Jesus came to set you free, to allow you to laugh, to allow you to be free of the prison. Your heritage is freedom. Despite that heritage, despite the reality that that’s what God was all about when he sent his son into the world—most of us aren’t free.
The fact is, you can be free in Christ as long as you are honest with yourself and honest before God—and, insofar as you need to be, open and honest before others. If you want a renewed sense of spiritual power in your life, let me show you some dangerous kinds of denial—lies that will kill your freedom, rob you of power and keep you in prison.
Lie 1: “I’m not in prison and there is no pain.”
One thing worse than being wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked is to be wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked and not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. In the words of Paul, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
The only people Christ didn’t help were those who thought they didn’t need help. God only fights battles with wounded soldiers. The doctrine of radical and pervasive depravity is an important doctrine and it is taught throughout Scripture. The church is a hospital for sinners. People who say they have no pain and are not in prison never get out. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).
If you are not a sinner, then you don’t have any need for Jesus. If you are not unqualified, if you are not in prison, if you are not in pain, then the Christian faith simply is not for you.
Lie 2: “I must accept the prison and the pain.”
I’m a cynic. My philosophy is that you are born in one hospital and you die in another, and the meaning of life is to get from the one hospital to the other without screwing it up too badly. That isn’t true, of course. My problem is that sometimes I just deal with life in a stoical way. And sometimes that falls over into my teaching for a number of months. For a while during my years as a pastor, I taught that prosperity theology—the idea that you can be wealthy and healthy and all that stuff if you exercise the proper principles—was simply a lie. And I said it so often that I got the people to believe that God didn’t answer prayers. Now I didn’t do that on purpose. But that was the practical result of what I said. Then we started having healing services. It was a moving experience and God answered some wondrous prayers in some amazing and miraculous ways.
You may think, I’ve always been this way. It’s hard but, by God’s grace, I will accept it. That is noble, but it is a lie. You don’t have to be guilty all the time. You don’t have to be manipulated or afraid all the time. The prison and the pain don’t have to be accepted. Just say, “I’m not going to accept it anymore.”
Lie 3: “I deserve the prison and the pain.”
How does that statement stack up in light of the truths from Scripture in Romans 8:1, 15? Do you deserve the prison and the pain? Of course you do. So do I. But Jesus doesn’t! And you are in him. He is your elder brother. And because Jesus is your elder brother, you deserve royal treatment.
According to Hebrews 7:25 you and I are on the prayer list of Jesus himself: “He always lives to make intercession for them.” Jesus is continually talking to the Father about you and me.
Some of you ought to be doing far better than you are right now. Do you ever wonder why, when you get close to success, you always blow it? Because of Christ, you deserve anything God grants you. I’m not talking just about success. I’m talking about relationships. I’m talking about being a bold Christian.
The reason we are such cowards is because we don’t think we deserve anything better than the worst.
The reason we are such cowards is because we don’t think we deserve anything better than the worst. The Father won’t always lead you to things you don’t want to do and places where you don’t want to be. The Father desires to say yes to you. He desires to see you successful. He desires to see you raised up in the eyes of people so that you can point to him. The Father say, “I have a lot of power and freedom and love to spend on you, if you would only accept it.”
Lie 4: “I can’t change the prison and the pain.”
In Matthew 16:18, Peter has just given his great confession about Jesus being the Christ, the Son of the living God, and Jesus says to him, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
I used to think that we as the church sort of had this gate, and Satan and his demons couldn’t get in. But has a gate ever attacked you? Jesus is saying we are to go on the attack. We are to break down the gates of hell—and the gates of hell will not be able to prevail against us (Luke 10:17 and 2 Corinthians 10:3-4). Those verses say unmistakably that we can change our imprisoned situation.
But why, if this is all true, do Christians still feel guilty, and lack freedom and power? Because there are supernatural powers that have a vested interest in keeping you in your prison (Ephesians 6:11-12).
Dualists believe that the world is controlled by two equal and opposing powers—one good and the other bad. That is nonsense. Christianity is not dualistic. There is only one God, and Satan is nothing more than his lackey. Look at the first chapters of Job and you will see it. Every time you stand against Satan, all the powers of God’s angelic hosts come to your aid. You have great power as a child of God. God does not allow Satan to do anything to you that doesn’t first pass through a nail-scarred hand.
Don’t believe the lies. Remember that you are in prison and there is pain. You don’t have to accept the prison or the pain. Jesus doesn’t deserve the prison or the pain, and you are in Christ—so you deserve royal treatment. We are living in a supernatural world—and God has given you and me great power to deal with whatever the supernatural world throws our way.
Remember that we’re all in this together. We’re all human and we’re all sinners. And grace always runs downhill.