Monday, October 31, 2011

Sermon on John 8:31-36, for Reformation Day, "Slavery, License, and Freedom"

Sermon outline
-freedom turned toward sin and evil purposes ceases to be freedom

1. Truth is under fire today. Can truth be known? Obstacles and bias, mind of flesh doesn’t understand the things of the spirit. Always asking from our direction...but what about from God’s direction? Can God make His truth known to us? Some would say no. When someone tells you that it’s impossible to know the truth, ask is that because they have trouble knowing or finding truth, or whether God is somehow incapable of making truth known. God’s hands seem to be tied. But this falsely limits God’s power just because we recognize our own limitations of knowledge and truth. Such a God is “too small.” The true God can and does communicate His truth in a knowable and meaningful way. Didn’t just leave it up to our “best guess.” Abide in Jesus’ word, be a disciple >> know the truth >> truth will set you free.

2. Blindness to slavery (of sin), and the true nature of freedom. Slavery in Egypt, in Babylon; foreign rule under Persia, Greece, now Rome. Did not enjoy political freedom that they craved. Pride. Jesus shows deeper blindness to slavery of sin.

3. How we want to define freedom--recent newsletter article. Freedom “from something.” Do whatever I want. Freedom from rule, authority (but this would be freedom from order; freedom is not anarchy) or freedom from responsibility, duty. (But that would be freedom from love! Remember last week? Love is a duty to God and neighbor--but not a reluctant, forced duty--rather a joyful and willing one. That’s why it can’t be produced by force--only love and freedom create this response of loving duty/good works). Freedom that God gives is freedom toward love and community. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Gal. 5:13) Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” (1 Pet. 2:16)

4. Freedom of God is not freedom to sin. Even if we want to define freedom as “I do what I like/want.” To disregard God’s law is not freedom, its a path back to slavery. Not really freedom--actually is “license.” Our nature wants to turn freedom into license--license to sin. Jesus did not die on the cross to give us permission to sin, or so that we could think that God ignores our sin. This is “freedom” misused for selfish purposes. Rather, He died so we are freed from sin.

5. The Christian writer Os Guiness warns that we dare not idolize freedom, because then freedom will undermine itself. Don’t idolize freedom; recognize its as a good gift from God. Freedom undermined >> permissiveness or license to sin. Freedom undermined >> obsession with security. Freedom undermined >> doing things that are contrary to freedom—i.e. the torturing of prisoners. Guiness warns that if we raise up freedom as an idol in place of God, He will destroy that idol. That is to say that freedom can only be properly enjoyed when we put God first, and enjoy it as His gift.

6. For example, a parent wanting “freedom from responsibility” to raise and care for their child, who leaves them without care, is not truly experiencing freedom—but have given themselves over to “license.” What they want without regard for others or God. Painful consequences. Children suffer lack of love they were intended for, while the adult selfishly pursues their own interests, making their freedom an idol, they become enslaved to their own sin.

7. Consequences sometimes become unbearable or burdens heavier than we can manage. We see why people sin by neglecting duty--but doesn’t make it right. Jesus came to bear our burdens, to pay for our sin. We can help bear other peoples’ burdens, make them bearable by assistance, compassion, love. Love draws us into service, not away from duty. Help people not to escape consequences, but to deal with them responsibly (ex. drug or alcohol rehab, adoption agencies and crisis pregnancy counseling, educational opportunities, etc)

8. Example of a businessman thinking they are free from accountability or authority. Cheats customers, or behaves dishonestly to get a better profit. Maybe can even do it in a way that appears legal. Harmful consequences--people robbed of fair products, prices or service. Trust in business broken. Dishonesty undermines good business. Integrity, on the other hand, does what is right and fair, even when no one watches. Freedom doesn’t mean “I’ll do it because I can get away with it”--freedom says “I’ll do what’s true and right and good for my neighbor. My honesty is evaluated before God, even if no one sees what I do.”

9. Both examples to illustrate that when we use our freedom to sin, we become slaves to sin again. Choosing sin is not choosing freedom, as if freedom were expressed either in doing good or doing evil. But rather, choosing sin is choosing slavery. Sin always locks us up and binds us with spiritual chains of guilt, shame, despair, broken relationships and obligations, pain, suffering, physical spiritual, and emotional consequences of our actions.

10. True freedom in Christ--freedom from those chains. Forgiveness--God’s love has taken off our chains. Choosing to be chained again is not freedom. It is rejecting forgiveness. But what deliverance and joy to be celebrated, when our chains are broken, and we’re set free!! Martin Luther experienced this freedom when he rediscovered what the Bible really taught about the forgiveness of sins, and how God saves us by grace—a gift. That we are not saved by our (failed) duty to the law. He saw what the book of Romans taught, that you heard in our reading today—3:32-34. As a gift.

11. Jesus came promising this gift of freedom to the Jews. Promising that if they remained in His word, became His disciples, they would know the truth that sets them free. Not mere political freedom. Real freedom from the slavery of sin and its power, which is death. Sin enslaves our lives in countless ways when we disobey God. Freedom from sin couldn’t be won for them by any human effort or striving or power. Freedom that could only come as God’s gift, through the His Son Jesus, who is the Truth. Only the Son can set us free—and if He does, we are truly free.

12. Like we said before, this freedom is easily lost. When Luther rediscovered this freedom in the early 1500s, when he began his Reformation of the church, there were those who opposed him, saying that if you teach that salvation is a totally free gift from God, and that our works have nothing to do with it, then people will turn that freedom into license. That if people realized that salvation was a totally free and undeserved gift from God, that they would despise the gift and never do good. So the leaders of the church obscured this free gift of salvation for the sake of making people more moral.

13. Luther recognized that love and good works can’t flow from forced obedience or slavery and guilt under the law, but only from the faith in Jesus: God’s free gift. Same objection raised to Paul when he preached the free gospel of forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus. His detractors objected that if grace is a free gift—shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? Paul’s answer was “By no means!” What Jesus said is true—that to return to sin is not freedom, but a return to slavery. Our freedom is only given and only maintained by Jesus Christ. This is the heart of the Reformation and the recapturing of the Truth that sets us free. Jesus rescues us from the slavery of sin and the guilt we bore under the law—He sets us on the path of discipleship to follow Him, and rescues us from every evil deed—to keep us on that straight and narrow path of freedom. Not falling to the right or to the left, into slavery or license, but following the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The Son has set you free! You are free indeed!

Sermon Talking Points
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1. What is the reason for skepticism toward truth today? Was this skepticism equally present in Jesus’ time? John 18:37-38; Acts 17:21 Is God able to make His truth known, and how did He choose to do so?

2. How were the Jews who talked to Jesus blind about their own slavery & the meaning of freedom? Exodus 1:13-14; 24:18; Ezra 9:9. How is blindness to sin also slavery? John 8:34; Rom. 6:17-18

3. How does freedom undermine itself when we idolize it? What does freedom easily turn into? Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 2:16; Jude 4

4. Describe how this false sense or use of freedom can enslave us and hurt others. Give examples. Where do you see this danger in your own life?

5. What “chains” are broken off of us when Jesus sets us free and forgives our sins? What truth did Martin Luther grasp from the book of Romans that set him free, and helped him realize the source of our freedom? Rom. 3:23-24.

6. What reaction came against Luther’s (Paul’s!) teaching of salvation as a free gift? What did people fear would happen? How they would misuse freedom? Rom. 6:1-3. Why can’t this fear change the message of the free Gospel? What would happen if fear and compulsion again drove our obedience to God? 1 John 4:18-19.

7. Who is the Truth that sets us free? John 14:6. How do we exercise our new-found freedom in Christ? How do we walk on the Way that He freed us for?

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