rooted to thrive in freedom (1)
The following are notes taken from a first session thinking about the freedom we have in Christ, as a prelude to sharing in communion together. The service can be seen here on our Vimeo page
Over the past few weeks, we have had several prophetic words around the theme of ‘freedom’ – my first preach here, almost 2 years ago, was on the theme ‘Freedom!’
As a Leadership, we felt it would be helpful to explore what it means for us to be free. We’re going to look at this over a couple of sessions, as on a day when we share in communion together, it’s fitting that we recognise where the freedom comes from, and how it has been bought for us!
In the days when slavery was a legal thing in society, it was possible for a slave to buy their freedom. In the Old Testament, there are laws surrounding how, if a slave had earned or paid for his right to be free, but wanted to stay with his slave owner he could have his ear pierced as a sign of his commitment to continue to serve his owner, even if he was now technically free.
I remember one older lady, some years ago, getting her ear pierced for the first time, as she was so moved on reading this, that she wanted, as an act of devotion to Jesus to affirm that she was his slave, even though her freedom had been bought. Powerful, powerful thing. I have thought at times as to whether I should do the same….
Jesus has bought our freedom with his blood, so it’s fitting to think about this on a Sunday when we share in communion – when we take bread – symbolic of his body given for us as he bore our sins in his body on the tree – and when we take wine – symbolic of his blood, shed on the cross for us, to pay the price for our sins, buying our freedom.
If you have a Bible or a Bible app, please turn with me to John 8:31-36
READ John 8:31-36
There’s 5 themes we’re going to look at – we might not unpack them all fully today!
Freedom in truth, then
Freedom in Jesus, then
Freedom from sin,
Freedom for obedience, and
Freedom of Sonship
Freedom in truth
Jesus said, v32, ‘you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’
Truth is an incredibly freeing thing!
I have recently been watching a series about an investigative pathologist. It’s called, ‘Harrow’ which is quite a provocative name, given some of the harrowing things he looks at, and underlying his outward passion for finding out the truth of what happened to people is a harrowing story relating to his own history and that of his family. You have to get to the end of the first series to discover the truth of the harrowing story, and when that truth comes out, it brings transformation in some relationships – but it causes problems in others!
The same happens when we come face to face with the truth about Jesus! Freedom in truth and freedom in Jesus fit together, because Jesus is the truth!
Jesus said in John 14:6: ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’
Jesus is the truth, and it’s in him and through him that we find truth and we know true freedom!
The truth of Jesus causes conflict though, because some people don’t want to face the truth. Jesus said, no-one can come to God as Father, except through me!
In a world where we are encouraged to find the truth within, Jesus says, no! There is no other way to know truth and come to God as Father, except through me.
It does matter what you believe!
I had a Hindu friend who said that what we as Christians, and he, as a Hindu believed were basically the same. He said, you have 10 commandments and we have 10 basic beliefs, and he got a picture down off the wall with 10 statements on it – the first of which was that there is no forgiveness for sin.
This is completely the opposite of what Jesus taught!
2 mutually contradictory statements cannot both be true!
Jesus said, I am the truth – no one can come to the Father except through me.
At the heart of the Gospel message is the fact that we are all sinners, slaves to sin, and that we need to be set free – and that that freedom comes through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus and his blood shed on the cross for the forgiveness of our sin.
Jesus said to the Jews who believed in him, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you really are my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ They replied, ‘we are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?’
People today, maybe even you, reading this now, find it so hard to recognise that they are slaves, let alone slaves to sin!
I’m free! I live my life the way I want to. I do what I want to do!
But Jesus replies and says, ‘Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.’
Do you ever find yourself doing things you wish you didn’t? Do you keep making the same mistakes again and again?
If you do, as in reality we all do if we are honest enough to truly examine ourselves, we will find that we are slaves to sin – we do stuff which at times we wish we hadn’t – we do stuff which hurts us and which hurts others – whether it’s lying, stealing, lustful thoughts and actions, greed for stuff – for things, for food, for escape through alcohol or drugs – all these things come and control us – we think that we are somehow free because we can do them, but the reality is that we are enslaved by them, because we can’t stop doing them! Jesus comes to set us free!
The letter to the Church in Rome speaks much about slavery and freedom – and we’ll perhaps unpack more from there next time, but at the end of Romans 6 – having talked about slavery to sin and the freedom which Jesus has bought for us, Paul records, Romans 6:23
‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
Jesus paid the wages for our sin – he died in our place – Isaiah prophesied about how he did this:
READ Isaiah 52:13-53:12
- He was pierced for our transgressions
- He was crushed for our iniquities
- The punishment that brought us peace was on him
- The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all
- The LORD makes his life and offering for sin
- He will bear their iniquities
- He bore the sin of many
If you will recognise Jesus as Lord of your life, and submit your life to him, turning from your sin and asking forgiveness for it (what the Bible calls ‘repentance’), he has borne your sin and the punishment for it on the cross, he will justify you – in a legal sense, you will be presented before God as innocent, because Jesus has taken away your sin, and he has paid the punishment for it – so you are acquitted! You go free!!!
If you’ve never done that, you can do that now and enter into true Freedom – freedom in the truth of what Jesus has done for you – freedom in Jesus – in a living relationship with God himself – freedom from the power, the penalty and ultimately in the future, the presence of sin – ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free!’ – freedom to be sons and daughters of God – to have free and right access without fear into his presence at any time – Jesus said, John 8:35 – ‘Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.’
You get to enjoy God’s presence in all its fulness – not with fear, like a slave coming in and out of his master’s presence, wondering how he is going to be treated – but as a son or daughter with freedom to come and sit with, cuddle up with Abba, your heavenly Father – free indeed – ‘if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!’
Jesus said in John 6:
‘I am the bread of life…. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world…. Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.’
As we come to respond in worship and to share in communion if you have never received this gift of freedom from the penalty and judgement of sin, the freedom to live the way God designed us to live, rather than being slaves to sin, then why not give your life to Jesus now? If you’ve received that life before, but somehow let sin come and entrap you again, come back and confess it – and then when we come to share in communion, you can celebrate the wonder of what Jesus has done for us in a fuller and deeper way!
Brian led us in communion, reflecting on Isaiah 53 and Acts 8 and the account of Philip sharing the Gospel with the Ethiopian eunuch who was reading Isaiah 53