Summary: This is a sermon preached on Independence, Fourth of July, Sunday in 2007, based on John 8:31-38. The theme is that only Jesus can give us true freedom.
Free to Do What I Want???
I am still a fan of the Beatles and admire Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, but I have never been into the Rolling Stones and Mick Jagger. I didn’t realize until this week that Mick and the Stones recorded the song “I’m Free” on September 6-7, 1965. That was at the beginning of my senior year in high school. The song was composed by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. The current, television commercial for the Chase Freedom Card led me to make that discover. The Stones’ original version of the song is the theme for the commercial that has been airing frequently these past several weeks on television and immediately catches our attention.
It features butterflies flying freely through the air and announces: “Introducing Chase Freedom. It feels like no other credit card in the world, and it works like no other card too. Feel free to choose cash back, and then change to points, and then change again, all with the same card and without loosing a thing. That’s freedom, Chase Freedom. Get it free at Chase.com/Freedom.” [SOURCE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zguxl2Q-OCc&feature=PlayList&p=D0330F0BFC99964D&index=22]. Continually you hear in the background Mick Jagger singing:
I’m free to do what I want any old time.
I’m free to do what I want any old time,
So love me, hold me, love me, hold me.
I’m free any old time to get what I want.
On this Independence Sunday, nearly 231 years after the birth of The United States of America, we still hear Jesus calling, inviting, and reassuring us: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” That’s true, genuine freedom, but does it mean that “I’m free to do what I want any old time?” What kind of freedom does Jesus give to those who put their trust in Him? Does being a Christian give me the freedom to “do as I please?” Does it mean “I’m free to do what I want any old time?”
Freedom is expressed in many ways and often means different things to different people. It may be personal or social in nature and often expresses social, economic, financial, political, or spiritual overtones. Many of us remember the CBS evening soap opera DALLAS that aired from 1978 to 1991. I remember the episode after J. R. and Sue Ellen’s divorce in which her financial planner assured her that she was worth four million dollars in her own right and thus could declare financial independence from J. R. That’s personal, financial independence.
Political freedom becomes a reality when one country gains independence from another, when a territory that was once a colony of a stronger nation becomes self-governing in its own right. The former colony gains political autonomy and is no longer under foreign rule. For our country that happened on July 4, 1776, when we declared our independence from Great Britain and the rule of King George III. Social freedom is more personal in nature. It grants individuals the right to act, speak, and think without arbitrary restrictions from government officials, a tyrannical dictator, or other oppressive outside power. Freedom oftentimes is synonymous with liberty, independence, and emancipation.
The Biblical terms expressing freedom, especially in New Testament Greek, have political roots. Often throughout their history Israel and Judah were seeking to overthrow the political tyranny that held them captive to Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Syria, or Rome. Yet the heart of the message of freedom in the New Testament is spiritual in nature: ““So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
Due to the tireless effort and ministry of William Wilberforce, the world’s most prominent abolitionist, on August 1, 1834, the British Slavery Act of 1833 went into effect freeing all slaves in the British Empire. The Emancipation Proclamation, signed by President Lincoln on September 22, 1862, went into effect on January 1, 1863, declared that “slaves in states or parts of states then in arms against the Union should be then, thence forward, and forever free.”
Even today in the United States and other civilized nations slavery, although forbidden by law, is practiced. While just like the Pharisees who protested to Jesus, we too might be tempted to boldly and proudly proclaim, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone,” the truth of the matter is we know Jesus is right on target when He looks each one of us in the eye and proclaims, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”
We were not personally slaves in Egypt or on a nineteenth century Southern Plantation, but we have all been in bondage and slavery to sin. Just like King David each one of us must confess:
I have been wicked even from my birth,