Identity Crisis: Freedom

This morning, we continue our “Identity Crisis” message series where we are faced with that question, “When everything else fails, at your core, who are you?” 

We’ve been reminded how we were created on purpose and for a purpose.   We are loved, children of God, temples, gifted, and overcomers.  We overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony!

We’re beginning today by seeing the importance of testimony and the need to validate it.  After all, people don’t always tell the truth.  In the Jewish culture, they stood on the word of God which required there to be two or three witnesses for someone’s testimony to be valid (Deuteronomy 19:15).

A debate broke out between Jesus and the Pharisees regarding His testimony about Himself.  This debate began an identity crisis that we’re not going to dive into yet today.  We’re focusing on the identity crisis of who we are, but the most significant identity crisis to date is that over who Jesus is.

We turn now to this debate as Jesus, a rabbi, is teaching people at the temple early in the morning.

John 8:12-37

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

13 The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”

14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”

19 Then they asked him, “Where is your father?”

“You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 He spoke these words while teaching in the temple courts near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come.

21 Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.”

22 This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?”

23 But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”

25 “Who are you?” they asked.

“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”

27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he (on the cross, the guard testified that surely Jesus was the son of God; a second witness) and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.

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.

This morning, we’re learning that we are FREE!  That is, if you’ve asked Jesus to set you free.  We are children of God, not slaves to sin!

We’re continuing a topic that emerged last week with Jesus’ teaching on how to gain and maintain freedom.  Jesus said that these people were slaves because they have no room for His word. 

Last week, we were taught that it’s not enough just to rid our lives of our bondage and to live a clean life.  We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit and God’s word.  To have a clean house put in order is to invite our demons, and seven worse than it, back into our lives.  We need our lives not to be clean and put in order, but filled with the Presence of God!

If our lives are full of sin, there is no room for God’s word.

If our lives are full of the Spirit, there is no room for sin.

One way or another, we’re going to be full of it.  We’re going to fill our lives with something.  The choice is ours.

From a worldly perspective, freedom is defined as the Oxford dictionary defines it: the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.  Essentially freedom to the world is doing whatever we want. 

What comes to mind, to most of us human beings who still live in the flesh, would be things that God considers sin.  Sin being either doing what God said not to do or not doing the things that God said to do.  Doing whatever we want implies that we’re doing whatever our flesh desires to do.  We may do some good, but we would still use that freedom to sin.

Jesus used harsh imagery to radically oppose this idea and concept of freedom.  Jesus said everyone who sins is a slave to that sin.  Sin is not freedom, sin is slavery.

God’s definition of freedom is more like the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition: liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another.  True, Biblical freedom is the liberation from the slavery, restraint, and power of sin.  This is the freedom that Jesus offers us; freedom from the power of sin and death!

Sin promises good things and, to a degree, it fulfills those promises.  However, it only offers those fleshy benefits at the high cost of our freedom and eventually our very lives.  It’s sort of like our favorite food placed right in the center of a trap’s action.  Sure, we get to enjoy a taste of what we love, but it comes at a cost. 

When we sin, we become a slave to it.  It controls us.  It leads us.  It eventually leads to death.  Sometimes a literal, physical death.  Sometimes to the death of relationships and resources.  Always to a spiritual and eternal death.

This teaching of Jesus’ was nothing new.  In the very beginning, with the first two brothers that were born, God gave the same teaching to Cain.  They knew the kind of offering that was acceptable and unacceptable to God.  Yet Cain ignored what God desired and gave what he thought was best instead.

Genesis 4:2b-7

2b Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Sin desires to have us, to enslave us.  We have a choice to either allow sin to rule over us or to rule over sin.  Praise be to Jesus, the choice is now ours.  We are no longer powerless against sin, we have been empowered to overcome sin!  However, we do have to be on our guard.  When God told Cain that sin is crouching at our door desiring to have us, well, He surely wasn’t lying!  Paul said:

1 Corinthians 10:12-13

12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

It’s important for us to understand that to be tempted is not to sin.  We can be tempted to sin and be completely innocent and free of sin.  Even Jesus was tempted.  Why are we tempted?  Because we live in this weak flesh.  James explains it clearly in just a few verses here:

James 1:13-15

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

God is faithful and He will never tempt us to sin.  In fact, He will always prepare a way out of our temptation to sin and will never allow that temptation to be greater than we can handle.  However, He always leaves the choice in our hands. 

To sin or not to sin. 

To be overcome and ruled by sin or to rule over and overcome sin. 

To be enslaved or to be free. 

You are free if freedom is your choice.

The freedom that Christ gives us through the Holy Spirit is a freedom unlike any other.  It is a freedom independent of my circumstances.  It is a freedom independent of the world and culture around me.  It is a freedom independent of my civil government.  It is a freedom of true and complete and absolute independence of anything but God!

A transfer has taken place taking us from powerless to powerful!

God’s word is a double edged-sword.  When God gave us His law, it was no different.  The law is good because it teaches us and clearly divides right from wrong.  However, it also bad because it reveals how powerless and hopeless we are on our own.  It stands in condemnation of every single one of us giving us a death sentence.

Enter the scene, Jesus.  He was born of the Holy Spirit, not in the sinful family line of Adam and Eve like you and I.  He faced all of our same temptations, but never gave into them once.  He always took that way out that His Heavenly Father provided. 

He was sinless.  Then, He willingly gave His life up and paid the penalty for our sin.  He was cursed and died as if though He had sinned, although He never did, so that He could offer His sacrifice in our place.

Now, we have been set free from the power of the law of sin and death.  Jesus overcame them both and freely offer us that same power and authority to overcome them.  We can walk in freedom because Jesus has set us free indeed!

Romans 8:1-9

1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.

Galatians 5:13-18

13 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. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

You are free!  You have been empowered to overcome temptation and to walk in freedom.  You are free to be you, not enslaved nor controlled by anybody nor anything.  You have been set free indeed!  In fact, even walking in the Spirit is not a matter of being enslaved by the Spirit, but a willing cooperation with Him.  The Spirit leads and we follow if we so choose to do so.

Not only have we been set free to be able to serve others, we have also been set free for another purpose as well; to show the glory of God.

Long story short, when Moses would enter into the tent of the meeting and spend time with God’s Presence face-to-face, His face would literally beam brightly with light because the glory of the Lord would linger with Him.  This kind of freaked the people out, so he would wear a veil to cover that beaming glory.  Not only that, but it also covered up the fact that this glory would also fade away from Moses over time being away from God’s Presence.

2 Corinthians 3:7-18

7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

You are free!  You are a Spirit-filled temple of God and where the Spirit of the Lord is, THERE IS FREEDOM!  There is no condemnation for you, so there is no reason to walk around with veils or masks on any longer! 

You be the you that God created you to be!  A born again, Spirit filled, freed indeed believer!  Walk in the Spirit and allow the glory of God to shine through your life so that you become a lighthouse for the broken, the lost, the hopeless, and the weary.  You are FREE!