Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
Select a thought to read by choosing a collection, the month, and then the day:
“The Lord releases the prisoners.”
“How you have fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning . . . who opened not the house of his prisoners.”
Isaiah 14:12, 15–17
God is not a beggar. He and His ministers do not beg for money, and they do not beg for praise or for followers. “Whosoever will” means that those who want to follow Jesus are allowed to, but it also means that all who do not want to follow Jesus are allowed to follow their own heart instead. Jesus makes us so free that we cannot escape the liberty he has given to us.
Long ago, Jesus taught me to be like him and never put pressure on people to be a part of my ministry if their hearts were not in it. Consequently, I have never gone out looking for “members” or by any means attempted to persuade anyone to join in this ministry. Nor have I ever put pressure on the people God sent to be a part of this ministry to stay once they were here. Nor yet have I ever pursued after anyone who chose to no longer associate with me and my work. I leave all that up to God, and I thank Him for every one He sends to help, and for every one He takes away. Every person now associated with me in my work knows that if he or she chooses to leave, I will not ever chase after them, trying to change their minds. They know they are perfectly free to do what is in their hearts to do. I would not have it any other way.
In fact, decades ago, the Lord told me to offer a “money-back guarantee” to any person who became a partner here with me, but who – for any reason whatsoever – afterward regretted supporting this ministry with their tithes and offerings. God and His ministers are not beggars. And I have imitated my heavenly Father in making sure that every person working with me is doing so only because they truly want to, by making sure that they know (1) they are free to leave at any time and (2) if they want their money back, they can have it. (For obvious tax reasons, this refund can only apply to money given within the most recent fiscal year.)
The freedom with which the Son makes us free is so real and so all-encompassing that it can be frightening to consider. God is so much a God of liberty that He will have no unwilling servants. Of course, there will be dire consequences for unfaithfulness because every one of us will reap what we sow; still, God has determined that we be free to choose not to serve our Lord if we don’t want to. He will make real promises, but He will not manipulate; He will warn, but He will not threaten; and He will plead, but He will not hound those who turn from Him and go another way. God’s wayward children may be dearly loved and sorely missed, but when Jesus makes us “free indeed”; part of that gift of ultimate freedom is the freedom to cease from serving him if love for the world enters in. He will let us go if we insist on it. After all, he makes us “free indeed”, if we are not free to choose disobedience and rebellion, then we are not free to choose love and faithfulness. If we cannot turn from him and embrace eternal death, we are not free at all.
God willingly releases His prisoners if they want to escape from Him. He loves us too much to hold us against our will. He forces no one to serve Him, and if you feel discontent with Him, He would rather you feel content with someone else than to keep you bound in discontentment to Him. Only God really wants you to be free to live the way your heart wants to live.