Have you ever noticed the well mannered, calm elephants in the Circus? James Belasco tells the story of how a mighty elephant can be made to stand in one place for hours at a time without a single restraint.
Belasco says that the baby elephants are attached to a deep stake in the ground with large chains. The small beast is unable to pull away from the stake or to break the chains. He struggles and strives but finally concedes that the chain and stake are too strong and he stops struggling.
Later, as the elephant grows into a powerful adult he never again tries to leave the chain and stake even though he is more than strong enough to shatter both. After years of “accepting” his restraint the chain is no longer needed. The mighty elephant will stay where he is put.
We can be like that elephant. Problems and obstacles in our lives can follow us for decades, restraining our hopes and supporting our fears. We no longer dream, we no longer hope, we no longer expect good things. Such restraint is of the Devil and has no place in the life of a Christian.
Sin has the effect of reigning us in. It teaches us that we cannot succeed and that we cannot endure.
Jesus, on the other hand, is just the opposite. He sets men free. Luke 4:18 is a quotation from the Old Testament (Isaiah 61:1). The freedom here is not that of an escape from prison or a jail-break. Certainly, those who commit crime are properly punished (Romans 13:1-4). The freedom in view for Isaiah and repeated in Matthew is a freedom from the restraint of sin and its eternal consequences.
The Psalmist, as usual, said it so well:
“For he looked down from his holy height; from Heaven the Lord gazed upon the earth, to hear the groaning of the prisoner, to set free those who were doomed to death…”
Jesus died to set you free from the restraint of sin. Paul wrote the Colossians, “Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1).
Isn’t it about time we stopped acting like trained elephants and began to act saved Christians?
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