"Finding Freedom" part 1
Freedom from Sin
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
February 28, 2010



Just to give you a bit of warning, over the next few days or weeks I may be suffering withdrawal syndromes. I’ve been on Olympic overload for the past two weeks, and I don’t know what’s going to fill that void after the closing ceremonies later tonight.

But it’s amazing to me… every time the Olympics come around, summer or winter, you get to see some absolutely fantastic displays of athleticism, there are always some great storylines, there’s heart-warming stories, heart-breaking stories, there’s inspiring accomplishments, even some that don’t involve medals, and I just get wrapped up in the whole thing.

But I’m not the only one. People have been turning their TVs on in the morning and watching all day. In fact, the Canada / U.S. hockey game from earlier in the week was the most watched sports program in Canadian television history. But I have a feeling that record will be falling later on today.

But we’re just captivated by the Olympics. What is it that enables people to become the best in the world? What enables someone to be that fastest skater, or the fastest bobsleigher, or the fastest skier, or the fastest luger, or the fastest whatever? I think it’s attention to detail. In particular, it’s minimizing anything that is going to hold you back… eliminating obstacles…

Like for the speed skaters… they have to wear those funny looking outfits and hunch over in what looks to me to be a very uncomfortable position. Why? To become as aerodynamic as possible.

Same thing for the skiers. They try to get in a position that is going to eliminate air friction and let them go as fast as possible. Same reason they wax the skis… to reduce friction.

The sweepers in curling… reducing friction and minimizing the danger of hitting any bumps or debris.

Just the other night during the 4-man bobsleigh… the commentators were really paying attention to how quickly the team members got in the sleigh and ducked down behind each other, again to eliminate friction.

And whenever a team got hung up and took an extra second or two to get in the sleigh, they would talk about how devastating that would be and about how difficult it would be to make up for that time. Basically, just that little bit of friction could make the difference from being on the podium and finishing way back.

Well, in the Bible, the writers would have been quite familiar with the Olympics, too. Not the winter Olympics, of course, but the original Olympics. And even then, they were very cautious to not wear clothing that would cause too much air friction. In fact, they were cautious not to wear any clothing at all! Even with the heat wave this year during the Olympics, that would have a bit chilly at Whistler.

Well, the original Olympics were popular for close to a thousand years. And there are times in the Bible where there seem to be clear references to the Games. Or at least to one of the other three Games that took place during the other three years of the Olympiad. Like in that passage we looked at earlier…

Hebrews 12:1 (NLT)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

This morning, we’re beginning a new series on Finding Freedom. Sometimes, we find ourselves caught up and trapped in life… trapped by guilt, but worry, by fear… trapped by circumstances beyond our control, trapped by disappointment and hopelessness… and as pointed out in this verse we can even be weighed down and tripped up and essentially trapped by sin. It can hold us back in life and hinder our spiritual progress.

Now, as a church, we’re here to connect you with God and with others, to equip you for growth and service, and to empower you for mission and ministry. And sin… well, sin can destroy all of that.

VIDEO – What is Sin?

So what is sin? Well, yes, the things we do that violate the laws of God are considered acts of sin. Like murder, envy, jealousy, hatred, greed, pride, adultery, lust, stealing, using profanity, gossiping… all kinds of things that are morally wrong and are explicitly against the will of God.

But the truth is, while we call those kinds of things acts of sin, they all flow out of the sin nature within us. The Bible tells us that we are all born with a sin nature… an inclination to commit acts of sin. And it’s that sin nature that is really the problem. So sin really is that rebellious streak within us that wants our way over God’s way… that wants us to shake our fist in defiance of God…

The rebellious nature of a teenager can harm or even destroy the relationship they have with their parents, and it’s the same way with us and our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

So the writer of Hebrews says, “let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin”… that rebellious nature… “that so easily trips us up.”

And I’ll confess, I have my own struggles with my sinful nature. I still get weighed down and tangled up by sin, leading me to do things, say things, think things that I don’t want to. In fact, the apostle Paul expressed it this way…

Romans 7:18-20 (NLT)
I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

So that’s the problem. We’ve got this rebellious nature that we’re born with. And it holds us back, it ties us down, and it can destroy our lives. It can ruin our lives, not just for now, but for eternity.

Romans 7:5 (NLT)
When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death.

That’s talking about a spiritual death, which is eternal separation from God. And looking at a few other verses from that same chapter about the problem of sin…

Romans 7:14, 18, 24-25 (NLT)
The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin…
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature…
Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? …
In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.

Notice the terminology used in those verses… a slave to sin… who will free me… my life is dominated by sin and death…

There’s the truth right there, isn’t it? You can’t find freedom on your own. You can’t create freedom. In your own strength, you can’t overcome the hold that sin has on you. Oh, you might think you’re doing okay for a while, and then “boom”… you’re right back where you started. Or perhaps even worse. At least that’s the story of my life… I decide I’m going to do better, but then I mess up all over again. As Isaiah put it in the Old Testament…

Isaiah 64:5-6 (NLT)
We are constant sinners; how can people like us be saved? We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.

Even when I think I’m doing all right… even when I think I’m achieving some victory of sin… then the very best righteousness I can muster up is nothing but filthy rags compared to the righteousness of God. We’re still slaves to sin.

That’s why this morning we’re talking about being set free. How do we find freedom from sin? That’s exactly the question the Apostle Paul asked and answered when he said…

Romans 7:24-25; 8:1-2 (NLT)
Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord…
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 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.

I can’t win over sin. I can’t find freedom on my own. No, Paul says the answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Does that mean that you’ll never have trouble with sin again? No, of course not. But it does mean that you can rise above it. You don’t have to be enslaved to it. Through His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus conquered the power of sin. And He can break its hold on you and me today.

Revelation 1:5 (NLT)
All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us.

So it all comes down to the grace of Jesus revealed through His sacrifice on the cross. If you want freedom over the power of sin, then don’t look within yourself because the answer isn’t there. The answer is in Jesus Christ. He is the One and only One who can offer the freedom we’re looking for.

So how do we receive it?


A.    Confess my struggle with sin to Jesus.

And understand, this is true for people who are far from God and want to enter into a relationship with Jesus… and it’s true for people who have been Christ-followers for a long time. Whatever your struggle is with sin, confess it to Him. Admit that you need His help. David in the Old Testament wrote…

Psalm 32:3, 5 (NLT)
When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. …
Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.

For the first two years of his life, Nate went to bed remarkably well. And some of you were witness to this. We could be sitting around the house at night, his bedtime would come around, and we’d just look at him and say, “Okay Nate, it’s bedtime.” And off he’d go! No struggle, no arguments… he’d just get up and walk to his room and wait for us to tuck him in.

But then he turned two. And now it’s always a struggle. It may be obvious to me when he’s tired, but if I ask him, “Nate, are you tired”, what’s he going to say? “No.” He just won’t admit when he’s tired and when he needs a nap.

I think we were probably all like that as kids. And some of us never grow up! We still have trouble admitting things.

Like when we struggle with sin. We’re embarrassed by it, we feel guilty, and we don’t want to admit it. Even to God, who obviously already knows. But the Bible says…

1 John 1:9 (NLT)
But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.



B.    Give the Holy Spirit free reign in my life.

It’s the power of the Holy Spirit unleashed in your life that transforms your life, setting you free from the power of sin.

Romans 8:5-6 (NLT)
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. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.

Now, when you read that, you might think you’re just giving up one type of slavery for another. You’ve lived under the power of sin; now you live under the power of the Holy Spirit. And perhaps that doesn’t sound too appealing.

But let me put it in terms of governments. Would you prefer to live under the rule of a totalitarian tyrannical police-state dictatorship, or under the rule of a benevolent freedom loving king? Yes, there are still rules and laws in place, but they’re meant to be beneficial laws, laws for protection and safety… for the betterment of society.

Either way, you’re living under a rulership. But there’s a drastic difference between the two.

And so you have a choice: do you want to live under the power of sin which leads to slavery and death, or under the power of the Holy Spirit which leads to freedom and life?

Romans 8:12-14 (NLT)
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

The power of the Holy Spirit enables you to have victory over sin and to discover true freedom. So invite Him into your life and give Him free reign.


C.    Walk in the light of His Word.

Okay, this is really where you come in. You don’t set yourself free; Jesus sets you free by His power and grace. But if you want to stay free… if you want to keep from falling back into the same situation you were before… in you don’t want to become enslaved to sin again… then you need to decide to walk in the light of His Word.

By that, I mean you choose to take the Bible seriously. You read it regularly, you apply it to your life, you use it as the foundation for the way you live. You draw wisdom and courage from it, you trust it’s guidance for life, and you walk in step with what God tells you through the pages of Scripture.

If you mess up, then you again confess it. But you strive to live daily in a way that is faithful to the Word of God.

Psalm 119:10-11, 105, 133 (NLT)
I have tried hard to find you—don’t let me wander from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. … Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. … Guide my steps by your word, so I will not be overcome by evil.

Listen, you’re not going to grow as a Christ-follower, you’re going to progress in your relationship with Him, you’re not going to live in freedom unless you are committed to His Word. You’ve got to be reading it. You’ve got to be living it.

Otherwise, if you try to live as a Christian without reading the Bible, this is what will happen: you’ll lack a sense of direction, you’ll lack the foundation for making God-honouring decisions, you won’t grow toward spiritual maturity, you’ll wallow in feelings of guilt…

Any Christ-follower who is serious about spiritual growth and about living the life God intended for them to live is going to be walking in the light of His Word. You’re going to be reading it or listening to it, you’re going to be studying it, you’re going to be memorizing it, you’re going to be teaching it to your children.

If you don’t have a Bible that you can read and understand, then talk to me and I’ll get you a copy. If you don’t know how to read the Bible or where to start, then you can talk to me about that, too.

It’s by far the bestselling book of all time. It’s estimated that over 6 billion copies have been sold. It’s had a greater influence in our world and in individual lives than any other book in history. It’s packed full of wisdom, it’s God’s revelation of Himself to us, it’s as relevant today as it was the day it was first written, and you’ve got to discover it for yourself. Again, if you need guidance or help with that, then talk with me.


D.    Live in meaningful relationships with other Christ-followers.

You know what? There are a lot of people who will tell you that you can be a Christian and not attend church. And you know what? They’re right… sort of.

I would qualify that by saying that a Christian who’s not involved in a community of believers will never grow to their full potential. In addition to that, they’re disregarding or disobeying clear the instruction of Scripture to be involved in a local church. And the odds are greatly increases that they will wander away from their faith.

And as it relates to what we’re talking about this morning, they’re going to miss out on the support and accountability that comes from participating in a community of believers, or a fellowship of faith.

1 John 1:7 (NLT)
But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

If you want to be free from the power of sin, and if you want to remain free, it seems clear here that a crucial component is that we have fellowship with each other. It needs to be a priority.

Every seven days, I need to be here. That’s what I need for my own spiritual growth and development. I need the support, the prayers, the accountability, the encouragement, the input, the advice, the direction, the love, the friendship, the enrichment I enjoy by being part of the Church… specifically part of Sunrise.

Yes, I still struggle with sin even though I’m here every week. But I know it’d be a lot worse if I weren’t here. If I’m going to live in freedom from sin, and if you’re going to live in freedom from sin, then we need to live in meaningful relationships with other Christ-followers, namely the Church.


Of course, the pre-requisite for living in meaningful relationships with other Christ-followers is that you are a Christ-follower yourself. And most of us here this morning have already made that decision to follow Jesus. We’ve realized that Jesus was God in the flesh, who came to earth, died for my sins and yours, rose from the dead three days later, and is alive and well today. We’ve placed our faith, our hope, our trust in Him. We’ve experienced His forgiveness, and chosen to commit ourselves to following Him for the rest of our lives, with the promise of spending eternity with Him in Heaven.

If you have not made that decision for yourself, is today the day? Will you make that decision this morning? Choose to live for Him. Begin that relationship with Him, and start out a great adventure.

In fact, if you’d like to make that choice, then I’d encourage you to pray a simple prayer. You can pray something like this… let’s all just close our eyes and bow our heads… If you’d like to choice to live for Jesus starting today, then you can just pray silently in your heart, something like this…

Dear Jesus, thank you for loving me. Thank you for dying for me. Thank you for offering me forgiveness and life today. This morning I choose to accept You into my life. I want to learn about You and get to know You. Teach me what it means to live for you.

For all of us, you may want to pray something like this…

Jesus, I know I struggle with sin. And You know it, too. It’s no secret to You that I so often battle with temptation and give into it all too often. Particularly in this area [name you greatest area of struggle], I confess that I need your help. Forgive me for the times I’ve let you down, and enable me to overcome that temptation in the future. I invite Your Holy Spirit to work in my life, cleansing me and strengthening me… enabling me to live in freedom and victory. And I commit to doing my part, reading and learning from Your Word, and surrounding myself with Your family, the Church, where I can find support and encouragement and accountability as I strive to live the way You want me to live.
Thank You, Jesus, for not giving up on me. Amen.

 

 

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