Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What Is True Freedom?

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, July 2, 2011

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.”

What does it mean to be truly free? For Americans like you and me, there is perhaps no better time of year than the Fourth of July to have the subject of freedom on our minds. Most of the rest of the year we probably take it for granted that we enjoy such blessings of liberty in our nation as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly. But on the Fourth of July, often we pause to consider and even to thank God for these privileges we enjoy.

Before I any further with this message, allow me to suggest this assignment for the rest of today, and for tomorrow: sing the songs of liberty. Maybe you're not the best of singers, maybe you can't sing at all, but go ahead, do it anyway, sing the songs of liberty. The Star Spangled Banner, America The Beautiful, My Country Tis of Thee and other songs like them. Then, as you sing, think about the words, the message pertaining to this country we love so dearly, as those words tell a story about America that many have forgotten or forsaken. Then, one more: stop and pray. Call upon the mighty and merciful God Who has given us all these things, and thank and praise Him for doing so! Thank Him that we can worship Him in the way we choose to do so. Praise Him for the freedom to speak and even to publish your thoughts, ideas and opinions about our nation and our government without fear of total censorship. Yes, thank God that we can meet – openly, freely – with a sign in the yard advertising that we are doing so, because He has blessed us with a Nation, a Homeland, and a Constitution and Bill of Rights, providing us with that freedom.

By the way, did you know that it is, ultimately, the impact of the Gospel of Christ, the influence of the Christian faith and the Word of God, the kindness and favor of our Creator and Savior, that has brought all these things to pass?

What does it mean to be truly free? A blessings, a concept, an intangible thing like freedom, if you think about it, can only rightly be understood in light of its opposite. In other words, we don't understand – fully – what it means to be free, unless and until we know and discern what it means NOT to be free. To the Jews of Jesus' day, some of whom came to believe Him, Jesus said that true freedom comes, and can only be experienced and enjoyed, to the extent that folks like them and us abide in His Word, to the extent that we honor and obey His teaching. In fact, in verse 32 of the text from John chapter 8, Jesus connects His Word with the truth. By the way, going all the way back to Genesis three and the garden of Eden, the history of men and women and boys and girls is marked out with one distressing fact: lies enslave us!

John 8:31,32 – Jesus connects His Word to the truth and the truth, what does He declare about it? What does knowing the truth by way of abiding in Jesus' word, what does that do for you and me? It sets us free! It liberates us!

What does it mean to be truly free? As I said, blessings, concepts, intangible things like freedom are best understood, and I figure most deeply appreciated, when we grasp the meaning and significance of their opposites.
Jesus understood that principle. So, what does He do? Take a look again at the text. Verse 33 – The Jews that have come to believe Him, all of the sudden, they hit the brakes and say, 'Huh? Abiding in Your Word, knowing the truth, you say that is what will make us truly free? Jesus, don't you know? Jesus, have you forgotten?' “We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. So, how can you say, 'you will be made free'?”

Freedom, that precious commodity we enjoy and probably, too often, take for granted, is best understood and appreciated when we, like the Jews, realize that there's something that's opposite to it. “We've never been in bondage to anyone...”

The Jews understood that slavery, bondage, is the opposite of liberty. But look at what they didn't grasp. Somethin that Jesus had to clarify for them in verses 34-36. “Most assuredly” - the Old King James translation uses the words, “Verily, Verily...” Whenever you read those words coming out of the mouth of Jesus, you ought to sit up and take note. Jesus is about to tell you something that is certain. He's about to make a declaration that is very serious. “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And slaves, their place is not in the house...” What is Jesus trying to teach us here?

Number one, He is saying the same thing that folks like Peter and Paul and James and John would say. Sin enslaves us. It may be enticing, it may be appealing, it may even be fun, a LOT of fun. But, listen, Jesus makes it clear. The apostles make it clear. This Book makes it clear, in both Testaments, tat SIN enslaves us! Sin is a bondage, a kind of prison, a LOSS of freedom.

Secondly, notice the next thing Jesus makes clear to us about sin and the loss of freedom. Verse 35 – Sin excludes us. Not only does sin enslave us, imprison us; it also separates us from the rights and privileges of freedom, the rights and privileges of son-ship.

What does it mean to be truly free? I think it's meaningful, and very, very powerful to note that Jesus connects freedom with son-ship! Meditate on that one for a moment with me, will you? Freedom – true freedom, is linked with son-ship. It can't be separated from son-ship!

You think about it. We hire a 'slave' to fix our roof or repair our faucet or to make our stove work again. And, maybe that man doesn't get the work all done before lunch time. So, when it's lunch time, what does he do? Why, sure! He sits down at our table, in one of our children's places, reaches for the choice piece of meat and serving of vegetables we had prepared for our sons and daughters, and starts chowing down! That's what our 'slave' does, right?

You know he doesn't, not unless he's invited to do so. No! He heads out the door to McDonalds. Why? Because he's a 'slave' and not a son!

And, if for some reason, he doesn't complete the repairs we've hired him to do by night fall, he doesn't bump one of the children out of his bed to spend the night, does he? No! He packs up his tools and finds his own place to sleep!

And, then, think about this. In the middle of the night, I mean, 2,3,4 o'clock in the morning, when 'Mr. Slave' bolts himself awake because of a nightmare, you know he doesn't, does he? He doesn't tip-toe into my room, over to my side of the bed, and whisper, “Daddy! Daddy! I'm scared! Daddy, I had a bad dream and I'm scared!” Why not? You know why! Because he's a slave, because he's not my son!

What does it mean to be truly free? Oh, sure, as Americans we enjoy and praise God for the blessings of freedom we enjoy in this country. But, listen, true freedom, TRUE freedom goes much deeper. It has everything to do with relationship! With being a son!

Sin enslaves you and me! Yes, the Devil, the father of all un-truth, he does his best to make sin look so good: the lust of the eyes, and he plies his deceptive trade, working to make sin taste so good: the lust of the flesh, and he hits us with the biggest whopper of all, the one that ought to make us stop, dead in our tracks, but instead we too often swallow it hook, line and sinker. Sin, this enticement to sin, 'think of how it will move you up in this world! You can be as God', the pride of life... The father of lies does his best to present sin for what it isn't! The pathway to true freedom! Oh, but remember, my friends, the fact is, the truth is, that sin actually enslaves you. Not only that, sin excludes you! Sorry, Mr. Slave, we don't have room for you at the family dinner table! Sorry, Mr. Slave, if you need a bed for the night, Motel 6 is down the street. Sorry, Mr. Slave, don't come crying to me, I'm not your Daddy! 'I'm not your Daddy,' God says to slaves of sin.

Sin excludes you! For Adam and Eve that meant a one way ticket out of the Garden of Eden and forever blocked access to the other tree, the tree of life! Forever, that is, until the Son came! What Son, whose Son, am I talking about here?

I love it! This is the best part of it all! Enslaved sinners, excluded sinners, blocked forever by and because of our sin, from the tree of life, from the Father's table, from the son's place and privileges, from access, free access to the Father's side, to the Father's listening ear, and to the Father's tender heart – guess what? Enslaved sinners, excluded sinners, now have available to them an entrance into all the rights and privileges of son-ship, into all the joys of true freedom. Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, He is that entrance!

Don't you love it? What a marvelous day every day is, 4th, 5th or 6th if you're in the Son! If you are in Christ! “Most Assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever...”

Is that your situation? Outside of Jesus Christ, it is! But listen, the good news is this: the Son can set you free! You can be a son, too! How? By way of a Statue of Liberty, placed, not in New York harbor, but planted on a hill called Calvary! Jesus carried our sins, and all their enslaving and excluding consequences in His own body, on the cross – why? To set you free! To make you a son, a child of the King! What a gift! You can't earn it! You certainly don't deserve it! But, what a gift awaits you in the Son who came to set your captive soul free! Receive the gift, will you?

That's what it means to be truly free!

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