Monday, December 19, 2016

The Heart of Christmas: The Captive in the Church and the One who Came to Set Them Free

According to the Gospel of Luke, after Jesus' time of temptation in the wilderness had ended, He stood up in the synagogue in Nazareth one Sabbath morning. He opened the scroll of Isaiah and began to read:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to captives,
And freedom to prisoners...
Isaiah 61:1 nasb

He finished reading, closed the scroll, and make a shocking statement. "Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:21 nasb)

Jesus stood in the synagogue and did exactly what Isaiah said He would do. He proclaimed good news to the afflicted, liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners. 

The afflicted, captive, prisoners to whom He spoke were the men of Nazareth.  His declaration made the men so angry they tried to murder Him on the spot.

As I read about their attempt to throw Jesus down a hill, I realized Jesus began His "jail ministry" inside the walls of the local church (synagogue), where the people were captive to their own ignorance and unbelief. Their bondage was so great, they couldn't see the chains holding them.

They were so busy "doing", obeying the laws of God, that they had no time for "being" the men of God they were called to be. No time for the relationship God had intended.

I've been a church-captive before, full of head-knowledge but lacking in heart-knowledge. It's a tragic situation, and difficult to gain release. In a very real way, it's easier to come to Jesus from the bondage of the world, where you know you're far from God, than the bondage of good deeds inside the walls of the church, where you assume you're "connected."

We'll look at these verses again this week, but for today let's ask ourselves a few very important questions.

What chains hold me back from being all God wants me to be? 

What bonds keep me from having a deeper relationship with Christ?   

To what am I enslaved?

This week, we celebrate the birth of the One who came to set the captives free. The very first captives He intended to set free were the church people, so let's accept the freedom He offers. 

Shake off our chains. 

Take a step closer to the God-man in the manger.

Embrace the freedom Christ came to give.
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Becoming a Light-Bearer for God 
If God leads you to help support this ministry, (prayer and outreach, both digital and in-person) you can use this link: Support Leanna's Ministry (use account #4841)
#advent #Jesus