BE SET FREE 7-1-18
Be Set Free!
July 1, 2018
This week we will celebrate our country’s independence from British rule. A portion of the Declaration of Independence, signed back on July 4, 1776, reads: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”
Indeed this does bear similarity to the protestant reformation of the 16th century, in which the authority of the Catholic Church was challenged. The 95 theses nailed to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany by Martin Luther in 1517 were a ‘declaration of independence’ of sorts. In addition, he put the Bible into the hands of the common person and liberated Christians to interpret and follow God’s Word for themselves, instead being bound to adhere to man-made church doctrine by the priests, that was enslaving, not freeing them.
But greater still is the independence that was provided for us by Jesus Christ. But independence from what? Old Testament law, yes. However, before you think that gives us liberty to sin to our hearts content, you must understand the purpose the law was given in the first place. Paul told the Galatians, “Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (Galatians 5:21-26 ESV).
Yes, we were imprisoned and held captive under sin. But through our faith in Jesus Christ we are freed us from the sin that held us captive. The law showed us our sin, like a judge telling us what we are guilty of, but never freed us from it. Now believers who have laid their sins at the cross of Jesus have the Holy Spirit living within them to empower them to live a life free of the sins that had bound them.
And yet so often we walk around as if we are still dragging our chains, and living in a prison cell. We shrug our shoulders and say we just can’t help it, that’s the way we are. Whether our sin is pride (you never think you are better than someone else, do you?), discontent (none of you ever complain, do you?), selfishness, laziness… or perhaps even an addiction of some sort – alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling – Jesus has unlocked those chains! So why do we still drag them around and plead helplessness?
In our 3rd Scripture reading (Luke 8:26-39), you heard about the man who was demon-possessed, and ran around the cemeteries naked. He had the strength to break any physical chains that people tried to hold him captive with, but he did not have the strength to break the spiritual chains that the demons had bound him with. Until he met Jesus. The demons recognized Jesus. They knew of his power. And they feared him. Jesus released the man from the hold the demons had on him, and it was obvious to others that he was healed. And then Jesus told him to go and proclaim what God had done for him, which he did. Can you say the same? Can people see a difference in you since you put your faith in Jesus? If not, why not? And if so, have you pointed others to Jesus so they, too, could be freed from whatever is holding them captive?
In today’s world, people often turn to Jesus as a last resort. They try all of the world’s remedies for their sin first. Psychiatrists and doctors, medication, therapy, whatever is the current go-to drug or method of treatment. Of course, the problem is never labeled ‘sin’. No one sins in today’s society. Everyone is just misunderstood, and even the worst criminal is only a victim of society according to the modern way of thinking. Now don’t misinterpret me and suggest that I am calling on you to be judge, jury, and executioner to those around you. We are to love one another, encourage one another, forgive one another - and are not called to be their judge. Remember what Jesus said, “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye” (Luke 6:41-42). There is a huge difference between pointing a friend to Jesus after they see the marvelous change he has made in your own life, and telling someone they need the light of Jesus when you yourself refuse to leave your own dark prison cell.
So does your life reflect joy – or depression? Does it reflect peace – or fear and anxiety? Does it reflect love – or hatred? Are you eager to serve others – or do you want others to serve you? Are you content – or are you envious, greedy, or resentful? Is there something in your life other than the Holy Spirit that directs your actions, resulting in actions that are self-destructive or harmful to others? Do you say and do things you regret? If you are truly a born-again Christian, but cringe at these questions, you are not allowing the Holy Spirit to work in your life. This brings to mind the question that Jesus asked the man that was lying beside the healing waters of Bethesda for 38 years. He asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6). And if you are not a born-again Christian, then come to Jesus. Admit your sin and need for forgiveness. Ask him to save you, and put your faith in his sacrifice on the cross and in his resurrection from the dead. He promises that he will never turn away anyone who comes to him, no matter what they have done in their life (John 6:37). And he will free you not only from the penalty for your sin, which is eternal separation from God, but from the power of the sin that holds you captive. Then you, too, can sing, as in the song by Crowder “All My Hope Is In Jesus” (hear it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tElvdnId4Q).
“I'm no stranger to prison, I've worn shackles and chains,
but I've been freed and forgiven, And I'm not going back,
I'll never be the same.
That's why I sing...
All my hope is in Jesus, Thank God that yesterday's gone,
All my sins are forgiven, I've been washed by the blood.
I pray you have been, too. Amen.
Have you ever caught a butterfly,
And placed it in a jar?
You were so happy to catch it,
But now it can’t go far.
It can’t fly away into sky,
Or to the nearest flower,
It can’t enjoy the life it should,
Because it’s under your power.
But you can release it and let it fly,
And then it will be happy and free.
Just like Jesus can do for you,
And like He did for me.