Free at Last
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; … to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;”
We read in the Gospel of Luke at verse 16: … “And Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, …”
Here Jesus reading from Isaiah Chapter 61: verse 1, taught that he had come into the world, and was full of the anointing of the Holy Spirit, to do among other things, deliver the captives, and set free the hurting.
My message today entitled “Free at Last”
is about deliverance, about being made free from those things that bind, or tie us up, and restrict or restrain us from living as we should. All around us in our neighbourhoods, in our countryside, in our towns and cities, there are people who are being held prisoner, captive to additions, captive to fear, captive to negative thinking, – prisoner to superstitions, past guilt, unsound doctrines, and religiosity. Many too are tied to an unfaithful marriage, an unprofitable partnership, an unequal yoke, and an unending heartache. Many feel trapped in their past, trapped in poverty, trapped in their bodies, trapped in their sexuality, and trapped in their dreams…. and for all, there is a deep heartfelt longing to be FREE!
Now it would be impossible for me in a short sermon to deal with every kind of entrapment, or open up all the prison bars, or deal with all the issues that are hurting souls, so for that reason, today’s message is PART ONE of a 2 part Sermon, the remainder of which I trust to be able to share with you in next Sundays Service, so be sure to tune in next week.
First of all I want to address those bound, or
In bondage to Religion.
Many Christians simply don’t know that Christianity is NOT a Religion, it is assumed a Religion by the world, but that doesn’t make it so, rather Christianity is all about Relationship, a loving bond between a Father and a Child, between God and mankind.
Most World Religions focus on Mans Efforts, and as a result they bring many into bondage and fear. Christianity, or following Jesus Christ, is not about what we can do, but about what He has already done. We read earlier in the Service from Paul letter to the Galatians in Chapter 4. The lesson God has for us in Galatians 4:19-31 is that we cannot ever fulfil the commandments of God by our own human efforts. They can be kept only as we accept Jesus Christ as our Saviour. Then, and only then can we be empowered and enabled through the indwelling Holy Spirit, to live the life that God expects of us.
Paul, speaking here about Abraham’s first child explains that the bringing of Ishmael into the world was all of man’s planning. God had nothing to do with it. That which is of the flesh displeases God, and He will not and cannot accept it.
Ishmael was a child born after the flesh; and since his mother was a slave, he, too, was a slave.
With Isaac, his promised son, it was entirely different. He was born of a freewoman. His coming into the world was due to God’s work. His mother Sarah was barren, but God gave her a
promise and the ability to bear, it was all of Gods doing.
So the point made here is that as we are considered through faith in Christ to be the brothers and sisters of Isaac. We are the children of promise, born into the family of God, through Divine power and not through any Human effort!
Many today are trapped in the “mind-set” of human effort, or what I call the “performance mentality” when it comes to their relationship with God. Many think that if they obey the rules, keep the laws, say the prayers, and pay their way, God will be pleased and let them into heaven. They think that they are being pious, and holy, instead they are being ignorant and arrogant. We have just celebrated a short while ago, the miracle of the Easter Resurrection, so think about it, … if God accepted pious good living, generous giving, human hospitality, powerful prayers, or perfect purity, why on earth did he send Jesus to die on the Cross? God saw that the LAW could not be fulfilled by any of us, so he sent Jesus to do it for us, and by his grace his kindness, although we are undeserving, he offers us forgiveness and freedom in JESUS.
There is a strong tendency on the part of those who insist that Law is necessary for salvation to persecute those of us who preach Salvation by grace only. Those who insist on Law say that we who preach grace are making it easier for people to sin.
But that is not the case. Grace does not give people license to sin. It teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly and righteously in this world. So even if opposition or even persecution comes, we should be ready to endure it.
But what is to be our attitude in this teaching of Law and grace? Are we to go along with the teachers of Law and say nothing?
The answer of Scripture is, “Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir to the son of
the freewoman” (v. 30). Simply … the two will not mix! We are saved by grace alone, and not by grace and self effort .
Since Christ came and did what we could not do, unlike those of the Old Testament times, we are no longer in bondage to the Law as they were. We must cast it off from us: as Paul concludes
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1). Praise God for evermore!
Next I want to turn my attention to those of you …
In bondage to Rituals.
Here I am not speaking only of Religious Rituals, or religious habits, but those in slavery to habits of any kind. We began our service today with the words of the Hymn which read;
“Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free”.
implying that once we have surrendered all to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, once we have become captivated by his love and life, then HE, and He alone, is able to free us from those things which bind or tie us up. The Hymn ends with the words;
“My will is not my own till Thou hast made it Thine”;
again, the implication is that in order to be free, we must surrender our will to do his will.
It is very easy both in the Church and in the world to fall into unhelpful and unfruitful habits or rituals. Most of these we do at “will” or as we please. In other words we do what we please or what pleases us, without asking, is it helpful, fruitful, or pleasing to God? Many of our Religious Rituals are not necessarily “wrong” or sinful, but they are not either “helpful” or “fruitful” or “pleasing to God.” We may enjoy these habitual exercises and find comfort in them, but they can sometimes be a waste of time, effort and energy, even a waste of money. Everything that hinders you can break loose under the mighty power of God, – every yoke can be destroyed under the shadow of Jesus Christ. He walks by you today to set you free. Let me explain what I mean.
Turn with me if you will to Marks Gospel, and chapter 10. and I want to read from verse 46.
46 And they came to Jericho: and as Jesus went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me. 48 And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me. 49 And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee. 50 And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. 52 And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way”.
Here we see a Blind man, “Bartimaeus” who had gotten into the daily ritual or daily habit of begging. Authorized by the authorities to wear the customized “Begging Robe” or garment, he sat by the highway begging from passers by. I expect that he had more or less resigned himself to do this for the rest of his life, not expecting that there could be anything better or anything more for him? That is, until one day, Jesus came walking along that road, and changed everything. Now in those days, there was nothing wrong in a Blind person begging, I expect that there was no such thing as financial benefits or help for the visually impaired. And I also expect that Bartimaeus had discovered that this habit had been both helpful and fruitful. However
I do not expect that “God was pleased” for God has always something more and something better for us, if we could only discover how to access it.
Jesus too had more for Bartimaeus: Jesus had a miracle for him and suddenly his whole world changed. His existence in darkness had now become a living in the light. Many of our rituals and habits are formed in our unenlightened years. God wants us to live in light, to come to the understanding that he has more and better things for us. Bartimaeus, left behind his “Beggars Robe” and rose to follow Jesus. He was abandoning his past for his present and his future. In that single movement, out of bondage into freedom, he received the anointing of God to serve him. God has an anointing for all of his children, to do the tasks that he has appointed them. This anointing is not just for “ministry” only . God can anoint you to raise your children, to care for your elderly relatives, to reach your ungodly work-mates, to give to your impoverished neighbours, as well as anoint you to Preach the Gospel. Do not become “hung up” on the habit forming rituals of your past, look to God who moulds and makes your future; Maybe God has something bigger and better for you? You can become trapped, limited and held down by what others think or say, and such things can keep you from the freedom that God has for you. You can become comfortable wearing a “beggars robe” when God has a “princes crown” awaiting you, polished and embossed just for you …. with your name on it! You can be anointed before the job or task is ready for you, and you may need patience to wait for it, as young David did when the Prophet Samuel anointed him, the Boy who became King.
God wants to anoint the most unlikely people for the most unusual tasks, just because He is God.
Finally, I want to look at those who are
In bondage to Reason
The Dictionary defines “reason” (the noun) as: – “the ability of a healthy mind to think and make judgments, especially based
on practical facts : within the limits of what is acceptable and possible”
Many Christians cannot seem to break free from the compulsion to rationalize or scrutinize when it comes to Gods word. If something seems impossible, impractical, unacceptable or unobtainable, these immediately think that their interpretation is wrong, and their reasoning is flawed. Such believers are in bondage to Reason, chained up in the prison of doubt, and unacquainted with belief, faith or remarkable faith. They live subject to their five senses. If something cannot be recognised by hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste, they doubt its very existence and reality. They reason it away and they suffer unnecessarily as a result. Their unbelief and disbelief opens the door to evil influences that can destroy their testimony and deaden their confidence in God. Many believers in bondage to reason, never experience the excitement of true faith. They have never read of Noah, or at any rate have never understood the great message and man of faith called Noah. Imagine for a moment if Noah had applied reason or rationale to the call of God to “build an ark”? (Gen Ch’s 6 & 7) This was to be no ordinary boat, in fact scholars tell us that by today’s reckoning it was about the size of a large football stadium. Noah was to construct this in a location devoid of water, there were no rivers down which it could be floated out to sea, and no skilled personnel to design or manufacture its functions and fittings. Noah in fact became the “laughingstock” of the entire neighbourhood, but GOD had given him a task, GOD had spoken, God had called, and in all of this, a man of “faith” asks no question, and seeks no reason?
God does not need to explain himself to us, nor does he even need to use us. Rather He chooses to use us, and chooses to bless us and chooses to reward us for every act of blind obedience to his calling. You see that’s what is needed, a blind obedience, we need to see nothing but God. Noah could not see how such a vessel would ever float on water, or how much water was needed to lift it from the ground, not only such a massive structure on its own, but it was to be filled with animals? Our questions usually limit God, but our silent surrender often frees Him to act on our behalf, and for our good. Noah had no answers, but he still pressed on, to do what God had called him to do, and build the ark for the salvation of his household.
The Church is called to a ministry of Service, we serve God as we serve others. Yet many are afraid of service simply because they cannot see the way ahead, and cannot reason it all out beforehand. Thus instead of service, the Church is often idle, and the world remains enslaved in wrongdoing, and bound in fear. God forgive us when we have failed to be the “salt of the earth” preserving good and halting decay, … when we have failed to be the “light of the world” guiding others to the better path, the best way! God forgive us when we need to know the “reason” for everything, and become imprisoned in doubt and fear. It is not without significance that Jesus referring to Children said “of such is the Kingdom of Heaven”. Children usually accept what they are told without questioning. They gladly surrender to the will and wisdom of their parents or grandparents, the instruction of their teachers and trainers, and the love of their Saviour and Friend. There are times I wish I could trust God today as I did when I was 10 years old: Then I just asked for something and fully expected that God would give it to me, and He usually did. Nowadays I allow far too much doubt to deaden my faith. I allow the complications of theology to colour my thinking and sometimes I think too much and act too little.
Thinking about doing things for God is the great enemy of service. The road to Heaven is also paved with good intentions!
We can become trapped and imprisoned in reason and intellectual rational, and we need to break free. We need to listen to the dictates of the Spirit instead of the mind
of the Flesh. Thomas Aquinas once said;
“God destines us for an end beyond the grasp of reason.”
Jesus once asked Peter to leave the boat and walk to him on the water. Nothing reasonable about that … it was sheer folly. No one can walk on water! Yet Peter discovered, albeit for a brief moment, that if you obey God, you can do anything, even to walking on water.
God might be asking you today to do something for him. It may seem stupid, silly, unconventional, unheard-of, and you could end up the laughingstock, but if you know you should do it, then to refuse is sin… for “whosoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” James 4:17 You may be the only one in a position to do what God asks, and your failure could lose you a great blessing and a greater reward? Freedom in Christ is not freedom to do what I want, but freedom to do what I ought!
Now time today denies me opportunity to take this subject further today, so be sure to listen next week to the second part of this sermon, when I shall be looking at those who are
In Bondage to Sin,
In Bondage to Guilt,
and in Bondage to Fear.
NOW THIS FINAL WORD.
Years ago in the great city of Boston they were selling birds, caged birds that had been transported, or imported, from abroad;
but the Canaries would not sing. I’ve not heard many birds sing in America; the woods are usually silent. Of the birds they were selling in Boston not one would sing; yet one was got to sing? When the buyer, who had tried in vain to coax a song from the immigrant bird, set it free, you should have heard it when it felt itself free, released to use its wings, even though it was in a
foreign air. How it sang when it felt the free air about it!
So it is with the human soul, when you remember that the law or demands of God are fully met in your substitute the Lord Jesus Christ. When you get grace to lay hold of Him as a saved sinner, and appropriate what the Saviour has done for you, you rejoice in God, and living in the faith He’ll give you a song in your heart. As the writer of our closing Hymn wrote:
“I’m free from the fear of tomorrow, I’m free from the guilt of my past. I’ve traded my shackles for a glorious song, I’m free praise the Lord free at last“ …
Part Two is Next