To bring the wonder of grace home, Michelle Anthony, architect of Tru, begins her talk by sharing a story about a drive through the park she recently took. She explains it this way:
I was driving through this park and I had just gotten a new car. It’s small car and it hugs the road remarkable well… so well in fact that you don’t know how fast you are going. I was driving along, admiring the beauty of nature and singing “The Great I Am” at the top of my lungs when suddenly a park ranger zoomed by me. I thought, “Gee, he’s going fast” and then he motioned for me to pull over. At this point, I’m not worried, because I didn’t think Park Rangers could give you tickets. I thought they just said things like “Don’t feed the bears”. Apparently not. I pulled over and two park rangers came to my window and asked for my license and registration. I realized they may have ticket-giving power. I asked if they could just give me a warning and he replied, “If I just give you a warning, how do I know that you will slow down?” I quickly blurted out, “I am very teachable.” In the end, they let me go without a ticket and I realized the freedom of receiving mercy and grace!
After this compelling and entertaining story, Michelle opens the Bible to John 8. In this passage, the Pharisees are questions who Jesus is. They are choosing not to see Jesus for who He truly is. They, like the people described in Romans 1, are choosing to exchange the truth of God for lie. They don’t understand that Truth is the epicenter of freedom. Jesus tells the Pharisees that belief in the truth (Jesus) will set them free. Here he explains, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
The Pharisees are indignant and respond, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone.” (John 8:33). However, Jesus is talking about a different kind of slavery — a slavery to sin which is so much worse because it leads to eternally death. Jesus goes on to slam it home by telling the Pharisees that they are children of the devil with these words: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.” Yikes. Michelle explains our identity comes from our father and our identity determines our actions.
Freedom comes in many forms. Often we acquire freedom, we are saved from something. When we are giving freedom from sin, we are also saved FOR something — we are saved FOR the glory of God. Michelle shared an amazing story about a sledding accident, a broken neck, and a Christmas miracle where God not only saved her from death but saved her for something — the glory of God. This experience prompted Michelle to begin calling out the sin in her life. Sometimes it would happen when she was alone in the car (Envy!) and sometimes it would happen when with friends (Slander!). The more she practiced this, the more she realized the sins that had a hold on her life. She started hearing a few words more than others and prayed that God would set herself free from these things.
Sometimes we are positionally free but functionally in bondage. God has set us free from our sin because of the work of Christ, but we’re still sitting in the dungeon of sin by allowing it to fester in our lives. We are free from death because we are children of God, but functionally we are still in chains because we refuse to give up the sin strongholds in our life. Allow God to open your eyes to the sin in your life so you can be free indeed (John 8:36).
Sin comes in many forms — bad traits, struggles, and addictions. Michelle challenged the crowd to take a moment and create a space for God. To pause and ask God to bring the sin that is enslaving you to the forefront of your mind. As Ministry workers. so often we are afraid to call out our sins.. to name them outloud and admit to them… partly because of our pride and partly because we are afraid of losing our jobs.
That’s not freedom. Christ wants to set us free so we can be free indeed. For his glory. But we have to take those first steps of vulnerability and obedience. Let’s allow God to set us free — positionally and functionally. Don’t allow sin to keep you in bondage because you’re afraid to name it out loud. Find refuge in God’s grace and allow your weakness to magnify his strength.
Dr. Michelle Anthony is the Family Ministry Architect at David C Cook. She earned her B.A. from Biola University in Christian Education, her M.A. in Christian Education with an emphasis in Theology from Talbot Theological Seminary, and her Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Southern Seminary. She has over 20 years of church ministry and leadership experience as a children’s and family pastor and is currently serving as the Family Ministry Ambassador for ROCKHARBOR church. You can find her on twitter @truinspiration or at www.michelleanthony.org. Check out other speakers bios at http://dccgathering.com/.