Freedom Ministry

August 29th, 2012

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free.” So says Galatians 5:1 (NASB). I believe much of the church has grossly underestimated the depth and breadth of that freedom Jesus died to purchase for us. Yes, in Christ we have been freed from the curse of going to hell when we die. This is the ultimate deliverance. And, certainly, we have been freed from sin’s yoke of guilt and shame in this life. Yet there are dimensions of freedom that I believe many believers and their pastors have overlooked.

The very fact that Paul reminded us that it was to enable us to enjoy a lifestyle of freedom that Jesus purchased our freedom tells us something important: It lets us know that it is possible to fail to walk in all the freedom that belongs to us—that it is possible to fall back into bondage. In fact, the second half of Galatians 5:1 warns us of this very thing:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

The Bible explicitly declares two objectives of Jesus’ earthly ministry: His mission “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10) and to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

Of course, as pastors we have a front-row seat to observe the works of the devil in our day. These works shackle even born-again, Jesus-loving people to unhealthy life habits, patterns of destructive behavior, and cycles of defeat.

Yes, there are physical and mental components to many of these addictions, compulsions, and bondages. But there is a clear and real spiritual component too. It’s often called a demonic stronghold.

Can believers have demonic strongholds in their lives? I know they can for two reasons: the Word indicates it, and I’ve personally experienced it. So have all of the mentors, colleagues, and co-laboring ministers I most respect. We have all had to come to grips with the fact that just because we’re born again, well-acquainted with God’s Word, and even called to full-time ministry doesn’t mean we’re automatically going to walk in all of the freedom Jesus died to provide. In fact, achieving and maintaining freedom requires attention, effort, and vigilance.

Jesus repeatedly expressed understanding of demons’ ability to influence people. And what about believers? Our clearest scriptural example is found in 2 Corinthians 12:7 (NASB) where Paul stated, “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!”

Here Paul said a “messenger of Satan” (angelos) had been sent to be a thorn in his “flesh” (sarki). These phrases suggest that an angel of Satan, also known as a demon, was afflicting his physical person.

In my experience, demonic forces can influence a person in varying degrees from both outside and from within. The body and the soul (mind, will, and emotions) can provide a haven for influencing spirits if the door is opened to them. The spirit of a born-again believer has been made alive and sealed by the Holy Spirit of God (see John 6:63; Ephesians 2:1–5; 1 Peter 3:18), but as Paul made clear, we can either live by the flesh or live by the Spirit. According to Ephesians 4:26–27, when we live by the flesh, we give the devil an opportunity (topos—a place or geographical location).

Why is all this important? Because as ministers we will never achieve the levels of effectiveness and impact to which we’re called if we’re held in bondage by the Enemy in certain compartments of our lives. And we can’t lead God’s people in freedom if we’re not modeling a lifestyle of liberty ourselves.

This is why cultivating a culture of freedom is a high priority at Gateway Church and why we are passionate about helping people get and stay free. We model and teach the kind of life and activities that allow people not only to obtain freedom but also to maintain and expand it in their lives.

The kinds of activities that we consider important to help in these areas include educating people regarding their identity in Christ and the fullness of life available to them, engaging their wills in the process, helping them wage spiritual warfare for themselves and their loved ones, and gaining an ability to recognize and eliminate what led to their bondage in the first place.

At Gateway we call it Freedom Ministry, and we’ve worked deliberately to remove any stigma or shame associated with it. I talk openly and regularly to the staff and the congregation about how I avail myself of freedom ministry as needed. And we are transparent and accountable to each other about our struggles and weaknesses.

At the same time, we’re diligent not to get weird or unbalanced where these things are concerned. We endeavor to maintain a healthy balance between the extremes by discerning and responding with authority to strongholds and demonic spirits, while helping individuals recognize and accept their own responsibility for life choices. To put it simply, we need deliverance and discipleship. As my good friend Pastor Jack Hayford says, “You can’t disciple a demon, and you can’t cast out the flesh!”

Our focus is based on core values anchored in Scripture that help us maintain this balance as we minister freedom to individuals. The values that help us cultivate a culture of freedom include the following:

A Commitment to Biblical Foundations (see 2 Timothy 3:16): To maintain the health of our Freedom Ministry, we consider Scripture as our foundation for all we do. All experience will be screened through our understanding of Scripture.

Being Solution-Focused (see Philippians 4:8): We will make Jesus, His work, and the work of the Holy Spirit more prominent than the work of unclean spirits.

Being Spirit-Guided (see John 5:19): We will develop our ears for the guiding voice of God so that we may do what we see the Father doing.

Operating in Compassion (see 2 Timothy 2:24): We will treat people with the love and compassion which have been shown to us. We will treat God’s children the way we would want our children to be treated.

The Fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22–23): We will conduct ourselves and our ministry in a way that reflects the fruit of the Spirit.

Facilitating Discipleship (see Ephesians 4:16): We are growing disciples with long-term fruit and the ability to reproduce.

Facilitating Personal Growth (see Matthew 10:8): We are not teaching techniques; we are passing on what we have freely received.

Promoting Unity (see Psalm 133:1): We are stronger together than we are as individuals. We will accept and grow from one another’s differences.

Our Freedom Ministry seeks to embody Jesus’ mission to undo the works of the devil in our own lives, in the lives of our pastors and staff, and in the lives of our members. We desire to help people grow in their souls (mind, will, emotions) through elements of teaching and discipleship so that they can grow in freedom as they seek to know and serve Jesus Christ.

We also work to make compassionate ministry settings available for groups and individuals so that people can encounter God in the areas of their need.

We love to help people be free. To do that, we know we must follow Jesus’ model and instruct people regarding kingdom life. We must also help them encounter our living and present God who acts in power and authority to overcome the impact of living in a fallen world. Such an encounter is designed to help people break free from strongholds and demonic oppression in their lives, allowing God’s people to live fully as His redeemed sons and daughters.


Adapted from The Blessed Church by Robert Morris by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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