Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 1 Peter 2:16
The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name — liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names — liberty and tyranny.
The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer ofliberty, especially as the sheep was a black one. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails today among us human creatures, even in the North, and all professing to loveliberty. Hence we behold the processes by which thousands are daily passing from under the yoke of bondage, hailed by some as the advance of liberty, and bewailed by others as the destruction of all liberty.
April 18, 1864
When I read that entry in a devotional book a couple nights ago, it immediately brought to mind a passage in Romans:
For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves; who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
For this cause, God gave them up unto vile affections, for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature, and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, envy, murder, debate, deceit, maliciousness, whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful; who, knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Romans: 1:20-32)
This world is full of lost sheep in need of a gracious and merciful Shepherd. But the world is also full of ravenous wolves dressed as sheep or shepherds. But unlike the Shepherd and unlike the sheep, they do not enter through the doorway; they climb over the fence and enter into the fold to deceive and slaughter the sheep. The Good Shepherd steps in, reveals truth to, and saves the humble sheep who cry out to Him. And at the beginning, the sheep are grateful, but the wolf cries out that liberty (obedience to, and faith in, the Shepherd King) is not liberty at all, and some sheep follow that lie into the jaws of death.
If you wish to follow sin, then sin is your slave master. Sin is a cruel slave master, and some people have seen it for what it is; a brutal act that crushes innocence and drowns out light and hope. Many of those who see sin for what it is see no hope for freedom from their sins or from the addictive sins of those that keep them in chains. Because, despite what happened in Abraham Lincoln’s time, slavery still exists and persists; where human lives are bought and sold like cattle, and where those same lives are treated as no better than a useful pile of sticks. It is necessary that eyes be opened to the slavery that exists today, but the only reason that such cruel slavery exists and persists is because cruel slave masters and lost sheep have still not turned to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls. I am one who sees sin for what it is, yet I have faith that Jesus Christ, the Righteous, has vanquished sin in my life, and will one day bring me through Heaven’s gates; He is the Door. A lie has been spread that states there are many ways to salvation, and the same lie has made right, wrong, and wrong, right, but those ideas are a straight plunge into destruction. Open your eyes to the grace that is revealed through Christ, and see sin for what it is; so unworthy of the price of losing your soul. It was for my soul and the souls of all those who are poor and brokenhearted that Jesus Christ came to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound. (Isaiah 61:1)
Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd Who leads the humble heart into life everlasting. He came for the sinner, the slave, the slave master, the hopeless, the helpless, the lost sheep, the cruel wolf; Jesus came to set each of them free from their sins and the destructive sins of those who act as lords over them. I testify to you that God is good; He delivers the slave and continues to save the downtrodden, tempted, and discouraged on a daily basis. But I cannot stand before His thrown and justify the sins I have committed or will commit. I cannot say, “God, You have shown me grace, so I can do whatever I want.” All I can say is, “Father, have mercy upon me, a sinner saved by grace.” And Jesus has heard my prayer, forgiven me, and draws me closer to Himself. I am determined to be better tomorrow than I was today. I am determined not to give into the lies of wolves and false shepherds. My liberty is not found in serving my flesh, but in serving Jesus Christ, the One Who laid down His life, so that I may live. I live with my eyes fixed on my Savior.
I cannot tell you what Jesus looks like – the shape of His face, His height, His build, or even the color of His skin – but I can tell you that He is kind, He towers over the things that weigh me down, He has the power to vanquish my fears and fill me with peace, He is pure as snow, He is holy and desires for me to be holy as He is holy, and He has seen the darkness in me, yet He loves me, forgave me, and cleanses me. Everyone in the world can debate about the color of Jesus’ skin, but He did not come so that the world would be impressed by His skin tone, His muscle size, or His facial shape; none of those things could save the lost and dying. So, what did it take to save the lost and dying? It took Jesus’ skin being torn open, His muscles being made useless, and His face being beaten so much that He was no longer recognizable as human. He took upon Himself the ugliness of sin, and that picture was never supposed to be framed and hung in a gallery or on a living room wall, it was supposed to be buried. And Jesus was buried, along with all the ugliness of sin that He took upon Himself, but He rose again to new life! He took back His crown and in His nail-pierced hands he now holds the keys to death and Hell, so that they may no longer have the victory of those who follow The Way.
Like my Savior, I have been risen up to new life. The ugly sins that had dominion over me no longer have a say in my life; Jesus is my faithful intercessor and He has declared me His child. I carry the scars of sin, just like Jesus does, and I still give into temptations sometimes, like Jesus never did, but someday I will be like my Savior, completely perfect and holy and incapable of sin. Until that day, I stand as a sheep in His fold; knowing full-well that He rescues and He will bring me safely home. Amen.
Lord Jesus, let my life not be wasted in selfish pursuits to fulfill my own lust and pride. Let my life be lived out in pursuit of You and Your glory. I am Yours; once lost, once enslaved, but now found, and set free. Thank You, Jesus, for sweet liberty. Oh, how I love Thy law, oh Lord. It is my meditation all the day. Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine. (Psalm 119:97-98)
Jesus said unto them again, “Truly, truly, I say unto you, I AM the door of the sheep. All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I AM the door; by Me, if any man enter in, he will be saved, and will go in and out, and find pasture. The thief comes not, but for to steal, kill, and destroy; I AM come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
“I AM the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” (John 10:7-11)