Are we free? I mean are we truly free?
Here’s what Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, his lead disciple, says.
2 Peter 2:19 They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you.
“This is an interesting historical survey of slavery. Thankfully, I am free and it does not apply to me.” Yes, it does. The United States of America is supposed to be the land of the free. Are we? It is the land of the slaves. It’s the land of the slaves, because Peter says, “Anything that overcomes you, anything that overtakes you, anything that rules over you, anything that reigns above you, it’s like your Pharaoh. It’s your master, and it enslaves you.”
We don’t use this language in our culture because we’re no longer a very biblically literate culture. Instead, we use therapeutic and psychological language, like “addiction.” “Addiction” is secular for the biblical concept of slavery. So, the person says, “I’m addicted to alcohol.” You’re a slave to the bottle. “I’m addicted to drugs.” You’re a slave to the substances. “I’m addicted to gambling.” You’re enslaved to the high and the potential windfall you pursue. “I’m addicted to my own reputation.” No, actually, you are one who is enslaved and you’re worshiping the God you see in the mirror every morning. “Well, I have to maintain my beauty,” or, “My spouse has to maintain their beauty. We are addicted to body image.” No, you’re enslaved to your appearance. “I am driven by my career.” “I am driven by my income.” “I’m driven by my position at work.” No, you’re enslaved to your performance.
The Apostle Paul takes a look at his own life, and his own shortcomings, and writes words like these:
Romans 7:15, 18–19, 24 HCSB”For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this dying body?”
Had Paul ended his letter at that moment, it would have been one of the most depressing things any of us had ever read- not necessarily because we’re disappointed in Paul, but because it rings so true in each of our hearts. We know we are a sinful people.
How many of you, that’s your story? You’re ashamed, you’re embarrassed, you’re horrified, you’re mortified. Maybe there are secrets in your life that you hope nobody finds out about. And you would say that you are a Christian, that you worship the God of the Bible, but there are parts of your life where you are in slavery.
Every one of us has different shackles, and the Holy Spirit can highlight that for you. It’s drugs. It’s alcohol. It’s sex. It’s power—whatever the case might be. That’s exactly the condition that the children of God here, at the base of Mount Sinai, sitting on the proverbial couch for a meeting with their dad, are in the condition of. What will he say? What does he say to them? What does he say to us?
Paul says that God has already set him free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2(NLT)So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.), and that while he couldn’t beat the sin that had hounded him, God did by sending his own Son. This is coming from a chapter-seven man who still battled sinful leanings, a man who often lost those battles.
This should be a relief to us. God has already done the hard work in tackling the sin problem. Because of the cross, sin is defeated. Satan’s greatest threat to any of us is a permanent separation from God because of our own sin. Satan sets the trap, and hopes we’ll fall into it. But when Jesus gave his life up for the sake of sinners, the ultimate power of sin was defeated once and for all. Even though all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), when we accept the gift of God’s grace we can still experience God’s glory as if we had never sinned at all.
You can’t live free until you realize there’s only one God, and you’re not God. This is going to blow your mind: You’re not the center of the universe. You’re not the most important person. The reason you’re miserable is because you’re worshiping yourself and you were not made for that. You were made to worship him. You were made to enjoy him. You were made to glorify him. And when you make yourself the center of your life, you make yourself miserable.
“Oh yeah, I love God, and I go to work, and—” It’s not like we check the first off the list and move on to the rest. God’s the center of our life, and then he’s going to say, “OK, since I’m the center of your life, let’s talk about your worship, let’s talk about your money, let’s talk about your marriage, let’s talk about your possessions, let’s talk about your real estate, let’s talk about your sexuality.”
Everything has to be connected to him, and if you choose to sin, you choose to suffer. So, there’s one God. How many gods? One. What’s it mean in Hebrew? One! Does it say it anywhere else in the Bible? Everywhere! That’s very offensive. Other people say, “Well, there are lots of gods.” God says there’s one God. Other people say, “There’s no God.” God says he’s God. The agnostics say, “We can’t know.” God says, “I’ll tell you. You can know for sure. I even wrote a book.” Some come along and say, “Oh, well, no, everything in the world is all part of God.” No, God says, “I made the world.” This answers all the philosophical, theological, spiritual questions: one God.
Exodus 20:1-3(HCSB)Then God spoke all these words:2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.3 Do not have other gods besides Me.
And in that day, they had tons of gods. It was very common to have tons of gods. You can read the Bible. There’s all kids of false gods and goddesses. They’re really demons who bless people. But there’s Ashterah, there’s Baal, there’s Molech, there’s Chemosh—there’s a whole list of them.
And some of us will practice what C.S. Lewis calls chronological snobbery. We’ll go to the Bible and say, “Oh yeah, back in the day, they were very primitive people, and they worshiped these gods with weird names. And thankfully, we’re not like that.” Here’s how it works: the reason they had multiple gods is because the gods promised to give you different things, this god or goddess sex, fame, money, pleasure, comfort, fertility, children, power, promotion.
Do we worship those things? Anybody here—sexual problems, financial problems, relational problems, employment problems? Anyone? OK, anyone made a real shipwreck of their life chasing after those things? You’re worshiping false gods. Now, we may call it success, and they called it Molech. Same thing. All Satan has done is just rebranded old demons. God says there’s one God—him alone, him at the center.
The instruction from Romans 8 sounds a familiar chord from other biblical teachings. According to what Paul writes here:
Romans 8:5-8(NLT)5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.
The very first psalm teaches the same principle, only with a different word picture:
Psalms 1:1–2 HCSB”How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the LORD’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night”
A man who meditates on the word of God will delight himself and God. But a man who doesn’t control his mind will slow first to a walk with the counsel of the wicked, then he will stand in the way of sinners, and finally, he will sit in the seat of mockers. We should run a good race for Christ – not even slowing to a walk!
James 1:13–15 HCSB”No one undergoing a trial should say, ‘I am being tempted by God.’ For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death”
If you could go backwards through the progressive steps – from death to sin, from sin to the birth of sin, from the birth of sin to the desire to sin – you’ll come to the point of your own evil desires. If at that point we take hold of the mind of Christ, we can break the progressive chain and stop its destructive cycle.
Paul says the key is to set our minds on what the Spirit desires. Is that a bad thing? The tempter would have us think that we’ve just missed out on some great experience, that God has actually punished us for leaving a life of sin. But picture this: When a man and woman fall in love and get married, they automatically stop some practices and start others. For instance, both the husband and wife stop dating other people, and start enjoying the companionship for which they had so long searched.
Later in Romans 12:2, Paul will writes these words to those who want to please God: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Your transformed mind will make all the difference when it comes to enjoying or despising your walk with Christ. The power to break free from the chains of sin – the power that God has already provided – is already available to us, right now.
Have you been set free? Do you know Jesus? Have you given him your sin? Is he your God? If not, you give yourself to Jesus now. And you walked in here apart from him, but you walk out of here with him. He goes before you like the pillar in the cloud. He walks with you, never to leave you nor forsake you. Let him set you free and let him lead you to live free. If you’re not a Christian, your biggest problem is not your behavior, not your conduct. It’s your God! That issue has to get settled.
Give yourself to Jesus and be set free, and then commit to a life walking with him, living free.
Number two, for those of you who are Christians, you have been set free, and today, by the grace of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, you can live free. You can leave your sin here. You can leave your folly here. You can leave your rebellion here. You can leave your death here, and you can walk with Jesus, and you can walk together and you can pray for one another, and serve one another, and help one another. That’s why God spoke to all of his people. And the way that we grow in freedom, the way that we walk in freedom is understanding that we’re free to—what? Freedom is for what? It’s for the worship of God.
Guess what you’re going to do? Worship God. We’re going to do that by giving our tithes and offerings, because a lot of times we vote for our God with our debit card. We give to the Lord who has given all to us. It’s our Father’s way of inviting us to grow in generosity to be more like him.
As we collect our tithes and offerings, I want you to know we’re also going to take Communion, remembering Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, our Passover Lamb who was slain. God’s wrath is removed if we’re covered by his blood, shown in the drink and in the bread, his broken body and shed blood. And we’re going to sing. You ever seen a nation that was oppressed and then they were liberated? The people run into the streets and they cheer and sing.
Jesus has conquered our pharaoh, Satan. We have been set free. We can live free. We have a Father King who loves us and adores us. And we get to take to the streets, and we get to sing and shout his praises. We get to worship and enjoy him, and when we get together in song, that’s exactly what we’re doing. Free people have someone to celebrate.