From the Roman Road to the Freedom Trail by Heather Marsten

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

From the Roman Road to the Freedom Trail

God was working in an area of my life, and that led to writing the following Bible study. Praying it blesses you. I look forward to hearing your comments.  I still haven’t shown it to Pastor Don, but will give him a copy tomorrow night.

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Before I knew God, part of me figured God would not want me because of how sinful I was. I went through a period when I was counseling with Pastor Don that I called the sin of the week. I would come in with what I thought was an unforgivable sin I was certain that God could not forgive. Pastor Don opened up the Bible and showed me an example of a similar sin God forgave or He would take me to:

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

It took me forever to realize God loved me. It took a long time for what is called the Roman Road to sink in. In fact, even though we are saved, we still end up, in certain areas of our lives walking the Roman Road. What is the Roman Road? Let me share it. It begins at Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. It takes great courage to accept this premise. So often we come up with excuses for what we have done wrong. Even now, as a Christian, I still find myself justifying the areas I fall short of God’s perfection for me. I can have an unrighteous anger, or speak a word that is not edifying, and justify to myself that the person had it coming, they deserved that harsh judgment. I can make a promise to God and then forget it in an instant of temptation. I can let pride rule my life instead of putting myself at the feet of God. And one of the biggest sins of pride that God showed me the other day is the false belief that because, as a Christian, I messed up, I HAVE TO RESTORE THINGS IN MY OWN POWER before I can come back into fellowship with God in that particular area of my life. How wrong is that? It says in Psalm 103:14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:30Even the very hairs on our head are all numbered.   Psalm 139:14-16 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written. The days fashioned for me. When as yet there were none of them. God knows us so well He knows our days before we were even a spark in our parent’s eyes. He knows our walks are not perfect. He knows we will mess up and make mistakes. This is not a BIG surprise to God. He loves us in spite of ourselves. Our God loves us. We can trust in this love, even when we mess up. Just because we become Christians does not mean we will never make another mistake. While our spirits are being perfected, we still have our fleshly natures to deal with. We are in a process of becoming more like Him, but there is so much flesh in us, we miss His guidance far too often. When we miss it, do we have to fix it alone? Do we have to make things right, then come back into fellowship with Him? No. He loved us while we were still sinners, and trust me, if your life is anything like mine, you will realize we are far, far better people now that we have Christ in our lives, than we ever were before. So, even though we mess up, we are not as messed up as we were before we asked Him into our lives the first time. And He delights in helping us to come back into fellowship with Him, He wants to help us. He is our Great Shepherd, and one thing that I had to remember is Jesus told us He was sending us out as sheep among wolves. Where is Jesus in that scenario? He is our shepherd guiding us through those wolves.

After Romans 3:23, the next step is Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

What greater demonstration of Love is that? It is very easy to love someone who is nice, perfect, and sweet, but while we were wallowing in the muck of our sins, He loved us. He loved us enough to die for us. He loved us enough to set up a plan for our salvation long before the world was created, long before Adam and Eve sinned, long before we were born and tempted. It is a gift of salvation that we have to accept from Him. We cannot bring ourselves into our own salvation. We cannot work our way to salvation. We can’t do enough good works to compensate for the bad things we have done. There is one and only one way for us to come into fellowship with God, to become part of Jesus’ flock, and that is by accepting this gift of love from God. We don’t like accepting gifts, we want to give one back, to work to earn the gift.

When I am out of God’s perfect will for my life, when I mess up, my first reaction is to try and fix it. But that kind of effort is like my trying to find a way to earn my salvation. It can’t be done, only God has the clarity of vision to help me fix the mess I got myself in. Sometimes I invest so much energy in patching up my error that I end up making the situation worse. Instead of a patched up mistake, what I need is renewing. To let God come in and do what He can do far better than me, help me to sort out the mess and get into alignment with Him.

We then take another step on the Roman Road, from Romans 5:8 to Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Jesus tells us to die to ourselves, to take up His yoke, for His yoke is easy, His burden light. Instead we choose to keep doing what is messing us up, and all that disobedience leads to is death. Not just physical death, but death in our spirit, death in areas of our lives we haven’t turned over to God. Pastor Don was talking in a recent Bible study about how a person cannot expect another person to dig them out of a problem. Often that only serves to get a person deeper into the problem, for it is like giving them a shovel to dig a pit deeper. What is needed is an examination of ourselves in the light of God’s truth. Only when we truthfully decide to turn over the sin to God for His handling, and agree to submit to His authority in the situation can we begin to build a life that will not lead to death. Sometimes I get so frantic trying to solve a problem that, what could be a minor problem, turns into a major one because of my meddling. That being said, when we make Jesus our Lord, we need to make sure we obey His commands. This is the only way we can be liberated from the sin and death that sin causes, death in our relationships, our lives, our dreams, our goals, our faith.

From Romans 6:23 we take another step to Romans 8:1-2 a step that I sometimes stumble on. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

 I am an expert at beating myself up. When I make a mistake, I keep remembering the mistake, going over and over it in my mind, thinking I could have done this or that, endlessly rehearsing my mistake. It is true that a bit of reflection is good to remind us how we got into the mess in the first place so we can learn from our mistake. But after you have asked for forgiveness from God and made amends as best you can in your life, if you continue to hold on to the mistake and use it as an excuse not to move forward, it is implying that Jesus’ death was not sufficient for your sins. I sometimes find myself remembering who I was, not who I am in Christ. I am not the person I was before I got saved. As God continues to burnish off the rough edges of my life, I am not the person I was a few days ago. God moves us from Glory to Glory. Jesus told us to look forward, not behind us as we plow through life. We are set free, but we reach out to put the bonds of oppression back onto our lives.

Let’s not let our messes cause us to be yoked to oppression and bound in life. Let’s continue to let Jesus cleanse us from our mistakes, and move us closer and closer in relationship to him. How do we get this relationship, or reconfirm it, by the most important step on our Roman Road. Romans 10:8-13 Let’s read it together.

Romans 10:8-13 But what does it say? “The word is near you in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”

This is comforting to me. When we call on the name of the LORD we shall be saved, and this is a promise open to everyone – for God said, “Whoever.” That means the saved and the unsaved, God will save us from ourselves. I am so grateful that God has come into my life, and continues to free me whenever I get immersed in the bondage of the messes I make. I am glad that He sends His Spirit to me to help me in my walk. When He looks at me, He sees me through the eyes of love, not condemnation. There is no shame in my relationship with Him, because of His love.

But I want to talk a bit about maintaining our liberty. To be honest, some of us never would have looked up to God had we not hit rock bottom. Sometimes we don’t recognize the captivity of the enemy until our life circumstances cause us to notice him – satan can be very subtle. In retrospect thank God for drawing my attention to Him, even though some of the circumstances of my life were pure misery. Without those circumstances I may have continued in my own headstrong fashion to run from God. It is so easy to get hooked by the lure of satan, and what looking at our past mistakes can do is let us recognize the hook before we take the bait. Usually the bait comes in the form of pride. Each of us has a tendency to forget what God has done for us. For a while we are humbled by what God saved us from, then we begin to think in pride that we must have done something right for God to be so good to us. That leaves us open for a fall.

We can all agree we need a Savior, but it isn’t just saved from eternal separation from God only once, Christ comes and continues His saving work in us for the rest of our lives. Christ is faithful to chastise us when we need chastisement, but at the same time, He is compassionate in His comfort. When the Holy Spirit convicts us from sin, He does not condemn us. He leads us toward the truth.

When we are oppressed by our messes, we must never forget that God hears our cries, even when we caused the messes by our sin and rebellion. God’s consistent character is to woo the captive to freedom. When we are suffering because of captivity in our sins, cry out to Him. Know that God has sent a Deliverer (in the name of Jesus) for every captive. The Holy Spirit is our comforter and also our teacher, and if we learn to listen to Him we will learn how to make freedom in Christ a reality in our lives. Christ sets us free by the power of His Spirit, then He maintains our freedom as we learn to live from day-to-day in the power of His free Spirit. What we are learning to do as we walk our Roman Roads is to bring our hearts under the freeing authority of God’s Word. We will find true liberty to the degree that our hearts accept, rely and respond to the truth of God’s Word. Let’s not let our messes cause us to be yoked to oppression and bound in life.

The problem I have though is it is so easy to slip back into the old habitual ways of behaving and before I know it, the bonds are back. Once we have taken the Roman Road, we have to continue to walk on the Freedom Trail. Beth Moore, in her study Breaking Free talks about various obstacles that make it tough to walk this Freedom Trail.

1.     Unbelief. Beth Moore says we are held captive by anything that hinders the abundant and effective spirit filled life God plans for us. One of the biggest obstacles is unbelief. Jesus could do nothing without faith. When he went to his hometown, he could not do major miracles because the townspeople did not believe in Him. Trusting an invisible God is not easy and does not come naturally. A trust relationship only grows one way, when we step out in faith and make the choice to trust. Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:6 continues But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. God is anxious to help us with our unbelief. Mark 9:21-24 The suffering father tells Jesus, Lord I believe, help my unbelief. We can pray to God to increase our belief in Him, and He will help us. We can believe in Christ, accept the truth that He is the Son of God, believe on Christ, receive eternal salvation, but fail to endure in belief and choose Him who is trustworthy day to day. Unbelief is crippling, it cripples our spiritual walk, and puts obstacles in our path. For us to have true freedom we need to believe God, believe He is willing and able to keep us free.

2. Pride. We already discussed pride. The cure for pride is to assume a God glorifying attitude. So often, as believers, we want to share in God’s glory and take pride for what He has done in our lives. God will not give his glory to another. That sounds rather selfish to the flesh but God has a very good reason for it. He knows pride can pull us off track and God is more interested in our eternal lives. Pride is a destroyer of ministries, marriages, friendships, jobs, and character. Few things are more contrary to our human nature than desiring someone else’s frame above our own. Pride is a lure to captivity. Sometimes I have tried to condemn myself in a spate of “humility.” But pride can also disguise itself as humility. We can think we are too far gone to save, too wicked, too sinful. If we do that, we are thinking our sin is a problem bigger than God can handle. The Proverbs are very specific about pride. Proverbs 8:13; 11:2, 13:10, 16:18, and Obadiah 1:3. We need to view humility as a friend and humble ourselves before God. Bow down to His majesty, Daniel 4:37 tells us that those who walk in pride God is able to put down.

3. Idolatry: Anything we put in the place where God belongs is an idol. Idols bring captivity to us. It is unfortunate but some of the things we have put in God’s place as idols in our lives are not easily removed. They have been in place for years and years. Only the power of God can budge them. We remove idols by choosing to recognize their existence and admitting their inability to keep us satisfied. God is able to remove any idol. Idols are not just figures that we worship, but lifestyles, habits, behaviors we think we can’t change, and belief structures. Satan will constantly cast idols before us, with the lure that we will find joy or peace through them, not realizing the snare and the trap that they cause us. If what you are holding onto in your life isn’t of Christ, it is a cheater. It is something that appears to be your friend, but its ultimate purpose is to steal away your liberty.

4. Prayerlessness. We want liberty in Christ to be a permanent reality, and the only way to do that is to be in communication with God. Our way to do that is through prayer. When we avoid prayer, we do not have the peace of God within us, and without that peace we start grasping at things that provide false peace. Satan would rather us do anything but pray – and satan is willing to provide many activities that keep us from prayer. One of the things that satan does in my life is keep me so busy doing things, good things, helpful things so that my time is so filled that I don’t take the time to spend with God in prayer. Without my prayer life I am powerless, and satan knows that. What blessings come through prayer. Ephesians 1:17-20 lists some of them. Most of the circumstances of our lives are not just physical, but are based on principalities and powers in the high places. How we deal with them is through prayer. Satan comes to make the free captive. That is why we must reach out to God so that we maintain our freedom.  We are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ, but on our own, in prayerlessness we will find ourselves captive.

5. Legalism. We want God’s best in our lives. Isaiah 29:13 talks about rules taught by men. What is legalism? Regulations replace relationship. The Pharisees were constantly accusing Jesus of not honoring the Sabbath. They had taken what God meant for man’s rest and refreshment and turned it to an oppressive set of rules and regulations that turned the rest into real work. We still have a works mentality that makes us feel we have to do something to attain God’s love, but remember that God loved us while we were still sinners. Legalism replaces mirrors with microscopes, and what we usually look at are other people’s imperfections. It is so easy to blow up other’s mistakes and errors into epic proportions and minimize our own sins and faults. In fact, it is a way of pulling attention from our own faults and imperfections by focusing on what others are doing wrong. Legalism also replaces passion for God with performance. If we feel we need to jump through hoops to keep God’s love, wear skirts of a certain length, pray so many hours a day, or whatever, we have lost the main point of passion for God, love for God. Obedience without love is nothing but the Law. Legalism will put so many obstacles in a believer’s path, can cause a believer to fall away when they think that they can’t live up to high standards. They lose sight of the love and grace of God. Not only that but it can cause new believers to run, not walk to the nearest exit sure that they can’t do this Christian stuff, and that will not please God who wants his lambs taken care of, not oppressed.

God seeks relationship for us. Jesus died for our freedom. Let’s take steps to maintain our freedom. We don’t want to go back into bondage. Galatians 5:1

Our best method to know who we are is to know Who We are In Christ. Pastor Don has a list called: Who Am I In Christ. If you have never looked at it, it is something that will bless you tremendously.

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About Heather Marsten

Welcome to Heather's Blog. I'm looking forward to meeting you and checking out your sites. I just moved about nine years of material over from another blog site, Xanga, who may close down mid-July. At first I was disappointed to make the move because I had a lifetime membership at Xanga and had to spend weeks transferring posts. But now I'm thrilled. Already I've met new bloggers and read many new websites. Blogging is a wonderful way to expand my horizons and garner new ideas. I'm a happily married mom of three young adults. My husband and I are proud to watch our children grow and venture out into the world. My daughter is still in college but my two sons have graduated. One has a job and the other just graduated and is in the process of finding a job in his field, physics. Anyone know of any jobs out there? I'm proud of our children and love watching them grow and mature. They've become fine, compassionate, and loving people. Empty nest? Nah, I'm too busy to let an empty nest bother me. Not enough hours in the day. My husband and I enjoy quiet time together and I have many interests to pursue - one of which is blogging :D I am a born-again believer and love God. As you read this blog, you will discover that Bible studies thrill me. There is so much wisdom contained between the covers of the Bible and I am fortunate to sit under the teachings of a remarkable pastor, Pastor Don Moore. Members of our church (Living Word Chapel in West Hurley, New York) are encouraged to teach and there are visiting pastors who stop by our church, I also study the Bible on my own and love sharing what I learn. One other passion is writing. My current work in process is a memoir. A scene from my memoir was published in a book called: Heavenly Company: Entertaining Angels Unaware - an anthology of angelic encounters compiled by Cecil Murphy. I'm hoping my memoir will encourage other survivors of abuse. I grew up in a home filled with abuse, including incest. For most of my life I was searching for something that would fill the void of not being loved by my parents. I tried many ways to find that love -- therapy, relationships, occult studies, and keeping my life so filled I had no way to think about my past. It was only when I discovered God that I was able to put the pieces of my life back together and walk forward in a joyous life. My nickname - wondering has changed from wondering where the heck God was in my life, to wondering what incredible adventure is going to happen next. I hope you enjoy my site. Please say hi, share some thoughts, and ask questions. I look forward to meeting you and checking out your sites. Have a blessed day. Heather
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