"If you were Abraham’s children," said Jesus, "then you would do the things Abraham did.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." Thus states the Declaration of Independence.
This is fourth of July weekend – the time we gather to celebrate everything American, especially the freedoms we enjoy. Tomorrow our nation will be 229 years old.
The Selfishness of Human Hearts (Dennis and Barbara Rainey, "Moments Together for Couples") Alexander Fraser Tytler lived at the end of the eighteenth century, but his book The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic sends a chilling warning today. Tytler found that ancient democracies waned under the selfishness of human hearts. He wrote: "The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence:
- From bondage to spiritual faith;
- from spiritual faith to great courage;
- from courage to liberty;
- From liberty to abundance;
- from abundance to selfishness;
- from selfishness to complacency;
- from complacency to apathy;
- from apathy to dependency;
- from dependency back to bondage.
Maybe this could be said of the Church and therefore of our individual Christian lives as well.
It certainly is true of the Jews to which Jesus is speaking in John 8. In chapters 7 and 8 Jesus is revealing more and more of who he is. Some accept and some reject. There is no middle road. Jesus makes sure of that.
The words I read to you from John 8 Jesus is speaking to “the Jews who had believed him.” Jesus calls their bluff. Jesus tests them to see how much they really believe. And John 8 closes with “they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.” With believers like that, who needs enemies?
Let’s look closer at the story. Why are they not believers? Because they are not free. This passage is about freedom-true freedom. And these Jews do not possess that kind of freedom. They claim to be free, they say they (Abraham’s descendents) have never been slaves of anyone. But Jesus is not speaking of national freedom, he is speaking of inner freedom, a freedom of the heart. Spiritual freedom is freedom from sin.
Jesus goes on to say that they do not possess this freedom because they do not do the things that Abraham did-they are not doing godly things.
"Help us see that our liberty is not the right to do as we please, but the opportunity to please to do what is right." (Peter Marshall, Before the U.S. Senate)
This passage opens “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
"No man in this world attains to freedom from any slavery except by entrance into some higher servitude." (Phillips Brooks, 1835-1893)
The Bible is filled with paradoxes: God is strong and mighty and yet mild and gentle. We have to die to find life.
George Matheson hymn: “Make me a captive, then I shall be free.”
The word captivating has captive as its root. We speak of something captivating someone’s attention. I remember as a teenager, I’d be captivated by a tv program and my mom would come in and talk to me and I’d never hear her. I was focused on one thing.
~What captivates you today?
~What holds your attention?
~At what or whom do you sit at the feet of?
~What do you make your rule of life?
“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
One of the world’s uses of the word freedom is the phrase “Free to be me.” In Genesis when God created humankind, he says, “Let us make people in our image …” We were created in the image of God, but when sin entered into the world that image was marred, distorted by sin. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came so that we might once again be restored to the image of God. In believing, in following, in learning to walk in the ways of God, I find the real me! You find the real you! Jesus is the one who sets me “free to be me.”
In a moment we will share in the Lord’s Supper together. Let us remember together the price that Jesus paid for our freedom. Let us with thankful hearts meet him at this table. Let us come and leave at the altar all that binds us, all the things of the world that grab our attention, all that keeps us from embracing wholeness, and let us go forth in the freedom of Jesus Christ, free to be all that God created us to be.