50 Shades of Grey, Freedom and Empowerment?

I am not writing a post about 50 Shades of Grey, seeing as how I haven’t actually read it and I’m probably not the target audience. I do my best not to comment on something unless I have some sense of actual familiarity with it. I don’t want my opinion on something to be based off what someone else said, I’d like actually to know what it says.

Fifty-Shades-of-GreyThat said, I think the popularity of the book, as well as the forthcoming movie (especially, apparently in my home state), says something about the notion of sex in our culture, as well as in the church culture. It’s interesting; the 50 Shades of Grey movie has done something that I’ve not seen done in the life of the church in a long time. It has brought conservative/evangelicals together with liberal/progressives. Both sides are saying that this book/movie speaks to something deep in our culture.

The thing that I keep coming back into in my mind, however, is how 50 Shades of Grey, as well as other shifting mores on sexuality, stake their territory in the notion of empowering individuals. We can be told in this culture that it is up to us to make our decisions, claim our rights, and own our sexuality. (By the way, this notion is true not just of sex, but about anything that people desire). Who is society/the Church/anyone to tell me how I should live, what I should do? That is a form or repression or corrosion. We are called to be empowered to live as we want, to do as we want, and to claim the life that we want to live.

We should not be told how to live. We must live.

And that sounds tempting and good. It does sound empowering. It does sound like something that may be appealing.

But here’s the thing. I’ve been thinking about something I read about Dean Smith this week. Smith is the form coach at the Univeristy of North Carolina.  He lived a truly amazing life, and he wasn’t just a coach.  He was really a coach/philosopher/theologian.  He said this in an interview.

“Years ago, Dr. Seymour gave a sermon that made so much sense to me. It was called The Paradox of Discipline, and I had it mimeographed. He made the point that the disciplined person is the one that’s truly free. The student who says, ‘I could make A’s if I tried,’ but who doesn’t have the discipline to sit down and do it, is the one who’s shackled. The disciplined student is free: He has the choice of making an A or D.”

I’ve been thinking about that in regards to 50 Shades of Grey, and really all forms of “self-empowerment.” We want freedom by claiming what we want. To deny yourself of a pleasure, or of anything, means that you aren’t able to fully be you. We want that empowerment.

And here’s the catch for Christians. We aren’t called to be empowered. We are called to be humbled. To be servants. To deny ourselves and take up our cross.

As Paul says of Jesus and how He lived in Philippians 2: 4-9:

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name

For us as believers, freedom or empowerment doesn’t come from our desires. It comes from discipline. Self-control. And that’s not something we just have. That’s only a fruit of the spirit. It’s a gift of grace. It’s an act of God.

And that only comes from, not seeking our will. But from seeking His. That only comes from submitting ourselves to Jesus.

The older I get, the more I come to believe that my only shot at freedom, at peace, a full life doesn’t come from me and my “stuff.” It comes from submitting myself to my Lord.

That’s so counterintuitive to this culture. But it is truth. There are many things I can’t speak to. I am a quickly graying soon to be middle-aged white male. I would be considered in our culture a conservative/evangelical. I get it. I’m not a prude; I just act like one.

So maybe I’m biased, maybe this is my perspective alone. But I know that freedom doesn’t come from me seeking what I want and what gives me pleasure, above all else. It comes from most often from denying those urges and doing the “right” thing. And then, freedom comes because I’m not controlled by those desires. As a believer, I would say that I’m controlled by the Holy Spirit.

Today, seek freedom. As Paul writes, it is for freedom you have been set free. But seek truth freedom. Not cultural freedom. Because to be free in Christ is to live. And honestly, is that what we all want?


Man, I don’t like disciplining my children.  I really don’t.  I don’t think that any parent does. That’s the hard work of parenting.  No parent like having to do that part of the work.

I will all of parenting was bubble gum and fun and games. But, there are times (lots of times) when you have to say no. When you have to punish.  When you have to be that old oak tree that our kids bang their heads on to learn that they can’t just do what what they want.

We have to discipline our kids.


Because we want them to grow into fully formed, functioning, moral adults and citizens.

Well, what’s our heavenly Father’s goal for us as Christians?  For us to grow into mature disciples.  And that means, sometimes, yes, He will discipline us.  Listen to what it says in  Psalm 94: 12-15:

Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law, to give him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked. For the Lord will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage; for justice will return to the righteous, and all the upright in heart will follow it.

potters-handsGod’s desire for us isn’t for us just be happy. It’s for us to be holy.  It’s for us to be different. It’s for us to be followers of Christ, with all that we are.


Because that’s where life is truly found, in Christ.  In following Him. So, just as a parent will discipline their child to get them to the point that we want them to be as a mature adults, so will God do with us, getting us down the road of faith.

God’s desire for us is for us to be faithful.  Because that’s where life is found. Totally and completely in Him.

Today, if He convicts you.  Or challenges you. Or guides you down a path that you don’t think you want to go, thank Him for that, even if you don’t feel like it. Because He’s growing you. He’s forming you. He’s helping you to be the person that He made you to be.

He loves you. Just like as a parent our discipline can be the greatest sign of love to our kids?  So is it for God.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.


urlIt’s very easy in life to be live via our passions. What do I mean by that?

I’m not talking about things like I’ve got a passion for art. Or music. Or the outdoors, or things like that Those are “passions” that enrich our lives, things that give us joy, things we can enjoy with others, things that in many ways, we can see God in.

What do I mean?

It’s easy live to be live via our passions. To lose control of ourselves to our passions of anger. Or greed. Or pride. Or sloth. Or (my favorite) gluttony.

And the thing is, when we are living in these passions, we feel like we are doing what we want! We are in control! We are in charge! We can do whatever it is that we want to do, because it’s our life!

Here’s the thing about that. We aren’t really in control.

When we live a life of anger. Or hate. Or greed. Or lust. Or pride. Or well, a million different passions we struggle with, we are out of control.

We have given control of ourselves to something else. Listen to what Paul says in Romans 6:10-13:

For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

Do not let sin reign in your body. Do not give it control.

Now, listen, we are going to make mistakes. We are going to mess us. We are going to fall. That’s the way it goes.

Here’s the thing. Don’t give into that. Don’t be satisfied in that. Don’t feel like that’s alright and good enough.

Don’t allow sin to take control. Don’t allow yourself to be controlled by these passions. Christ died to defeat that.

He died so that He can be in control. So, today, what will control us? Will it be sin? Will it be Jesus?

Today, may we not live out of our passions. May we live, via the grace of God. And may Jesus Christ have control over all our lives!

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.

Angels of Light and Temptation

One of the passages that I read this morning was one of those verses that I remember being shown years ago and saying – Wow. It’s one of the verses I try to think about each day and try to let really convict me and draw me close to God.

Listen to what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians Chapter 11

14 But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

An angel of light. Doesn’t that sound really beautiful? Doesn’t that sound like something awesome? Something we should all want? Something we should all desire?

Something, fun. Pretty.  Clean.  Safe.

Paul says that is how Satan will disguises himself.  As an angel of light.

That is how temptation will come in our lives. As an angel of light.

It will look so good. . . . temptation always does.

Temptation always looks like it will be a great thing for us. Something will make our lives, or make that moment even better!

Temptation promise everything good and offers nothing bad, right?

But, that’s not the case. That is never the case with temptation. That is never the case with this disguised angel of light.

Bishop Ward, Bishop of the Mississippi Annual Conference was said in a sermon “Temptation promises life and leads to death. Disciples promise short-term pain, and leads to life.”

Temptation never bears the fruit it promises. It’s never as much fun. It never makes things easier. It never makes things more simple. It always brings hurt and destruction.



It is an angel of light.  Temptation will promise you something awesome. And disappointed you every time.

But God.  He promises abundant life. And delivers every time.  He doesn’t promise easy life. Or smooth life.  Or even always happy life.  He promises abundant life. And peace. and joy.

Today, temptation will come to you as angel of light. Don’t believe the lies. See it for what it is.

And trust in God. He will give you the strength to resist. And will give you the hope of abundant life.