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When I first became a follower of Jesus in my early 20’s, I lived with the impression that all the neat, clean people that sat on the pews around me on Sunday mornings were sinless, happy, and healthy people who lived worry free lives of contentment. However, after decades of serving in churches, I can say unequivocally that my impression was wrong.

 

If we are honest, a great many believers today are saved but remain in bondage to sin, addiction, shame, and a host of other hindrances to their walk. The truth is that other than church attendance and having their sins forgiven, a large percentage of believers differ little from the people they work with or go to school with who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them. Divorce rates in the church rival divorce rates in the culture at large. Christian teens seem to have little power over the cultural pressure to drink, experiment with drugs, or to be sexually active. A significant number of believers live on antidepressants, tolerate marriages dominated by anger and rage, live with bitterness toward the past, and are crippled by an overpowering sense of unworthiness and rejection. In short, they continue to live out their lives in emotional brokenness and bondage.

 

I’m not scolding these believers for not being “the Christians they should be.” Through the years, I have struggled with many of those issues as well. These believers are desperately looking for freedom and healing, but for the most part have not been able to gain victory over the issues that rob them of the joy and peace they long for.

 

Jesus declared that he came that his people might have life and have it to the full – abundant life. He also declared that he came to bind up the brokenhearted and set captives free. For many believers, there is a huge gap between the promises and the reality. Why? We can say with confidence that the shortfall is not on the part of Jesus for Jesus has done everything perfectly.

 

The truth is that, in many cases, these men and women have not been shown by their churches how to access the freedom and healing that Jesus promises. The majority of churches in America, offer their people the forgiveness purchased by the cross but not the healing and freedom. When confronted with brokenness and bondage, they send the children of God out into the world to find solutions. They are left to seek healing and freedom from those who often do not believe the core values of our faith or even that God exists.

 

Even when they are referred to “Christian counselors,” those good men and women have nearly always been trained to use the weapons of the world rather than divine weapons. There is something terribly wrong with that picture. Doing so implies that Jesus has no answers for the emotional suffering of his people, so we must look elsewhere. The weapons of the world can help but cannot go far enough for real victory. They tend to provide “coping skills” rather than lasting freedom.

 

A gospel that only gets us to a place of forgiveness, but does not radically change us through the healing and freedom that is ours in Christ is not the gospel that Jesus preached. When Jesus preached the gospel, there was always a demonstration of life-changing power with it. Paul pointed to this truth when he said, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life” (Phil. 2:14-16).

 

Stars stand out in stark contrast to the darkness around them. Jesus himself declared that his followers were to be the light of the world. Those who wear the name of Christ should stand out in the crowd by their sheer “differentness” and have a testimony of his powerful work in their lives. Jesus spoke of being “born again,” not as figurative language for trying harder, but as a reality where something real and essential has been altered in everyone who comes to him. After a short while, that essential difference should become apparent, not a as a reflection of our efforts but as a reflection of the power of God working in us and Christ being formed in us.

 

If the world can provide the healing and freedom that Jesus promised his people, then much of what Jesus paid for with this suffering and death was unnecessary. Paul clearly stated that the wars we truly fight, must be fought with divine weapons rather than the weapons or strategies of the world (2 Cor. 10:4, Eph.6). Most churches have little idea about fighting in the Spirit and little access to those weapons. Therefore, their people continue to struggle with emotional brokenness and bondage.

 

We need a shift. We need to be willing to say that what we have been doing is lacking. We need to be willing to say that we have meant well but have missed something important in the scriptures because our fruit does not yet rival the fruit we see in the New Testament. My hope is that many senior pastors and elders will begin to ask for more, seek more, and risk more so that their people have access to everything Jesus purchased for them. The power of Jesus is immense and its impact should be profound and visable. Our people should stand out from the world and walk in victory over the things that burden most of the earth. It is not that we will be trouble free, but that the trouble will come from without rather than from within where Jesus lives – and that makes all the difference.

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