We have free rein to help others, Mueller tells Chapel

GCU President Brian Mueller talks to Chapel on Monday about the true meaning of freedom.

Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Gillian Rea
GCU News Bureau

Free usually is such a happy word. Free ride, free spirit, freewheeling … just thinking of them makes you smile. And how many times have you heard this phrase: “It’s a free country!”

But freedom is never guaranteed and often is misused. As Grand Canyon University President Brian Mueller asserted at the first Chapel of the spring semester Monday, 60% of the world doesn’t have the freedoms Americans enjoy – and have managed to skew in the last 60 years.

The Worship Team opened Monday's Chapel session with songs that had the crowd singing along.

The freedom in the United States, Mueller said, goes back to the principles the Pilgrims brought here in the 1600s: a society transformed by the Bible, filled with virtuous people governed by a strong moral code and a fair legal system and educated to believe in those ideals.

It starts with the Bible.

“We’re not really capable of living freely until we understand that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus frees us, and with us believing that, faith is created, there’s an indwelling of the Holy Spirit and we’re transformed. We are changed. We’re a new creation,” Mueller said.

“If we’re going to create a society where people can live freely and form a cohesive, tight community, that has to be the foundation. We have to be transformed.”

The 1960s were a different sort of transformation, he said – an era in which the concept of “a flawed people born into a flawed world” turned into some negative connotations of free.

“People started to say, ‘You know, science has come far enough now. We don’t need the Bible. We don’t need to believe in God. We don’t need faith. And people really aren’t born flawed, they’re basically born good. We don’t need this transformation. In fact, the key is that we need freedom. We don’t need this moral system that creates these virtuous people, that puts barriers on your life. We need to free ourselves,’” he said.

The results: free love, psychedelic drugs to free the mind, a lack of respect for authority … and, most important, a lack of transformation through Jesus.

The false sense of freedom born in the tumult of the 1960s has created many of the problems we have today, Mueller said.

“I didn’t get it when all that was happening, but I get it now,” Mueller said. “I get it now because I’ve watched it for 60 years, and the reality about America today is that we’ve never been less free. I’m not talking about political freedom. I’m talking about anxiety we live with, depression that we live with, addictions that we live with. … In fact, we’ve never been, from a community perspective, more divided.”  

Another result: For the first time in U.S. history, the average life span is going down, which Mueller believes is a green light for the church to lead the way in a more positive direction.

That path is laid out right there in the fifth chapter of Paul’s extremely passionate letter to the Galatians, a chapter Mueller considers one of the Bible’s most important for today’s world.

It begins:

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.

“Paul is being very clear: It is the Gospel, period,” Mueller said. “It’s never the Gospel plus us. It’s never the Gospel plus our traditions. It’s never the Gospel plus us being able to live a life that can help us earn salvation. It’s only the Gospel that frees us.”

It continues:

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

Mueller displayed onstage a replica of the National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth, Mass. He received the gift from Kirk Cameron in October, when Cameron spoke at GCU commencement ceremonies.

“Paul is saying that they have a fundamental misunderstanding of freedom,” Mueller said. “Christ has freed us so that we can be free of our sinful passions, our sinful desires, that we can live a different life because He has freed us, and that we can live in a community because we’re from ourselves but we’re free for serving each other.

“That can’t happen without the indwelling of the Spirit, which can’t happen without our understanding of why we’ve been freed and our belief in that.”

The chapter ends with a passage that Mueller considers particularly important:

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

GCU has and continues to be on a mission of doing its part to practice the latter ideals, and Mueller believes that “God has just begun working here.”

Three major initiatives on the docket for this year:

  • The creation of a two-year program for intellectually disabled people ages 18 to 24 to give them a taste of campus life, with the goal of helping them find a job
  • The new Canyon Ventures business incubator on 27th Avenue, which already has attracted 31 companies in its first five months
  • A plan to build an industrial-size kitchen and create community farms on campus to provide food for immigrant families in the neighborhood who want to start an ethnic restaurant

“The message is very clear,” Mueller concluded. “It’s the Gospel. It’s never the Gospel-plus, it’s only the Gospel. It’s the indwelling of the Spirit. And it’s our abilities to live humbly by serving our neighbors, especially those that need the greatest amount of help. That is responsible for the continued blessings that we have.

“And if we can stay relentless about reaching out, reaching out, reaching out, especially those people that are living in the fringes, God’s going to continue to bless this thing because we’re taking care of His people.”

That’s when "free" truly is a happy word. 

Chapel replay: Click here.

Next week’s speaker: Luke Simmons, Redemption Gateway

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].

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Related content:

GCU Today: Mueller at Chapel: 'We are here to be restorers'

GCU Today: Mueller challenges us to do God's work full-time

GCU Today: Mueller's talk provides Chapel with a care package

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