Freedom

Yesterday, we celebrated the birth of a nation that most of us have been incredibly blessed to be born in, the United States of America.  The freedom and liberty that this nation provides for us is amazing.  We are incredibly grateful for the men and women who gave their lives to gain it and for those who continue to lay down their lives to protect it every day.

In the turbulent political days in which we are living we find that providing the freedom of some groups of people without simultaneously limiting the freedom of another group of people is a constant struggle.  Our freedom defined by the US Constitution is in a constant state of challenge and defense by the ever-changing political landscape of our government.

This morning, we’re turning to a different freedom that is ours if we choose it.  Our nation’s freedom wasn’t free, but was very costly and paid for by the lives of many over the past few hundred years.  This freedom also was not free, but was purchased by God a few thousand years ago at the cost of His own Son.

Jesus paid the price for a type of freedom and liberty that no one and nothing can ever steal away from us.  However, much like the liberal versus conservative pull in our government today, a divide was caused by the teaching and lifestyle of Jesus among the Jewish leaders of His day.  To them, and to us today, Jesus teaches us about the freedom and liberty that He freely offers:

John 8:31-47

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”

39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

In this dialog, Jesus taught us so much about how to receive a freedom that no one and nothing can steal away.  If He sets us free, then we are free indeed!  He taught us that we can find:

– Freedom in the truth

Jesus taught us that the truth sets us free.  Of course, He wasn’t referring to your truth or my truth or their truth, He was referring to the very words of God, the only true truth that leads to freedom.  In order to receive this freedom, we must hear His truth and hold to it.

In our world, it is easy to hear God’s word.  We have free access to it in so many languages and translations and formats that enable us to read it, study it, listen to it, and keep it always in our hearts and minds.  We must hear God’s word with humility, a teachable spirit, and a soft heart. 

We must allow God’s word to shape us and mold us like clay in the hands of a Potter.  As it were, some of Israel’s leaders weren’t hearing what Jesus, the living word of God, was speaking.  They heard His words, but didn’t understand with their hearts.  We must guard ourselves from becoming this way!

Hearing the word is the easier part, holding to it is the challenge.  Holding to the truth that gives us freedom is difficult when our circumstances and reality do not line up with His promises.  It is in those seasons that we choose whether to hold to God’s word.  Choosing to hold to God’s truth is like coupling our lives up to the engine of God’s truth headed down the tracks of freedom. 

This enables us to remain in freedom and at peace inwardly though outwardly we may be wasting away.  Holding to God’s word in trust and faith is the only way for us to leave the valleys of death into our lives and proceed onward to the green pastures of provision.

Psalms 119:45

I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.

God’s truth is much like a roadmap for us in life.  It teaches us signs to watch for and guides us through life.  It gives us principles and precepts that build our lives up.  It also provides warnings.  Being aware of what sin is and how to avoid it enables us to walk in freedom and to step around the traps and snares awaiting us through life’s journey.

God’s word doesn’t exist to steal all of the fun out of life.  God’s word exists to give us life and life abundant.  It is a compass or GPS system that ensures our freedom in life.  When we hear and hold to God’s truth, we are set free indeed!

Next, Jesus taught us how we can find:

– Freedom in our identity

Remaining in the theme of the truth setting us free, realizing who we truly are, and not who we think we are, can open a pathway to freedom in our lives.  Mistaken identities and giftings have lead many astray when they thought they were following Jesus.  In the same way, many of the leaders of Israel were firmly convinced that they were children of God through the promise of Abraham.  They had no idea that they were following the devil himself!

Knowing who we are because of our relationship with God sets us free from so many bondages in life.  Finding our identity in Christ alone as a child of God sets us free indeed!  It doesn’t matter what your job title is or salary is or success or failure in parenting is or what others think of you.

Finding our identity as a child of God takes so much pressure off of our lives to perform or to measure up to someone’s standard they set for us.  It gives us the freedom to make mistakes and to find forgiveness.  It gives us the freedom to explore the entirety of God’s Kingdom and the depth of His salvation.

Finding our identity as a child of God frees us from the slavery of having to prove ourselves or to earn anything from Him by works.  A child of God is entirely loved and adored by Him and accepted no matter what.  Having this relationship makes us want to live better lives and to be more like Him simply because we adore Him and want to act toward others as He as acted toward us.

This leads us to our last point today.  Whom Jesus sets free is free indeed – IF – they so choose to be.  True and complete freedom lies in our choosing.  Here, Paul was concerned about the Galatian church and the believer’s confusion about living by faith in God’s promises versus putting our faith in our ability to follow God’s law.

Galatians 4:1-9

1 What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father.

For some of us, our freedom and breakthrough is as near to us as our chosen maturity level.  God’s promise is waiting for us, but for when we are ready for it.  It was for this very reason that Moses never lead his generation into the promised land, they were to immature to receive it.  What was intended to be a blessing would have been their end and a great curse.  Sometimes, we just need to allow God to mature us a little bit and put our whining and complaining aside so that we might be set free!

3 So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?

Paul taught several times that though we are slaves to whatever we choose to obey.  If we obey God, we receive freedom as sons and daughters of God.  If we obey anything else, we become it’s slave.  Why choose to become slaves again after we’ve been set free?

This morning, Jesus is calling out to us like He did to Lazarus, “Come out from there!”  What if Lazarus rose from the dead, walked out of his grave, and said, “No thanks, I’m heading back. Go ahead and roll that stone back over here.”?  He would have never done that, right?

Why then do we, after we’ve been set free indeed by Jesus, choose to go back to the things that enslaved us?  Why do we willingly put the chains on, shut the lock, and throw away the key?  We’ve been set free if we so choose to be.  Choose life!  Choose liberty!  Choose freedom!  It is for freedom that Christ set you free!  Don’t walk back to a life of slavery!

There is a freedom available to you and I this morning.  A true freedom that nothing and no one can steal away!  You could be like Paul and Silas sitting in prison in chains still singing praises to God because inwardly no chains can bind you! 

And what happened to them?  Their internal freedom released their worldly freedom!  The earth shook and set not only Paul and Silas free, but also every inmate who heard their praises there in that place!  Every prison door flew open and every chain came loose!

That’s the freedom that Jesus is offering to you here and now today.  Choose it!

Let God’s word guide you to walk in freedom.  Let your primary identity be found as a child of God setting you free.  Choose not to turn back to the chains that once bound you, but to continue forward in a new life of freedom.  After all, whom the Son sets free…..  IS FREE INDEED!