Saturday, March 18, 2006

Jesus-The Great Liberator Part 1

(Note--this post now contains all four parts.)

If we had a discussion on freedom, I’m sure we’d get some very different ideas. We would get what you think freedom means, but also what freedoms are important, or why freedom itself is important. Many of those ideas would be true, and important-but we should be careful of the importance we give these ideas as we can be enslaved to our idea of freedom, and let it control our lives, maybe even make freedom our god. And while many freedoms are important, they may not be essential. For example we have the freedom in many parts of the world to gather together openly. Throughout history, and even today many believers did not and do not have that freedom, yet they are part of God’s people. So while the freedom to gather openly is a good one to have, it is not essential. I’m not to saying we can’t value non-essential freedoms, or fight for them, but let’s be Biblical and see which freedom is essential.

Just as with peace, as seen in John 14:27, there is the world’s peace & there is Christ’s peace—there are freedoms the world offers, but it is the Freedom Christ gives that is the essential freedom. In John 8, once again Jesus has been challenged by the Pharisees, and in verse 30 we are told many believed in Him, because of the words He spoke. He encourages those, and rebukes the scoffers in these words -
So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."

They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, 'You will become free'?"

Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are Abraham's descendants; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father."

Consider first the statement that they have never been enslaved. At that time their land was occupied by the Romans-and they had been in bondage at various times to the Egyptians, Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks, among others. What were they thinking? But notice Jesus didn’t point this out to them. He got to the heart of the matter-what is most important. He points out their greatest bondage—SIN-and every one who sins is a slave of sin. (Romans 6:16-18) Because of sin their minds are in bondage too, and before we pick on them, we should remember we are just like them -as individuals, as the church, and as the world—both believers and non-believers. And that’s a big part of why we need the freedom Christ offers.
Verse 36 is pertinent here- So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

There are three main points I’ll cover in upcoming posts, looking at how Christ makes His people free-

I. What Christ does NOT free believers from, at least in this world.
II. What Christ DOES free us from.
III. The importance and value of this freedom & what that means for believers.

I. What Christ does NOT free believers from, at least in this world.
It can be helpful in learning what something is, by looking at what it is not.
In Part One we looked at John 8:30-36. Before we look at what the freedom is Jesus refers to, let's check out what it is not.

1-Christ does not free believers from obedience to the moral law. While it does not and can not save us, it is a rule for our direction and to show us our need for Christ and the Gospel by showing us our sin & how we ought to live.
John Calvin wrote, “Let those who infer that they may sin because they are not under the law, understand that they have no right to this liberty, the end of which is to encourage us in well-doing.”
For example Ephesians 6:2, (here in context), encourages us to obey the commandment to honour our parents. He’s not making a suggestion, or saying-“By the way—it would be nice if…” Paul denies grace gives license (permission or permissibility to sin) in very firm language in Romans chapter 6.

2-We are not freed from duty to superiors-at work, government, home, etc. (Romans 13) unless they cause us to disobey God and go against scripture.

3-We are not freed from temptation, nor from the assaults of Satan. One day all believers WILL know this freedom, but there is no promise in scripture that we will experience it now.
Eph 6: 10-20 describes the full armour of God, by which we protect ourselves against his attacks. In 2 Cor 12:7 Paul mentions a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan that buffets him.

4-We are not necessarily freed from the consequences of our sin. King David suffered for his sin with Bathsheba, (2 Samuel 11), yet the Bible calls him a man after God’s heart. (I Kings 11:4)

Think also of prisoners on death row—every now & then you hear of one who has professed faith in Christ. I hope they are truly saved, but many show a misunderstanding of what being freed by Christ means. They make a profession & then act as if they should get a reduced sentence, or even be pardoned because of their conversion. If they were truly saved, God has forgiven all their sin-the crimes they committed to put them on death row-and every other sin as well,but they are not exempted from the consequences.

Refreshingly you do sometimes hear of the converted prisoner who admits they deserve the consequences of their sin-but rejoice that they will be with the Lord—they show repentance in a believable way.

5-We are not freed from disease, injury, or other afflictions, or even physical death in this world. We will in the next, but not yet. The Bible is full of examples, especially Paul who lists the suffering he has experienced in 2 Cor. 11, and we see this played out in Acts.

II. What Christ DOES free us from.
What is this Freedom Christ gives us? The obvious answer is not always the correct answer, but in this case it is. This can be seen in John 8:34. Jesus says,

"Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin."

We are freed from slavery to sin.

When Adam and Eve first sinned, (Genesis 3:1-7), they became slaves of sin, and that has been the state of every human being since. We sin and show we are slaves of sin.

Jesus says there’s a way out of being a slave of sin. If He sets us free we are free indeed. “Indeed” here means “For real”
We are set free for real.

Let’s look at this in more detail-
1-Believers are freed from the burden of the Law. We are not free to disregard it or scoff at it, but freed from fulfilling it as a condition of salvation, and freed to obey it as well.

Before Christ frees us-we don’t want to obey, except if there’s something in it for us. That may be money, fame, recognition, help for our family, or maybe just the “good” feeling we get from helping out—ultimately it is self centered. We do not act out of the proper motives such as love for Christ and gratitude to Him for setting us free. If we are serving God as He would have us there may be times when it hurts to obey, and we can’t see any benefit-outside of our trust in His mercy, love, and promises.

In Romans 6 Paul calls those who are Christians to stop acting as slaves of sin and to start acting as slaves of righteousness. Being set free by Christ enables that.

2-Believers are free from condemnation of sin.
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1.
"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross." Colossians 2:13-14.

These passages show us Jesus can set us free; because He has paid the price-He took the penalty upon Himself.

3-Believers are free from the dominion of sin.
"For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace." Romans 6:14
"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corintians 5:21

This points to sanctification-or being set apart by God to serve Him and be made more Christ like.

4-Believers are free from the sting of death-Death can separate us from this world, but it cannot hurt us once it’s done. We grieve the loss of loved ones but we will see other believers again—in God’s presence- Death is not in charge-God is.
"O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?"
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Here Paul is referring to Hosea 13:14, and answering it in Christ.

This is the freedom Christ gives believers.

III. The importance and value of this freedom & what that means for believers.
The Puritan John Flavel in his work, Method of Grace points out that the excellence of the freedom believers receive in Christ point to a wonderful liberty, especially for people who owed God more than we could ever pay Him through our works or through our sufferings. All believers have been freed from bondage we did not and could not understand, and our wills were stubborn, our hearts hardened, and our affections for ourselves and meaningless things. We were slaves and did not know it. Christ sets His people free from this, and words can not fully express how wonderful that truly is. But I will attempt to flesh it out some.

1.The freedom of believers is an exclusive freedom-it can only be found in believers, but it is not exclusive to any one type of person, or tribe or tongue.
The old credit card commercial slogan certainly applies here-"Membership has its privileges."

2. It is a precious freedom-it was brought at a high cost-Christ’s own blood.
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.(Acts 20:28-Paul’s farewell to elders from Ephesus)

And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.(I Peter 1:18-19.)

We ought to treat it that way, and not take it for granted.

3. It is an increasing freedom, as we grow in Christ and are changed by the Lord.

4. While believers are not promised a life free from hardship, there is a comfort in the freedom of believers. "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt 11:30.) Bondage to sin is a heavy yoke.

5. It is an eternal freedom. Believers are not lost, of all the Father gives Him, the Son loses none-as we see in verses like John 6:39 & 18:9.
Of those the Father gives the Son, not one is lost.

6. It is salvation. In saving us from the penalty, the power, and eventually the presence of sin, Christ has set us free in ways we have looked at, if we are His.

7 There is only one way to be set free from sin, and that is through the Son-Jesus Christ. Look at verses such as John 14:6-
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
Acts 4:12-
"And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

So I hope you see, if the Son sets you free-You will be free indeed, (or free for real.) Only the Son can do that, and that is why He can truly be called the Great Liberator.

In 1864—British preacher Charles Spurgeon asked his congregation this-
“Are we free? I will not answer it for you…but I would beseech you to make a searching enquiry into it.”-I as well encourage each of us to ask seriously if we are free.

Spurgeon also told his congregation, if they are free then-“You wear a garment which a slave may never wear and you feel an instinct within which the slave can never feel. There is an Abba, Father, cry un you which was not there once.”
You have been freed from the bondage of sin, and freed to obey and love God.

If you have not been freed I encourage you to come to only one who can free you from your sins, and give you the real freedom. If you have a sense of your bondage, remember Christ alone can free you, and only then will you be free indeed.

(I am especially indebted to
the Puritan John Flavel's work Method of Grace in this series.)


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