Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Free Ride?

A long time ago while I was still in high school, a song called Free Ride by the Edgar Winter Group was near the top of the charts.  It had a good tune, but you didn’t give much pause as you sang along with the lyrics.

The mountain is high
The valley is low
And you're confused on which way to go
So I've come here to give you a hand
And lead you into the promised land
So (ooh, ooh, ooh) come on and take a free ride (free ride)
(ooh, ooh, ooh) Come on and sit here by my side (ooh, ooh, ooh) Come on and take a free ride
All over the country
I'm seeing it the same
Nobody's winning at this kind of game
We gotta do better it's time to begin
You know all the answers must come from within
So (ooh, ooh, ooh) come on and take a free ride

Come on and take a free ride.  It’s a catchy tune but it is also the theology of many Christians.  This whole grace business is just a free ride.  The gift is free but the ride that follows the gift should be another thing altogether.

What follows must be purposeful, deliberate, and intentional.  We are living for God and we are doing it on purpose.  The gift of life is all from God.  It is free when we receive Jesus as Lord.

The life that follows is about bringing glory to God with every breath!  We no longer just exist.  We are no longer in league with the enemy.

We have been here before.  Are we a friend of God or a friend of the world?  James says that you can’t have it both ways.

If you love the world, then you hate God—you make yourself into his enemy.  How can you do this?  While we were God’s enemies, he sent Christ to die for us.

Do we just say, That’s cool?  My sins are forgiven, now I can live it up like the rest of the world does?

Once again, we find that James is not the Lone Ranger in his challenges to us.  Paul challenged his readers to comprehend grace.

What shall we say then, shall we go on sinning so that grace may abound even more?

This was a rhetorical question.  It required no answer.  The answer was obviously no.  But considering the sinful nature of humankind, Paul answered his own question nonetheless.

His answer was: No, nadda, by no means!  Don’t you know we gave up all of that!

James is on this same track.  Why do you who claim Jesus as your Lord still have fights and quarrels?  It is because your sinful human nature is still with you.  You struggle internally because you can’t decide if you want to belong to God or to the world.

God placed a spirit within us when humankind was created.  That spirit always longs for God but sometimes settles for less.  That spirit finds satisfaction, companionship, fulfillment in the world.  We become a friend of the world, knowing that the world never truly reciprocates.

The world cannot truly be our friend and our satisfaction level is never quite what it was designed to be, but we settle for what the world has to offer.  We accept the world’s friendship.

We want the grace and forgiveness of God and the Free Ride through life as a friend of the world.  Here is the theological term for that:  That dog don’t hunt.

Once we received Christ as our Lord and Savior, we drew a line in the sand.  The devil, our sinful nature, and friendship with the world were on one side and we as a disciple of Jesus Christ on the other.

So we are up against the devil, our sinful nature, and the patterns of the world.  That’s a tough battle.  It might seem like we are surrounded. 

We are.  We are surrounded by our enemies.  Let me put this in Marinespeak.  We’ve got them just where we want them!  We can attack in any direction.

But how?  Resist the devil and he will flee!

Why would the devil flee?  C’mon, we’re surrounded.

We belong to Jesus and we know it with certainty.  We submit ourselves to God.  We don’t sit on the fence.  We are not double-minded.  We are his and his alone.  We are on the winning side.

That’s it?  That’s the plan of attack.  Every attack needs good logistics, so here you go:  Draw closer to God and he will draw closer to you.

Anything else?  Quit being the wave that is tossed about the sea.  Stop being double-minded.  Purify yourself!  Do the modern-day version of sackcloth and ashes.  Show God that you have repented of evil!

Instead of pointing fingers and throwing penalty flags at how other believers receive God’s grace and respond to it, realize that you are on the same team and your Leader is the Lord.  He alone will judge your response to his gift.
Once again, James is not the Lone Ranger.  Paul put it this way.  Who am I to judge another man’s servant?

We are humble before our Lord and ferocious before our enemies.  God opposes those whose strength is in themselves.

Where does that leave us as we consider this free gift of salvation?

We are a disciple.

We are a warrior.

We are a friend of God

We are growing in God’s grace.  The spirit within us from creation hungers to have the perfect relationship with the Spirit of God that lives within us now.

The gift is free.  The ride is full of challenges—struggles that might be received as adventures, which if we will recall from the very beginning, we should regard with joy for we are being made complete in Christ Jesus.


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