This week, I received a rather shocking email. It was an attempt to blackmail me into paying someone I have never met for the return of my reputation, which they claimed to have the power to destroy.
After the initial shock and anger at the audacity of a perfect stranger invading my private life (they had gotten ahold of one of my passwords), I realized what an incredible moment I had just been brought into.
Don’t get me wrong, the feeling of being hunted was and is still not a good one. But the revelation I received through the threat having my reputation hijacked has been worth it. After reading through the entire email/ransom note, and being threatened with perpetual shame and embarrassment at having my “deeds done in the darkness” exposed to my contact list plus online friend society, a huge wave of relief and joy came over me.
That might sound a little strange, I know. Who gets happy about being threatened to have her whole closet dragged out into the light? I’m happy to say that I do! And that I want that same joy for you, too.
There are two parts to this response. The first is that my past, my reputation, and my dirt have already been ransomed. I have known this intellectually for many years. When I read the Bible, it tells me so. When I go to church, I am reminded. And as I’ve done some deep heart work with Jesus, some recovery work, I’ve gotten under it. I’ve come to understand and believe that my past really has been forgiven. All my shame has been healed, because what I’ve done, Jesus has paid the price for with His own blood.
I AM REDEEMED.
I’ve sung that song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzGAYNKDyIU) many times. I’ve wept tears as I’ve listened to former drug addicts and prostitutes sing that song. It’s a powerful concept to think about, really.
But this past week, that concept became concrete reality for me. I understood, as I never have before, that there is nothing anyone can hold over my head about who I’ve been or what I’ve done. I got to take a real-life walk down the runway with it. And I really got that I don’t have to rescue myself. I don’t have to pay for my own mistakes and bad choices. It is finished, because Jesus has finished it.
I’m not afraid of my past. I’m not afraid of admitting the things I’ve done, although I am not proud of many of them. I can look myself in the face, take responsibility for that girl that I used to be, and proudly look at her grave.
And this is where the second part of my joyful response comes in: that girl is dead. I am not her anymore. Because I have been ransomed and redeemed, I have also been made new. I not only have a new life, I am a new creation entirely.
I didn’t just quit drinking and swearing and sleeping with anyone who said they loved me, and start going to church and doing good things to help other people. Those are nice exchanges, but they’re all external. I literally got a new heart and a new mind, and new desires, so that the life I used to live and the choices I used to make aren’t even appealing to me anymore. Instead, I want the life God has chosen for me. I want it more than I used to want to drink so I could feel good about my messed up life.
Since Jesus ransomed me, I haven’t returned to the darkness that I was imprisoned by. When I lived in it, I didn’t always recognize it as a prison. But once I was brought out of it, my eyes were opened to see it for what it was, and I have never wanted to go back there again.
Let me clarify here for a moment. I had addictions and unmet needs and unhealed hurts that sometimes ached for the reliefs I used to know. But after I was ransomed, after Jesus saved my life and brought me out from the grip of things that had control of me, I knew that touching what I used to touch would land me right back in the darkness of shame and pain that He had delivered me from.
No thank you.
So the other piece to my being happy about the ransom note I received is that I was confident this stranger had no dirt on me. What he or she claimed they could ruin my reputation with was literally non-existent, so I had nothing to be afraid of.
It’s one thing to be set free from the shame about your distant past. It’s another thing to be able to say that shame has no place to land in your present life.
So often, and especially with our culture’s virtual world, people boast about the lives they’ve been delivered from, offering big praises to God for how He was able to set them free from unimaginable things. But how many of those same people, behind closed doors and in the darkness of their pain and the overwhelming pressures of their lives, are succumbing to temptations that no one knows about? And that could be just the kind of opportunity the enemy is waiting to exploit?
How many Christians are living in such a way that the same ransom note I received would have had the power to put them in a strangle-hold of fear and despair?
I know many. And I say that with compassion and sadness, rather than accusation and judgment. Because I counsel them. I walk beside them in their failures. I have held the pieces of their crushing defeats in my fingers as they’ve confessed with tears, unable to hide it anymore. And my heart has broken for and with every one of them.
Not because I am perfect. Let me be clear: we all have struggles. We all stumble sometimes. But I know, beyond the shadows of all doubt, that the Holy Spirit is able to lead us into complete freedom from every temptation we face. I know by experience that we don’t have to remain in much of the bondage that we do. I know that, when we are pulled toward wanting to do something we know we shouldn’t, Jesus is the greater power and stands providing an open door of escape for all of those moments.
“He (and by implication, she) whom the Son sets free is free indeed!” (John 8:36)
Many people struggle to believe this Scripture, because they don’t feel free. But Scripture isn’t based on how we feel. Faith is not a feeling. It’s a reality we have been invited to step into. Are you bound? Are you stuck in some secret darkness that you’re afraid would ruin you if it was found out? This is your invitation to step into the light, to know the freedom that God has given through the ransom Jesus provided!
After the joy I discovered in reading the email I received, my heart became sad. Sad for all those who wouldn’t be able to know the same joy, because what the sender would claim to have on them might just be true. Instead of freedom, they would be seized by panic, afraid of being found out.
Dear Woman of Breakthrough, God did not come so that we could know a little taste of freedom. He didn’t die so that we could experience an hour of comfort on Sunday mornings, or hide behind spiritual encouragements that are meant to be more than anesthetics for a life that isn’t healed.
I exhort you to examine your life today. Is there a habit that you would be afraid of others knowing about? Are there things you do, choices you make, responses you have, which are empowering shame to keep you captive?
If you were to receive a ransom note like mine, could you rejoice? Or would you be afraid? Would you have to find ways to keep covering up your tracks?
Maybe you’re wondering how to get to where I am, which is simply where God has invited us all to live. It’s simple: confess your sin. Repent, and ask for forgiveness. Do this with God, and with a trusted, God-fearing friend or leader. Community is crucial in the path to freedom. Then dive into God with all of your heart, and let Him transform you.
It sounds easy, and I know the journey to freedom can be harder than the words might make it seem. But it’s only hard because the enemy capitalizes on your pain and your shame. God really has made it easy. He has promised to receive you, forgive you, love you, accept you and transform you. All you have to do is come, by the faith that He gives. And stay.
Too many people come and then wander away. They think the gift of freedom is a one-time thing. In all actuality, freedom is the gift of relationship. It is both birthed and sustained by closeness with God. The beautiful thing about staying close with God is that the enemy has no territory where God dwells. And everything in His presence is turned into something it could never be apart from Him.
Raise your shackled hands up to the God Who loves you today, Beloved. Whether you struggle with pride, fear, anger, lust, vanity, bitterness, resentments, disappointments, addiction(s), sexual impurity, or anything else that you would be ashamed to admit, it can lose its hold on your life right now.
Maybe you’ve already tried to stop, and maybe nothing works. Maybe you’ve come to God before, and thought you walked away free, believing it was your last day doing that thing. Then, the next day or the next week or the next month or the next year, you found yourself doing it again.
All I can tell you is that God doesn’t lie. And that only He knows what’s underneath that habit or secret thing that’s keeping you as its prisoner. He is the only one with the power to set you free, and His desire is to set you free completely. So even if you’ve already tried, there is a reason God has come asking you to try again. Sometimes, like Peter and his fishing expedition (Luke 5:4-6 https://www.esv.org/Luke+5:4%E2%80%936;John+21:6%E2%80%938/), we just have to be humble enough to say, “Ok, Lord. I’ve already done this, but because you’re telling me to do it again, I will.”
May shame and darkness lose all of its grip on you THIS DAY! May today be the beginning of a life you’ve only dreamt of, maybe even given up hoping for. I believe in God’s dreams for you, for us! That we would be a holy people, a Bride without spot or wrinkle. Holy doesn’t mean what the demons of religion want you to think it does. It means that we have been reserved for sacred things. We are not common, and not meant to fall into the hands of what is filthy.
Dear Woman of Breakthrough, clean living feels good, and God wants you to know it, by knowing Him!
We weren’t created to settle for what the world calls good enough. We are meant to be radiant, and to be free from the influence and power of everything less than God desires for us.
I pray that your redemption would become real to you. I pray that you would understand, believe and rejoice in the real-life ransom that Jesus has paid for you. That you would really get that it was a personal rescue He performed, because He found you worth it, and that it didn’t stop when He paid the purchase price. He still has amazing and powerful plans for you, and desires for you to know the life He bought you for.
Run after freedom today, by running toward God. His heart is waiting to receive you, whatever shape you’re in. There is nothing too big for Him to forgive, and nothing too hard for Him to change. I promise, but don’t just take my word for it…Take His!