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s20060702ill_The Declaration of Independence of 33ad

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I will never forget the day I watched about 40 khaki-clad men get off an old rattletrap brown bus in Houston, Texas. Some had scars on their faces. I especially remember one man whose arm had been amputated. Some of them looked tough. I remember thinking I would not want to meet some of those guys in a dark alley. Others looked like clean-cut, all-American boys. They all had two things in common. Each man had served time in prison and each man had been freed. Freedom had been a long time in coming. They measured the time they had served by calendars.

As I talked with some of those men, it soon became apparent that adapting to freedom would require some adjustment. They were so used to forced regimentation that some of them really did not know they were free. They asked if I represented the Texas Department of Corrections.

As children of God, we sometimes do not quite comprehend the fact that we have been set free by our Savior. Some of us are imprisoned by the memories of a sinful past. Lloyd Ogilvie said, "The memory of past failure is like sand in the gears of our effectiveness." God did not put the handcuffs of past memories on you. They are self-imposed. He wiped out your sins in order that you might have seasons of refreshing (Acts 3:19).

Other Christians are incarcerated by legalism. They read the Bible to learn of its rules. The legalist with a sensitive conscience knows he cannot keep God's laws perfectly. Maybe that is why the novelist John Updike said, "I agree with the Jews. One Testament is enough." If faith is solely a matter of lawkeeping, I would agree. The Psalmist was talking about the Old Testament when he said, "The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul" (Ps. 19:7). There was no need for a new law code, but there was a need for freedom from the consequences of disobedience. Small wonder that legalists either live in a state of perpetual discouragement or self-righteous hypocrisy. The legalist does not understand that "everyone who believes in Him is freed from all things" (Acts 13:39 NASB).

If you are living in a prison of your own making, you can walk through the doors of freedom today. "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free" (Gal. 5:1)

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