Say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ – Isa. 49:9
You stand before a gate. Though you cannot see beyond it, what lies there draws you.
More voices than you can identify cry, “No, don’t go there!”
• Fear whispers, “Something terrible will happen!”
• Intimidation snickers: “You? Go through? You can’t even open the gate.”
• Status quo states, “You’ve always lived here.”
• Complacency adds, “And you always will.”
A crowd you want to please chants in chorus, “Stay with us. Stay with us.” Some smile and coax. Some cry and plead.
Yet one voice – one unmistakable voice – calls you by name. “Step through the gate,” he says.
Buffalo-riding & gate-opening
At an outdoor fair in Colorado Springs, I rode a mechanical bull – or more accurately, a mechanical buffalo. Regardless, I didn’t just pose atop the beast. In spite of everything that could have kept me from it, I got on that bronco and rode.
Shortly before riding the bull, I stepped through a gate. In spite of everything that could have kept me from it, I left behind one way of living life and embarked on a totally different one. I still experience ups and downs. I still have spills. Yet, surprisingly, the spills don’t shatter me. In this new place, I cannot express the freedom and joy I’ve found, except to say, “Check out the picture of me riding the mechanical bull.”
For me, that photo illustrates living life, not as a religious Christian, but as a friend of God. It reminds me of the promise in Malachi 4:2, “You will go out and leap like calves [or mechanical-bull riders?] released from the stall.”
You know what? It’s alarmingly easy to name the name of Jesus, yet stop short of gates he has opened. It’s alarmingly easy to get trapped in behavior that appears godly yet produces what God hates. It’s alarmingly easy to become a “religious Christian,” imprisoned inside “stalls” Christ died to free us from.
Maybe you’ve been highly distressed or deeply hurt by religious Christians. As a result, you’re skeptical about anything related to God – especially the Christian God. Yet strangely it seems he is drawing you.
Maybe all your efforts at living life have left you exhausted and stuck. You’re disappointed with yourself, with the church, with God. Frankly, he seems demanding and distant. You have no confidence in your ability to hear his voice. You doubt he has any desire to know you intimately or to trust you with important exploits. You do not see yourself as a friend of God – yet the idea stirs a longing deep within you, like a gentle breath rekindling an almost-extinguished coal.
Maybe you’re living life with a growing sense of unrest. Something is calling you to venture where you haven’t gone before. You have no clue where this venture might take you. By nature, you don’t like risk. Frightened, yet fascinated, you wonder, “Can this be God? Do I dare follow?”
Maybe you love Jesus. You want to go wherever he leads. Ah, but where he’s taking you looks quite different from what you expected – and opposition from surprising sources (within you and around you) has blindsided, confused and paralyzed you.
Living life as a friend of God:
- requires removing whatever hinders you from knowing his voice.
- involves boldly going wherever he goes.
- means letting go of some relationships – and then finding deeper ones, as you connect more deeply with God himself, and he connects you with other people whom he calls friends.
- involves pain. Yet, pressing through the pain, you find deep fulfillment. It requires risk. It releases joy.
Keys to freedom, joy, life
I’m Deborah Brunt. For decades, I lived life as a religious Christian. Most of those years, I truly knew Christ. I did not know how much of what I thought and believed, did and said, reflected religious stuff I’d been taught, rather than the mind of Christ.
I still don’t see everything clearly. I still find religious gunk clinging to me. But – Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! – I’ve stepped through that first crucial gate.
And I’ve learned: God always wants to take his friends through another open gate. Taking keys Jesus offers, I find: Key truths open gates. Especially:
Key truths our church culture has misplaced
open gates our religious mindsets have locked.
If you stand before a gate – and Jesus stands beyond it, calling your name – don’t let fear or intimidation, complacency or anything else stop you. “Come out! Be free!
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