Open Sesame…The Way Out is The Way In

by Steven Gledhill for FREEdom from MEdom Project

“Why don’t we trust God?” Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.” Faith comes from hope being realized in substance according to the evidence. We don’t see gravity but we experience gravity all the time. We know the truth about gravity and come to trust it even though we do not see it. It could be said that we have a relationship with gravity. Our lives are touched by gravity everyday.

The truth is that freedom is achieved through a revolutionary event. ‘Revolutionary’ means a sudden, radical, or complete change; a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something; a change in paradigm (belief, world view), meaning your standard for living. A sudden revelation of faith having encountered the Savior, Jesus Christ, will speak life into how you experience revolutionary transformative recovery in how you live everyday—a new standard of thinking and living, with healthy hopeful expectations. It is in relationship with Jesus that you will come to know God to be real and living. It is in relationship with Christ that you enter into the new age of grace that will usher you into the experience of new life.

After Jesus spoke to a crowd about what it was to really be in relationship with him, they struggled to understand. He had just fed thousands of these people with two fish and five loves of bread with a bunch of leftovers. The people were impressed, amazed, and satisfied that Jesus was the prophet sent by God to lift them from their oppression to the evil Roman Empire ruining their very existence.

When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” John 6:14 (NLT)

Many from the crowd followed the twelve disciples a great distance in boats across a raucous sea to get more of, and from, Jesus. They hoped to force his hand and make him their king. They were not entirely interested in having a relationship with Jesus, but wanted a better life than the one they had, and he was their “meal” ticket—not much different from the way it is today. They asked, “How do we achieve God’s work in our life? What should we do?”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.” Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:26-27, 29 (NLT)

Jesus went on to talk about how he is the true bread, and to come into real relationship with him is like eating his flesh and drinking his blood as to inhabit or dwell in fellowship with him. This was a difficult teaching to conceptualize and understand. They were not ready for that kind of commitment in relationship with Jesus. He was sounding a bit out there. After all, they knew his parents and siblings. Now he’s talking about eating his flesh like eating bread in a desperate state of hunger, and drinking his blood as if it were water quenching a great thirst.

Pastor Fran Leeman (LifeSpring Community Church, Plainfield, IL) preached on this and my eyes were opened to the vast contrast between who Jesus is and what we often perceive him to be. We might blame religious doctrines and traditions for jaded perceptions about the person of Jesus Christ. Besides the twelve, there were dozens, perhaps hundreds of disciples (followers), who had followed Jesus to Capernaum.

Jesus said to them,

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life. Yes, I am the bread of life!” John 6:35-36, 47-48 (NLT)

But then…

Many of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?” John 6:60 (NLT)

Jesus was aware that many of these followers did not recognize that he represented the authority of God, who they thought they knew. How could Jesus be bread sent down from heaven? They complained and argued amongst themselves against this teaching. One minute, these so-called “believers” were ready to literally cross the deepest sea and climb the highest mountain to obtain the freedom they so desperately sought from their oppressor by way of their new king, Jesus. The next minute, they were so full of doubt that they were ready to walk away from freedom. And many of them did just that. (Even though they had no other choice, someone telling them they needed to say “open sesame” in order to experience freedom in life was nuts and they were not about to follow that kind of leader.)

At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. John 6:66 (NLT)

Jesus was weeding out those who want what he really wants and has for them—relationship with the giver, from those only coming to the party for food and gifts.

Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” John 6:67 (NLT)

What about you? Recovery can be a rough road at times. Life is hard. What if you run into something that is difficult to understand? Why would God allow this or that to happen in my life? Even though Christ has delivered you from your oppressor, addictive self-centered obsession and sin, something happens that evokes doubt and has you asking questions. Will you give up on Jesus and turn away?

I shared this complex teaching with a client, Collin, who came in to our recovery program motivated by legal issues for a third DUI aggravated by the fact that he received it while driving with a revoked driver’s license. He was 65 hours into a 75-hour outpatient program that took a few months to complete. He did not believe in God at the outset of his therapy. He had never really prayed before in his life. He was a man with money. Collin had run a company with his father until his father died of cancer and he sold his share of the company. He was a good-looking single gentleman in his early 40s and in a stable relationship with his girlfriend. Collin was what you might call a self-made man. But he had this debilitating legal cloud hanging over his head. If convicted of his crime he would see prison time, up to three years.

Collin, who had had it all once and is still doing pretty well for himself, told me that he felt something was missing. He had attended church weddings and saw people engaging in religious activities that seemed to have meaning to them. He told me that our recovery program, unapologetically Christ-centered and Biblically based, could profit him beyond the obvious legal benefit. While my client did not believe in God or Jesus Christ, he was not at all opposed to the idea of faith in God. But still, believing in the practical reality of Jesus alive was comparable to believing that Santa Clause is real, alive and the one who can save him.

I encouraged Collin from the beginning to pray out loud when he had privacy. He’d feel like he was talking to himself for awhile but became increasingly comfortable as he would quietly talk to God while he went for walks. He had heard enough people in his therapy groups who he’d come to know and trust tell him that prayer works, and who sounded believable, he give this prayer thing a try. In time he could sense that God might be listening though it was by no way a sure thing. Then he encountered a situation that he had no control over and he spent time praying about it. Things seemed to work out and my client agreed that it was likely God working in the situation that got resolved. He would thank God and talk to him with a much stronger sense that Jesus not a fable of imagination but is indeed real, listening, and involved.

Then Collin arrived at his court date for the aggravated DUI. He prayed the night before as he walked. He understood that he was guilty of self-centered addictive behavior, that he and others could have been severely affected by his actions, and that God did not owe him anything. While his lawyer and the prosecutor were in a room at the courthouse discussing his case with the judge, Collin prayed. He could get three years and would likely get at least a third to half of that time in prison. He would certainly go away for awhile. Would his girlfriend and her two-year-old daughter—who he loves very much—wait for him?

His lawyer came out from the room. His lawyer gave my client the thumbs up as he approached him. Maybe he would get less than a year. What did that mean? The next morning I received a message on my cell phone. It was Collin asking emphatically that I call him back, which I promptly did. He didn’t even say hello. “I got probation!” Wow! I had told him stories of others I have counseled that have experienced God quite dramatically in their dire legal circumstances. Now he experienced the compassionate mercy of Jesus Christ in his real-life crisis. Considering the mandatory prison time he was supposed to receive according to Illinois law, it’s as though Collin was pardoned by this judge. This time, it wasn’t merely a sense, or curiosity, that God was involved. This time he knew it. It was evident and substantial. The God of the universe who does not owe Collin anything, was compassionate and merciful—real, engaged, and active in Collin’s life.

Like I was saying, I explained to him this difficult teaching about Jesus as the true bread of life—eternal life—sent from heaven. He would agree that eating Christ’s body and drinking his blood is hard to understand. He liked the analogy that Jesus used about the vine and branches (John 15:1-8) much better. I read the question Jesus asked the twelve core disciples after a bunch of avid followers turned and walked away bewildered: “Are you also going to leave?” I asked Collin how he thought they responded. He answered, “Where else are they gonna go?” I was stunned for a moment. That was an insightful thing to say for someone so new to faith. Then I told him how the disciples responded, as Peter spoke for them.

Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:68 (NLT)

Collin said that that is how he felt in court. There was only one who could rescue him from what was surely to be his fate. He might not have been under government oppression like the Jews were at the time of Christ but prison would have changed all that. There isn’t much in life more oppressive than prison. Collin said “open sesame” (metaphorically speaking) and Jesus Christ removed his barrier to freedom making his way for escape. It is Jesus that has the words of life. Where else are you gonna go?

Remember that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). Substance and evidence is knowledge and assurance. When you are in relationship with Jesus Christ to the extent that you hunger and thirst for him, you will know him. It will initiate a revolutionary event in your life and spirit that turns you toward Jesus, especially in the presence of your doubt. And when you have doubt in the presence of serious, even grave circumstances, you can believe with assurance in him because you know him. Jesus Christ is God with all authority. He is the Holy One of God, set apart from the imperfections and limitations that exist in this temporal world we live in. Trust in who you know. Hunger and thirst for the life he wants for you. He can and will give to you all that is his if you’ll let go of your ill-conceived notion of control and give yourself to Jesus.

But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. Galatians 5:5 (NLT)

When you believe— body, mind, heart, and soul—that God is in control and has it all at his disposal, and that everything he has is yours if you want it (that’s what he said), then committing to live in relationship with Christ is actually quite simple. It is what makes the most sense. Then, you have committed to living in the authority of the one you came to believe.

What other choice do you have, really?

What do you believe… really believe… about God, today? Be sure!

“I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24 (NLT)

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