Summary: Three kinds of freedom from sin God gives us through the good news.
"Free at last, free at last; thank God Almighty we’re free at last." It’s been 37 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Washington Monument and uttered those words in his famous "I have a dream" speech. Next Monday we’ll be celebrating Dr. King’s birthday, and the birth of the Civil Rights Movement here in America. During the last almost 40 years the Civil Rights Movement has taken lots of twists and turns.
In many ways, we’re better off than we were in the 1960s, with lots of laws changed, much more opportunities for minorities, and a different attitude toward diversity among many people. Yet racial hatred remains, and it seems unlikely that the Civil Rights Movement will be able to root out the kind of hatred that dwells in the human heart. In fact, it was only five years after that famous "I have a dream speech" when Martin Luther King, Jr. was gunned down.
Although we should continue working for freedom in our world, the reality is that only God can offer genuine, lasting freedom. Jesus himself once said, "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36). What kind of freedom was Jesus talking about there? Freedom from foreign oppression? Freedom from discrimination? Freedom from despair? I once heard one of our state elected officials quote these words of Jesus, and then apply them to his political party’s agenda, as if his political career were the fulfillment of Jesus’ words.
No, the kind of freedom Jesus is speaking of is freedom from sin. You see, according to the Bible, sin lies at the heart of our human lack of freedom. By "sin" I don’t much mean specific actions like lying or hatred, but I a condition of being in sin. You see, the Bible pictures sin as first and foremost a condition of isolation and alienation from God, a condition of helplessness and hopelessness. This awful condition is universal, effecting every person on the face of the earth. This is what lies at the heart of all forms of human oppression. The reason racists hate people is because of the power of sin in their lives. The reason why governments oppress their citizens and exploit the poor is because of the domination of sin. The reason why assassins murder people, the reason why parents abuse their children, the reason why teenage kids take ecstasy to escape from reality is because of the power of sin.
God knows that to truly deal with a problem like racism or hatred, we need to get at the root issue. I think of my AA sponsor for the first several years of my sobriety. Although he hadn’t abused alcohol for 25 years, he had developed a gambling problem. Instead of hitting the bars he now hit the poker games. He’d often gamble away his entire paycheck, leaving he and his son living on almost nothing until his next payday. Although he was free from his addiction to alcohol, he wasn’t truly free from the power of addiction.
Freedom indeed is freedom from the root problem, not just the symptom. Today we’re going to look at how God sets us free from our sin. How does God break the chains of sin, so we can deal with the root issue of what lies at the heart of racism, violence, and so forth?
We’ve been in a series through the New Testament book of Romans called GOOD NEWS FOR OUR TIMES. In the first three chapters of Romans, Paul painted the human condition in very bleak terms, as he showed that all people are helpless under the power of sin. Religious and non-religious, church goers and non-church goers, moral and immoral, Jewish and non-Jewish, all people have been chained in the prison of sin. Paul’s conclusion in Romans 3:23 was, "All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory." We’ve seen the last few weeks that God’s law (the ten commandments) is unable to break the power of sin in our lives. Although God’s law shows us God’s standards by defining right and wrong for us, it can’t help us meet that standard. Last week we saw what happens when a person tries to meet the standard of God’s law while that person is still captive to the power of sin. We saw that this kind of person finds him or herself unable to obey God, inwardly torn between good and bad, and living a miserable life of spiritual defeat.
Today we begin looking at what God has done to answer that condition. Specifically we’re going to find three kinds of freedom God offers us from sin. These three kinds of freedom correspond to the three persons of the holy trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.