Pastor Terry Tatum
Over the last few weeks our lead pastor Craig Carter has been taking us through a sermon series to discover what is essential in life. This subject is personal for me because, like many of you, my world was flipped upside down on October 10, 2018 when Hurricane Michael hit Bay County.
In my personal life and in my professional life God literally blew away a lot that I had believed was essential that day. Though the initial months were hard, I’ve come to believe that God blessed us through the hurricane. In many ways our lives are better now than before the storm.
Up until March of this year, things really were starting to feel better, too. But then I learned a new term, COVID-19. Again, God stripped away even more things that I thought were essential.
With all of the things we have “lost” in the last couple of years, there are some that we haven’t lost. These things are what we truly can’t live without because they are essential to our lives as Christians. I’m talking about God Himself, as well as His Perspective, His Presence and His Power. Today we are going to look at another “essential,” God’s Freedom.
We all need to be freed from something, such as an addiction, a memory, a fear, or a habit. There is something inside each of us that needs to be freed.
When we read Bible stories of when Jesus was sent to set the captives free, or to free the oppressed, or give sight to the blind, we need to remember that He wasn’t just working on behalf of first century Jews who were under Roman authority. His work also frees those of us living in the present day who are captive to sin.
Throughout scripture we see how God is constantly working to free us from our sin. In order to better understand this concept, we have to know two key facts about Freedom from Scripture…
First, people have been searching for freedom for thousands of years. How many of you remember the story of Moses and the Israelites in Egypt? That whole story is about God’s people seeking to be free from their oppressors, and their journey to reach the Promised Land.
The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt prior to God setting the plan in motion for them to be set free. They were treated poorly, persecuted and overworked. You name it and it happened to them. But they had faith in God and looked to Him to deliver them from the unjust Pharaoh who ruled over them. Through a dramatic series of events, the Israelites were freed from their captors.
Second, God’s answer to our loss of freedom has always been Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of John, we read, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV)
The freedom we have and the peace we enjoy wouldn’t be available to us if it weren’t for the Son of God, Jesus. This truth has been experienced and passed down from generation to generation for more than 2,000 years and it will still be true long after we are gone.
Knowing this truth, however, is not enough. Believing in Jesus is not enough. After all, even the Devil knows who Jesus is and knows He is the Son of God.
Therefore, to truly experience God’s Freedom, we have to claim God’s Power. Coupled with God’s Power, when you embrace the gift of God’s freedom you are…
1. Free from your Sin
From Adam and Eve all the way to us, sin has been present in our lives. We are born into a sinful world and if we aren’t careful sin can take over our lives.
Referring back to the Israelites as they were being set free from slavery, do you remember when their leader Moses went up Mount Sinai and came down with God’s Law? Most of us know this story as when we received the Ten Commandments.
Here are the first five from that list. Read and consider how you are doing with keeping all of these commandments…
1. You shall have no other gods before me.
2. You shall not make for yourself an idol.
3. You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God.
4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
5. Honor your father and your mother.
I’m stopping at #5 because I think I have made my point.
Sin is very much a part of our lives. And left on our own we will become a slave to sin. It can and will control us, many times without us even realizing it.
Here’s an example: A dad comes home from a rough day at work and has a beer to unwind. That’s no big deal really, but as life rolls on and the stress continues to pile up, soon one beer won’t cut it. It becomes two beers a night, then three, and so on. Eventually alcohol is where he goes to find comfort on a regular basis. This is not always the case, but for far too many people this is what happens and many lives are ruined as a result.
Another example: A mom is in a car accident and receives some injuries. Her doctor legally prescribes pain medicine to help with recovery. But she realizes that the pain medicine also helps her forget about the trauma of the accident. The medicine is no longer therapeutic; it has become an escape. You may have heard of the “opioid epidemic.” This is how much of it got started, one person at a time.
No matter how strong-willed you are, you can’t overcome your sin on your own. Remember… we were born into this. It’s all we know.
The only true freedom from sin comes from God in the form Jesus Christ, His only Son.
Knowing that His job is to set us free, Jesus tells us, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19 NIV)
Earlier I mentioned that we are the “prisoners.” We are the “blind.” We are the “oppressed.” Jesus came to free us from our oppressive sin, and to give us eyes to see the truth.
2. Free from your Past
I’m willing to bet everyone reading this has done something in their life they are not proud of – something that if you could you would go back in time and undo.
Sadly, that’s part of life. We all make mistakes, we all sin, we all fall short of the “glory of God.”
We all have a past, and there is nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is to live your life as a prisoner to your past.
A few years ago I had a young couple come to see me because they wanted to get married. Per our policy I took them through pre-marriage counseling, and everything seemed great. Then one session one of them mentioned to me something from their past they were ashamed of. Nothing crazy just something they wished they could undo.
As the three of us sat down for our final session this issue came up again. The partner and I spent a good bit of time reassuring them that what had happened was okay, that Jesus had already forgiven them and this issue from the past didn’t have to hold them in chains moving forward.
Many times we carry around things from our past that are a bigger deal to us than they are to anyone else. Other people will forgive you but if you are still a prisoner to something that happened a long time ago, you can’t forgive you.
Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 NIV)
The truth Jesus is speaking of is what we know today as the Bible (a.k.a. the Word of God). Jesus taught about love, peace and forgiveness – things that can only be found through Him. And the truth is you’re not the same person as you were when you did whatever you did. You are a new creature in Christ. To truly be free you have to embrace that.
Look at it this way, “So many people from your past know a version of you that doesn’t exist anymore.” Let the past be the past and “live where your feet are.”
3) Free from your Self
So we’ve established that we are all sinners and we all need God’s freedom to get past our sins. Hopefully I’ve also made it perfectly clear that all you have to do to receive God’s Freedom is to embrace His forgiveness … He’ll take care of the rest.
But a lot of times there is a problem with this. Do you know what the problem is? If you guessed, “the problem is us/me,” you’re right. Many of us just can’t get over what we have done or are doing.
It doesn’t matter if it happened 20 years ago or this morning, God’s Freedom is essential if you are going to forgive yourself. Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36 NIV).
God sent His only Son to save you from whatever sin you have committed. He loves you more than you’ll ever know. He loves you so much He had His Son die for you and through the blood of Christ you have been set free.
To put it bluntly, He has already been crucified once. Don’t do it to Him again! Accept the love and freedom found from our Heavenly Father… Embrace the fact that He died for you and YOU are forgiven!
In the Name of Jesus Christ, YOU are forgiven. And because you are forgiven you have God’s Freedom, which makes you worthy to live your life free from your sin, your past, and your self.