"Amazing Grace Sunday":
Living In Freedom
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
February 18, 2007

 

Main Passage: Romans 6:5-14 (NLT)

 

Well, today is Amazing Grace Sunday in recognition of the 200th anniversary of the end of the Slave Trade throughout the British Empire. That, of course, was a critical event that eventually led to the banning of slavery in general and meant freedom for those who were slaves. And so today, I thought we’d talk about freedom. You see…

• It was for freedom that William Wilberforce fought for nearly five decades.
• It was for freedom that Abraham Lincoln split his country with civil war.
• In the US in 1843, It was for freedom in opposition to slavery that a man named Orange Scott left the Methodist Episcopal Church and formed the Wesleyan Methodist Church… which eventually became the Wesleyan Church… our heritage.
• It was for freedom that this new denomination became leaders in the Underground Railroad.
• It was for freedom that four years later, a Wesleyan Church called Freedom Hill Church was built in North Carolina and began proclaiming freedom for sinners and slaves alike.
• It was for freedom that the 23-year old pastor of that church, Adam Crooks, and the congregation became the target of abuse. Crooks was attacked by mobs, threatened with lynching, shot at repeatedly, poisoned twice and unlawfully imprisoned – all because of his stance against slavery.
• It was for freedom that Canadian soldiers fought and died in places like Vimy Ridge.
• It was for freedom that Martin Luther King Jr. organized the Freedom March, spent time in jail, and eventually was assassinated.
• It was for freedom that William Wallace led the Scottish resistance against the English.
• It was for freedom that the ancestors of many of us here this morning came to Canada and started a new life.
• And more important than any of those, it was for freedom that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, left his home in Heaven, was born of a virgin, lived on this earth for thirty three years and died on a cross. For freedom… yours and mine.


But what kind of freedom?

In the passage that Bev read earlier, it talked about freedom from slavery. Any slaves here this morning? Anyone tired of being owned and bought and sold by other people… tired of having a “master”? No, to my knowledge, there are no slaves here this morning. I mean, I know there are 27 million slaves around the world, but I don’t think there are any slaves here with us.

Kind of makes that passage irrelevant to us, doesn’t it? I mean, if I’m not a slave and you’re not a slave and we don’t know any slaves, who really cares? Proclaiming freedom for slaves really doesn’t affect us.

Kind of like these laws… you know how sometimes there are laws that make no sense or are completely out of date to the point that they’re irrelevant?

• In British Columbia, it is illegal to kill a Sasquatch. (I’m not saying they don’t exist, but the law is kind of pointless until they find at least one.)
• In Alberta, businesses must provide rails for tying up horses.
• In Toronto, it is illegal to drag a dead horse down Yonge Street on a Sunday.
• In Alberta, It is illegal to set fire to the wooden leg of a wooden legged man.
• Alaska law says that you can't look at a moose from an airplane.
• The city of Guelph is classified as a no-pee zone. (Okay, I don’t know why that’s in this list. If I lived in Guelph, that would be VERY relevant.)
• It is against the law to mispronounce the name of the State of Arkansas in that State.
• In Memphis, Tennessee, a woman is not to drive a car unless a man warns approaching motorists or pedestrians by walking in front of the car that is being driven. (I have no comment…)
• Also in Tennessee, it is against the law to drive a car while sleeping.
• In Kentucky, it's the law that a person must take a bath once a year.
• In the State of Kansas, you're not allowed to drive a buffalo through a street.
• In Canada, it is illegal to kill a sick person by frightening them.
• The law states that more than 3000 sheep cannot be herded down Hollywood Blvd. at any one time.
• In Malaya, it is against the law to dance on the backs of turtles.
• In Australia, a life sentence is 200 years. (I think that becomes irrelevant after the first 150.)
• In Kansas there is a law which reads: "When trains meet at a crossing, both shall come to a full stop and neither shall proceed until the other has gone."
• In Madagascar, it is illegal for pregnant women to wear hats or eat eels.
• Duelling is illegal in Uruguay -- unless both parties are registered blood donors. In this case it is encouraged. (You go Uruguay and I’ll go Myuguay.)
• In Nicholas County, West Virginia., no member of the clergy is allowed to tell jokes or humorous stories from the pulpit during a church service. (So I guess we’re done here…)


A lot of those laws seem pretty irrelevant to you and to me, don’t they? Just like here in PEI in 2007 it might seem irrelevant to proclaim freedom for slaves. We’re about two centuries too late on that in terms of the slave-trade.

But then, it wouldn’t have been all that relevant to the people that the apostle Paul was writing to, either. I mean, those verses Bev read earlier? Paul wrote those to people who were already free. At least most of them would have been.

[Map in PowerPoint] Look… Those verses came from the book of Romans in the New Testament. It was a letter written by Paul to the believers in the Church in the city of Rome. That’s why it’s called Romans. Now at this time, Rome was a Roman province, and any Romans living there were already free. Any Jews in the Church there may have felt oppressed by the Romans, but they weren’t slaves. At least, most of them wouldn’t have been. But I don’t really think that’s what Paul was referring to, anyway.

And if you were following along as Bev read, then you already know what Paul was referring to. We’ll get to that in a minute. But first, let me show you another passage. This is from the Gospel of John, and Jesus is talking to a crowd of people who have been following Him…


John 8:31-33 (NLT)
Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
“But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?”

Let's just pause there for a moment. Whoever asked that question must have slept through history class. What did he mean, "We have never been slaves to anyone"? He had obviously never heard of Egypt… or Moses… or the Passover… or the Exodus… or the Babylonians… or Daniel… the Jews had most certainly been slaves at various points in their history. But let’s forgive his ignorance and move on… It doesn’t really matter anyway, because that’s not the kind of slavery Jesus was referring to. He was just using the word “slavery” as a metaphor to give them a concept of what He was really talking about. So what was he referring to? Let’s see…

John 8:34-36 (NLT)
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin… So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”

So when Jesus talked about slavery here, he wasn’t talking about being considered the physical property of another person. He was talking about living in bondage. Just like a slave lives in bondage to his master, we are all born into bondage to sin. And in the passage Bev read, that’s what Paul was saying, too…

Romans 6:6, 14 (NLT)
We are no longer slaves to sin… Sin is no longer your master… Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.

“Slaves to sin.” What is sin, anyway? I mean, there are all kinds of things that we call sin, but they’re not really sin. What is sin? Here’s my understanding of what sin is: Sin is that self-centered rebellious streak within each of us that wants to replace God with ourselves. It’s us wanting to be in control. All these other things that we call sin… greed, lust, envy, jealousy, hatred, stealing, lying, cheating, adultery… those aren’t sin. They’re symptoms of sin. They’re the outward expression of the disease of sin within us. And it’s that sin within us that enslaves us.

You know what? We live in freedom here in Canada. The problem of the modern-day slave trade aside, you and I live in freedom. People fought and died for the freedom we enjoy. In fact, we’ve enjoyed our freedom for so long that we’ve become climatized to it. The word “freedom” no longer strikes us as a marvellous, wonderful, beautiful concept. It has become just another word… just a collection of vowels and consonants.

And yet there are millions of Canadians today who are slaves. They are living in bondage… to sin. Oh, they enjoy their external freedom… the benefits of their political freedom and the rewards of their economic freedom… but yet, they are slaves. Slaves, just as surely as if they were black Africans in Atlanta, Georgia 150 years ago. Slaves just as Onesimus was a slave 2000 years ago. Except for most, they don't even realize it. They don’t recognize how sin has mastery over them. But it does.

Here’s how Paul described this kind of slavery…

Romans 7:14-24 (NLT)
The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. 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.
I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am!

Man, I’ve been there. I’ve been in slavery myself. I know what Paul was writing about here… knowing what you want to do and knowing what is right to do… but not being able to do it. I’ve been in that cycle where you try to do what’s right but you inescapably find yourself back doing the exact thing you didn’t want to do.

But take a look at what Paul wrote next…

Romans 7:24-25 (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.

The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So with that in mind, let’s talk about what it takes for us to live in freedom. And you can use your notes to follow along and fill in the blanks as we go.

 

If I want to be free from the rule of sin in my life, I must…

A. Choose where my loyalties lie.

You will have a master. The only question is, which will you choose? Will you choose to live according to your sinful nature and allow it to have mastery over you, or will you choose the better way? Will you choose to live your life for God? Will you chose to live to please Him?

Romans 6:16 (NLT)
Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.

So there is a choice you have to make. If you want to be set free from the rule of sin, that’s where you need to start. Make a decision. Are you tired of being enslaved to every temptation that comes your way? If so, then choose to cross the floor and align yourself with God’s side. If you refuse to make that choice, then by default you are choosing to stay in bondage to a life of sin. So you need to choose.

But as we’ve already seen, that’s not enough. It’s not enough to just decide that you want to be free. Paul chose where his loyalties were, but he still found himself trapped in that cycle of doing what he didn’t want to do and not being able to do what he wanted to do. He had to make that choice, yes, but there also had to be more to it than that. And Paul discovered what it was. He had to…

 

B. Depend on the power of God.

If I want to be free from the rule of sin in my life, I must depend on the power of God.

You see, we’re all born as slaves to sin. And no matter how hard we try we can’t break free. It’s beyond our capability. We are in bondage, and Jesus Christ—who is God—is the only one who holds the key that can unlock those chains and set us free. He can uphold you and strengthen you and help you resist temptation so that you don’t have to be a slave to sin any longer. Jesus told His disciples in Luke chapter 22…

Luke 22:40 (NLT)
“Pray that you will not be overcome by temptation.”

And that’s good advice for you and me today. We can’t overcome temptation ourselves so let’s pray that God will intervene and protect us and keep us from sin.

Jude 1:24 (NLT)
And now, all glory to God, who is able to keep you from stumbling, and who will bring you into his glorious presence innocent of sin and with great joy.

Yesterday I saw a commercial on TV that I had never seen before. Let me show it to you…

[Video – Pardon_swim.wmv – from http://www.pardonservicescanada.com/ads.asp]

Pardon Services Canada. What happens if you’re a convicted criminal who is granted a pardon? Your crime is no longer held against you. It’s as if you never did it. You’re granted an exemption. You’re declared… innocent. Doesn’t mean that you’re actually innocent… you’ve done the crime… but you’re pardoned… you’re treated as if you are innocent.

That’s essentially what God is able to do for you. All of the crimes you have committed against Him… He’s willing to pardon you for them. He’s willing to set them aside and declare you innocent.

But He’s the only one who’s able to do that. Those of you who are living for Jesus… there was a time when you were guilty. Sin had mastery over you. And there wasn’t a thing you could do about it. But then Jesus came along… and He cleansed you from that sinfulness. He pardoned you and declared you innocent.

And now, He continues to provide you with everything you need to live sin-free each and every day. He doesn’t prevent temptations from coming your way, but He makes it possible for you to overcome them.

1 Corinthians 10:13b (NLT)
He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.

The point is, you can’t do this yourself. You’ve got to depend on the power of God to make you free and keep you free.

And let me just interject here, when you’re faced with a temptation and God shows you a way out… take it. Don’t see how close you can get to the fire… get out of there.

 

Let’s move on. If I want to be free from the rule of sin in my life, I must choose where my loyalties lie, I must depend on the power of God, and I must…
 

C. Grow more like Jesus every day.

The closer you get to Jesus, the more time you spend with Him, the more you allow Him to impact your life, the more you’ll become like Him. You’ll begin to take on His character.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NLT)
For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

Our freedom depends on the ongoing work of the Spirit of God in our lives. We need to allow Him free access to every part of our being, trusting Him to make us more like Jesus every day.

And let me warn you of this… when you begin to resist what He’s doing in your life… and when you reject the transformation He is working in you… that’s when that self-centered rebellious streak within you begins to take control again. That’s when you give up your freedom and you choose to become a slave to sin once again.

Obviously you don’t want that to happen. So let me encourage you, commit yourself this morning to a lifelong journey of growing more like Jesus every day.

 

And you know what? If you do that… and if you trust the work of the Holy Spirit in your life… and if you respond in obedience to His promptings… I believe it is entirely possible for you to live in freedom from sin. You never have to go back to it again. Through the power of Jesus Christ, you can have victory over that sinful nature.

But… for most of us, we’re still prone to fail. We don’t have to sin, but we still choose to from time to time. We give in to it in a moment of weakness. Let me say it again… it is entirely possible for us to live a life free from sin. But just being honest… no excusing it, but just being honest… there are still times that we give in to temptation and allow sin to rear its ugly head, aren’t there? At least, there are for me. And because of that, we need to look at one more thing here…

 

If I want to be free from the rule of sin in my life, I must…
 

D. Get back up when I fall down.

Listen, the freedom God offers is real. And I want you to understand that with Him, all things are possible… even living a sin-free life. But at the same time, I want you to know that there’s hope and forgiveness for you when you fail.

God wants us to live a life of purity before Him… and He expects that of us… but when we do fail, He extends a hand – not of condemnation but of grace to help us back up. In fact, Jeremiah the prophet (not the bullfrog) in the Old Testament recorded these words…

Jeremiah 8:4-6 (NLT)
“This is what the Lord says: ‘When people fall down, don’t they get up again? When they discover they’re on the wrong road, don’t they turn back? Then why do these people stay on their self-destructive path?... They cling tightly to their lies and will not turn around… Is anyone sorry for doing wrong? Does anyone say, ‘What a terrible thing I have done’?’”

So what’s God saying here? I think He’s saying “Get back up again! Rely on my power and do your best to live sin-free. But if you fall down, get back up again. Don’t stay down wallowing in your sinfulness. I’m offering you my mercy and my forgiveness and my restoration… take it!” That’s what He says to you and to me today.

Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Peter, Thomas… all people like you and me who messed up… some of them messed up big time… they sinned against God… and they had to get back up.

Proverbs 24:16 (NLT)
The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.

So don’t fail. Don’t give in to temptation and sin. Don’t do it. But if you do… get back up.

 

Jesus came to set you free, and it’s a freedom you can enjoy today. Are you ready to turn from your sinful way of life and instead choose by His power to live His way?

I want to give you an opportunity to respond to that. I’m going to ask you to close your eyes… If you’re making that choice this morning… to turn from the sin that has enslaved you and instead, by the power of God, you’re choosing to live in freedom, would you slip up your hand so I can see it? I’m not going to mention you by name, but I want to see your hand so I can pray for you.

 

 

 

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