It’s a peculiar reality that we are free but still need liberation in so many areas of our lives. Physical, political, and spiritual oppression are daily experiences for people of all walks of life. Jesus lives as the beacon for that liberation and freedom, “by him everyone who believes is freed” (Acts 13:39). Discipleship is a call to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, the Lead Liberator.
One of the themes throughout the Bible is God’s desire to unshackle God’s people from oppression and liberate them from spiritual enslavement in order that they might live freely. In the Old Testament, Yahweh liberates the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt. In the New Testament, John declares, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). And today, through Jesus Christ, that same God is releasing us from the subjection of sin and injustice. Jesus enables complete liberation.
Liberation, as Jesus expresses in Luke 4:18-19, extends wider than his listeners could have imagined. Wider than we might imagine―to all who are oppressed, not just those who call on Christ’s name. God is the source of liberation but enlists us, God’s disciples, as a resource to accomplish this purpose. As liberators, we can also proclaim the good news. And we can count on the Spirit to empower, equip, and encourage us on the tedious journey.
The Spirit will empower you. We all have a work to do. Like Christ, who exclaimed, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” gifts and graces of the Spirit will be bestowed upon us as we seek to be liberators as Jesus modeled for us.
The Spirit will equip you. Just as Christ was commissioned, so are we. We are anointed, sent, and qualified. Our anointing signifies that we are fit and called to the work of liberation. And we won’t be sent alone; the Spirit will be there all along the way.
The Spirit will encourage you. Liberating the oppressed is a daunting task. If we are open to the constant encouragement of the Spirit, our deepening relationship with Christ will enable us to put our faith in liberation from the harshest of bondages even when it seems impossible.
The beginning of the Messiah’s mission and ministry as told in Luke 4 foreshadows our own journey if we choose to be liberators, to follow our discipleship mandate. We will be tested and rejected. But we will also proclaim the good news and participate in God’s healing and liberation. Jesus came that we might be emancipated from phobias, insecurities, concern, anxiety, envy, anger, improper desire, and sickness. And we continue that ministry of liberation.
There are those who are unhappy and seem to have lost all hope of redemption. All kinds of calamities overcome us, but God comforts us with life-giving light, rescuing us from the depths of death and restoring us to abundance. Often we find that we cannot enjoy the benefits of Christ unless we experience our distresses and come to Christ as hungry souls. We seek Christ as our deliverer. And Christ provides comfort, challenge, and refuge as we groan under captivity, are devastated by disasters, or turn away from wisdom and warning. As disciples who follow the Liberator, we can continue to proclaim freedom to those who are oppressed by their own temptation and rejection.
One of the most prevalent prisons is the captivity of the mind to negative thoughts. Christ desires for us liberation for our minds and intellects. Negative thinking has damaging effects on our souls and society, and Jesus wants us to be free. Here are five ways to rid yourself of damaging beliefs: Realize. Recognize. Release. Redirect. Reframe.
1. Realize your particular patterns or style of thinking. Honestly assess your thoughts in any given situation. Give this thinking pattern a name, like cantankerous, melancholy, complacent, cautious, etc. This not only raises your awareness but regulates your emotions.
2. Recognize how you feel in the moment. Where is the discomfort in your body? Notice your environment. Ground yourself in reality. Access your fullest sense of consciousness. Feel; don’t repress.
3. Release toxicity through breathing exercises and mindfulness. Releasing negativity allows opportunity for positivity and openness to the Spirit.
4. Redirect your attention to something that is healthier and/or more important when negative thoughts occur. Apostle Paul suggests in Philippians 4:8, “In conclusion, [siblings], focus your thoughts on what is true, noble, righteous, pure, lovable or admirable, on some virtue or on something praiseworthy.” (CJB)
5. Reframe the way you think about your situation. Change your perspective. You may reframe your negative ideas and boost your confidence by identifying them, halting them, and then replacing them with more positive or biblical beliefs. Negative ideas sap your confidence by making you doubt yourself.
Christ gives you confidence that a life of liberty is not only possible but probable. On countless occasions in the Gospel, Jesus paired performing physical miracles with paradigmatic shifts. The Lead Liberator wants holistic health and freedom for you and all God’s people.
Pastor Terrell L. McTyer serves as the Executive Director of Marketing and Innovation at The Upper Room. Prior to joining the staff in January, he was the Minister of New Church Strategies for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada.
Photograph by Dan Stark / Unsplash