Recently one of the TV programmes I enjoy watching is Noel Edmonds “Deal or No Deal”. Has anyone here seen the programme. Bank’s offer could suddenly vaporize. ?
Basically there are 22 contestants and each one will get a go in the seat so to speak. There are 22 boxes, each one of them contains a cash figure from 1 pence with the top amount being £250,000. The main contestant will pick one box, the rest are given to the other contestants to look after. No-one knows what their box contains One by one the main player will select a box and eliminate an amount from their potential winnings in the box they’ve selected, it’s a game of chance and really does involve sheer luck. Periodically there will be a call on the telephone, on the end of the line is the anonymous banker. . The Banker is always watching the player, trying to analyse their psychology, and has has no idea what the contestant’s sealed box contains. The Banker’s sole purpose is to try and ensure the player leaves the studio with the smallest amount of money possible. Based on the amounts of money the player has eliminated and their perception of the player themselves, the Banker makes a cash offer to buy the mystery box. Whenever The Banker makes an offer, the player is left with a desperate dilemma... take the offer, or risk losing everything!- ’Deal or No Deal’. It’s certainly a tough one, a contestant could have £250K in their box, they could have a few quid. Do they turn down the bankers guaranteed amount of £20k or do they keep on playing?
Before you get to disappointed I havenot turned up with a quarter opf a million pounds and we will not be playing Deal or No Deal. But based on the 2 passages that were read earlier
from the gospel of Matthew and the letter in Galatians and the question that we will be considering is Free or Not Free that is the question.
Now the answer may seem fairly obvious. Jesus makes a number of claims about freedom
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,
He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."
The gospel message is that Jesus has come to bring in the kingdom of God and that through his death on the cross individuals can be forgiven for their sins and are free to live and serve him. So if you have said Yes to Jesus then you are free.
Yet there is this nagging voice in our heads “Am I really free?” – I don’t always feel free.
Lets look at some examples.
Tom works up in town – and has been at the same company for the last 4 years. When he started the hours were fairly regular. 9 till 5.30. But over the last few months he’s been made to work longer and longer hours and feels more and more trapped – having less and less time for his family. He feels constrained but not free to speak to his boss for fear of consequences
Margaret has 2 young children and is goes to the nursery with her kids on a weekly basis. She often meets up with her friend Pam a good looking lady. She always wants to share a bit more about God’s goodness and love with Pam who isn’t a believer but doesn’t feel free to do so and is worried about the consequences
Dave is retired and has worked hard all his life and is now pulling in his pension. He often reads about opportunities to serve abroad or help out Christian organizations. He senses the Lord could be calling him to this. But he is worried about what this may mean for his future. He feels constrained to stay put rather than freedom to step out into something new.
Three different snapshots of people who although Christian are afraid. They have all been set free from the consequences of sin and yet still live in fear of what others think And this element of fear can manifest itself in many ways. Fear of rejection by others. There is nothing more satisfying having spent time working on a sermon to have people come up and share their appreciation – but in that can creep fear – “Phew they did like me after all – I do have worth.” In other things Work can consume us because we want to impress – the fear of being 2nd rate. We can give in to our kids demands for fear that they will no longer like us. We can be afraid of what others may think of us if they knew the real me. As a teenager we can be afraid of what others think of us.
Far too often our identity is wrapped up in whether or not we are perceived as successful or likeable
If they like me then I’ll be OK
And often when our fortress’s do come under attack our first reaction is self defense. I can often tell when Jayne is right about something that I have or haven’t done based on my response. The faster I am to defend myself and protest and explain away the 5 reasons why I haven’t done something – the more guilty I tend to be
And even though I still haven’t quite understood my reaction I think it has something to do with the fear of being wrong.
Henri Nouwen said
”Who am I?
“I am the one who is liked, praised, admired, disliked, hated or despised. Whether I am a pianist, a businessman, or a minister, what matters is how I am perceived by the world.”
Now clearly some of you will be better able to relate to this than others
Clearly we want to serve Christ and there are many areas where we submit to him and yet often our actions and attitudes are shaped by how the worlds sees us.
REFLECTION ON OUR OWN FEARS BEFORE THE WORLD
In what ways do I show myself seeking others approval?
What areas of your life do you use as a measure of your worth
Do you ever “stay quiet” about your beliefs when you feel God giving you an opportunity to talk? Why?
HOW WE CAN LOSE OUR FREEDOM AS A CHRISTIAN
In the passages we looked at earlier there are 2 ways we can lose our freedom.
Firstly it is To LIVE AND ACT FOR THE WORLD
Our passage in Matthew shows that this attitude was not uncommon for Jewish society in the first century. Read 6:1 The reason Jesus needed to say this is precisely because people needed to parade their good deeds – In vs. 1-4 he is condemning that attitude of pleasing others in giving . In vs. 5-15 he warns others about pleasing others through by prayer, and finally that they may be seen by fasting. It is important to note what is condemned in vs. 2 it is “to be seen by men and to be honoured by them.” In v5 again what is condemned is “being seen by men”, and finally in v16 what is at stake is “showing people”.
Christ makes it very clear we are not to live our lives and do acts for others. It may be out of fear of pleasing them or it may be because we want to be seen well of.
For ultimately our reason for pleasing those around us is that we might please ourselves. That they may think better of us. That we might be more well thought of by others than by God. He makes it emphatically clear if you do your acts towards others then “You will have no reward from your Father”, there is no blessing in them, no value in them.
If you do your acts and live your lives to please men, then they are robbed of their value.
In the same way that Christ applies this to prayer, fasting and giving this can be applied to our work, our ministry and whatever we do – if we do them to gain the praise of people then expect no blessing no reward from your Father in heaven
Imagine on your birthday you were handed a big present It’s a bit like been given a box of chocolates by your wife, which she chose because they were her favourites. An act which is supposed to be of such value yet is made worthless by the motive.
So doing things to be seen by others is a way of losing our freedom
SECONDLY IT IS TO BECOME A PEOPLE PLEASER
But also in the letter to Galatians that was read out. Paul is in a tight spot. He had preached the gospel to them and some had accepted the message with joy, They were converted from their old way of life into a living relationship with Jesus Paul stayed with them for a while ministering to them and then left to continue his missionary work.
But then "new preachers entered" - seeking to turn these new Christians away from the truth Seeking to get them to trust on something other than the cross. That it was by their own efforts and actions that they could receive a blessing and acceptance from God. And that actually Paul’s message of free grace was too easy – That Paul was a person-pleaser.
And in Galatians 1:10 Paul utterly refutes this – “Am I trying to win the approval of men” “Am I trying to please people”. The answer is No. Unlike many of us Paul was not out to give himself an easy life. He knew that if he was to live his life to please others he would lose his Christian freedom
So we have looked at the problem. The reality that although we can say Yes to Jesus I want you as my Lord we can still be people-pleasers who want to be noticed by the world. So what is the solution. How do we escape this sub standard 3rd world Christian living or is this just part and parcel of the Christian life. Well again we will need to turn to these 2 passages to see how they help us to live in freedom.
SOLUTION TO TRUE CHRISTIAN FREEDOM
Firstly in Matthew the solution is SECRET SERVICE TO THE FATHER
SOLUTION: 3 times in that passage the following phrase is mentioned “Your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you”. How contradictory this is to the worlds way of seeing things. If you’ve got it flaunt it – if y9ou’ve done it shout about it. When working at Procter & Gamble we had an annual review process where you would think back over the last year and write down all your achievements and accomplishments and then they would be discussed by your managers and you would be rated.
It was an immensely competitive process. It was important that all your achievements were visible. But here Christ is advocating secrecy as a way of liberating those with a desire to be seen to impress other people. Sometimes I try this at home – just last Thursday I cut Jayne a piece of cake – and thought I would leave her the chocolate star on the top. Yet only 2 minutes after giving it to her I had to say “Did you see I gave you the bit with the chocolate star!!”
If in all we did we remembered we were being watched by God and it was him alone that sees all our actions and all our thoughts than surely that would make a difference to how we would operate. The opportunities for practicing secrecy are all around. Immerse someone prayer. This also links in with the passage in Galatians where Paul asks “Am I trying to win the approval of men or of God. As I live my life am I shaped by the way others see me, or by the God who created me. I’M DOING THIS FOR God and for no-one else. Yes I’m willing to receive feedback and help but ultimately I do this for my Father who sees all my thoughts, motives and actions.
So the first solution to fear is to remember that it is God who we are here to please and he is the one who sees all.
The second solution to true Christian freedom is To REMEMBER YOUR STATUS AS A SLAVE OF GOD.
See Gal 1:10
In Galatians the word servant is better translated as slave. An unpopular word in today’s society and not surprising because of the overtones this word has. And yet this concept of being a servant of God or servant of Christ occurs more than 40 times in the New testament It should be remembered the word Christian does not occur at all in the new Testament.
It is a paradox but becoming a Christian is being made free to serve God. Here in Galatians The reason Paul no longer sought to please men is because he viewed himself in a new status – he was no longer a pleaser of men but a servant of Christ. The word slave is one
This picture of servanthood or slavery is an important one. The IPOD FACTORS
In the service of God
• To call the Christian the doulos of God means that he must be constantly in the service of God. In the ancient world the slave had literally no time of his own, no holidays, no leisure. All his time belonged to his master. The Christian cannot, either deliberately or unconsciously, compartmentalize life into the time and activities which belong to God, and the time and activities in which he does what he likes. The Christian is necessarily the man every moment of whose time is spent in the service of God.
Possessed by God
To call the Christian the doulos of God means that he is inalienably possessed by God. In the ancient world a master possessed his slaves in the same sense as he possessed his tools. A servant can change his master; but a slave cannot. The Christian inalienably belongs to God.
Obedience to God
• To call the Christian the doulos of God means that he owes an unquestioning obedience to God. A master’s command was a slave’s only law in ancient times. In any situation the Christian has but one question to ask: "Lord, what will you have me do?" The command of God is his only law.
Disposal of God
To call the Christian the doulos of God means that he is unqualifiedly at the disposal of God. In the ancient world the master could do what he liked with his slave; he had even the power of life and death over him. The Christian has no rights of his own, for all his rights are surrendered to God.
using doulos Paul is saying
"I am a slave to the Lord Jesus Christ. I am absolutely sold out to His will. I am willing to do whatever He tells me to do. I am willing to say whatever He tells me to say. I am willing to go wherever He leads me. I am a man who has made a choice. I am going to serve Him for all eternity."
Make a choice out of freedom.
"Lord, you are not making me do anything. Out of love I am choosing to be your slave and whatever you want in my life, I will thank you for it. I will serve you, so therefore I can serve others with the gifts you have given me. Thank you for the burden you have put on my heart for other people and thank you for the patience to let you do whatever you want to do in my life in the meantime."
If you’re employed and imagine you’re working for your company – well actually you’re working for the LORD
If you’re at home with or without kids and are in charge of looking after the home then you too are working for the LORD
If you’re retired and see your time as your won that you need to decide what to do with – well afraid it’s the LORD’s time and you are working for him.
It is only when we say YES to God I want to serve you, and be your slave that God as our maker who can shape us into the people that we were intended to be. It is only as we let him work in our lives that he change and transform us.
If any of you have broken a bone in your body and had a cast put on it – you will know how stiff the joint is when it comes out of the plaster. The simple reason is that it has not been put to use. Only after several days or weeks will it return to its normal flexibility. Exactly the same is true with a Christians willingness to serve their Master – A Christian’s unwillingness to serve His Master may also destroy his capacity for usefulness as they become stiff and inflexible - Or as they were intended .
As we finish today I want to give you a chance to respond – if you sense you have been living in fear of what others think or have been seeking your status in how others see you then I would like to pray for you, and give you an opportunity to recommit yourself to God as his servant, his slave that you might continue to become the person that he intends you to be – and to respond to his voice in every situation that you encounter knowing that you are living and acting for your heavenly Father and for no earthly master.