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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"Truly Free" (Robert Morris)

TITLE: Truly Free: Breaking the Snares That So Easily Entangle
AUTHOR: Robert Morris
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2015, (240 pages).

Freedom is much touted and cherished in the West. From the Declaration of Independence to the enshrinement of freedom in anthems, oaths, and pledges, we may have from time to time be guilty in taking our common freedoms for granted. In fact, we may enslaved more than we are aware of. When Christ came to set us free, we will be free. Unless we become deceived, distracted, discouraged, or depressed. According to lead pastor and author, Robert Morris, for one to be truly free, discipleship and deliverance must go hand in hand. He laments the fact that Christians who are supposed to be living in freedom are unfortunately living in enslavement and snares to several temptations. In a series of what looked like three-point sermons that make up the chapters of this book, Morris begins by systematically using the biblical principles and teachings of Scripture to remind us that freedom in Christ means following Christ and being delivered from the trickery of the evil one and the temptations of the world, and the vulnerabilities of the flesh Dispelling two popular myths, he draws from the wisdom of CS Lewis who wrote in the popular book, The Screwtape Letters:

"There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them."

The first is the skeptic who claims arrogantly that with Christ, he faces no spiritual danger and that believers will never be possessed. Such a person forgets that spiritual oppression, warfare, and depression still happen to the most pious believer. Discipleship is good and necessary. The second is the superstitious who unwise dalliance with the occult and spiritual deceptions only bring about greater oppression and enslavement. He addresses some misconceptions especially with regard to demon-possession. One need not be demon possessed, only demon-influenced to fall into the trap. That is why we need to do both discipleship and deliverance.

Morris claims that his Church is "big" on discipleship. Using scriptures such as Ephesians 6:10-13 and the gospels, Morris goes beyond mere discipleship to aim at the need for deliverance as well. He paraphrases Lewis's two facts.
  1. Demons do exist
  2. Demons can Influence, Oppress, and Tempt Believers
He then points out three big warning signs of spiritual oppression. The first is "continued iniquity" in which we persist in letting the evil influence us. It means "willful, habitual sin." It enslaves us and prevents us from moving toward God. Sin such as evil thoughts, pride, fear, anxiety, lust, and so on. The second is "continued illness" which can be controversial. Morris notes with concern about frequent and chronic illnesses that continue to plague a person. Being sick for a long time is a sign of spiritual influence. The third is "continued influence" which is the mainstay of Morris's book. This is specifically about occult practices.

Note the emphasis on "continued" which reflects the key problem of spiritual enslavement and oppression. Just like one may take a slave out of Egypt (externally), one cannot take Egypt out of the slave (internally). Freedom invariably means a freedom to choose. The problem lies in the poor choices we make. Morris gives six examples of bad choices that need to be broken. He calls it the snares of:
  1. Pride
  2. Bitterness
  3. Greed
  4. Lust
  5. Minds that Make Bad Choices
  6. Past Wounds
For every snare, Morris provides a few (usually three) tips on how to tackle them under the umbrella of deliverance. Readers will learn about the dangers of pride that deceives one toward misplaced trust in selves: own strength, own righteousness, and own wisdom. They will discover the snares of greed that come about through unbelief and fear. They learn about the way bitterness deceive, defile, and depress a believer. Readers are warned about the three dangers of lust as well as the importance of protecting our minds from evil thoughts through strengthening our grip on Scripture. We are to depend on Jesus to heal our broken hearts and liberate our past from enslaving us.

In order to be truly free, we need to be mindful of our past without becoming enslaved by them. For Christ has set us free from the past. At the same time, we need to learn from history the good, the bad, and the ugly, so that we do not let history repeat itself. Leaning on Jesus is the key to victory. We may have been saved from sin, but we are still in this world of sin. The final four steps are helpful.
  1. Recognize you need help
  2. Repent to God and Others
  3. Renounce the Lies of Satan
  4. Receive the Gifts of the Father
So What?

This book is important for the fact that it stands between the extremities of skepticism and superstition. Churches can tend to be too skeptical that they downplay the reality of spiritual warfare. They can become so theoretical in their teachings that their congregations fail to grasp the reality of spiritual problems that enslave us slowly but surely. By pointing out our vulnerabilities, we are better equipped to lean more toward God and to live according to God's light. The other extreme would be churches that put unhealthy focus on fighting spiritual forces and neglecting the need for solid teachings on discipleship. Without a strong biblical foundation, it is like going to battle without the proper weapons, training, and equipment. For one to be truly free, one needs to learn to depend on the power of God, to delight in the glory of God, to defend the truths of Scripture, and to be delivered from the enslavement of sin and the evil in this world. Freedom is possible. It is scriptural. It is real. For that to truly happen, we must don the two perspectives of discipleship and deliverance from within and from without.

That said, it is possible that some readers will be disturbed by certain points mentioned by the author. In particular is the "continued illness" that can be misinterpreted. There are instances of cancer and chronic illness that affect certain people, even the best of believers. Rather than to lump them under the category of sinning under "continued illness," it would be better to put additional qualifications to prevent further misunderstanding. While it is entirely possible that "continued illness" is a sign of spiritual oppression, we need to look at the larger world of God's plan and will, lest we become like one of Job's three friends who gave bad advice. Discipleship and deliverance are two major keys to becoming truly free. They must still come under the dominion and power of God's kingdom which will come. Only then we we be truly and absolutely free.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Thomas-Nelson and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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