Saturday, July 1, 2006

Let Your Freedom Ring!

Bang the Drum - Let Your Freedom Ring! So goes the short and sweet chorus of a song by a band that some Heartland Vineyarders are very familiar with. Some of you are friends or relatives of the members of early 90’s rock/metal band Fighter. I was pleasantly surprised while rereading the liner notes of the 1992 ‘Bang the Drum’ album to see several kudos go out to the Heartland Vineyard church and various pastors and members. I had read the liner notes way back when, but at the time I had never even heard of the church!

I don’t even remember how it came into my hands, but ‘Bang the Drum’ was one of my first tastes of Christian music. Being a lover of all kinds of music, I hope it says something that this album has always been a highlight in my music collection. As one who was well on his way to climbing the corporate ladder of legalistic Christianity (Rick Elias once sang rather cheekily, “he’s a company man, he works for God Incorporated”), I’m very thankful when I think about how music like this has met me right where I’ve been, especially when it comes to breaking free from religious “bondage” and gaining true freedom in Christ. After all, “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free!” (Gal. 5:1). With the theme of “let your freedom ring,” I thought July would be a cool time to remember some “Bang the Drum” lyrics, and how they still speak today about the wonderful freedom that we have in Christ.

My eyes are getting misty as these lyrics remind me of my own past: “I lived inside your legalistic prison cell… Too many years I sat behind your bars of doubt that held the fear and bondage in and joy of freedom out.” There were so many rules to keep up with and no matter what I did, I was constantly doubting if I was doing enough and if it would ever be good enough. Some of this fear was due to my own ignorance, and I think some resulted from the fiery spiritual breath blazing down my back from spiritual leaders who had great spiritual expectations from those who they actually didn’t think were spiritual enough so they always had to keep their spiritual whips a-crackin’! (Sadly, I even carried my own custom-made spiritual whip. After all, I wasn’t the only one who needed to be kept in line!)

“You taught me well to cross my T’s and dot my I’s. What looked so good to men would soon begin my own demise. I worked to keep my record straight but all I learned was how to hate my life.” I could’ve written those lyrics myself! How about you? Have you ever walked that man-made, religious-rules-based tightrope, and felt the heavy burden of condemnation and guilt when you just couldn’t keep up the act? It’s not a fun place to be, and it’s not the reason why Jesus paid the price of His blood for us! It’s no way to live.

So we cry out for freedom. “I heard the drums of liberty, and grace revealed the key that left no doubt. SO LET ME OUT!” It took me a while to tune into the drums of liberty. I had always thought “the rules” were what it was all about, and I therefore didn’t understand that that’s what actually kept me locked away from Christ’s freedom! I kept thinking that some day all my ‘trying’ would cause me to achieve this spiritual level where I’d be able to walk the line without falling – and I’d finally be free. Of course “some day” never arrived! Meanwhile, God kept banging His liberty drum, through songs and through other people and ministries, and eventually I found the key of grace, which changed everything.

The song ends with a triumphant celebration of freedom: “I live in liberty in light of what I saw. This covenant that Jesus made, you turned into a law. That law was there to show my need but he who God sets free is free indeed!” It can be tempting to view the New Covenant as nothing more than a refurbished or “new and improved” Old Covenant, or to try and mix the two covenants and call it “Christianity.” But the Shadow is not the same as the Substance (see Col. 2:11-23). The “Old” brought death and condemnation and simply pointed out our need for what only the “New” could truly give – Life, and real Freedom through the Savior (see 2 Cor. 3:4-18). It’s written that “the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” So Bang the Drum – Let Your Freedom Ring!

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