Summary: This message talks about the freedom God brings from the things that bind you
Today is the third Sunday of Advent, the time when the church traditionally looks for the second coming of Christ. The first week, we spoke about expectation and that God wants to do something greater than ever before in your life and the life of this church. Last week, we looked at Isaiah 61 which is a prophecy of the coming Messiah written 800 years before Jesus’ birth and talked about how Jesus brought the Good News to the poor and that is why we who follow Jesus should focus our time and resources on the marginalized poor and the oppressed. Today, we’re going talk about the freedom God brings from the things that bind you.
In the 8 centuries before Jesus’ birth, the Jewish people knew well the life of oppression, slavery and death. In 722 BC, they were captured and enslaved by the Assyrians. In 586 BC, they were captured and taken into slavery to Babylon. In 538, they were captured, ruled and occupied by the Persians. In 63 BC, Rome conquered and occupied Israel So for more than 7 centuries, the Jewish people knew fear, occupation and a lack of freedom, all the while crying out to God to deliver them. Times in Jesus’ day were hard under Roman rule. If a Roman citizen came up to you and hit you up the side of the head, you had no rights and no recourse. During the cold winter months of Jerusalem, which has an elevation of 7000 feet, a Roman soldier could come up to you and take your coat and you could do nothing about it. Or if you were on your way to work, which was difficult to get a job and keep as a Jew and more than likely was a menial job, a Roman soldier could come up to you and tell you to carry his 45 pound pack for one mile and you could not refuse. The Roman tax rate was more than 60% to support the Roman soldiers, fund Herod’s construction projects and support Rome. This often caused people to live in poverty and fall into debt. Under Roman law, if I was late paying on my debts, they could enslave me to pay it off through indentured servanthood. Under these circumstances, you can well imagine that the people were longing for a Messiah. And you can well undersatand that the majority of Jesus’ teachings address the impoverishment, hunger and debt that most people experienced in their lives. It is in this contect that Jesus read from Isaiah 61 and proclaimed the release of those held in captivity, not only for his hearers but for us as well.
Today, I want us to look at the root cause of the oppression and captivity we experience in our daily lives. Jesus comes to proclaim freedom for the captives and that means we need to first ask, What is keeping you captive from living the life God calls you to and being the person God created you to be? What does Jesus want to liberate you? Write it down or name it.
But there is a deeper question we need to ask: Who is keeping you captive? Jesus read, “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God.” Who are the enemies of God? The real enemy of God is not the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians or even the Romans. The real enemy is the evil one. There is a force of darkness which is wreaking havoc over our lives and in our world. God is not attacking the ones who are the perpetrators of the evil but the cause of the evil itself. Paul puts it this way: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12
First, we are infected with sin. Last week, we talked about generational sin. You and I are affected by the baggage of our parents and those before them. But the Bible also says we are all infected by the sin of Adam or Original Sin. It can be like a cancer that grows inside of us. All of us have thoughts and desires inside of us that we can’t believe. We do things we pledge to never do. And so we do things that we don’t want to do and then promise that we’ll never do it again. Paul put this struggle with sin this way: “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do; but what I hate, I do.” Romans 7:14 So what we bring with us is the baggage of our parents and the baggage of Adam and Eve. The mission of Jesus is to free us from the pull of sin in our lives. We’re fighting an enemy whose sole purpose is to kill and destroy anything, especially that which has been dedicated to God. We are fighting unseen powers and principalities. Our society’s thinking is that if we just destroy those who do bad through the death penalty then we destroy evil. But that does not destroy the cause of evil. Evil still exists.