Summary: Jesus came to bring freedom. But there are two challenges God has in bringing spiritual freedom to human beings.
The Challenges of Freedom
Jesus in Isaiah, part 2
Wildwind Community Church
With the threat of global terrorism, we are focused on freedom in ways we never were before. There’s constant bantering in the media and among politicians about the issue of freedom vs. the issue of national security. President Bush has defended his wiretaps in those terms, and also until recently the idea of holding people at Guantanamo indefinitely without trial. We’ll just have to give up a little freedom if we want to live securely. I won’t go on to make political commentary, but will simply point out that this issue concerning basic freedom is huge in our society right now.
All the focus on personal rights in our society really concerns the question, “What is the limit to freedom?” Our most cherished constitutional amendment concerns the right to free speech – to not have someone looking over our shoulder telling us what to think, what to say, and how to say it. We value that freedom. The issues over whether we should have Christmas decorations in public places are really issues of freedom. Some people believe they should be free to enjoy Christmas decorations in public places. Others believe they should be free FROM those decorations and what they symbolize. What does it mean to live in a country of 300 million people, each wanting to be free, but each defining and understanding freedom in different ways?
Can I just drop something kind of heavy on you right now and then we’ll spend the rest of our time here today looking more closely at it? Human beings will never find freedom until they find freedom in God. There is no freedom apart from God. Although many people believe the key to freedom is shaking off God, and organized religion, and spiritual authority of every kind whether embodied by a church or a pastor or priest, the fact is that human beings will never find freedom until they find freedom in God.
We’re doing a series this month on prophecies about Jesus that were written by the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah lived 700 years before Jesus was born, yet described in striking detail the circumstances of his birth, his life purpose, and his death. Today I want to look at the 61st chapter of the book of Isaiah, the first three verses. Here is the prophet Isaiah, writing 700 years before Jesus.
Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV)
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion-- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.
This passage speaks of freedom. When you are crushed by poverty and you get some good news, that’s freedom. When you are brokenhearted and someone comes along and helps you deal with your pain, binds up your wounds, that is freedom. When you are a captive and someone sets you free, obviously that is freedom. When you are in a dank dungeon and someone releases you into the open air and warm sunshine, that is freedom. When you are mourning and someone brings you comfort, that is freedom. When your life is on the ash-heap and someone brings beauty into it, that is freedom. When you are mourning and someone is able to make you glad – even for a second – that is freedom. When you are in despair and someone is able to help you give thanks and praise God, that is freedom.
Isaiah predicted that Jesus would be a bringer of freedom, that his mission on earth would be a freedom-bringing mission. I hope you return next week because I want to talk to you about the specific ways that Christ brings freedom. Isaiah wrote about that in chapter 42, and you’ll be astonished at how Christ does this in the human heart. But today I want to focus on the freedom itself, because we live in a society where freedom is a central topic because it is threatened. Anyway, the prophecy was that Jesus would bring freedom to people and I want to point something out. We would not do this passage justice if we simply read it as being about physical freedom. Someone in jail has those bars slide open and walks out physically free. Yes, that’s a kind of freedom, but there’s a reason why it matters whether we spend our lives behind bars in a smelly cell or out in the open air. It matters because something in our soul, something in our spirit longs for freedom. Captivity goes against the grain of the human spirit. We were not made to live caged up. Oswald Chambers said “God who made the birds never made birdcages; it is men who make birdcages, and after a while we become cramped and can do nothing but chirp and stand on one leg. When we get out into God’s great free life, we discover that that is the way God meant us to live…”