The resurrection of Lazarus by Jesus is a powerful story. You can read the account in John’s gospel, chapter 11. It is not only a mighty display of the resurrection power of Jesus Christ but also a beautiful representation of the compassion of our Saviour for those in bondage and death (in all senses of the word–physical, spiritual, emotional).
Today I want to address the image of Lazarus emerging from the tomb in verse 44, hobbling and wrapped in grave clothes. The fact that he could move in those clothes is, in and of itself, miraculous. According to Jewish burial customs, he would have been bound from head to foot tightly with grave clothes. His face would have been wrapped with a cloth as well.
I believe these grave clothes are an important metaphor for what keeps believers in bondage even though they have received Christ. Sadly, many Christians (particularly in the Western church), receive new life in Christ but do not remove the grave clothes of death. They do not grasp the freedom Christ has made available through the finished work of the cross. They are hobbling and crippled rather than true, free ‘dead men walking’.
What are these grave clothes that keep us bound?
I can identify six bondages many believers are trapped in.
Religious and social traditions
Jesus told the Pharisees in Matthew 15:6-9 that they had made the commandments of God “of no effect” because of their traditions. They were teaching commandments of men as “doctrines”. We need to be careful the traditions we practice do not nullify God’s commandments in our lives. So much denominational factionalism and schism is based on dogged adherence to religious traditions. We need to stop it already and get back to the basics…Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).
Social constructs and societal norms are also restrictive if we allow ourselves to be trapped by them (Col. 2:8, 20-22). Probably the biggest ‘bugbear’ of mine is the excessive political correctness of our time. It is pervasive in media, culture, entertainment and politics. I hate it! Yes, I said ‘hate’. Jesus was the most un-PC individual to walk the planet. I’m gonna follow His example…
A Spirit-led life does not get bogged down in ‘dead works’ and legalism. “Dead works” are a device of the enemy to distract you from destiny and have you living your life according to a list of ‘do’s and don’ts’ (Heb. 6:1, 9:14). See my earlier blog post, “Holiness is an invitation”, for further discussion on this. The new wine Christ gives must be placed into a “new wineskin” (Mark 2:22). To walk in freedom, we simply cannot do life according to a formulaic algorithm. Life in Christ is a Spirit-led existence.
Sin nature and sinful habits
Our old patterns of sinful and fleshly behaviour must be “put off”. There is a vast difference between a believer falling into sin on occasion and someone living in a lifestyle of sin. If the ‘vices’ of Galatians 5:19-21 and Colossians 3:8-9 are a regular part of your repertoire, then you have a problem…
Failure to realise your life is now in Christ
Galatians 2:20 (NKJV) states: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Our righteousness is His righteousness. It cannot be bought, earned or mimicked. It must be received. God is doing the work in you as you submit to His will for your life (Phil. 2:13).
The discussion around this issue has become a little taboo in certain charismatic church circles. I think it is an idiotic and moot argument to claim that the finished work of the cross exempts us from generational curses. Just as we must receive our salvation from sin, we must also receive our deliverance from the curse of the law. Galatians 3:10-14 explains that Christ delivered us from the curse of the law. This deliverance comes only through receiving His work by faith. Deliverance ministry has become a grey area in evangelical and charismatic churches. Many believe that deliverance is not necessary because everything is accomplished in receiving salvation through faith in Christ. When we receive Christ by confessing our sin and repenting of it, we receive salvation. As Christ became a curse for us, according to Galatians 3:10-14, we have been redeemed from the curse.
Once again, I reiterate, yes we have been redeemed from sin and the curse of the law, but we must receive it. We must also repent and turn from any sin (ours or our ancestors) that would give the enemy a legal right to afflict us. I realise this subject matter is very controversial, but I can only speak from experience. Once sin, generational or otherwise, is dealt with and placed under the blood of Jesus, freedom becomes very real and apparent in your life.
Performance vs identity orientation
In Exodus 18:18, Moses’ father-in-law delivers some sound wisdom concerning the load Moses was carrying in ministering to the Israelites. “For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself” (18:18b). How many of us get bogged down in this ‘Superman Syndrome’? How many of us think we can do it all? Any ‘Super Mummies’ out there? You’re making us all look bad…stop it already!
Seriously though, we need to stop and take a good look at the reason for our drivenness. What are we trying to prove? It’s really easy to slip into ‘Martha, Martha mode’. Martha was too busy to sit at Jesus’ feet and be taught by Him because she had to ‘serve’. Jesus gently rebukes her and encourages her to stop and sit and receive from Him. Our identity is in Christ not what we ‘do’. Now that we have identified what keeps believers bound, we can move to the powerful proclamation of John 11:44, “Loose him, and let him go“. With the grave clothes removed, this ‘dead man walking’ was free to walk in the “new and living way” (Heb. 10:20).
What does a ‘dead man walking’ in the life of Christ look like?
A heart postured towards repentance
Repentance truly opens the door for all the fullness and promises of God in Christ Jesus. It is a posture of the heart and not of outward actions. God desires “mercy, not religion” (Matt. 9:13 MSG). If we acknowledge our sin and need for Him, He will meet us where we are at. He is much more interested in a heart that wants to change, then a whole bunch of religious duty and piety. Quit that already!…
You need deliverance!
I know it is controversial, as previously stated, but I think the statement Jesus made in John 11:44 is very telling. Lazarus had already been resurrected, but he was still bound by his grave clothes. Jesus shouts, “Loose him, and let him go!“. Deliverance is a necessary element of your discipleship journey.
Die to self
I’ve heard it said, “You can’t pet or tame a demon and you can’t cast out the flesh”. It’s important to get these in the right order. Once we have submitted to the deliverance process, we must “put off” the flesh (Eph. 4:22, Col. 2:11). Part of walking out our deliverance is to crucify our flesh daily (1 Cor. 15:31).
Put on Christ
We can’t just “put off” the flesh without putting on Christ (Gal. 3:27). We’d be spiritually naked and vulnerable! So practically speaking, what does putting on Christ ‘look’ like? Colossians 3:10-17 gives a fairly good synopsis of what we should ‘clothe’ ourselves with in Christ. Remember these traits are received and then walked out.
We must also clothe ourselves with the armour of God (Eph. 6:11) to stand against the “wiles of the devil”.
Walk in freedom!
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1 NIV). Who the Son sets free is free indeed (John 8:36). You must walk in your freedom! Why would you choose bondage when Jesus paid the price to set you free?! We have been called out of darkness into His glorious light (1 Pet. 2:9b). We can NOT go back to that place of bondage and death.
The path of freedom ahead of us is uncharted territory, but it is a faith walk. The ‘walking dead’ walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7b). They are free from the shackles that bind them and ready to flow in the power of God made available through the finished work of the cross.
I’d love to talk more about the miracle-working power of God flowing through us, but that is material for another post… In the meantime, cue the bass line of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ as we see an army of the marching, militant ‘dead men walking’ rising up and taking their place in the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ!…
Interesting segue, I know…but that is the theme music playing on a loop in my mind as I see the glorious Bride of Christ advance the Kingdom…