When the Christ Follower embraces the liberty that being unconditionally loved by God allows them, it is a very dangerous thing. They realize they are truly free AND truly loved just as they are. No condemnation.
It is true.
The lack of condemnation creates a sort of vacuum that will be filled with either a deeper awareness of God’s love and intimacy with Him, or with selfish desires.
Inevitably, we choose to spend freedom on selfish desires – thoughts and activities that grieve the Holy Spirit and perhaps those around us.
Choosing to spend freedom on self is a reality of fallen life and is ALWAYS seized upon by the enemy due to it’s great effectiveness in stunting the progress of the “newly free” Follower of Christ (and each of us is made newly free EVERYDAY – so this is a threat ALL Christians face, everyday!)
When the “newly free” choose self, they are confronted with internal and external resistance to their selfish splurgings. Therefore, in order to maintain access to the object of their selfish desire, they cover up. They engage in the activity undercover in some way. They hide.
I imagine the scenario of a man standing in line at the convenience store, purchasing pornography. A young person buying a package of condoms at the grocery store, or an underage person sweating bullets while waiting to see if they are “carded” at the door. Each person is pursuing their desire – but they are confronted with an obstacle that threatens its acquisition, either statutory, social or spiritual.
To be perfectly honest about their desire would require an admission about the condition of their heart that they would rather not make. “I want to look at pornography.” “My plan is to engage in sex.” “I wish to violate the law.” Precisely, it is the motive BENEATH these desires that are most embarrassing and are to be kept hidden: “I’m lonely.” “I’m bored.” “I feel unloved.”
Rather than being honest about the motives, they create an image. Excuses, reasons, and justifications are deployed to conceal what their new freedom is actually being used to obtain. This is almost always because the individual is being internally convicted by the Holy Spirit to deal with the underlying motives. God wants to heal us.
But rather than dealing with the conflict by admitting what it is they actually want (their fear is that the admission of the desire will result in the revocation of their freedom) they conceal their TRUE desire; wrap it up in a coating of religious-speak, cultural disguises or legal jargon justifying a desire that should not be indulged at all, but instead should be examined carefully under the light of God’s presence.
It’s like lying about “embarrassing” symptoms to one’s doctor, and yet expecting an accurate diagnosis.
Eventually, the Holy Spirit does his work and the disciple is confronted with the unassailable knowledge that the desired object is not God-honoring though it is free from them to pursue. The SELF then registers the possibility of LOSING the object and strikes back with the accusation that his FREEDOM is being threatened.
The reality is that the freedom is still as valid and untouchable as it was the moment Christ spoke the words, “It is finished.”
There is 6 step process described here:
- Realization and joy at a deep heart level that the love of Christ has purchased your freedom.
- SELF seizes this awareness and begins to spend the freedom on its own desires.
- The SPIRIT grieves but does not recant freedom.
- The SELF (now convicted but still free) begins to create constructs around the desire to protect it from the perceived threat that God will take away the object AND the freedom.
- Over time, the SELF feeds on the object, grows, and obscures the SPIRIT.
- Left unexamined, the Christ Follower slowly forgets the REAL nature of their desire and begins to believe that it is, in fact, a godly one. They find themselves defending an object that has now lost all it’s original luster, wondering why their relationship with “God” has gone flat and defending their freedom to hold this dead thing – a freedom which was never threatened.
In my mind, steps 1 through 3 are inevitable. They describe the journey of the disciple through a fallen world. I believe we repeat these steps over and over again, moving ever onward to the center of God’s will, “working out our salvation with fear and trembling”.
It’s at step 4 that things go sideways. We must ever always be brutally honest about our desires. When I am finally willing to admit out loud (maybe to a trusted human, but always to YHWH) that I want “x” more than I want intimacy with YHWH, I am greeted by His loving embrace and guided right back to step 1 and a season of great joy, intimacy, love and rest.
It is only when I try to hide from Him what He already knows that my freedom is threatened – and even then – it is not under threat from God, but from the enemy.
Watching someone you love live in steps 4 through 6 is brutal. You CANNOT step in front of God and artificially limit freedom in an effort to “force” them back to step one. That is nonsense – like trying to push with a rope.
You CAN try to redefine the object of their desire. But this frequently results in resentment, and the “judgment” card being played. This is the place of exhortation and boundary setting.
The truth is that once step 4 has begun – the only course of action is to live in step 1 yourself, pray that the other sees it and their desire moves from the dead object to the REAL object (Christ).
In the meantime. One must be prepared to endure great pain.
~Written by Dan Hazen