Iliff and Saltillo UM Churches
July 7, 2002
INTRODUCTION: In today’s scripture Jesus is talking to some Jewish believers who were new in the faith. They were weak in their faith at this point, and Jesus begins by telling them, “If you continue in my Word, then you are my disciples indeed” (KJV). He’s saying right now you are new in the faith, but if you continue to HOLD TO my teachings and KEEP ON obeying them, then you are really one of my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. The Message Bible clarifies this a little bit more by saying, “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples FOR SURE. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.”
During this past fourth of July week we have heard a lot about freedom and living in a country where we are free to choose and free to speak. Free to go where we want to, free to worship or not worship. Freedom to decide many things or ourself. Freedom has been a part of our thinking throughout history.
STORY: At the close of an important speech to Congress on January 6, 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt shared his vision of the kind of world he wanted to see after the war in Europe was over. He spoke of four basic freedoms which should be enjoyed by all people: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Of course, World War II exploded far beyond Europe, and the world never achieved Roosevelt’s ideal. Even if it did, however, we would still need another freedom the president didn’t mention: freedom from ourselves and the tyranny of our sinful nature.
Jesus was talking to these new believers about this new kind of freedom--spiritual freedom rather than political freedom. At that point they didn’t understand what He meant and were trying to live up to a lot of rules and regulations. They had not come into the knowledge of what it meant to be FREE INDEED spiritually. I don’t think Christians have come into the freedom that Jesus was talking about here either because many people are living such defeated, stressed out lives rather than the abundant life that Jesus spoke about when he said, “I have come that [you] may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). This means being FREE INDEED. You may say, “I must not experiencing the freedom that Jesus talked about here or otherwise I would not be struggling so much--falling for all of the temptations that come down the road and feeling guilty because I am not the Christian that I really want to be.
What did Jesus really mean when he said, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed?”
This week as I walked around in this scripture, I wondered about the word freedom and how it applies to Christians in the 21st century. I believe it goes beyond the freedom to attend church or not attend. It goes beyond our freedom to read the Bible, to choose the denomination we prefer, and to speak out about our faith. When Jesus sets us free, it makes a much greater impact on our personal lives in that we are FREE INDEED to live overcoming, productive lives. We are not just barely hanging on as Christians. Just how does this idea of freedom apply to us today? Do we even know we are free?
STORY: At a farmer’s market in a little village there was a covey of quail walking in circles around a pole. They had strings attacked to their legs, and they continued to walk around and around the pole hour after hour. A man came into the market and asked, “How much will you take for all of them?” He paid the owner the agreed upon price and then began to cut the strings off of their legs.
“What are you doing?” the owner asked in unbelief?
“I’m setting them free,” said the new owner.
But in spite of the strings being cut giving the quail their freedom, they continued to walk around the pole in the same old circle. They didn’t even realize that they were free and that they could go in a different direction.(source unknown)
Not until the man began shooing them away did they move from this set routine.
Jesus says, “If the Son sets you free you are free indeed.” We need to realize that we are free today from all kinds of things because of His freeing us. We need to go in a different direction. We don’t have to continue to march around in circles of guilt and sin and drudgery. We are free indeed. What does that include?
1. Freedom from the Guilt of Sin: Sometimes we have a cloud of guilt hanging over our heads because we are guilty of sin.
Enclosed you will find a check for $150. I cheated on my income tax return last year and have not been able to sleep ever since. If I still have trouble sleeping I will send you the rest.
Sincerely, A Tax Payer
We can do something about true guilt. We go to Jesus and simply say, “I’m guilty. I’ve sinned. I’ve blown it again. Forgive me.” Scripture tells us in I John 1:9 that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” He takes care of our true guilt, but He also takes care of our false guilt. Sometimes we have a more difficult time with that than we do with true guilt. Many Christians will say, “I feel guilty because I am not good enough, don’t live up to what I think I ought to be or should do. I feel guilty because I don’t know if I....and what happens is that they are living under a CLOUD OF CONDEMNATION. Have you ever felt this hanging over you so that you lost your joy? You are trying to live up to what you THINK God requires or what YOU REQUIRE of yourself and it results in CONDEMNATION because you can never achieve it.
Scripture says in Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” The Message Bible puts it this way, “Those who enter Christ’s being here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, FREEING you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.”
One of the biggest things that He has set us free from is the GUILT OF SIN--whether true guilt or false guilt. Today is the day to cut the strings from off your feet. You are already under new ownership when you come to Jesus.
2. Freedom From the Consequences of Sin: Sin has consequences. Much of the time we have to suffer the consequences and we can’t go back and erase the results of our actions. A lifetime of self-destructive habits takes a toll on our health, for example. Sometimes we can’t repair the damage done in relationships. Sometimes we can’t always just “fix” things. Parents often want to fix problems for their children because they don’t want them to have to go through pain and suffering. Sin has consequences. Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We can be free from the final consequence of sin through God’s gift of eternal life. We might have to experience consequences of our sin, but because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we can have freedom from the final consequence of sin because He gets us off the downward spiral and turns us around in a new direction. Because of this new life, we have freedom from sin’s slavery.
STORY: One Memorial Day the next door neighbors told about a scary experience of going white-water rafting on the Kaweah River. When they started out it seemed like they were in control of the raft. But then they came to the first rapids. Big waves threatened to engulf them. The water swirled around and pushed and pulled at them. “No matter how hard we paddled or even in what direction, we had no choice but to go through the rapids and down the river.” It was the river - not them - that was in control.
In the same way it is sin--not man himself--that is in control. No matter how hard we try, sin and evil plunges us straight ahead into the abyss of ruin and destruction.
When we come to Christ and decide to totally go His way, we can be certain that sin’s power is broken. We are no longer under sin’s control. He is able to set us free from the downward spiral. Many people don’t believe this. You might not believe it. “I can’t change,” you say. It is more a matter of saying, “I really don’t WANT to change.”
We know we can change. He gives us freedom from the control of sin when we give ourselves completely to God. We can see ourselves being unresponsive to sin. You decide to make the break and He will do the inner transaction. You are free to choose. This is where our faith comes in. We must believe that when we come to Christ that He does make us FREE INDEED.
Galatians 5:1 tells us, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” “You, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature” (v. 13)
3. The Freedom to Be All that God Wants You to Be: What is the truth? Scripture tells us that Jesus HIMSELF is the Truth that sets us free. He is the source of the truth--the perfect standard of what is right. Jesus frees us to BE all that God wants us to be. John 14:6 Jesus said, “I AM the way and the TRUTH and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This was one of His I AM statements. He didn’t say, I HAVE the Truth or I KNOW the Truth but rather I AM the TRUTH.
We can begin to experience a new life because of His guidance and direction in our daily lives. Galatians 5:16 tells us to “walk under the control of the Spirit and we will no longer be forced to live in bondage to the desires of the flesh.” We no longer have to live angry, jealous, hateful, selfish, under guilt and condemnation or any other of the characteristics of a sinful lifestyle. Why would a person who has accepted God’s gift still live in bondage to the same old lifestyle? Titus 2:11-12 tells us “the grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lust. It teaches that we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age.” Many people want the promise of heaven when they die, but they want to live like the world around them while they are still here. I don’t think that things work that way if we are becoming all that the Lord wants us to be.
Jesus was telling these new Christians that if they continued to do what He taught them, they would REALLY BE HIS DISCIPLES and as a result REALLY BE FREE INDEED.
Paul says it in a little different way in II Corinthians 3:16-18 “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is FREEDOM and we...are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory which comes from the Lord...”We are FREE to become all that the Lord wants us to be. He can make it happen for you. But we need to turn our lives over completely to the Lord.
CONCLUSION: Are you free today? Do you have a nagging sense of guilt hanging over your head like a cloud and you can’t seem to shake free of it? If so, Jesus can take care of that. Come to Him fully expecting Him to do it. Are you burdened down by the slavery of sin’s control? Are you always being tripped up by sin’s deception and temptation? Do you want to be free to be what God wants you to be?
Today as we participate in the sacrament of communion, we can find his grace conveyed into our souls in such a way that brings about the freedom Jesus was talking about. As we come forward to kneel, open your hearts in full response to His working.
Let Us Pray: