7

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

The great hymn writer Charles Wesley wrote these anointed words, first published in Hymns and Sacred Poems in 1740. This is one of 19 stanzas to the work we now call O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing.

These lines flooded my mind the other day during prayer. These words pack so much truth—revelation—about the power of Christ's finished work on the cross.

Often we look at the cross and consider it a solution to one problem. We think that the one and only thing that happened on the cross was the forgiveness of our sin.

Jesus forgave our sins—Hallelujah!

There is more—much more!

He broke its power.

What power?

Sin’s power to immobilize us—to paralyze us in a fog of spiritual apathy—broken.

Sin’s power to keep us from prayer—broken.

Sin’s power to keep us from fellowship—isolation—broken.

Sin’s power to keep us from ministry—broken.

Sin’s power of addiction—broken.

Sin’s power to cause shame—broken.

All the lies satan would have us believe about ourselves, how we’ve been ruined for God’s use, stand exposed before us as we embrace the cross of Christ. [TweetThis]

And yet, though there is no longer power in sin’s lies, many believe them, standing forgiven yet disempowered for life in the Kingdom of God.

The cross bought us the freedom from every chain with which sin bound us. We are raised with Christ in newness of life, to walk as He walked:

Unhindered by guilt

Unshackled from shame

Unmoved by satan’s lies

Unashamed to take up the banner of Christ’s love and carry it to the world that lies captive still to the broken power of sin.

Let’s rise up this day and shake off the broken chains that hold us back, and go forward into battle.

As I write these words, I picture a World War II liberation force marching into Nazi death camps and flinging open the gates, with the wonderful news—the war is over and you are free.

Hallelujah!

Thanks for coming by,

Shine where you're screwed in,

Ben

2

But they did not know that I healed them. Hosea 11:3 NASB

I was chasing down the cross reference from Matthews account of Jesus’ birth

"OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON." - Matthew 2:15 NASB

and it led me to Hosea 11.

There I found a heartbreaking story of how the Father led His children, Israel, out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt. The language is touching and tender:

I called My son.
I took them in My arms.
I taught them to walk.
I healed them.
I led them with bonds of love.
I lifted their yoke.

That last bit reminds me of the Psalm.

He sent His word and healed them, And delivered them from their destructions. - Psalm 107:20 NASB

And yet, the sad truth is:

But they did not know that I healed them. - Hosea 11:3 NASB

Do we miss what God has done in our lives?

He called me His son—us His sons and daughters.

He stretched out His arms toward me.

He taught me to walk.

He saved (sozo - saved, healed, delivered, freed) me to the uttermost.

He led me with bonds of love so deep and strong it cost his very life.

He took my yoke upon Himself.

And there are days I forget that He healed me. I forget He lifted my yoke. I forget how to walk as He taught me.

Lord, heal me again. Let us walk together. May my heart and mind ring with your truth day and night. May I walk in all that you have given me and never again despise your gifts.

1

Kingdom of HeavenJesus commissioned the boys to go and preach the kingdom of heaven.

And as you go, preach, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. - Matthew 10:7-8 NASB

There are more instructions that follow. But on this day, the message they were to carry is simple.

The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Simple message—powerful demonstration.

  • Heal the sick.
  • Raise the dead.
  • Cleanse the lepers.
  • Cast out demons.

The first two times we hear this message—The kingdom of heaven is at hand—we get the message of repentance. This time, repentance is not mentioned, but mighty works accompany these words.

Remember when Jesus told us of His mission?

THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD. - Luke 4:18-19 NASB

Let’s break it down.

  • Preach the gospel to the poor.
  • Proclaim release to the captives.
  • Proclaim recovery of sight to the blind.
  • Set free all who are oppressed.
  • Proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.

This kingdom of heaven comes with a proclamation of freedom—the end of captivity.

When John the Baptist sent his disciples to Jesus to verify that Jesus was ‘the one,’ what proof did Jesus send back?

Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. "And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me." - Matthew 11:4-6 NASB

What evidence did Jesus offer that the kingdom of heaven was at hand?

  • The blind see.
  • The lame walk.
  • Lepers are cleansed.
  • The deaf hear.
  • The dead are raised.
  • The poor have the gospel preached to them.

The kingdom of darkness is a kingdom of captivity. Many cling to their dark chains because they are forged in fear and selfishness and the locks are made of guilt and shame.

I can’t leave satan’s realm there’s too much to lose—too much to give up.

Sometimes we preach a gospel of religion and ask people to trade one captivity for another. Give up your life of guilt and shame, and take on a new life of self-righteousness. Oh, and by the way, the guilt and shame—bring that along too.

We see Jesus preaching freedom to the captives. Freedom from all their captors, whether they are bound in spiritual darkness, or physical blindness. Jesus comes breaking every chain and sends His followers to do the same.

Is it the same today? Does Jesus still break every chain? Or has the gospel changed? Has it lost some of its power? Does Jesus still send us out the way He sent the disciples, to preach, heal, and deliver?

Lord, today I hear your call to walk with your message of freedom. Allow me to walk into villages of captivity today, and give me the boldness to preach your beautiful gospel. I ask you to confirm the word with signs as you did for your disciples. Do here and now what You did there and then.

cropped-BenHeadshot.jpgThanks for coming by today.

As you go—proclaim freedom!

Ben

6

photo credit: A Single Tear via photopin (license)
photo credit: A Single Tear via photopin (license)

Because of its length, I've decided to split this story over three days. You can find Part 1 on Monday's post and Part 2 on yesterday's post. Today we have the conclusion. Thanks for coming back for day three.

Enjoy:

---

As I approached Paul looked at me. His shoulder’s slumped a bit as I approached. Then, I think he noticed I was limping, favoring the leg that had not been pummeled.

I started my torturous chant.

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

He looked at me. He looked into me. There was a flash in his eyes and a wave of recognition washed across his face.

As I started to speak,

“These men…”

He put his finger to my lips to hush me. In a stern and powerful voice he said,

“I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.”

The spirit in me started to speak again,

“These men are…”

“Come out!” he repeated.

Then my mind—my heart—flew into turmoil. I felt anger, fear, frustration, humiliation, shame, and then fear again. All of this raging within as the voice wanted to scream. But for the first time since my mother gave me her ‘gift’ I was able to keep quiet when it wanted to talk.

And then it was gone. It was over. The spirits obeyed this stranger. I felt them run up my spine and out the top of my head. Gone. Completely gone.

I crumbled to the floor in front of him.

“Thank you.” I was crying again, but this time they were tears of relief.

Then I thought about my master.

Silas, who was standing near by, saw my expression change, and said,

“What is it, daughter?”

“My master will kill me when he learns that I’ve lost the gift. You can see the way he beat me for the two days I’ve been with you. Now that my seeing is gone, he’ll just kill me.”

“Let me introduce you to a new master,” he said with the compassion of a father. “His name is Jesus Christ, the Messiah. He’s the one who set you free today, and He'll save you. If you will open your heart to Him, He will come in and fill the void left by the evil He drove out.

“As to your old master, we’ll go with you to tell him about your freedom. Don’t be afraid of him. Once the Lord is on your side, there is nothing man can do to enslave you. Every slave in Christ, is a free man. The bonds may remain, but they know freedom on the inside.

“I’m sure Lydia will let you stay here in her home, while you figure out what comes next.”

From the door where she’d been standing, Lydia came to my side and surrounded me with her arms. I felt like a little girl in my momma’s embrace, free and safe.

I prayed, “Lord Jesus, if you will have me, I want to be Yours. You've freed me from the master that held me. Will you come in and be my Master now?”

As I said these words a new freedom swept over me. The shame that haunted me lifted. The fear left too. I was crying again, but this time it was joy streaming down my face. I heard the laughter of others around me. Lydia helped me to my feet, and the women swarmed me with a great hug as the men stood back and clapped their hands, and shouted praise to Jesus.

They taught me a song of praise, and we sang together. Then Paul and Silas took me by the hand and we headed back to my master’s home.

When he saw me with these two men, his face darkened with anger.

“These had better be paying customers, or last night will seem like a stroll through the market,” he threatened. He reached for me, but Paul wedged himself between the master and me.

“Sir,” Paul started, “Jesus Christ delivered this young girl from the demonic oppression that has plagued her these many years. I’m sure you will rejoice with us at her new-found freedom.”

“Delivered? Freedom!” He was almost barking.

“You’ve ruined my livelihood! You’ve robbed me of my income! You’ve stolen my most valuable asset!” His anger grew with each accusation. Now passers-by were stopping to see what was happening.

Again he tried to reach me, but Silas managed to fill the gap as well.

He looked past them and found my eyes.

“You can’t see?” he shouted.

“No, but I can still cook or clean. I can still serve you.”

“What good is that? I don’t need a cook or a maid. I need a seer—I need your gift. Without that gift, you’re nothing—worthless. Go and don’t let me see you back here again. Don’t bother coming for your things. I’ll sell them to make up for what you’ve stolen from me. Get out!”

With his dismissal, he slammed his door in our faces.

Paul and Silas turned to me to see if I was alright. When they did they saw my relief and my brand new joy.

I was completely free.

The chains that held my insides, the chains that kept me in this house and with this man, all broken. Jesus set me free, and my new brothers—fathers—stood with me to face my old life.

Lydia did set me up with a cot in her room. She became a sister and mother to me. We laughed together. I hadn’t laughed since my mother died. She taught me to pray, and taught me of Christ and His ways. She taught me her trade, and paid me to work in her shop.

Today, I am free.

~~~

To read the original story, see Acts 16:16-18

I hope you have enjoyed this story. It's part of my upcoming book, Encounters With the Holy Spirit.

To read more first person encounters check out my new book Encounters With Jesus. It's a collection of forty stories from the life of Jesus through the eyes of those He touched. Available now in paperback or kindle editions.

benheadshot1Thanks for coming by,

See you tomorrow,

Ben

2

photo credit: A Single Tear via photopin (license)
photo credit: A Single Tear via photopin (license)

Because of its length, I've decided to split this story over three days. You can find Part 1 on yesterday's post, and the conclusion will come tomorrow morning bright and early (if you live on the east coast of the US.)

Enjoy:

---

This brought a smile to his face, so I said it again.

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

This time I heard some accent from the crowd. Once again, this time even louder I cried out,

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

The more I called out the more the crowd grew. It was curious to me that my captors would help this one they so feared, but they—I—continued to call out the virtues of these men of God.

When we got down to the river, we had quite a crowd. This manPaul, began to try to quiet the crowd. He said they had come down to the river to pray. It was the time of day that those women meet down here every day.

But today, the crowd was large. Rather than pray, Paul tried to teach, but the crowd was restless. He tried to lead in prayer, but that did not work either.

All the while, I stood up at the head of the path that lead down to the river calling out my now familiar declaration.

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

Finally Paul sat down and kept silent. After about an hour of silence, he got up and walked back out to the road we came in on. He and his companion, Silas, headed back into the village, and the crowed followed along with them.

I led the way, calling out as we went,

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

I wasn’t sure where they were headed next, but as we got to the edge of town, they headed into the Lydia’s, the fabric shop. Lydia lived above the shop, and there they went for the evening meal.

I stood outside in the street, and continued calling out  the words my seeing spirit gave me every few minutes.

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

I finally went home after dark, fearing my master would have harsh words for me. He didn’t disappoint me. But this time there was something new. He hit me. I knew, or thought I knew anyway, that he had beaten my mother from time to time, but until that night, he kept his hands to himself around me.

“Don’t you ever walk out on our shop again while we have a line of customers,” he roared.

I slept well that night. The night was cool. The air was still. The voice was silent.

But with the light of dawn, the voice returned. It compelled me to find Paul again, so I headed back to Lydia’s where I found him speaking to a small group in front of the shop.

Then I started again,

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

All day and everywhere they went, I followed with my incessant call. I could see now my keeper’s plan. This call, though it seemed like a great pat on the back at first was wearing, not only on Paul and Silas, but on those would be followers as well. By the end of the day, their number was down to just a few women. There was no longer a man in town who would walk with the pair.

Again when I returned home, my master beat me.

“I don’t have a choice.” I wept. “The spirits make me go, make me follow. If I don’t go, there no telling what they would do to me.”

He didn’t understand—or carebut he did stop hitting me.

“You’re mother could turn it on and off. She didn’t go trailing after strange men.”

“She didn’t make you the kind of money I make you either, did she?”

As soon as the words left my mouth I was sorry. The blows began again. Finally he left me, sobbing and huddled in the corner. He stormed out, slamming the door. I locked it behind him. I wouldn’t venture out even to eat that night. I cried myself to sleep, hoping tomorrow would be different.

I really didn’t want to taunt these men again, but there was some part of me that hoped for a chance to hear the older one, Paul speak once more. His words cut through the clamor in my head. Each time I tried to listen to his preaching, the voice would repeat my tedious refrain.

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

I’m not sure I slept that night. For hours I lay with my eyes closed, trying not to press against one of the bruises the brute left on my body. I rolled over and over, top, bottom, left, right, half asleep. I dozed off just as the birds began to announce the dawn, and there it was again, this irresistible  urge to go find Paul and Silas.

I crept out of my room, trying not to wake my master. Thankfully I could hear him snoring in his room as I tip-toed by it. Off I went to find them.

[To be continued.]

Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of I Am Free

To read more first person encounters check out my new book Encounters With Jesus.It's a collection of forty stories from the life of Jesus through the eyes of those He touched. Available now in paperback or kindle editions.

benheadshot1Thanks for coming by,

See you tomorrow,

Ben

1

photo credit: A Single Tear via photopin (license)
photo credit: A Single Tear via photopin (license)

Over the next three days, I will be sharing the first draft a new story that will be part of an upcoming book, Encounters With the Holy Spirit. This story ran a bit longer than my usual posts, so I am breaking it into three installments. You can read it day by day, or come back Wednesday and read all three at once.

Some of the ideas for the life of this young slave girl were inspired by the Praying Medic podcast:
"Alan Champkins – From Witch Doctor to New Creation."

And now, with no further ado:

I Am Free

A Slave Girl

I wasn’t always able to see, but my mother told me it was in my blood. She could see. Every time she put food on my plate, she reminded me it was her sight that paid for the food. It was the sight that gave us a place to sleep.

She told me tales of her life before the master bought her, on the street, begging, starving, in rags and tatters. She loved to tell me of the day her gift caught the master. To hear her tell it, you might think she was the master and he the slave. But that’s not really how it was.

On my sixth birthday my mother first put her hands on me, and asked her spirits—that’s what she called them—to share her sight with me. She told me it was for my own good—that I would thank her some day.

She must have already known she was sick then, but she didn’t tell me until she could no longer serve the master’s customers. That day came two years later. I was almost eight the day my mother couldn't get out of bed to sit with the guests.

I thought he would kill her right then. When she choked out her refusal with blood on her lips, I feared he would kill her for her weakness.

Then she told him about me.

“She has the gift too,” she told him. “She can see your guests.”

His eyes searched me. At first, pride filled me. My mother trusted me. But as he looked me over, I felt like property for the first time. The change hit me. My sight was not just going to put food on our table. Gone were the day when my mother and I would play at seeing. Now I had to see on demand, I had to tell his guests their fortunes. I had to put food on his table.

My gift—this sight—shackled me. It demanded my obedience. It put requirements on my life which I was too young to bear. My sight was my jailer and I felt it’s manacles. Every time I tried to stop seeing—stop knowing—life would turn against me. I can’t explain it. It seemed like everything turned sour. So I kept seeing, and my sight treated me well. And that made my master happy too.

The master seemed unsure that first time, but in a few short weeks, lines of customers down the dusty path to his door—all day—every day, convinced him. The gift was strong in me, stronger than it had been in my mother.

Those weeks were my mother’s last. She grew worse every day. My time with her grew shorter as the lines at the door grew longer. She died in our bed while I told a Grecian man of the woman he would meet. I cried myself to sleep that night. He hired a couple men to bury her in back of the house that was my home—prison—workplace. The men who buried my mother didn’t know her. No one spoke a word on her behalf. I was reading leaves for a hand full of Phoenician women when the soil filled her grave. He cared so little for her—for me. She worked for him for thirty years without complaint. She gave him her days, her nights, her body, her soul, and now, her own daughter—me. And he tossed her into a hole in the ground without so much as a wooden marker.

That’s when I began to hate him. The sight of him turned my stomach. And yet, I had to eat, and I knew of no other way to live.

One day, two men walked past the door of our shop in Philippi. As they walked by, I felt them and looked up. Really it was my internal jailers who sensed them walking by. The business men who had come from Antioch to get advice from my seeing voice started as I ran out of the room and into the street.

When I caught up with these men, the spirits in me went berserk. My insides were out of control, and I couldn’t stop them from speaking. Usually I have a measure of control. They show me things, and I use my words to bring their influence to my customers. But this was different. I’m not sure what I was sensing. At first I thought it was joy—a strange elation—at the sight of these two men. But now I see it was darker—perhaps fear—dread.

The spirits that speak to me—show me things—have never been fearful before. Never before has their command been so immediate and so compelling. They drove me out into the street, and I started following these two men. I was not the only one following them. There were at least eight other women and two or three men following after these two as they headed for the river. There’s a place down there were some of the women of the city have been meeting to pray and worship the Hebrew God. That’s exactly where we went.

I pushed through until I was right behind the one they called Paul. When I was sure he could hear me, I started saying,

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

[To be continued.]

Come back tomorrow for part two of I Am Free

To read more first person encounters check out my new book Encounters With Jesus. It's a collection of forty stories from the life of Jesus through the eyes of those He touched. Available now in paperback or kindle editions.

benheadshot1Thanks for coming by,

See you tomorrow,

Ben

12

I was out picking up bagels this morning, part of our “goin’ on a road trip” ritual. I greeted the first man I met with “happy Fourth” and he said “Happy Independence Day.”

The next one I greeted, I said “Happy Independence Day” and she replied, “Do you really think we’re independent?” Thinking about living in a country where some politically appointed folks and take our freedoms away in the blink of an eye, I replied with something lame like, “Not as much as we used to be,” and went on my way.

When I got back in my car, I was pondering how wrong that was, my comments that is. I’m free, and there’s nothing that can change that. My freedom is an inside job. Let me say that again:

My freedom is an inside job!

Jesus freed me from the inside out. I was the slave to sin, captive in the dark cave of the evil one, forced to war against my God and my Maker. In chains I couldn’t see serving a master I hated.

Then Jesus, by a supreme act of violence rolled the stone away from the mouth of my prison, and with nail scared hands broke the chains that bound me.

I’m free, but my independence is an inside job.

Now, no matter where I am, or who holds the prison keys, I am free.

Like Daniel in the lion's den, like the Hebrew children in the fiery furnace, like Joseph in the Pharaoh’s dungeons, like Paul and Silas in the jail in Philippi, I’m free.

My freedom is an inside job!

If you don’t know this freedom, you can! His name is Jesus. Ask Him to show you the way to freedom. He’s got the key to whatever prison holds you.

Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. - John 8:34-36 NASB

benheadshot1Have a great day.

Be free.

Ben

10

Photo Credit: Judy Squires

The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! - John 1:29 NASB

This is the declaration John the Baptist makes about Jesus.

I love every nuance in this simple sentence.

For today – I want to take one piece and put it up in neon lights.

Jesus...

TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD

Perhaps what he did not say is just as significant.

He did not say Jesus ignores the sin of the world.

He did not say Jesus hides the sins of the world.

He did not say Jesus takes away the sin of the Church.

He did not say Jesus takes away the sin of the world when they repent.

He simply says

Look (behold) the Sacrificial Offering of the Father (Lamb of God) who removes – eliminates –disposes of (takes away) the fallen nature (sin) of all the people on earth (the world.)

Is this universalism – i.e. am I saying that all will live an eternity in heaven in the presence of the Father, and escape the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels?

Nope – not what I said at all.

I am just seeing in John what I see in Paul’s writings.

Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. - 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 NASB

You see, sin – those rusty chains holding you in the prison-cell of self – have been broken off and taken out of the way [tweet this] – they are gone – the cell door stands open. And the door of that cell leads to the Holy of Holies. That door is Jesus – the veil torn to give men and women access to the throne of grace.

Yes, as we come, we must renounce our sin – we must repent – we must turn away from sin and its slavery and embrace our Father who like the father of the prodigal runs to meet us as we turn toward Him.

Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

Elvian M. Hall 1865

Will you make your way to His throne today? Join me won’t you?

BN Writers Page 150Thanks for coming.

Come back soon

Ben

 

2

photo credit: robertmorgan.net via photopin cc
photo credit: robertmorgan.net via photopin cc

Having walked all my days in Christian circles, I have heard many of my brothers and sisters bemoan their failure.

They seem to have this seismometer attached to their life that detects the smallest failure, and magnifies it, codifies it, and preps it for detailed examination.

They spend much time shocked and dismayed that they have committed this sin or that. They fall to the feet of Jesus and beg forgiveness. They up their discipline structure, and demand of themselves longer times of solitude, longer fasts, longer times in scripture, more strict ethical and moral codes, long lists of resolutions.

It reminds me of what Jesus said about the Pharisees.

They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. - Matthew 23:4

But we are doing this to ourselves!

We stack up the UNKEEPABLE law against our own lifestyle and count ourselves as failures.

You do remember that the law is, in fact, UNKEEPABLE. That is why Jesus took on flesh, lived by the Spirit, died, and rose again from the dead. In the flesh we can only fail.

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, - Romans 8:3

When we judge ourselves against the law we will always come up as having fallen short, we come up as failures.

The problem is, as long as we continue to measure ourselves against the law, we will continue to see ourselves as failures.

The word I never hear applied to a Christian is success. We are willing to self-identify as failures, but not as successes.

I understand that any success we have would be Jesus’ success, but isn’t that true with our failures too?

I am convinced that this sells the blood of Christ short. When we see ourselves as failures in the Christian life, we are in effect accusing Christ Himself of failing.

He who came to save us from our sin, to save us to the uttermost IS NO FAILURE!

Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them. - Hebrews 7:25 KJV

Nope – the cross was a total success.

We must stop judging ourselves against the law of sin and death. It’s killing us.

Yesterday I told a parable about a prisoner set free, consider today this alternate ending to a similar parable.

Picture in your minds eye a man chained at the wrists to a wall in a dungeon. The shackles are cutting into this flesh. He is dirty and mostly naked.

Now see Jesus walk into that filthy prison cell holding a key. With this key, He unlocks the shackles, draws him a bath and lays out fine, clean and costly garments. These garments actually match His own.

Now picture in your minds eye this same man going back to the chains on the wall of his prison and taking them in his hands and holding onto them, unwilling to leave his filthy cell. These chains are all he knows.

Even after his bath, he is unwilling to put on the garments provided by Christ, because he still sees himself as dirty. He walks, clean but still half naked, back in his filthy garments, to the wall and clings to his chains. They are no longer holding him. Now he is holding them.

Though Christ has made him clean, and clothed him in righteousness, he cannot see himself the way Christ sees him, and so he goes back and holds onto the chains of Law. He refuses the clean garments of the spiritual life, and embraces these chains.

When he looks at himself, he only sees that he is still in the dungeon, still dressed in rags, and still chained to the law.

Oh dear one, I implore you, take a look at yourself the way God says that He sees you.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. - 2 Corinthians 5:21

Walk in life and freedom today. God’s work in you was successful.

If you have never accepted the free gift of that righteousness do it today. Trade in your rags for a tailor made suit of righteousness.

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by.

See you again soon.

Ben

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Photo Credit Huffpost.com

I want you to close your eyes – Oh wait, this is a blog – OK then, eyes open…

Let me start again.

I want you to picture in your minds eye a man chained at the wrists and ankles to a stone wall in a dark and dirty dungeon. The shackles are cutting into his flesh. Covered in filth he and his clothes are tattered and worn. He has been here for years. He is slumped in a heap on the floor against the wall, resigned to his condition.

Now see Jesus walk into that filthy prison cell. He is dressed in beautifully tailored garments, spotless, and He is clean, except for the dust on His feet from the dingy chamber’s floor. It’s as though the dirt can’t reach Him. In His nail scarred hand He holds a key. As He approaches this shell of a man, He quietly asks him to stand.

At first this man does not even register that Jesus is talking to him. He has been alone so long that it never crossed his mind that anyone would come to him, let alone this majestic and beautiful man.

Jesus again asks him to stand, and as he struggles to his feet, Jesus reaches out His hand to help the prisoner rise. As he stand to his feet, he notices for the first time the markings across Jesus’ forehead, left there from that mocking crown He once wore.

Once on his feet, Jesus continues to hold his hand and looks into his eyes. With a smile at the edges of His mouth Jesus asks, “Would you like to be free?”

This hostage can hardly believe his ears. His simple longing was for contact with life, but free? He had not dared to think of freedom.

“Yes, yes please, yes Sir, Oh Thank you, Yes” he sputters.

At this point Jesus gently applied the key to each manacle, carefully, so as not to tear the man’s bruised and raw flesh any further, and set him free. Then Jesus said

“Come with me.”

Jesus led him out of that ugly cave and into a place of beauty.

There was a warm bath drawn, and clothes laid out for him, clothes that appeared to be cut from the same material as the Master’s.

Jesus helped him out of his rags and into the bath, and, as if he were a child, Jesus bathed Him until he was squeaky clean. Next He helped this newly free man (let’s call him Chris) into the garments of righteousness Jesus had tailor made just for him. They were a perfect fit.

Shortly after his freedom encounter he started to feel a longing to be with other folks who knew this freedom.

There was a church not far from his home, so on Sunday morning he donned his new clothes and headed down the street.

Upon arriving he was greeted and welcomed by a friendly couple. They seemed to be beaming, and made him feel like he was in the right place. They were dressed in similar clothing, yet each was fitted and equipped differently. There were a number of children buzzing around the couple, and as they shook hands, Chris noticed the scars on the young man’s wrists, a happy reminder to him of his new freedom. They quickly made him feel at home and helped Chris find his way around the facility.

As he left their company, he bumped into another gent. Also dressed in robes clearly made by the Master. He seemed a bit downcast. He did not have that same exuberance Chris had observed in the couple closer to the door.

Chris, encouraged by his encounter with the young parents eagerly offered his hand in greeting, but this gent held his hands behind his back and was not nearly as forthcoming in his welcome and greeting. As he introduced himself he somewhat awkwardly retracted his hand and slid it into his pocket.

Then he noticed something strange. This new acquaintance was in deed wearing a Jesus-made garment, but under it and around the edges he could see evidence that he had his filthy old clothes on underneath.

As he entered the sanctuary he saw dozens of folks already inside. Some were chatting quietly. Here and there he noticed a few more gregarious folks laughing and talking in what seemed like no regard for this beautiful place.

After his last encounter in the lobby, he began to look around and see if others might still have their old clothes on. Here and there he got a glimpse of a tatter or a rag. He even noticed a few folks who were carrying their chains.

The strange thing is the chains were not locked. These folks had somehow latched the manacles back onto their wrists, even though it was apparent that they were not locked.

Chris took his seat and a minute or two later the gent he met in the lobby came shuffling down the aisle. It was then that Chris noticed the cuffs on his ankles. They looked just like the ones Jesus had freed Chris from just days before.

Again, as with the others around him, the man’s anklets were not locked, just jury-rigged to stay on. As he passed, Chris got a look at his hands and sure enough, he was wearing handcuffs.

The service started and they sang songs of praise to their great Savior and Deliverer, Jesus. They sang songs of freedom, but most were forward looking to a freedom in the future.

After a couple songs a man slid in next to Chris.

[How is this new character dressed? Hmmm.

Shall we dress him in a red suit and put horns and a pitchfork in his hands? I think not. Perhaps all in black with a big black 10-gallon hat? No, that won’t do either. Let’s dress him in church clothes. Let’s put him in khakis and a polo shirt, or perhaps a suit and tie (this I will leave to your imagination since I am not sure what Church clothes look like to you.)]

So this new parishioner sidled up to Chris and began, in a whisper, to chat with Chris as the service continued.

“Are you new here?” he asked

“It’s my firsts time. Are you a member?” Chris responded.

“Oh, I have been sitting in the pews since the first time this Church met here” he said.

Chris thought it was strange that this guy was neither wearing the Jesus made clothing nor was he wearing rags, and he showed no signs of either chains or scars. How did he fit in?

Then this odd gent spoke up again.

“So, young man, where are your chains?”

“Jesus removed them, what a relief that was. I felt like they had been with me my whole life, and finally I am completely free from those shackles. I owe Jesus so much!”

“Are you trying to tell me that you’re no longer chained to that old nature? Didn’t I see you looking with lust at that woman on your way in this morning? Didn’t I see a glint of envy in your eye when you saw the deacon’s car in the lot? Wasn’t that comment you just made to me about freedom as good as a lie?”

This put Chris a little off kilter and he was not sure how to respond. Who was his new accuser, and how did he see so aptly the struggles Chris had been having that very morning.

Then he remembers what Jesus had done.

“Jesus unlocked my chains, He set me free, He washed me, He gave me these clothes and told me to wear them.”

“So then, you are not denying these feelings? You are saying that you are still a sinner, still bound and just pretending to be free?”

“NO” said Chris, raising his voice slightly. Then more quietly, but still with conviction and force, “no, I am not 'still bound.' I saw the scars on Jesus. He paid for my sin, and took them away. I am still tempted, this is true. Even in the short time since my release, I have stumbled a time or two. But I am free. I refuse to go back and get those chains. I refuse to carry around the baggage and bondage of my old slavery.”

He continued “I have a new heart, that though it is tempted, it has a deep desire to please my Lord and Master. There are even things that I never knew offended Him that this new heart tells me about myself.”

“I am sorry,” Chris finished, “but I will not listen to any more of your lies.”

Chris got up and moved to a different row, and raised up his scared by beautifully empty wrists and hand and began to sing love songs to his Great Deliverer.