve would have been trapped in a utopian paradise prison. Danny Silk
The Tree in the middle of the garden
Notice where God placed the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It wasn’t on top of Mount Everest, where it was safely out of harms way. God placed the thing right in the middle of the Paradise Garden, within (h)arms reach. The same garden He placed his free people. What this demonstrates is that love, for it to be true love, requires a choice.
It is no surprise to Christians that God loves us, but it might be a surprise that God choooses to loves us – it is not automatic. God does not find us irresistible. God also wants us to choose Him back. In fact God has made Himself vulnerable to our love so He is not irresistible. Even though our freedom risked our rejection of Him and the devastation of a disconnected relationship, God created us free. That is scary freedom!
Thought: Being created to be free is also the reason why universalism is a heresy (a lie). God wants us in Heaven so much, but He won’t violate our free will to get us there because that would circumnavigate our choice. He made every possible way for us to step into Heaven, but we have to choose it and want Him.
2. God does not want to control us
Life would have been so much easier if God had tweaked the play book and controlled us at the times it really mattered. eg.
- Like just before Adam and Eve took the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God planted the two trees in the Garden. He could have made sure there was no snake in the garden.
- Like just before we do really stupid things in our life that we regret.
The Fall is the ultimate proof God does not want to control us
The Fall was an absolute devastating tragedy for humanity, but the one thing it emphasized that God has absolutely no interest in controlling us.
God is capable of revealing His glory to us in such a way that the only possible response to it would be to fall down in worship before Him. On the Day of Judgement, when the glory of God is unveiled the Bible shows us everyone bowing their knee to Him and acknowledging Him as King (Philippians 2:10-11).
There is a brilliant story in the Bible where Jesus lifts the veil of His humanity a tiny fraction and people experience a minuscule of His naked glory. As Jesus is being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, He asks the temple guards who they are looking for. They tell Him, “Jesus of Nazareth”. Jesus replies, “I am He.” What we miss in the dialogue through translation is that Jesus uses the “I am” name of God Yahweh in His response to the guards.
John tells us that in response to Jesus' reply the guards all involuntarily fall to the ground being overwhelmed by the glory (John 18:6). Jesus then tucks His glory back under His humanity and He asks the guards who it is that they are looking for again. This time He lets them arrest Him. The little glory-flex we see happen in this story shows us what it would be like if God chose unveil Himself fully. We wouldn’t be able to resist Him. But He doesn’t want that, so God veils His glory from us in proportion to our embracement of Him.
A W Tozer said, “We can have as much of God as we want.” I want to suggest that God only deposits Himself in proportion to the hunger we have for Him.
The Church’s schizophrenic belief of freedom
The Church has been schizophrenic around its understanding and application of freedom.
On one hand we say, “Amen,” to the fact that God created us to be free, but then we paint God as a controlling punisher.
And I know what some of you might be thinking, “Matti, have you read the Old Testament— God is revengeful, wrathful, judgmental, fearful. And Proverbs tells us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Scary is good. So if that doesn’t show you that God wants to control you then I don’t know what does?”
The true nature of God hidden in the OT
The problem is that the true nature of God was masked by the Old Testament.
It is not commonly talked in the Church that the Old Covenant type was not the covenant choice God originally offered Israel at Sinai. When he offered them to be a Kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:3-6), they said, “No, God you are too scary, Moses will represent us” (Deuteronomy 5:23–27). God, not wanting to violate their free will downgrades the covenant type to a lesser for of covenant to accommodate them, but Israel were unable to uphold the Kinship Covenant He established with them.
Grant: This covenant is between a stronger and weaker party, and where the greater party takes on all the obligations of the covenant. The lesser party only needed to receive the covenant.
Kinship:A kinship covenant is entered into by two parties of equal status. The obligations of the covenant are shared equally by both parties. This type of covenant had a small list of obligations and was shared by both parties.
Vassal (suzerain-vassal) A greater party enters into covenant with a lesser party based on the greater party’s ability to destroy the weaker party. The greater party imposed a list of obligations upon the lesser party in exchange for protection. This covenant was typically entered into when a king conquered a nation. In this covenant protection would be offered in exchange for the ability to collect taxes and tributes, and take slaves.:
At the end of Moses life, God downgrades the covenant to a vassal covenant. What is a vassal? A slave. Guess what Israel had been for 400 years. Salves. They had been told by Pharaoh what to to when to do it and how much to do. Israel, opted for this kind of covenant but it wasn’t what God wanted for them. Consequently, God had to fulfil the Covenant type He was in, because He is a faithful God. According to the format of a vassal covenant, the Master in the vassal covenant had to punish the covenant partner when they broke their obligations. God reluctantly did this but it never revealed His true nature.
Have you ever been a work role which you fulfil a function in accordance to the job description, but the work you do means you are not be fully yourself? This is what the Old Covenant was like for God. He could be fully Himself.
Jesus is perfect theology
Jesus, it has been said, is perfect theology. He is the perfect enactment of the Father. And what does Jesus show us about the nature of God?
When a woman is caught in adultery, which according to the Law was punishable by death, the Pharisees bring her to Jesus.
Whenever someone was caught in adultery, both the man and the woman would be brought to the temple gates and accused. If witnesses could be gathered to confirm that adultery had indeed been committed, then there was a certain ceremony that would be done in order to bring judgment. However, in this instance they only brought the woman. This was a violation of the Oral Law of God.
Secondly, the priest was required to then stoop down and write the law that had been broken, along with the names of the accused, in the dust of the floor of the Temple which Jesus did.
By doing this, Jesus showed these accusers that THEY were not keeping the law, but He would anyway.The Scribes and Pharisees ignored the law, brought the woman only, and then continued with accusations.
So Jesus stood up (after plainly demonstrating they were violating the law themselves) and said, “He who is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” John 8:7).
What does Jesus do? He chooses connection, and points her to life, “Go and sin no more.”
On the Cross when He is hanging there having absorbed all of human sin, having experienced injustice, what does He cry out? “Kill them.” No, “Father, forgive them, they know what they do.” That are not in their right mind. This isn’t who you made them to be.
3. God does not have to punish us
Most of our theologies make God out to be a victim of sin, because they suggest that God is obligated to have to punish sin. This makes out that sin is more powerful than God.
But let’s think through this for a moment. Does God really have to punish sin to represent true justice?
Harold Eberle in his book Father Son Theology says this:
The One who created the universe is sovereign over His creation (1 Tim. 6:15). This includes His sovereignty over humanity.
God’s sovereignty means He can do whatever He wants to do, whenever He wants; He has no higher authority to whom He must answer.
One important aspect of God’s sovereignty is that He can be both just and merciful at the same time. This is a simple statement, but it is profound and it will influence much of our theology as we continue.
When people act in justice they act one way, but when they act in mercy they act a different way. For example, a just judge enforces the law, but if that judge is merciful, he may lessen the punishment that the law dictates. Notice that for human behaviour, justice and mercy dictate two different actions.
God as a judge in the Hebraic-biblical sense of One who delivers the oppressed and sets things straight. God is not the kind of judge who identifies law-breaking behaviour and then inflicts just punishments.
For example, when God judged Sodom and Gomorrah He did not select evil individuals and then inflict pain upon them. Rather His judgment was the result of His desire to stop the propagation of sin.
Similarly, when God judged humanity in the days of Noah, it was motivated by His desire to redirect the course of civilization. The Hebraic-biblical view of God as a judge is more like a Western physician than it is like a Western judge in a courtroom. God is the Great Physician of humanity intervening when necessary to heal from sickness.
God can forgive sins. This may sound simplistic at first, but the concept of forgiveness is incompatible with the Reformed view. The Reformed view of the atonement states that God is just and, therefore, He must punish sin. The idea that God must punish sin is mutually exclusive to the idea that God can forgive sin.
Let’s say you owe a large amount of money to the bank, an amount that you cannot pay, but you have a wealthy brother who went to the bank and paid the amount you owed. After the debt was paid off, would it be right for the bank officials to come to you and say, “We forgive that debt”? No. If the debt was paid, it doesn’t need to be forgiven. On the other hand, if a debt is forgiven, it doesn’t need to be paid.
Romans 9:14-15 puts it this way:
There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
The the paralyzed man’s friends brought him before Jesus. Jesus tells the man that his sins are forgiven. Luke in his account of this story, tells us that the Law-makers were offended by Jesus’ statement. Before we go on to see the main point I want to make, there is something important that we need to see that these leaders got that most evangelicals don;t believe. The very fact that the Jewsih leaders were offended was not that they didn’t believe the forgiveness of sins was possible, but rather that Jesus issued the forgave sins. In other words the Jews believed God didn’t always have to punish sins (which issomething they understood, only God could do)! Jesus responds to them:
Which is easier, to say, “Your sins have been forgiven you,” or to say, “Get up and walk”? (Luke 5:23)
God is so high in authority above humanity, that He can destroy people or bless people. He can do whatever He wants whenever He wants. God owes no one an explanation for what He does. There is no authority to whom He must answer. Because He is sovereign, God can have mercy and still be just at the same time.
BTW, I am not saying that a person’s sin is unimportant and won’t affect you. It does and has consequences. It will harm the person who is doing it. That is the nature of sin. What I am saying is that God is not obligated to have to punish sin. He can chose to forgive and show mercy.
My point is that the Cross took sin out of the equation of God.
Why? Because God’s number one goal is connection, not distance.
The Lamb of God took away the sin of the world.
[God’s] Gospel message is, “I love you no matter what. I am not afraid of your mistakes, and you don’t have to be afraid of them either. You don’t have to be afraid of other people’s mistakes. They may be painful; many things in this life may be painful. But pain and the fear of pain no longer have the power to control you. You are always free to choose. So, what are you going to do? Remember that I am always here for you, whatever you choose.”
I want to propose to you that freedom is a top priority in Heaven, because it is what makes relationships possible. Heaven’s culture of relationships is vastly different than most everything we see on earth because God, the Father, is less interested in compliance and much more interested in love. This is the reason that He is trying to prepare us to live absolutely free lives in an environment of unlimited options more than trying to keep us from sin.
In the New Covenant, God relates to the believer in a new way, through writing His “law on our hearts and minds” and inviting us into a relationship.
Punishment, wrath, and intimidation have been taken off the table
1. Get rid of your fear
While God is not afraid of sinners, most of us are. We are afraid of other people’s mistakes, and we are afraid of our own. Danny Silk
We need not be afraid of people’s sin. It is not that they are not important. Sin hurts.
We need to see people’s sin as a teaching opportunity and opportunity for them to grow.
People sin because they believed a lie:
– About God
– About themselves
– About other people
Their sin is a learning opportunity
Where did that lie come from?
2. Practice sin displacement versus sin punishment
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.1 John 4:18
When we sin, God doesn’t look at the sin, He looks at what was missing.He does not deal with our fear, He comes as perfect love and overwhelms fear. In our anxiety, He offers a new place of rest and renewal instead. In our worry, He focuses only on our fresh revelation of peace.
God does not help us work on our anger because it is dead; instead He empowers us to become gentle. He displaces irritation with patience, bitterness with gratitude, and turns sorrow into joy.
The old has passed away, and He is only working on the new, real and true us in Jesus. (Graham Cooke )
3. Make Connection your number 1 goal
As long as we operate out of fear we will keep the “gun” under the bed. We will keep distance as our main goal.
As soon as you let go of fear and embrace connection as your main goal, it will change the skill sets you have operated with in your life.
You will need a new language to help you navigate towards connection.
You will need forgiveness to clean up the messes you and others will need.
You will need patience
You will need massive upgrades to your understanding
You will need mentors in your life
March 21, 2019