On Freedom

Acts 3

We see here Peter and John entering the temple to keep the ninth hour of prayer (3:00 PM). It’s worth noting that the apostles maintained this obedience to the prescribed hours, because it is only through this obedience that we can shed pride and find humility; that we can silence our own desires to spend our time doing whatsoever we wish, and instead submit to the traditions handed down. A prideful heart seeks after it’s own desires and makes excuses to chase after it’s own wants, but a humble heart hears the commands of the Lord, either through His word or through His Church, and obeys. A humble heart places the traditions of the Church and the rules of it’s spiritual father above it’s own preferences.

And, we see a miracle happen because of this. A lame man is healed. A man, Scripture tells us, “lame from his mother’s womb,” who then was “walking, leaping, and praising God.” Now, consider for a moment, if Peter and John had not been obedient to the tradition of the hours; they would never have entered at the moment that this man was there, and he would never have been healed. However, because of their obedience, he was healed so that the healing power of faith in Jesus might be displayed to everyone. And so that there is no question as to the source of this healing, and to prevent the spirit of pride from even having the opportunity to rear it’s head, Peter immediately discourses on the power of Jesus to heal. See, in this passage, we see not only the importance of obedience in our own salvation, but also in the salvation of others. And this is an important fact for us to notice. Our humility, our obedience, effects not only our own lives, but the lives of those around us. It reminds me of the story of Achan, who had stolen accursed items and hidden it, and because of his sin his entire family and thirty six of his kinsmen were killed. As our sin effects others, so too does our holiness. St Seraphim of Sarov teaches us that if you “acquire the Spirit of Peace a thousand souls around you will be saved.”

Peter ends his sermon here by stating that “to you first, God, having raised up His servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning every one of you from your iniquities.” This is a very easy teaching. Repentance always brings the blessing of the Lord. We see it in 2 Chronicles, where the nation is told, “if My people, who are called by my name, humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn away from their wicked ways, then I will be merciful to their sins and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14). It’s such an easy teaching to understand and such a hard lesson for most of us to obey. Some fear the obedience to the commandments of the Lord because they fear that turning away from sin makes life unbearable. Think of the decadence and debauchery that is not only accepted, but is celebrated in the name of “freedom.” Think of the general position of society on the ascetic life that Christians are actually called to in the Scripture. Consider even the antinomian position that a lot of theology takes where we are “saved” and then allowed to continue to live however we choose because we are now “forgiven.” To the contrary of all of these worldly opinions however, Jesus came that we may “have life and have it abundantly.” Through our obedience to Him, we attain the humility that His grace requires, the humility that says that it is not through our own will or power that we are able to resist sin, but through His grace. And once we recognize that. we recognize the moment we begin to fall again into sin. We recognize it, repent, and ask for His grace to free us from those passions, His guidance to lead us away from it, His mercy. And it is through this repentance that a life that was once merely existence can now be truly lived; a life lived in faith, joy, love, and hope; freed from the fetters of sin which once held us captive.

In our own power, we can do nothing more than remain slaves to the sins which we celebrate. The sins in which we revel in the freedom to commit, the sins which we put on parade to broadcast our pride to the whole world. The sins which we think are done out of freedom, but in reality have become our masters. In His grace only, however, can we be truly freed from the passions which once held our hearts captive.

Christ is in our midst.

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