Friday, November 7, 2014

The Number 1 Thing I Have Learned at Northland...

"What's the biggest thing you've learned in your time here at Northland?" Pastor Mike Bullmore (Senior Pastor of Crossway Community Church) asks the students in my Pastoral Theology and Administration class.  When asked this question, it didn't take long for one thing to stand out in my mind...and what stood out to me was that I learned freedom.  I wasn't raised in a household nor did I go to a church that claimed to be legalistic (I don't know that any church/family does), but I certainly became a legalist. I had my own ideas about what was right and wrong, and if people I knew claimed to be a Christian, and they did not measure up to these standards, I didn't think they were a good Christian.

I can give some examples.  One of them was music.  I've written on this before but more contemporary styles of Christian music were out of the question. If it wasn't Majesty Music or Wilds music, it was bad (this is an exaggeration, but it was pretty close). Another area was generally in my walk with God.  I thought that if I did all the right things (read my Bible, pray, etc.) that God would be happy with me, and give me the joy I sought.  But the truth is, it only left me disappointed.

So when I speak of freedom, what am I referring to?  Am I speaking of a life lived completely for myself, indulging in every sin imaginable?  By no means (Romans 6:15)! I am referring to the fact that we have much more freedom in Christ than we might think!  Believe it or not, even though we might try really hard to find it, Scripture doesn't say much about music, or what music styles are appropriate. And there are endless other topics that Scripture doesn't speak directly to, that we have much more freedom than we often allow ourselves to have.

Now, am I trying to say that we should not have standards? No, of course not.  Standards are good, and I think we should all have them.  However, we should not use our standards as a measuring rod to discern the spirituality of a fellow believer.  There's more wiggle room in these areas where Scripture isn't clear than we like to acknowledge.

There's another aspect to this freedom, and that's that in Christ, we have the freedom to overcome sin.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, through meditation on Scripture and prayer that fuels my affections for God, I desire and have the power to fight sin.  As I find joy in a relationship with my God, I then desire to obey Him. In this kind of relationship with God, I do not obey Him because of a legalistic set of rules I've placed in my life to force me to obey (which is what the Pharisees did and they really missed the heart), but I obey Him because I want to obey Him.  My heart's desire is to please Him, so I then glorify Him with my life from the heart. This is where true lasting change comes...and it is truly liberating.  Not that I never struggle with sin anymore...that's certainly not the case...but I know that there's hope.  There's power in Christ to help me overcome sin...to fight sin.  I've seen this over and over in my own life within the last few years that I've been at Northland.

So, many of you may have mixed feelings about Northland.  Some of you may have completely written Northland off as a school that has gone completely "down the tubes"...some of you may love and support Northland...some of you may not even know anything about Northland...but Northland has had a HUGE impact on my life.  I've been taught, and I have learned that there is freedom in Christ, and this freedom is...well, liberating.