Life, and especially addiction, has a way of imprisoning us. There are responsibilities, deadlines, bills, accidents, illnesses, taxes and imperfect relationships, not to mention the uncontrollable urges that guide the life of an addict. This isn't freedom. This is prison. And too many reach for a blank notepad on January 1st, crossing their fingers that if they just write down the right resolution it will be the key to their escape.
Sadly, new year's resolutions do not set one free from addiction, or the tyranny of the urgent. Thankfully, there is a key to the freedom we so deeply long for. And for those who find it, life becomes a joy, not drudgery. But this key does not magically "show up" on your doorstep. You cannot click your heels together three times and wish it to appear. No, this key requires a search, a pursuit.
It is no secret that when Jesus walked the earth He didn't always have the best relationship with the religious leaders of the day. In fact, you could argue that the religious leaders were a constant obstacle to Jesus' ministry. But He pressed on and did not waver from His mission: to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).
One day Jesus was sharing with the crowds insights into who He was and His relationship with His Father in heaven. As a result of His words many Jews believed in Him. Then Jesus said, "“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
I have heard lots of Christians misquote this passage, saying, "The truth will set you free," as though you just need to "scrub" a little truth in those hard-to-reach areas and then you'll be free. But notice how Jesus set it up, "If you abide in my word..." There is a condition on us before we can ever know the truth that sets us free. We must abide in Christ's Word.
If we must abide in Christ's Word before we can even know the truth, what does it mean to abide in His Word? It means to abide in Him, for He is the Word of God. You see, the key to freedom is not an "it," it is a Him, Jesus Christ.
Later in the Gospel of John, Jesus said, " I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5) We cannot be free, or bear any good fruit, apart from Christ. Therefore, if we want to know the truth that sets us free, we must know Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We must know Jesus in order to be free!
The only way to know Jesus is to exercise faith in Him, believing what He said; believing His Word. It is very much like getting to know anyone. How do you "abide" with your wife? You must know her. How do you know her? By talking (and listening!). It is also that simple with Jesus. We know Him by talking (i.e. prayer) and listening (i.e. His Word and prayer).
Put down the resolution notepad for just a minute. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. Listen to your heartbeat. Your breathing. Let yourself calm down. Now, from your heart of hearts cry out to Jesus (whatever you need to say from your "prison cell"). Wait. Listen. Be quiet. Your Deliverer is coming. Be patient. Don't open your eyes. Wait. Listen. The Key to your freedom is on His way. Beware of all that wants to distract you in this moment: phones, chores, shame, resolutions, fear.
No matter how far you have wandered from God, He has not wandered from you. But you cannot know the truth that will set you free if you do not first abide in God's Word, the Word in the flesh, Jesus. This is why you must replace ritual with relationship, resolutions with real intimacy. God wants to set you free, and He has the power to do it, but it will only happen through a growing relationship with Jesus. Nothing more, nothing less.
When God, through Moses, was reassuring His people, even after telling them how far they would wander from Him, He said this, "But from there [their places of idolatry] you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice. For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them." (Deut. 4:29-31; emphasis mine)
You will find the Key, the Lord Almighty (the Truth that sets men free), if you search for Him will all your heart and soul. God is merciful. He wants you to be free, and He has made the way for you to unlock your prison door and walk in the way He intended from the beginning. The choice is yours. If you want freedom, abide in The Word, Jesus Christ. If you want more resolutions you never keep, go ahead and pick up your notepad again...