Bethel CRC Lacombe

October 22, 2023 Broken signposts- Freedom

October 26, 2023 Pastor Jake Boer Season 6 Episode 5
Bethel CRC Lacombe
October 22, 2023 Broken signposts- Freedom
Show Notes Transcript

Today we will reflect on John 8:31-41, Broken Signposts – Freedom. When we think about freedom, we often think in terms of the North American definition of freedom which is the choice to do what we want without anyone being able to tell us anything different; to have the freedom to be who I want to be. When we follow Jesus, we discover that true freedom is the freedom to serve, the freedom to follow the path of Jesus and to be the people Jesus calls us to be. Freedom is about becoming a slave to Jesus; giving our lives over to Him completely as our Saviour and Lord 

Broken Signposts – Freedom

John 8:31-41


This encounter between Jesus and these Jews who had believed in Jesus comes right after the Pharisees challenged Jesus on his teachings and who Jesus claimed to be. John tells us that many people didn’t understand what Jesus was getting at when he talked about who he is and his relationships with God, his Father, “so Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” Even as he spoke, many believed in him.” 


Yet it seems in this conversation that though many put their faith in Jesus, they believed him, there still seems to be some question on what they were really believing in, and about Jesus. Jesus tells them, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” As they respond, we can see that there was a lot of misunderstanding between Jesus and these Jews, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” But to be fair to these Jews, would we have understood Jesus any better in that time and place? Yet they also failed to remember their own history and the reality of their present-day situation as they had been slaves to Egypt and Babylon, among other nations at different times, and even now were under the Roamn yoke, even if they were more of an occupied rather than enslaved nation. Yet maybe they were thinking along the lines of where Jesus was going and thinking of being slaves in their thinking to the leaders of various sects or parties in Israel at that time. 


The reality is that many people, even many of us, fail to recognize the chains our sin has on our hearts and souls. We too often fail to acknowledge the different masters we’ve allowed to bind us up in their chains of slavery. Freedom is a huge issue; the reality is that there are many kinds of slavery in the world, some even in Canada and our own province and communities that we seldom think about. The prevalence of human trafficking is an issue we don’t want to talk too much about, even though it happens in our own communities. Then there are those immigrants that come into Canada who are taken advantage of, some of them having arrived only semi-legally, where they are given work and then treated like slaves and told that if they complain they will make sure they’re deported. Then there is family violence and dysfunction where some family members are feeling trapped like slaves in their relationships. 


God does deal with slavery in the laws he gives Israel, giving the people strict guidelines to masters on how they are to trat their slaves with respect as everyone has value since we are all created in the image of God. Historically, people of faith have often been in the forefront of the fight to eliminate slavery, such as William Wilberforce in England, while in the USA, William Lloyd Garrison’s profound sense of Christian morality led him to become an advocate for the abolitionist cause, while the daughter of one of the wealthiest slave-owning families in Charleston, South Carolina, Angelina Grimké was deeply religious; believing slavery was a sin, and that God would punish those who owned and enslaved other human beings and joined the fight for freedom for black slaves. There were many others who also fought for freedom for slaves such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, showing people the cruelties of slavery. 


The writers of the Bible are less concerned about physical slavery, though it’s never presented as part of God’s creation plan; Jesus is more concerned about our hearts and souls becoming slaves to the mostly underestimated power of sin and Satan to chain our hearts so we’re kept from God, Jesus and the freedom that the Holy Spirit can guide us to; “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” Sin’s power is rooted in idolatry. As N.T Wright observes, “Idols, all the more powerful when not recognized as such, are anything at all that humans place above and give their ultimate allegiance to other than the One God himself…. Idols are addictive…. Offer more than it can appropriately deliver…. You have to abandon part of your proper allegiance to God… in order to fresh and inappropriate attention to the new idol, whatever it is…  associated not only with alcohol, cannabis, and other drugs, but with our electronic systems: smartphones, social media, Facebook, and so on.” 


For many people, even followers of Jesus, freedom is all about being able to do whatever they want, even if there are rules or laws against it. Most of our ideas about freedom are inherently selfish, it’s all about me and what I want. Doug Bratt writes, “Jesus Christ graciously freed his adopted siblings from having to earn our salvation by obeying God’s law. Yet that leaves the question of how Christians use our freedom in Christ. How, quite simply, do God’s beloved children live in obedient gratitude for God’s gracious gift of salvation?So those who assume 1 Corinthians 6’s proclaimers will just talk about spiritual things may be disappointed. Paul, after all, calls God’s people to also consider physical things. He reminds his letter’s recipients that while God gives God’s adopted children much freedom to responsibly respond to God’s grace, not everything we do is “beneficial.” Some things Christians have the freedom to do aren’t helpful to either the people around us or to us.” 


Freedom comes through Jesus who sets us free from sin through his sacrifice on the cross, something we call substitutionary atonement where Jesus takes the punishment for our sin on himself. This is a gift given to us, a gift we need to accept in order for it to make us free. This is why we’re told numerous times to believe in Jesus and to repent and turn our lives over to Jesus and walk his way instead of our own way.


Robert B. Kruschwitz warns us, “In an awkward but memorable phrase, the Apostle Paul declares: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” The story of Jesus Christ, as it comes to life in his followers, is a story of freedom, to be sure, but a freedom constrained by the Cross and deeply at odds with individualistic notions of liberty…. Today many people often think of freedom “as the maximum ability to choose whatever life I want to live with a minimum of external attachments.” Paul’s strange claim that “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free,” in Galatians 5 is explained by this relationship between salvation and ethics. “Christ has set us free” relates to the salvation of Jesus’ followers, while ‘for freedom’ relates to the ethical lifestyle that Jesus’ followers are called to live.


Slavery separates us from a close relationship with God, as Jesus says, “A slave has no permanent place in the family.” Just because they’re Jewish, just because you show up in church most Sundays, this doesn’t save you or set you free. Jesus goes on, “but a son belongs to it forever.” Jesus is the one who brings us into the family of God, freedom comes through Jesus. Being a child of God gives you a solid identity, a strong foundation for life, and hope for right now, a reason for living, and a place to belong. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians writes, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Our freedom is limited by our relationship with Jesus and who he’s calling us to be as his followers. 


Freedom is important, yet we seldom stop to think about what our freedom is actually for, why it’s so important, how it points us to God. Paul talks about this in Romans 6, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”


Bruce Hartung encourages us to remember that Christ has freed us from the burden of our sin, from our earning God’s love, from our pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps to approach God. With all that energy, no longer needed to earn a new and healthy relationship with God, what do I do with it? What do you do with it?” Freedom looks like following Jesus, looks like serving each other in love as we find in Galatians 5, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul goes on to call us to use our freedom to grow in the fruit of the Spirit, in “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” and to “keep in step with the Spirit.”


What does that look like for us today? Paul in Romans 6 and Peter in 1 Peter 2 call us to be slaves to God, loving God, serving our neighbor. Be generous to the poor. Listen closely to those with whom we disagree, so closely that we can really understand why their position is so important to them. Take some time to find out about the person who sits beside you. Pray for others. Invite your neighbors over for food and talk. Talk with the people you work with about Jesus who set all of us free. Isaiah calls us to proclaim freedom and see the oppressed free by calling people to place their trust in Jesus and repent and believe so they too can be set free from their sin.