Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Understanding and Finding True Freedom - Independence Day 2010

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, July 4, 2010.

John 8:31-36: “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?” Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”

Galatians 2:20 - “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Today our nation marks the 234th anniversary of it’s independence – a freedom bought and paid for by the blood of patriots whose mindset and motto was, “Give me liberty or give me death…” For those of us who truly understand the history and context behind that great struggle for independence – and the sacrifices made to achieve it, and the blessings that have come with it – there is a great measure of appreciation for those men and women and for what God enabled them to accomplish. In other words, for those of us who view this day for what it really means – this is not just another day for the banks and Post Offices to be closed, not just a day to cook some brisket and drink a six-pack, not just a day to shoot fireworks and fly a flag – but a day to celebrate the freedoms we enjoy in this country: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly. It’s also truly a day to remember and thank God for those He used to bring al of it to pass.

My friends, though we could talk for a while yet on that aspect of freedom, what I really want to do is open up the Word of God and examine what is says about this subject. True freedom, what is it? What is it not? And, how do we obtain and experience it? As I see it, deep within the heart of every person is a longing, an intense desire to be free. However, that desire, that longing - warped and mis-shapened as it is because of our sinfulness – often propels us in the direction of lives lived without controls, behaviors expressed without restraints, as if the uncontrolled, lawless life was the truly free life.

But, the fact of the matter is – it isn’t! True freedom is not living without rules and without consequences for one’s actions. No, that’s chaos, that’s rebellion, and that’s destruction. Just listen to these words of wisdom from the Book of Proverbs that speak to this subject: what does it mean – what can be expected – when one lives his life with a “no-rules, no restraints” way of thinking? Proverbs 25:28 – “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit, is like a city that is broken down and without walls…” The destruction, the wide-open vulnerability to be destroyed of a live lived without restraint is obvious to us – or, is it? Proverbs 16:32, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who takes a city.” Great warriors who take cities are great. But, the Word of God says that the self-controlled person is even greater!

What does it mean to be truly free? Does it mean what a friend of mine told me her neighbor thinks it means? This friend of mine – her neighbor, expressed his ‘freedom’ by urinating on the public sidewalk in her apartment complex. And, he did so, in the sight of my friend’s 8-year-old son. Is that what it means to be free? Another young man I was talking to recently told me that he’d had enough of his big brother’s ranting and raving and trying to control his life – so he punched his lights out! Is that the way to be truly free?

What does it mean to be truly free? You know, we Christians have a statement that we rehearse and recite often, don’t we? It goes like this: “Jesus Christ is Lord.” “Jesus Christ is Lord.” And, believe me, it’s an important statement! The apostle Paul indicated that the verbal expression of that statement, combined with a heart felt belief in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ leads to salvation. (Romans 10:9-10) But listen, that statement “Jesus Christ is Lord,” is it only a Christian confession of faith? Is it only a theological doctrine of religious creed? Or, is it something more? If our answer to these questions is, “No! This Christian confession is not something more, it is only a theological doctrine,” then I believe the door is thrown open for the rebellious, un-restrained, no rules life and life-style. But, if the words, the declaration, “Jesus Christ is Lord” is more than mere doctrine or creed, then I believe we have a sign-post before us, pointing the way to the freedom for which we all yearn.

What does it mean to be truly free? Take a look at our main text, John 8:31-36, and watch how Jesus answers that for us.

First of all, He underscores for us a truth - a reality, a hard, cold fact-of-life - that until we acknowledge it, and alter our lives in accordance with it, we will never know true freedom. What is that fact? Verse 34 – sin enslaves! No, I didn't say what the devil has been saying since the Garden of Eden, but I point you to what Jesus said. What He said was that the sinner, is a slave! You and I may think that we've found “freedom” in that thrill, that 'no-no' we're getting away with, that activity or addiction that allows us to get away from it all. But listen again to the words of the One who knows you better than you know yourself, “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” (John 8:34) Whoever violates the laws of God, whoever lives his life as if he has no need of anyone, especially God – such a person is not free, but in fact, miserably enslaved!

What does it mean to be truly free? And, how am I too obtain that freedom? Well, the first thing to realize and recognize is that a life without rules and restraints, a life of sinful rebellion against your Maker, is not freedom, but slavery!

Secondly, Jesus informs us that true freedom is to be found in His Word, in the truth that sets a person free! (John 8:31-32) Now, before we quickly move on to the next portion of our study here, allow me to take a moment or two with you to unpack what Jesus means. When Jesus says, “If you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free...” What is He trying to show us, to explain to us? Look at His words closely. As I understand it, Jesus is not saying that true freedom is found and is all about hearing His word or reading His word, or even studying His word, as we are doing now! Don't get me wrong, we need to do all of those things, we do! But none of those things, individually, nor all of those things collectively, is the goal, the outcome God has is mind for us, the doorway to true freedom. No, look. The goal, the outcome, the doorway is all about ABIDING in Jesus' word! ABIDING in the truth He has spoken.

Now, here's the $64,000 question. What does it mean to “abide in Jesus' Word”? To “abide” literally means to dwell, to remain, to stay. And, the word “in”, we all know what that little word means, don' we? It's a direction word, a location word. But, what does Jesus mean by the phrase, “abide in His word”? To put is simply: not only for Jesus, but even for us, a person's word is a verbal expression of his will. It's a declaration of what he or she wants. So, when Jesus says, “If you abide in my word, you are My disciples indeed...” What Jesus is really trying to tell us is that the liberating knowledge of the truth is all about staying – staying where? Staying, abiding in His will, as expressed by what He has said.

In other words, the truth designed to set you and me free, Jesus' words, doesn't set us free by simply reading it or hearing it (as you are this morning) or even studying it or preaching it. But it sets you and me free by conforming oneself to it! In other words, freedom is not to be found and experienced exerting my will or your will, but in surrendering to Jesus' will! In a location more liberating and more satisfying than any other, a placed described and summed up in the words of a man by the name of Saul of Tarsus - the fellow who later came to be known by the name Paul the apostle, (Acts 9:6) this blasphemer, this persecutor of the Church, this violent, angry man, on a road toward a place called Damascus, stepped into a place called the “tree freedom”, when Jesus confronted him with His word: What does it mean to be truly free? It has everything to do with abiding, remaining, staying IN Jesus' word! It has everything to do with living out the words Saul spoke with trembling lips and quivering knees: “Lord, what is it that You want me to do?”

What does it mean to be truly free? And, how are you and I to obtain that freedom? One more time, back to our text, beginning at verse 33, can't you just hear the arrogance of the Jews of Jesus' day? “We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone!” Can't you just hear the arrogance of the people of our day? “I'm an American! I've never been in bondage! I drive a nice car, live in a quiet neighborhood, work hard at my job, have white as my skin color – I've never been anyone's slave!” So, Jesus, how can you say that we will be made free?

Well, remember the point at which Jesus began this discussion: He made clear to all, I mean all, that all who sin are slaves! Does that include you? Does that including me? Yes! And, notice – in verse 35 – that He says that a slave, he does not, indeed, he cannot call the “house” his “home”, his permanent dwelling. Why? Because the “house” is meant only for the master's sons, for the king's children. But, what happens when a son, we'll say, THE Son – Jesus Christ – sets s slave free? What results? A temporary work release, kind of like they do with some of the prisoners over here at the county jail? A partial entry into the joys and privileges of the “house”? No! Look again at verse 36 and at the one whose words these are - “A slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed!”

True freedom, what does it mean? It means it's moving day! There are a lot of folks on the road in their rented U-Haul trucks this weekend, aren't there? It's moving day, for every slave to sin set free from that bondage, that's right, that's what it is. Sin is bondage, but for every slave to sin who is set free by the Capital 'S' Son, it's moving day! Time to send out the change of address cards, because the servant's quarters is no longer his abode! No! From this day forward this used-to-be-slave is a son. And, from this day forward this son lives in the house with his Master, his King, his Father! And, how is that possible! The Capital 'S' Son makes it possible! “I have been crucified with Christ,” the apostle Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, “nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Jesus Christ is my Lord”. Oh, listen my friends, that statement is more, way more than just a doctrinal declaration. It is what freedom, true freedom is all about! “Jesus Christ is my Lord, there for I will abide, I will locate myself, I will stay in His word, I will rest and reside within the bounds and blessings of His will! Then, and only then, will I be truly free!

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