Living As Fully FREE! (Sermon Audio)

 

This is the audio from the July 7, 2019 sermon, “Living As Fully FREE!”, shared by Tom Lemler at the North Wayne Mennonite Church.

 

Text: Luke 15:11-32

Here are the main points from the sermon:

In Christ, we are fully  . . .

  • Forgiven:
    • 1 John 2:12 — When we come home to the Father, our sins are fully forgiven because of Jesus . . . not because of us or our efforts.
  • Restored: 
    • 1 Peter 5:10 — Even through suffering and difficulty, and sometime because of them, we have a God that will fully restore us to Himself when we “come to our senses” and return to Him.
  • Equipped:
    • 2 Timothy 3:16-17 — The freedom we find by gazing into the perfect law of God’s Word will fully equip us for every good work He calls us to do..
  • Embraced:
    • Luke 15:20 — From wherever we are, our return to the Father will be met with a loving embrace.  His touch gives us the hope and courage to grow from the child He created to the son or daughter He designed us to be.

Until we find true freedom in Christ, the freedoms we chase after will only be temporary at best and will never fully satisfy.

2017: Page 149

Page 149 was Memorial Day and I was awake early to photograph the sunrise.  As I was watching the sun come up over the horizon, I thought about the freedoms I enjoy that were purchased with the blood of someone else.  Freedom is something that seems to get talked about a lot in this country, but I’m not sure it really gets taught.  As I’ve grown up, I’ve been taught the old adage, “With great freedom comes great responsibility.”  I hear and read a lot that seem to use rights and freedom interchangeably.  It’s as if freedom gives us the right to do anything we want and heaven forbid that anyone would question our actions.  But we do tend to draw the line when our freedom is about something we don’t want to do.  We have the freedom to listen to opposing views and disagree if we choose but we also have the freedom to not listen and actually protest against that which we’ve not heard.  A steady diet of instantaneous news bits designed to arouse an emotional response have made us quick to lump people into categories that we then choose not to listen to or have anything to do with because, well because we know what “those people are like”.  The Bible tells us we should be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”  Somehow it seems that much of the culture I live in are using the wrong speed in each of those areas.

As I thought about the way we tend to worship freedom in this country, it was not a far journey for my mind to think about how those same misunderstandings of true freedom have crept into the church.  The Bible makes it clear that our freedom has been purchased with the blood of Christ and that “if the Son has set you free, you shall be free indeed!”  Unfortunately, it didn’t take long before people decided that meant they could do whatever they wanted without giving any thought to anyone else.  Sounds a lot like our current culture both inside and outside of the church.  Yet the Bible warns us to not use our freedom satisfy the sinful desires of the flesh.  Rather we are instructed to use our freedom to serve one another in love.  God desires that each person would not only know true freedom, but would live that freedom within the boundaries of His Word.  

I enjoy flying kites and love to watch them soar high overhead.  Today’s photo is one I took as I was flying a kite in the middle of the afternoon.  While the bright colors of the kite and tails are probably the most visible thing in the photo, if you look closely you can see the one piece that actually gives it the ability to fly with beauty . . . the kite string!  The string provides some parameters and form to the kite so that it can fly in a way that displays its full beauty.  One thing I’ve learned when I fly a kite is to always pay close attention when I near the end of running the string out on the spool.  Lately, most of the kites I have flown have the string tied around the spool, but I had one years ago that wasn’t.  I was having a great time watching the kite soar in the air and it kept climbing higher and higher as I fed out the string.  All of a sudden it began to flap wildly in the sky and as I pulled back on the spool to try to steady the kite, I quickly realized as the kite tumbled out of sight, the kites freedom to fly was quickly coming to an end as it had gained freedom with no control.  

As I reflect on the day, here are some thoughts/lessons that stand out to me:

  • Freedom always costs somebody something.
  • Freedom without responsibility eventually leads to chaos.
  • Without respect for one another at the core, freedom will actually lead to conflict rather than peace.
  • Until we learn to listen, we will never know actual freedom.
  • When I think about the most unused freedoms we have, I would say it is a toss up between the freedom to listen to someone without agreeing or becoming angry and the freedom to actually change our mind by listening.
  • It is just as easy to misuse our freedom in Christ as it is to misuse our freedom in this world.
  • Unrestrained freedom will ultimately lead to losing everything.

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The TRUTH that Leads to Freedom

 “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. . . . So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.'”
John 8:31-32, 36 (NIV)

I had the privilege of sharing a sermon this morning from John 8:31-59 as I chose to address the topic of freedom on this Fourth of July holiday weekend.  I opened by reading a poem, Freedom, that God had put in my mind to write yesterday morning.  Then, as my custom is, I used a word of the sermon title as an acrostic to outline my sermon.  God calls His followers to know, live, and share a freedom that can only be found in the truth of Jesus who claims, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

As we unwrapped “The TRUTH that Leads to Freedom”, we first looked at the Teaching that leads to freedom.  Jesus stated that by holding fast to His teachings we show that we are His disciples and will be set free by the truth of them.  Jesus made it clear in the story of the wise and foolish builders, that there is a difference between knowing the teachings of Jesus and actually putting them into practice.  It is by being a “doer of the word and not a hearer only” that we find the Teaching that leads to freedom.

The second point of the message addressed our need to practice a Repentance that leads to freedom.  Repentance is a word, and practice, that most of us tend to avoid because it requires an admittance that there is something not right in our life.  Often lost in a culture that loves to quote “judge not”, is the clear message of Jesus that He came not to call the righteous but to call sinners to repentance.  The real excitement in that last sentence ought to be the realization that Jesus came to call you and I to a Repentance that leads to freedom!

Through Jesus, we also gain an Understanding that leads to freedom.  Some of my favorite passages in the Bible are when Jesus addresses His disciples and refers to them as “dull” or asks them, “do you not understand?”.  I love these because it shows that Jesus knows that my understanding of who He is and the freedom He offers is a growing process.  In one of those passages there is an expressed concern about the keeping of some Jewish ceremonial practices to be considered clean.  Jesus explains that it is what is inside of a person that makes them clean or unclean  It is knowing, and trusting, the promises of Jesus to wash away my sins that gives me an Understanding that leads to freedom.

Perhaps the most difficult part of the message was this fourth point as I addressed the Traditions that lead to freedom.  I must make it very clear, it is not the traditions themselves that lead to freedom rather an examination and understanding of why I practice them.  Jesus made it clear to those accusing Him of forsaking the Law of God, as found in the Old Testament, that His intention was not to abolish the law, but rather to fulfill it.  He was keeping and fulfilling the law not for the sake of tradition but because he understood and believed the purpose behind it.  When we seek the old paths, paths founded in the truth of God’s Word, and walk intentionally in them as part of our relationship with God, we discover Traditions that lead to freedom.

Finally, we considered the Honor that leads to freedom.  Jesus could do and say the things He did while on earth because He wasn’t concerned about bringing honor and glory to Himself.  He was despised, ridiculed, rejected, and crucified all while living in complete freedom.  His stated goal was to not bring glory to Himself but to honor His Father.  It is so easy to get caught in the trap of compromise as we become afraid of what people will think of us.  Most of us want people to speak well of us and to honor us for our accomplishments and for who we are.  The problem is not so much in honoring people or being honored by people — God tells us to give honor to whom honor is due.  What keeps us from experiencing freedom is our desire to bring honor to ourselves.  It is when we make the focus of our life all about bringing glory to God that we can experience the Honor that leads to freedom.

Like the Jewish listeners in the days of Jesus, I think many people are disgusted with the idea that someone would set them free.  That original audience believed they were already free and had never been enslaved to anyone or anything — sounds rather familiar and contemporary to today’s culture, at least to me.  As much as we like to fight for our freedoms and shout to be heard, it doesn’t appear to be working all that well.  Perhaps it is time we turn to The TRUTH that Leads to Freedom!

In prayer,
Tom

Freedom

Freedom

As we celebrate
     the Fourth of July.
How many people
     will ask themselves, “Why”?
The time off of work
     and cookouts are great.
But what is the reason
     that you celebrate?

The “land of the brave”
     and “home of the free”.
Do we live like that?
     Is that what you see?
We lock all our doors,
     we’re afraid to go out.
And sharing the truth
     causes people to shout.

Somehow we think,
     if I’m louder than they.
Then all of the people
     must do things my way.
The laws pile up,
     the rules list grows long.
And all it creates
     is more chance to do wrong.

We all want our freedom
     to do what we like.
From the old and the gray,
     to the littlest tike.
You can’t tell me different,
     I’ll do it my way.
“I have my rights”
     is what we all say.

And so it is strange
     when we go to The Word.
And see freedom defined
     like we’ve never heard.
You must surrender
     to truly be free.
And live to serve others
     so that Jesus they see.

There is no “freedom”
     that is worth the cost.
If I do what I want
     and still remain lost.
So I set my mind firmly
     to live like I should.
Trusting God’s Son has freed me
     as only He could.

God’s given His Spirit
     so that I can live free.
The fruit it produces
     ought to be seen in me.
Love, joy, peace, and patience;
     kindness and goodness too.
Being faithful and gentle
     with self-control as my view.

God says this is freedom;
     against such things there’s no law.
We’re set free by the Son
     from sin’s cold, deadly claw.
So, please remember
     if it’s freedom you need.
“If the Son sets you free,
     you will be free indeed!”

© 2015 by Tom Lemler

As I was spending time this morning reflecting on a sermon I’ll share tomorrow and thinking about our nation’s worship of freedom, this poem filled my mind. It appears that somewhere along the line we have forgotten that freedom always comes at a cost. As Americans we demand our freedoms thinking that somehow they are our right and that freedom means “free”. Unfortunately, that same mindset is often found in Christians regarding the freedom we do have in Christ. I pray that you and I would consider fully the cost of the freedoms we enjoy — both as Americans and, more importantly, as citizens of God’s kingdom — then truly live as ones who have been set free by the Son.

In prayer,
Tom