Sermon by Ulrike Unruh
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.You shall be free! Liberty!
And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
They answered him, We are Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how is it that you say, You shall be made free?
Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever commits sin is the servant of sin.
And the servant abides not in the house for ever: [but] the Son abides ever.
If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed. John 8:31-36
The pursuit for freedom is what America was based upon.
“Give me liberty or give me death” was the impassioned speech of Patrick Henry back in in 1775.
America was being controlled by an imperial power and they didn’t like it. They didn’t like British Statesmen coming and telling them how conduct their affairs and who took their taxes back to Europe. We want liberty was the cry.
“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
And so they struggled for liberty.
Freedom in America has meant many things: freedom of speech; freedom from unfair, autocratic government; freedom to strive after personal dreams. But in the eyes of many, the fundamental American freedom has been the right to worship or not worship according to a persons personal convictions and experience with God.
Over in Europe the blood of martyrs had been shed rather freely. Persecution for one’s beliefs, if they were different from the state religion was simply the established condition of things. No freedom of worship. Yet they heard that across the ocean there was new land, uncontrolled by a tyrannical state.
So, in 1620, 102 brave souls clambered aboard a little ship—named the Mayflower and left England. We know them as the pilgrims. They would risk all for freedom. Thus they began their sail westward to the new world. Theirs was a terrible voyage, sixty-six days long. Cramped in that little boat, tossed about by angry waves, the food barely eatable. Sea sick and miserable, they journeyed on toward freedom. Bradford-- one of the pilgrims-- described what happened when they finally sited land: "Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, [we] fell upon [our] knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought [us] over the vast and furious sea.
Yes, they endured many hardships because they wanted freedom.
After the war for independence the people decided to build a lasting memorial to liberty.
Liberty was that important to them. They called it the statue of liberty. When the statue was in place, everyone stood back to read the famous words that were carved into it.
'Give me your tired and poor people. Give me the people who want to be free. Send me the homeless. Send me the tempest tos't. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.' Freedom was watch word. Yet somehow, true freedom eluded many. Why?
Somehow America did not yet comprehend the great principle of religious liberty or even personal liberty.
There were some who thought liberty was only for them and in order to live a life of ease they had slaves. Yes, the land of so called freedom became engaged in a cruel slave business.
People were bought and sold and forced to work with little regard to their needs, wants, or personal desires.
Slavery, -- history is filled with the horror stories of people using other people and destroying their lives for their own advantage.
The lot of the slave is often hopeless. They bear the abuse with no hope of deliverance.
Slavery goes back a long time.
Back in old testament times slavery was a very common thing.
Under most legal codes of those days, a slave was merely a piece of property with little or no personal rights. If you killed another man’s slave, you might suffer the same punishment as a person would, had he killed the man‘s ox.
The Mosaic Law however, provided for the rights of slaves. This was something different than the normal situation in the world in general.
One provision was that all slaves were to be freed during the Jubilee year.
Another provision was that a relative, or kinsman could buy back or redeem the person enslaved.
How did this work?
Well, you remember the story of the young woman with two sons?
The story is in 2 Kings 4.
What a terrible predicament to be in, --
Can you hear the heart cry of this mother-- she can’t pay her bills and the creditor is there to take her children as slaves in payment of the debt!
Now you know that in this particular story Elisha worked a miracle and the woman was able to pay her creditors and keep her sons.
But many widows and poor families were not so fortunate. Many had to surrender their children into slavery because the creditors were at the door.
Creditors don’t seem to have much mercy. And they didn’t in those days either. You can imagine the fear and horror of having a child taken into slavery by an unmerciful creditor, because you were too poor to meet your payments.
But God had given them a system of hope. There was a way to get the children back!
If an uncle or cousin or some kinsman was willing to pay the redemption price, the children could come home. They would be free!
The literal meaning of "redemption" is "to be bought back from--." One who admits they have "been redeemed" is one admitting they've been bought back from a bad condition and situation.
Now let’s go to our scripture story.
Jesus was in Jerusalem
A crowd of people were around Him. Some hostile, and a few that believed.
Some in the crowd were listening closely to what He was saying, and when they heard that bit about freedom, they were provoked.
What-- did this Jesus think they were slaves? Was He insinuating they were in bondage. Was He insinuating they didn’t know what truth was?
Suddenly one called out loudly, "We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: why do you say, Ye shall be made free?"
Oh, they realized Jesus was speaking of something greater than political matters, for the Romans were at that very time dominating Israel. They knew Christ was speaking of spiritual things. And the implications angered them.
Human nature does not want to admit it. We don't want to admit it do we? Just like those offended Jews in the crowd that day, we want to deny our moral liabilities. We wish to deny our sinfulness and our entanglement in sin.
Sin, it is the deadliest slave master that we have or ever will know, because not only can sin kill the body, but it kills the soul as well.
But these people wouldn’t acknowledge that they were slaves to sin. -- Oh no, they were Abraham’s seed. The chosen people of God. Sure those Gentiles were slaves to sin, but not them, they were free men. How could this Galilean rabbi presume to say they didn’t know the truth and were enslaved in any spiritual manner.
But Jesus calmly and quietly, says:
The Jews didn’t want to admit this fact. People still today want to argue this fact. They want to believe that we are born naturally good, at the very least, morally neutral. Why?
Somehow people think freedom means the freedom to sin. Not realizing that sin is cruellest slave master.
And, we in our carnal natures are slaves to sin, with no way out of that slavery. If this is true, as Jesus says it is, that everyone who sins is a slave to sin, then without the truth which Christ is speaking about, we are hopeless creatures, unable to do anything to win freedom for ourselves.
But mankind wants to believe in the worst way that to be free he needs to be independent, yes, independent of a Savior.
Mankind has it all backwards, thinking that obedience to Christ restricts freedom, when in actuality it is the only way of true freedom.
What Christ is saying is that only the “the truth” and He, Christ is the truth, and His Word, the Bible, is truth -- only the truth is able to crush the opposing power to set men free. This means that all who resist Christ are resisting the liberating power that alone can redeem them from this enslaving power.
Sin is like quicksand. First it might be fun and exciting to play in it, but it sucks us steadily down into it’s death grip, ever more firmly clasping us in it’s enslaving power. Sin is NOT freedom. It is the destroyer.
Christ is our Redeemer, He has bought us back, out of slavery to sin. His power is the liberating power. "Fear not," He says, "for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine." "Since thou wast precious in My sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee." Isa. 43:1, 4.
A number of years ago a family purchased a small, vandalized cabin in the woods. At the time of the purchase, everything had been stripped from this cabin - everything that is except the large orange antique refrigerator. The furniture was gone, the light fixtures had been torn out, and even the toilet had been removed. For several months, whenever they visited that cabin, they burned kerosene lamps and candles to get a little light during the evening hours. Finally, when it looked like we had enough money to begin doing repairs, they started by replacing the light fixtures.
Then, for no particular reason, for they had all assumed there was no electricity in the cabin, one of the family went over to the corner and flipped on the main breaker switch at the panel, and was startled to hear a noise coming from the antique orange refrigerator. All along, they had electrical power in that cabin, and didn't know it. For months they had been in the dark until they discovered the truth about the power. This gave them much freedom to move about and do things we could not do in the evening before.
The Bible says, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
In that little cabin, when they found out the truth about the electricity already being turned on, it gave them new found freedom - freedom to read and write, use the hot water heater, toaster, and if need be, the hair dryer.
Do we realize our freedom has been purchased. We don’t have to grope around in the darkness of sin and guilt any more. We don’t have to be slaves to sin.
We have been redeemed!
How does truth set us free?
The first truth is that Christ died in our place. He has redeemed us! He is the TRUTH, This one and only Son is the embodiment of TRUTH and as such is the great Liberator. In dying for our sins, He took our penalty and when we accept Him we are accounted righteous.
Our sin and guilt is gone and we are accounted just as if we had never sinned.
When we look to the cross and see what our sins did to Jesus, something happens inside. All our pride and selfishness is stripped bare, and we ask, "What is sin, that it should require such a sacrifice?" Suddenly the horror of sin is revealed to us. Those little sins that we thought we had a right to hang on to , thought we needed in our lives, don't look so innocent anymore, and we experience what is know as repentance. Repentance includes sorrow for sin and a turning away from it. True repentance does not happen outside of Christ. We may experience regret for the consequences of sin while apart from Christ, we may even change our lifestyle, but only as we contemplate the cross in the presence of Jesus can we experience true repentance, which is so necessary to the Christian life. As we see what our sins did to Jesus and how He took our punishment because He loved us, we will begin to hate our sinfulness and long for Christ's righteousness. Gladly we surrender all our cherished idols--everything that stands between us and Christ we place on the alter and even more, we give ourselves to Jesus by the mercies of God, we present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy , acceptable unto God. (Romans 12:2)
When we come to the cross we are forgiven, the penalty of our sins was paid by the Lamb of God. We experience peace that we never thought possible before. Yet our journey has only begun.
It’s a hard concept to learn. In fact, to many people it doesn’t make sense, but true freedom means giving ourselves to Christ, who alone can make us free.
Christ was instructing his disciples, saying, "If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed." "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
"If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed."
We are to count ourselves dead to sin and alive to righteousness, because Christ died for our sins, and clothed us with His righteousness.
We are to abide in Him and in His Word.
To abide in Him means we are connected to HIM.
Just like in that story about the cabin. The electricity was there all the time, but they had to turn on the switch and connect to it if they wanted light!
How do we stay connected? How do continue in His Word?
By what means shall we determine whose side we are on? Who has our heart? Who do our thoughts turn to? When we wake up in the morning, do we direct our thoughts to God-- is He our first contact every morning. Who has our warmest affections and our best energies? If we are on the Lord's side, our thoughts are with Him, and our sweetest thoughts are of Him.
We want to be Christ’s disciples and enjoy the freedom He alone can give us. Note, that Jesus says, If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.
His Word is the Bible. Do we delight ourselves in the Word of God, eagerly reading the promises, searching for truth as for a lost treasure? We need to meditate on the Word-- thinking about the words we read, and their application to life.
To abide in Jesus means a personal, present and continuous relationship with Him. As we learn more and more of the precious word of Jesus, our faith grows more and more. If we remain in Him, sin loses it’s hold upon us.
Connected to Christ we bring forth the fruits of righteousness.
Yes, it is still a struggle.
It doesn’t happen all at once.
Suppose, for example, I had a lame leg and as a result developed a limp. If through surgery my lameness is cured, I would still tend to limp out of habit.
But I have been freed of my lameness, and having been freed I will learn to walk without that limp.
So it is with Christ. His truth has set us free from sin. Now by His grace, and by abiding in HIM, we learn to walk in righteousness, and not let sin have dominion over us any more.
Freed by God’s wondrous-amazing grace;
Freed by His Son who died in our place;
Freed by the precious blood that He shed;
Freed by the resurrection from the dead;
Freed by His pardon from all our sin;
Freed by His cleansing power within;
Freed by our Creator’s omnipotent hand;
Freed as we bow in humble thanksgiving
and are born again by His Holy Spirit.
Free to know peace and true happiness;
Free to enjoy a life that is blessed;
Free to love and forgive our brother;
Free to serve God and one another;
Free to live righteous, holy lives;
Free to follow Christ as He guides;
Free to worship and praise His Name;
Thank God we’re FREE from all our shame...
Hallelujah!...We Are Free!!
--Connie Campbell Bratcher (adapted)
Jesus makes clear what the truth is. Yes, we were slaves, slaves of sin and Satan. But Jesus, God’s Son, came to set us free. He lived and died and rose again and has defeated sin, death and Satan. He has won freedom for the world and he offers that freedom to all through the Gospel. Now Jesus says to you and to me, to all who have been brought to faith in him; “hold to my teaching, remain in my word, then you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth and you will rejoice daily in your freedom.”