It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. i

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1 West Valley Presbyterian Church Tdd Misfeldt Scripture: Galatians 5:1 and Acts 16: Tmrrw, n Mnday, July 4 th, we will celebrate the funding f ur natin, the United States f America, the land f the free and the hme f the brave accrding t the Star Spangled Banner. As Americans, we pride urselves n being free. We are free t chse. N-ne can tell us what t d. Tday I want t talk abut tw aspects f freedm. The first aspect f freedm is what we as Americans are s prud f the freedm t chse. Freedm t chse is a pwer idea. As teenagers, culd we nt wait t be free f ur parents and their rules? Many f us culd nt wait t turn 18, becme adults, and t be able t d whatever we wanted. Hwever, nce we turned 18 what happened? Was it all freedm withut any cnsequences? Oh n. Freedm t buy whatever we wanted didn t release us frm the respnsibility f paying fr it later r needing t earn the mney we wanted t spend. Freedm t stay up all night partying didn t release us frm the effects f ur partying the next day. Freedm is nt being able t d as yu want withut cnsequences It just means that there is n-ne else t blame fr ur chices Our freedm in the United States is nt the nly freedm that we have. Christians believe that they can be in Jesus, that this is anther freedm that Christians have. As Karen E just read, the Apstle Paul writes in his letter t the church in the city f Galatia: Galatians 5:1: It is fr freedm that Christ has set us free. i We are free in Christ! What gd news. Hallelujah!!! My sermn is cmplete. Time fr the benedictin right? Well nt quite yet. Just as with the freedm we gt when we turned 18, freedm in Christ des nt mean that we get t d whatever we want. It des mean that we have the freedm t chse t

2 2 fllw Jesus as ur savir r t ignre Him. Gd has given us, fr better r fr wrse, the freedm t chse. I stpped a little t sn when I read the passage frm Galatians. Althugh the NIV translates Gal 5:1 as tw sentences in English, it is ne sentence in the riginal Greek. It reads: It is fr freedm that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and d nt let yurselves be burdened again by a yke f slavery. ii Yke f slavery? Hw can be bth free and slaves? T answer that, cnsider the wrds f Black pastr and schlar Cheryl J. Sanders as she describes the lessn learned by slaves wh were freed after the American Civil war. She says: The freed slaves sn came t understand tw dimensins f freedm release frm ld securities and dependencies n the ne hand, and taking n new risks and respnsibilities n the ther. iii Just as when we turned 18 and shifted frm legally being children t legally being adults, alng with this new freedm came new respnsibilities. The same thing happens when we becme fllwers f Jesus. We are released frm ur ld securities and dependencies but then we becme aware f the new risks and respnsibilities that cnfrnt us. At this pint is it easy t backslide and fall back int ur ld habits. Perhaps that ld habit is thinking prly f ur self. We are tempted t think that Maybe I m nt gd enugh; I dn t deserve Jesus frgiveness. N. We are nw a child f Gd. We are gd enugh fr Jesus t give His life fr us. He has paid the debt fr any failing that we might have had in the past. We are a brand new persn. Leave that past behind. Embrace the future with Jesus. [pause]

3 3 Perhaps an ld habit is nt feeling in cntrl f yur life. We think that it is t hard t resist ur ld ways. We want t g back int what was easy, the sin and slavery f ur past. N! We d nt need t walk alne thrugh life. Jesus says in the Gspel f Matthew gspel means gd news Matthew 11:28 30: 28 Cme t me, all yu wh are weary and burdened, and I will give yu rest. Take my yke upn yu and learn frm me, fr I am gentle and humble in heart, and yu will find rest fr yur suls. Fr my yke is easy and my burden is light. Jesus is with us. We turn ur back upn the slavery f ur past beliefs and habits with His help. [pause] Perhaps that ld habit is dubting that what Jesus said is true. We think that perhaps heaven isn t real s I have t get all the enjyment ut f this life that I can. N! Heaven is as real as Jesus is. As a fllwer f Jesus, there is a place fr us with Him fr eternity. Jesus says in Jhn s Gspel 14:1 3: D nt let yur hearts be trubled. Yu believe in Gd; believe als in me. My Father s huse has many rms; if that were nt s, wuld I have tld yu that I am ging there t prepare a place fr yu? And if I g and prepare a place fr yu, I will cme back and take yu t be with me that yu als may be where I am. [pause]

4 4 Perhaps instead f thinking that we can t help urselves we think t much f ur ability and that we can d it urselves! I might be guilty f this ne at times. We think that we can d it all. Even hld n t Christ by ur wn effrts. N! We can t d it all urselves. We must nt lk nly t ur wn abilities, but we must lk t Jesus alne, t His sacrifice, and t the grace f Gd. Charles Spurgen, 19 th Century English Pastr, wrte: Remember, therefre, it is nt yur hld f Christ that saves yu it is Christ; it is nt yur jy in Christ that saves yu it is Christ; it is nt even faith in Christ, thugh that be the instrument it is Christ s bld and merits; therefre, lk nt s much t yur hand with which yu are grasping Christ, as t Christ; lk nt t yur hpe, but t Jesus, the surce f yur hpe; lk nt t yur faith, but t Jesus, the authr and finisher f yur faith. We shall never find happiness by lking at ur prayers, ur dings, r ur feelings; it is what Jesus is, nt what we are, that gives rest t the sul. iv,v [Pause] I m reminded f a classic mvie plt device called Deus ex machina r "gd frm the machine" whereby a seemingly unslvable prblem is suddenly reslved by an unexpected event r character. It ges smething like this, ne f the characters has fallen ver a cliff but at the last mment they grabbed n t a small bush just barely hlding n. Their grip begins t slip. In the plt device, the persn can t hld n and they are just abut t fall t their death when their savir reaches ut and grabs their arms. With this new strength, the character is saved. Desn t this describe us when we try t d all urselves. We are like that persn, hanging n fr dear life. We are trying t hld t Jesus by just ur wn strength. We can d it fr a little while, but t be saved we need the arm f Christ t reach dwn and t pull us up.

5 5 Spurgen s pint is that we dn t hld n t Christ. Christ hlds n t us. We must reach ut t Christ nt t take His hand but fr Him t take ur hand. Remember, therefre, it is nt yur hld f Christ that saves yu it is Christ; That is gd news friends. We dn t have t d it all. We just need t believe and accept Christ. [pause] We see that we can be burdened by slavery tward ur ld ways. But Jesus helps us with thse burdens if we ask Him and in my experience, they becme less and less ver time until they fade away. Paul writes in Galatians 1:4 f what Christ did fr us: It was Christ: 4 wh gave himself fr ur sins t set us free frm the present evil age, accrding t the will f ur Gd and Father. In 5:16 Paul cntinues and says: 16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and d nt gratify the desires f the flesh. The desires f the flesh will take us back int slavery are what we leave behind when we lk t Jesus as ur Savir. A secnd aspect f ur freedm in Christ is that it desn t mean that we are free frm ppressin. T illustrate this, I want t examine the passage frm the Acts f the Apstles that Karen just read. As yu heard, Acts 16:23 28 recunts ne f the many times that the Apstle Paul was thrwn int prisn fr witnessing abut Christ. 23 After they (Paul and his cmpanin Silas) had been severely flgged, they were thrwn int prisn (in Philippi), and the jailer was cmmanded t guard them carefully. 24 When he received these rders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stcks. 25 Abut midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns t Gd, and the ther prisners were listening t them. 26 Suddenly there was such a vilent earthquake that the fundatins f the prisn were shaken. At nce all the prisn drs flew pen, and everyne s chains came lse. 27 The jailer wke up, and when he saw the prisn drs pen, he drew his swrd and was abut t kill himself because he thught the prisners had escaped. 28 But Paul shuted, Dn t harm yurself! We are all here!

6 6 We are all here. Nt what yu expected was it. Yu wuld expect, like the jailer, that all the prisners wuld be gne. On the ne hand, Paul and Silas were prisners in this passage right? They were beaten, thrwn in jail and put in chains. Are Paul and Silas free? Physically there were in chains and nt free, but were they free emtinally and spiritually? Verse 25 says 25 Abut midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns t Gd. Yes, it sunds as if they were free. I wuld dare t say that they were free in Christ. Their bdies were bund in chains and they were in a prisn yet they were free, free in Christ. There is a lessn here fr all f us. If we feel bund by the limits f ur bdy r circumstances, this passage tells us that we can be Free in Christ n matter ur situatin. Yur freedm begins in yur mind and heart in Christ. Black thelgian James H. Cne writes frm the perspective f a peple wh have been literally in slavery. He says: Only the ppressed are truly free! vi Cne pints t the example f Israel s experience with freedm. He says The relatinship between freedm and suffering is als evident in the biblical traditin. The electin f Israel is a call t share in Yahweh's liberatin. It is nt a psitin f privilege but f terrible respnsibility. vii Irnically being free des nt mean being free frm ppressin. When we are free in Christ it des nt mean that we are free frm the temptatin f sin, the ridicule f nnbelievers arund us r frm attacks frm the devil. Hwever, when we chse Christ, just like Paul and Silas in prisn, ur minds, hearts and suls are free n matter the lcatin f ur bdies r ur situatin. Back in 1776, the fifty-six signers f the Declaratin f Independence knew that they were taking a great risk. If their effrts failed, King Gerge wuld nt verlk kindly upn their effrts. Despite that, they freely tk the risk. When we accept Jesus, we freely chse Him and we may feel sme risk because it is change frm wh we were befre.

7 7 James H. Cne viii says: Being free means that the nly real chice is risking all. ix I acknwledge that we may be afraid f risk. The certainty f the way things are nw may be very cmfrting and the thught f smething new is scary. That is where faith cmes int the picture. It is ur faith in Christ that will carry us thrugh any dubt and any unease. I knw that it is wrth it. Remember, we are nt alne. Paul writes in Philippians 2:12-13: 12 Therefre, my belved, just as yu have always beyed me, nt nly in my presence, but much mre nw in my absence, wrk ut yur wn salvatin with fear and trembling; 13 fr it is Gd wh is at wrk in yu, enabling yu bth t will and t wrk fr his gd pleasure. Risk it all with Jesus. Turn yur back upn yur ld ways and keep yur eyes upn Jesus. Paul writes in his letter t the Philippians 3:13 14: But ne thing I d: Frgetting what is behind and straining tward what is ahead, I press n tward the gal t win the prize fr which Gd has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. x What is the prize that Paul is speaking f? It is spending eternity, ur life after this wrld, with Christ. This is with the same Christ wh has set us free frm the bndage f sin and death with His sacrifice upn the crss and His resurrectin. This is prize that we must risk everything fr, and strive fr thrugh faith in Jesus Christ. If yu have never Risked it all fr Jesus, cmmit yurself t that risk nw. If yu have slipped back int the slavery f the past, turn yur eyes t Jesus and fcus upn Him. If yu are trying t d it all yurself, turn yur fcus t Jesus and let Him take yur hand. The authr f the Bk f Hebrews writes in 12:1-2 Let us thrw ff everything that hinders and the sin that s easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked ut fr us, 2 fixing ur eyes n Jesus, the pineer and perfecter f faith. Jesus IS the perfecter f ur faith and we are truly free in Him.

8 8 Let us pray. Dear Jesus Yu paid the price s that we culd be free t chse life with yu ver slavery t ur past lives f desire, selfishness, disappintment, and islatin. We freely chse t have faith. We chse t place ur trust in yu. We chse t fllw yu with ur whle heart, bdy, and sul. The Bible tells us that Yu will nt disappint. Yu will nt abandn us. Yu will lve us. If we fcus upn Yu, Yu will help us with ur burdens, and lead us t the place that yu have prepared fr us where we can be with Yu frever. As we celebrate the freedm f ur natin, we remember the freedm that we have in Christ. We thank yu fr Yur lving grace that enables us t seize a hld f Yu and t never let g. Bless yu Jesus. Thank yu Jesus. Be all glry and hnr t Yu Jesus. Amen. -

9 9 Surces Cne, James H. A Black thelgy f liberatin. 20th anniversary ed. Maryknll, N.Y.: Orbis Bks, Sanders, Cheryl Jeanne. Empwerment ethics fr a liberated peple : a path t African American scial transfrmatin. Minneaplis: Frtress Press, 1995.

10 i The New Internatinal Versin (Grand Rapids, MI: Zndervan, 2011), Ga 5:1. ii The New Internatinal Versin (Grand Rapids, MI: Zndervan, 2011), Ga 5:1. iii Cheryl Jeanne Sanders, Empwerment ethics fr a liberated peple : a path t African American scial transfrmatin (Minneaplis: Frtress Press, 1995), 21. iv Charles H. Spurgen, Mrning and Evening: Daily Readings (Cmplete and unabridged; New mdern editin.; Peabdy, MA: Hendricksn Publishers, 2006), June 28 PM. v My mdernizatin f the English: thee and thu t yu and yur. vi James H. Cne, A Black thelgy f liberatin, 20th anniversary ed. (Maryknll, N.Y.: Orbis Bks, 1990), 87. vii Ibid., 100. viii Ibid. ix Ibid., 88. x The New Internatinal Versin (Grand Rapids, MI: Zndervan, 2011), Php 3:12 14.

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