Captive No More - Freedom Sunday - Wellington First Assembly

Wellington First Assembly

326 W Botkin Lane, Wellington Kansas ........Family Faith Lessons - 9:30 AM........ Sunday Worship - 10:30 AM


Monday, July 3, 2017

Captive No More - Freedom Sunday

On this weekend, many people will take time off from work, enjoy a BBQ around a fire, laugh with family, play games, light fireworks and have a grand ole party.  It’s fun to celebrate.  It’s especially fun to celebrate when you have something good to celebrate.  There is nothing like the experience of celebrating freedom. 

As Americans, we have been privileged and honored to be born into or immigrate into a country that has been founded on principles of freedom.  It isn’t too hard to look at documents from the beginning of this country, to examine the groups of minorities who have fled religious persecution to come and establish this great country.  Some came willingly, others were brought as slaves and did not receive freedom until June 19th, 1865, nearly a century after the war for independence.  Women were not given freedom to vote until the 1920’s.  African Americans weren’t allowed to vote until the 1960’s in many parts of this country.

Each generation discovers that while as much freedom we have received, there is still much more freedom that needs to be granted.  I am proud to be an American.  But there is one thing I know – freedom does not come from a Declaration of Independence, or a Constitution, or a Supreme Court Case ruled in my favor.  While those are great governing actions – true freedom comes from Jesus Christ alone.  The freedom Christ provides gave hope to the slaves toiling in the fields under oppression, gave encouragement to early Pentecostal women fighting for the vote, and provides sustenance to the refugee fleeing persecution.  Only then, can a person claim that they are Captive No More.

The sad reality is that many people live in one of the freest nations of this world, and have never tasted true freedom.  The sad reality is that many Christians will spend more time defending their choices of freedom in this country over bathrooms, guns, politics, then will ever spend time presenting the gospel of true freedom to a person who desperately needs to hear an eternal message.

Our text comes from the book of Romans today.  The apostle Paul is writing to the church in Rome, teaching them about freedom, teaching them about sin.  His audience is not primarily composed of Jewish people, but Gentile converts – many of them Roman citizens.  The Roman culture and civilization at that time had one of the greatest government military, administrative, and justice systems around.  As a Roman citizen, you had rights to a trial and an appeal.  You could claim freedom and be granted privilege.  In fact, Paul, as a Roman citizen by birth, used his privileges to appeal all the way to Caesar’s court to share the gospel.
American history buffs will know that much of our government structure is developed from the ancient Roman traditions.  A Roman citizen reading this chapter would just as equally claim that he was leaving in the greatest, freest country of the world at that time.

The words Paul wrote to them are just as applicable to us today.  If we desire to be Captive No More, we should listen.

Romans 6:12-17

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.

Paul highlighted the one thing that every justice system tries to deal with – but none can deal with perfectly.  SIN.  The effects of Sin, and eventually later in this chapter, the wages of SIN.

God has ordained countries and governments, he has set them up into place so that we have laws and guidelines to protect us from our sinful habits.  Yet despite those laws, we still sin.  People still commit crimes, Kids still bully, no amount of legislation, no matter how well intended, can every perfectly redeem us from the tentacles of sin which are so present in our human lives.

It could seem hopeless then.  And it would be – accept for the fact that Jesus Christ entered the scene.  During the preservice video, we showed images of Jesus entering Jerusalem, headed for his crucifixion in the triumphal entry – where he would break the chains of the captives once and for all.  Who are the captives – we are.   Trapped in our egotistical, self-centered lives, addicted to habits and hang-ups which pull us down, blinded by greed and self-centeredness.  Even the best person alive commits sin against other people and God.

BUT – Jesus broke those chains.  We are no longer slaves in bondage to sin.  We are no longer held down, with a foot on or neck in submission to the master of sin.  We can cry freedom!

Have you ever played the game Monopoly?  It’s been years since I have.  If you remember on the game board, there is a corner square designated as the jail.  For certain offenses, a player can land in the jail during the course of the game.  If you were lucky, at some point earlier than that, you may have gotten a get out of jail free card.

How many people do you think use that card when necessary?  YES!  Most people.

But there are those that don’t.  Why?  They forget they have it.  They’ve never played the game before and don’t know how to use it.

This is the quandary we find ourselves in today.  We are in the game of life, and you and I are the ones who have been handed a stack of GET OUT OF JAIL FREE cards given to us by the GameMaker – and our job is to hand those cards out AND tell people how to use them.
When we do not do that, we implicitly become their captors.  And that sin is just as great as any other sin.
So, what should we do.  IF want to be CAPTIVE NO MORE, we must pursue freedom in Christ, and pursue others to offer them that freedom as well.

In our text today, Paul gives us several insights, several areas that we can change, actions that we can do to find freedom in Christ.

Freedom in Christ comes when you reject sinful attitudes and actions. 

Our Countdown song today was the LORD reigns.  We must sing that as a declaration of our independence, a proclamation of freedom from our sin.  In verse 12, Paul commands, he issues an imperative.  If you need to, think of your favorite drill sergeant voice and hear this.  DO NOT LET SIN REIGN IN YOUR MORTAL BODY.  DROP AND GIVE ME 20.  Can you hear that?  Paul wants it to be made very clear.  It is echoed every morning at PT.  IT is reaffirmed at every night assembly.  It is drilled in until muscle memory takes over.  NO SIN
Why do coaches drill the same exercises over and over?  Because when a certain point comes in a game, you know automatically, without thinking, what the right thing to do is.  No hesitation. When a 7-foot center steps up to block your shot, you don’t quiver, you don’t get nervous, you do what you’ve been trained to do.  When a novice like me played pick-up games, and a 7-foot center stepped up – what did I do?  I freaked out, I lost control – I obeyed his passions – his rule of the game instead of mine.

Rejecting sin is as much of a mental game as an action.  When you think of godly things, you tend to act in godly ways.  When you think of sinful things, you tend to act in sinful ways.  By the way, our default mode, the one we revert to when we don’t spend time with God – is back into our sinful nature.

It isn’t enough for us to wake up every day, year after year, relying on the fact that at one point in our lives we said we are a Christian.  Freedom comes daily.  Freedom is built daily.  Freedom is compounded week after week, year after year – when we exercise it, use it, proclaim it.
There is an intentionality to freedom.  There must be a point where you don’t just talk about it, but you do it.
In our American history, the early colonists were tired of being treated as second class citizens in the British Empire.  They chose to meet, they put out a call to action. They rejected what they thought was wrong policy and demanded a change.

In the same way, we as created ones of Christ, do not have to live as second-class citizens of this earth. We do not have to remain under the bondage of sin – but if we want freedom, we have to change our attitudes and embark on actions – which are the opposite ones of the way we are used to.

Freedom in Christ comes when you Pursue Personal Transformation.
Behavior therapists will tell you that if you want to change an action, you can’t just tell yourself to stop – but you have to go farther and replace that old action with a new action.  That is what transformation is all about.  It’s about taking out the broken and putting in the new.  It’s about doing the necessary upgrades.

Paul makes it pretty clear in this passage that while all the infrastructure of freedom has been put into place by Christ – there is one thing that isn’t – and that is this new action.  We have a responsibility in our pursuit of freedom.  We must be willing to let God transform us, to change us, into something better that he wants. Let’s be clear.  Transformation is hard work.  There is nothing easy about it.  It takes time.  There will be awesome breakthroughs and occasional backslides – but doing the hard work of transformation will end up creating a person who lives in everlasting true freedom.

How do we pursue transformation?  Several ways – Measure yourself up to God’s word.  When you let the word of God get into your heart and mind it affects you.  Don’t just read the Bible for good stories, or historical information.  The tendency for many Christians is to see themselves as the hero of the story – the reality is that we can learn much when we from the villains.  We think we are the post Pentecostal Peter, or Paul, or David.  The reality is there is much in our lives that look like Judas, Ananias, and Simon.  The hard work of transformation reminds us that there is always a piece of our soul that we are hanging on to instead of handing over to the full Lordship of Christ.  If you think you have already attained perfection – that is a sure sign that you haven’t.  It’s not easy to admit you aren’t perfect in an area that you like to think you have it all put together.  But that’s where God want to transform you.

We are to become what we are becoming.  Yes, the Christian life is a journey.  None of us are there yet – but we will be.
Many Christians stop at this point in their walk. They are content to be saved, they become comfortable with a certain amount of sin and animosity in their lives.  They justify it by saying, I’m nice and kind to others – but that one particular person, I can never forgive them. That is a dangerous spot. 

Because the 3rd thing Paul identifies in this passage is that freedom in Christ comes when we receive Grace and Mercy. 
We exist because of God’s unmerited favor towards us.  We can live in freedom because of his absolute, total, no holds barred forgiveness.  But the key in keeping that gift of grace and mercy is that we are required to share it.  Gifts received are not to be held – but to be shared.

Jesus told the parable of the man who was shown mercy by the One who Reigned, but then that man turned around and instead of sharing that grace, persecuted another.  And in so doing, he lost his mercy.  Grace is only kept when it is given away.  Try to hang on to it greedily, and it will slip through your fingers.

God’s grace is not justification to keep on sinning.  There are those who actually think in their heart, sometimes even say out loud – It doesn’t matter if I do this or do that.  I can always ask for forgiveness later.  Let me be clear – God’s grace and forgiveness is always available and it will never run out.  So, what is Paul saying here?  They way humans are wired – eventually we keep doing something, and don’t ask for forgiveness.  Eventually, what we do becomes a habit that doesn’t seem too bad, or too destructive so why should I ask for forgiveness?  Eventually that path leads down a way further and further from God, so slowly and incrementally that often a person never realizes it.

I’ve talked to many people who God has brought back from a lifestyle of sin.  They’ve made personal choices that have damaged their own bodies, hurt family members, and created chaos.  God has now, later in their life, restored them and made them new.  They are thankful for Grace and Mercy – They are grateful that they will spend eternity with their Savior – but they regret the wasted years, they regret the broken relationships that cannot be put back together, they regret what they could have been or could have done if they had simply walked in the faithfulness of Jesus Christ from the beginning.

No, just because we have unlimited Grace does not mean we can sin more – it means we can freely share that grace with others who need it too.

4) Freedom in Christ comes when you are obedient to the truth.
Paul reminds us that every person walks in obedience.  We are a slave to something.  We serve something, we choose to obey something.  Obedience is not a character trait – it’s a status.  What are you obedient to?  Children can be obedient to their parents.  When they dis-obey their parents – they are still obeying something – usually it’s their own passion, their own desires, their own wants – what we call sin.

Another example.  I either choose to obey the recommended speed limit, or I choose to obey my desire to drive fast.  I’m obeying something!  Sometimes – not the right thing.
We are reminded of this in verse 16 & 17.  A comparison is made.  We can serve only one master.  We can choose Master Sin who will always hold us down with a boot on our neck – or our Master Christ, who will lift us up with Him.   When we obey the Truth, the Word of God, we receive our true freedom.

There are those who falsely believe that freedom is when has no masters to serve.  They have deceived themselves into thinking that they alone can conjure freedom.  Being Captive No More recognizes that true Freedom comes only when you voluntarily place yourself under the protection of Your Lord and Savior who has a plan and a purpose for your life that is not focused on destruction and despair.  There is no bondage, chains or captivity with Christ – if you desire to walk away from him on your own terms, you can do that – but don’t for a second think you are truly free then – because you have aligned yourself under the Evil One.

As I read news articles and Facebook posts, I am saddened by those who have chosen to leave the freedom in Christ and have deluded themselves that they are truly free when they get rid of all religion.  That is not freedom, that is bondage.  Only by becoming Obedient to the Risen Savior can we hope to ever have true freedom in all areas of our lives.

So, what can do?  Paul brings out a point that might help us here.  Because sin is not just a personal issue, it’s a corporate issue.  Whether we like it or not, each of us citizens are part of a country.  And there are many times when together, as a people, we have sinned as a country.  There are times, we have sinned as a church.  There are times when we have fallen short of the glory of God and we must ask for repentance.  Paul addresses this, acknowledging that there are times when as leaders of groups, we must declare what is right – much as the ancient priest Ezra did.

5) Freedom in Christ comes when you Influence others towards doing right.
Each of us have a sphere of influence.  Paul addresses this in verse 13.  Do not present your members as sin – but as members of righteousness.  As we’ve seen from other passages, Paul often uses corporate analogies for the body of Christ, a Roman soldier’s uniform for the fruits of the Spirit.  In this verse, Paul is talking to leaders.  Members are who you are and what you do and they are either controlled by a King leader or a soldier.  Commanders tell their soldiers what to do, and the members of the troop do as they should.  Governments pass laws and the people obey as they should.  Those who hold positions of leadership and influence have a responsibility towards influencing others toward the grace and mercy of Christ – they should encourage righteousness and freedom from sin.

Every one of us have a group that we are part of.  It could be a group of co-workers at lunch, classmates in school, or members of a local car club.  Whatever it is, wherever it is, there are people who will listen to us.  What you and I do in those groups when people start dehumanizing others, talking trash, encouraging sinful actions can make a difference.  Do we bring in the peace of Christ?  Do we encourage wholesome talk around us?  Are we ready to dispense grace and mercy to?  That is our responsibility as well.
All of us like freedom.  All of us enjoy the protections we have in this country.  Yet God has so much more for us too.  Christ came to break bondage and supply freedom in service to Him.

The key to unlocking the chains which hold you captive is no further away than a heart willing to follow Christ in all things.

All it takes is a decision, a purpose in your heart, a renewal of your commitment, a determination to change your next action.

On the Disney ride, Pirates of the Caribbean and also a scene in the same movie, a dog is holding the key ring in his mouth, just out of reach of the prisoners whose arms are straining through the cell bars to reach him.  Christ is not like that.  When you are ready to follow him, he will gladly walk up to the door, unlock it and escort you out.  Captive No More.

Your everyday actions reveal whether you are comfortable in captivity or dependent in Christ.

I read a news story recently of a man who walked into a bank and demanded money.  He’d only been let out of jail the previous week after serving a long prison sentence.  The silent alarm when off.  Instead of running out of the bank, the man simply walked outside, sat down, put his hands above his head and waited for the officers to arrest him.  When asked why he did what he did, he responded that after spending years in jail, he did not feel comfortable in freedom any more and preferred captivity.

How do you go about your life?  Are you comfortable where you are?  Are you willing to be dependent on Christ and let Him change you?  I pray that we, as individuals and as a church will pray, God help us to become what we are becoming. 

Make us Captive No More!