Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pianists, Brazilians, and True Freedom

Lately I've been fascinated by this concept that I read in Erwin McManus' book, Uprising. It's a beautiful, powerful book of soul rustling truth that causes you to look inward to your very convictions and check the status of your heart and where you stand in your passion for Christ. Any book that challenges me and affects me in a way that causes me to check the status of my armor is a book for me.

McManus has been writing books for decades, all challenging and offensive, all with mixed reviews and opinions about them. Many of his concepts and illustrations have started controversy and anger. His goal is to challenge and offend. His passion is passion; passion for the Word, passion for serving others, passion for missions, passion for purity, passion for freedom, passion for Christ! He captures the excitement and urgency of the twelve apostles and dictates it to paper, sharing the mission and drive that Christ first commissioned two thousand years ago.

I originally read Uprising in middle school with my old youth group in Arizona, but apparently, I didn't get a lot out of it. This time, this book is shouting at me, and it is saying so many good things!

"Freedom is filled with opportunity, and with that comes responsibility... behind real freedom there lies discipline."


I had to read these lines a few times over. The first time I read this, I thought well duhhh, everyone knows that! but the more I read it, the more sense it made.

Later, McManus draws out an illustration:

Imagine a skilled concert pianist.

The ivories are his playground, his hands dancing skillfully up and down the musical ladder, creating masterpieces with two hands. Hours, months, and years of practice and work culminated in the melodious sounds of songs written hundreds of years ago.

After an hour of goose bump inducing piano, the pianist stands up, takes a bow, and addresses the audience. 

"Is there anyone in the audience who would like to play? Anyone at all? This is the opportunity of a lifetime." 

One man enthusiastically raises his hand and runs to the front and on to the stage and sits down in front of the beautiful piano. It was his dream come true. His hands glided over the shiny ivory keys. But he didn't know what to do. He depressed one key, and his face flushed. He could not play piano.
His whole life he wanted an opportunity to play in front of thousands, the freedom to create beautiful music, but he had never taken a single piano lesson. So there he sat, clueless and silent.

The pianist had the ability to create beautiful music and the freedom to play for hours just by memory and improvisation because of the years of hard work and studying.

The other man had the opportunity and desire to be a concert pianist, but what he lacked was the discipline. He didn't know the first thing about playing piano, so he could not truly understand the experience or freedom of being a concert pianist.

Another example.

Royce Gracie (pronounced Hoyce Gracie) was born in Brazil and is one of the most famous martial artists of our time. He was one of the original masters of the deadly martial art Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Ya ya ya, I know, I'm probably biased because I studied it, but it's true! The Gracie family created and mastered Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and created a little tournament called the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The original UFC was a simple challenge: Anyone who can beat Royce Gracie gets one million dollars (that's $1,000,000).

This challenge brought fighters out of the woodwork. Everyone from Xiao Lin masters to drunken bar brawlers would step up to test their skills against the skinny, short Royce Gracie. Most failed. A few men here or there would make it all the way and claim the one million dollars, but the number was low.

Royce Gracie gave an open invitation to anyone. All had the opportunity to claim the one million dollars, but what they lacked was the physical and mental discipline required to defeat Gracie.

What I'm trying to highlight is the necessity for discipline within freedom. To truly enjoy and take full advantage of freedom, discipline is vital.

What we're looking at is not the freedom to play in a concert or win a million bucks; this is true spiritual freedom. The freedom that can only be found in Christ Jesus. The freedom that fills all needs, quenches all thirst, fulfills all dreams, and resurrects the dead.

In Christ and in Christ alone, we have this freedom. When before we were held hostage in our sin, Jesus negotiated a trade and gave himself over to punishment so that we could be set free. Free...

When before, sin dictated our thoughts and actions, now we have been given new life. The old has gone and the new has come. Like a ex-addict newly out of rehab, we have been given a new life, but we have no idea where to start. How can we live a new life when all we have ever known is the destructive path? How can we truly enjoy true life when everything we ever enjoyed from before is poison?

We have been made new and we are standing in the threshold of a beautiful, perfect world of opportunity and freedom. Freedom is foreign to us. But now we have it. So what do we do with it?

God gave us a manual. A "Freedom for Dummies" aka the bible. As followers of Christ, the bible is the foundation of our very existence, our cornerstone. If we are basing our whole existence on the Word of God, we must steel ourselves to it. It can't just be something we read and are familiar with. It must be in our hearts and minds. It should the convictions that we dictate our choices by. It is our truth and guiding light through deception and darkness as well as our songbook in times of rejoicing.

So often we search for freedom in other places, other people, scenes, alcohol, anything to fill that God shaped hole in our hearts. That hole has been there since sin entered the hearts of man. Ever since, we have chased after freedom, but the only true freedom that satisfies is that which comes from the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus' freedom truly satisfies and gives us life.

As a follower of Christ, you have been given freedom. What does that mean for you? Now that you have freedom, what are you going to do? Now that you have been given life, what can you do with it?

"Freedom is filled with opportunity, and with that comes responsibility... behind real freedom there lies discipline."

Nate T B