By Terry R. Baughman
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1
The murmurings of the crowd in the barren wilderness were spoken from gnarled, parched lips. “We should have never left there.”
“Onions,” another said, “Oh, I can just taste onions!”
“And the cucumbers, and the melons,” rejoined another, “and I I’m so sick of manna. Manna every morning. Manna every day. Leftover manna for the Sabbath. I’m sick and tired of manna.”
The whispers of mumbled complaints became rumblings of rage as the discontent spread from group to group in their gatherings of gossip.
“He’s brought us out here to kill us.”
“We’ll all die in this desert.”
“We ought to go back to Egypt.”
Finally, someone had said it.
The fantasies of a forgotten past were embellished with the vain hope of relief from their present hardship. Egypt had always been their home. That was where they were born and raised; and there were those who secretly missed the mundane regularity of their rituals. Now they gave voice to their private thoughts and joined the rebellion of agreement with other voices, “Yes, let’s go back to Egypt!”
At least in Egypt there would be no more delirious days of travel, no more trusting in leadership to find direction in a wilderness void of lasting landmarks, no more dependence on an invisible God to rain food on the early morning landscape, and no more sporadic springs of water from a transient stone. “Let’s go back to Egypt where there is variety in the diet. Where there are cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic” and a certainty of the meager portions of daily rations allotted to servitude.
At least you get your portion. That’s the bonus of a dictatorial state. There is no waiting on God, no element of faith. Everything is predictable and sure. There is no risk, nothing to gain; simple survival is the name of the game.
Convinced, they cried, “Let’s go back to Egypt. Let’s be free of this dismal desert.”
It is amazing how the enemy uses our language against us. Days ago freedom meant leaving Egypt, abandoning slavery, and leaving a life with no future promise of change. Then the moment came for the liberation from Egypt and the procession to the Promised Land. Now the terminology is twisted and freedom is being described as leaving the desert, not to enter the Promised Land, but to return to slavery, back to bondage.
“We should have stayed in Egypt.”
How quickly we forget! Some have actually stated, “I had it easier when I was in the world.” How soon we become accustomed to the blessing of liberation and the freedom of spiritual experience. At the first sign of adversity some are tempted to flee the high road of holiness to plod a path of less resistance. We are caused to think of the bondage of the world as an easier option. One might as well go back to Egyptian slavery.
How quickly we forget.
Remember the sting of the taskmaster’s whip, the sweating bodies of men in the slime pits stomping out the mixture of straw and clay? More bricks, more mortar, more mindless manufacturing of the building blocks to fulfill Pharaoh’s architectural fantasies.
Remember the denigration of slavery, the loss of respect, the loss of love, and the loss of life? What kind of liberty is that when you toil the treadmill of the taskmaster’s fancy and never experience the fulfillment of your own dreams?
Remember the toil, the pain, the heartbreak, the despair of slavery, and the discarded dreams of a Promised Land. The fantasy of freedom becomes a prisoner in a forgotten past where great, great, grandfather Joseph was sold into slavery in this foreign land.
Egypt has no liberties! Its reward is the poor pittance of prison’s poverty. The devil lies of luxury when he talks of the reward of sin, when in truth its destiny is death. “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:15).
Take Moses’ word for it. He lived in Egypt. He was schooled and trained in Pharaoh’s court. He had every advantage, being raised as a son of Pharaoh’s daughter. But when he came of age and weighed the cost of the passing pleasures of sin compared to the affliction of the people of God he “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.”
By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.
If you reject grace to return to bondage you will go without Moses. He has already crossed the line in the sand, the point of no return. For him it was the fresh grave of an Egyptian slain by his own hand. Behind him there is a Red Sea crossing, sweetened waters at Marah, and inscribed stones from the mountain of God. There is no going back or turning around. Moses would rather die in the wilderness than return to Egypt… and he does.
Egypt has no liberties, and no appeal to those committed to seek the promise.
Now Joseph — he was a dreamer. He dreamed of this day. Even with all the commotion of that last night in Goshen’s godly community, with the eating of the lamb, the packing of goods, and the slopping of blood on the door, someone remembered the bones. Yes, the dreamer had once said, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here” (Genesis 50:25).
Genesis concludes with Joseph “in a coffin in Egypt.” But Joseph had no desire even for his remains to reside there. It might have been the end of the book and the end of his days, but he refused to let it be the end of his story. His dream was bigger than life and his faith grasped toward a future generation. Someday, his people would return to their homeland. Someday, the promises made to Abraham would come to pass. “Someday pack my bones out of Egypt and return me to the Promised Land,” was Joseph’s last request, “Take me home. Take me to freedom.”
Joseph’s dream refused to die in Egypt. He reached out of the coffin into the Exodus and said, “Take me with you!” So, on that night of deliverance, they took his bones from Egypt, a bag of dead bones alive with a dream and testifying of his passion for the promise.
But now, with the murmuring multitude in the desert, the bag of bones is dead weight. While Joseph may have dreamed of the future, their dreams died in the past. They are not dreaming of promised lands anymore. They are homesick for Egypt. Their dreams are all of Egypt and their desires are of bondage.
What happens to change the focus of our dreams? What causes our gaze to shift from the horizon of future promise to peer over our shoulder, wistful of sunsets past? Have we set our sites of future plans on a far too distant plain? Is it the fear that we have cast an anchor of ambition in too deep of sea? Do we dream the dreams of apparent impossibility or surrender them for mindless mediocrity?
When we become satisfied with the past, it is a meager allowance when compared to the bounty of blessing that God has promised for his people. And yet, so often the dream seekers settle for spiritual poverty and unfilled expectation. The dream is traded for drudgery, the promise for predictability. The victories of spiritual conquest are relinquished for the simple pleasures of sin and the indulgence of iniquity.
Peter’s perspective says it right. “To go back,” he said, “is like a sow that was washed, returning to the mud hole, or a dog returning to lap up his vomit.” Graphic illustrations, but appropriate analogies for those that squander grace and embrace sin, those who leave the father’s love for a life of lusts.
For after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.
I Peter 2:20-21
In the context of a post-modern culture, the terminology has become tainted again. Black and white fades into shades of gray and nothing is clear anymore as the obvious becomes obscured with newly defined terms. Tolerance is twisted to legitimatize the perverse and condone the corrupt. Even in the church grace becomes gray and some try to paint sin with the same broad brush of acceptance, Grace was never intended to be a commendation of sin and the approval of impurity. Grace must always be the color of red for it paints all sin with the brush of forgiveness from the blood of Calvary.
The apostle Paul admitted that where sin abounded, grace abounded more, but he asked the Roman believers the question, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” He immediately responds to his own rhetorical question with the answer, “Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:1-2).
A sinner knows he’s a sinner, but one who claims liberty while indulging in sin is deceived. Some have forsaken the purity of godliness and embraced the habits of the past in the name of liberty. Others have scoffed at separation from the world as an unnecessary option, and mocked those who practice separation as though they were the ones living in bondage.
Paul, the Pentecostal, limited his personal freedom to facilitate his ministry. He didn’t flaunt his liberties before men. He would refrain from eating meat that had been offered to idols so as not to offend a brother or cause him to fall. If he would do this over a minor thing such as his menu selections, then we should beware of those who flaunt their liberties in more vital areas and proclaim that they are no longer under bondage. Any who boast of liberty to the detriment of a brother have motives that are suspect.
Those who scorn the demands of grace do so to their own destruction and voluntarily embrace the chains of bondage and shun the liberty of true grace. Picture, if you will, the absurdity of slaves boasting of liberty while dragging rusty chains and shaking their chaffing shackles in the air in defiance of those who would seek to set them free.
And yet, there are those who have known such freedom of spiritual deliverance and have traded their victory for the scourge of sin. They rattle their chains and exclaim, “I’ve never felt so free.”
“There is such liberty in my life.”
“I make my own decisions.”
“No one tells me how I should live.”
And the craving habits of the flesh guide their hearts and hands to another moment of satisfaction. The chains grow stronger, the will grows weaker, and grace is scorned again.
The logic is ludicrous. Who’s free and who’s bound? The performance of Pentecostal practice doesn’t purchase freedom but rather celebrates it. Commitments of personal choices aren’t of bondage but of decision; they are not demanded but dedicated.
Egypt has no liberties!
True grace takes you out of Egypt, and into the Promised Land.
This article “Egypt Has No Liberties” written by Terry R. Baughman is excerpted from Grace Is A Pentecostal Message written by Terry R. Baughman.