There is a word at the very core of the Bible. It is mentioned in the Bible more times than the words money, preach, church, tithe, and more than twice as many times as the words Satan and Devil put together. It is a word that is used 186 times, but it is a theme that reaches from the first book of the Bible to the last. That word is ‘Free’. In the Old Testament, the common use of the word is in reference to a slave being freed from bondage. In the Prophetic books, the word speaks of the time when the Messiah would come and ‘free’ his people.
One of the reasons that the Jews rejected the message of Jesus was that they expected that this “freedom” would be a freedom from their enemies and that they would as a nation rule the world once more as they had in the days of King David. It quickly became apparent that the Freedom that Jesus spoke about was not one of freedom from enemies, but freedom from sin and freedom from the power of death. To this day the Jews await their Messiah, expecting a ‘freedom’ from enemies, expecting to once again rule the world as they did three thousand years ago and entirely missing the boat when it comes to salvation.
We are going to look at the Biblical definition of freedom. What is this freedom from? What does it mean? How can we understand it today?
In the Old Testament, to the Jews the term ‘free’ meant to not be oppressed by another race of people. Reading through just the books of Exodus and Judges, we see that the Jews had a history of being oppressed by those that were stronger than they. Throughout the book of Judges there is a cycle. The Jews would forget God, He would leave them to their own devices and they would slide into sin. One nation after another would conquer and enslave them until they cried out to God to be free, and God would raise up a leader who would rally the people and they would return to God. The people would begin to worship God again and He would through the leader, deliver them from slavery. The victory would last until the death of the leader and the cycle would begin again with the Jews returning to sin and idolatry and being conquered again.
Time and time again they were delivered from enemies only to forget God once the leader had died, and God would remove His blessing and allow the enslavement of His people once again.
In the Old Testament time period, a person was either a slave or he was free. A free man could go where he wanted, do what he wanted, and was answerable only to God for his actions. A slave had no such choices in front of him. When the prophets spoke of freedom, many times they were speaking of the days in which the Messiah would come to as Isaiah put it, “open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness”
Isaiah said that if the wicked would forsake his way and turn to the LORD, that He would have mercy on him and freely pardon him. When Jesus preached the message in the synagogue, His message was based on the words of Isaiah to ‘proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.’
The Apostle Paul writes of this ‘freedom’ in the book of Romans. Romans 6:5-11
“For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection. Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with him that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
As Christians the freedom we have is two-fold. We are free from the life of sin and we are free from the penalty of sin.
It was sin that led to our enslavement. It was our choice to sin that led to our spiritual deaths and separation from God Himself. The only way to be freed from sin, according to the Apostle Paul, was to die. “For he who has died is freed from sin.” Clearly we cannot free ourselves from sin, because it takes death to free us. Only those who have died with Christ are freed from sin. We died with Christ when we obeyed the Gospel.
I. WE ARE FREE FROM THE LIFE OF SIN
There are those Christians who have amazing conversion stories of being lost in alcoholism, drug abuse and dangerous on the edge lifestyles. I remember hearing the stories and they went something like this, “I did drugs, I drank my liver away, I was at a party every night . . and THEN I became a Christian.”
And then there are those who were brought up in the church. They will never, or should never, know the despair of the guilt because of sins committed, nor will they know the emptiness of hitting rock bottom and having no where to go but up. The life they have lived within the church from a very young age protects them from those experiences.
In a way, these Christians are extremely blessed, because they have never had to struggle with an addiction or a ‘rock-bottom’ experience. And yet, never having experienced these horrors, some of these Christians have very little experience with the Grace of God in the forgiveness of these acts.
To be free from the life of sin means that the old life, the old temptations and manners have no hold on us. If we are truly free, then we have the responsibility to live like we are free from sin. It is a responsibility because we are supposed to model Christian behaviors both to our children and to the unbelievers around us.
Paul says that we should consider ourselves dead to sin. When that temptation pops up in front of us or rings our doorbell, it cannot have a hold on us, because we are dead to that sin. A dead man can’t go out and get drunk. A dead woman cannot cheat on her husband. To that sin or temptation we should be as unresponsive as a dead person. That’s our responsibility.
What if we are tempted and find that the desire is still there? If we don’t have the strength ourselves, we can ask God for the strength to resist. Jesus was tempted in all manners as we are, and He met the temptation with prayer. We must fulfill our responsibility as Christians and remain dead to the life of sin.
II. WE ARE FREE FROM THE PENALTY OF SIN
A. FREE FROM DEATH
The penalty of our choice to sin is the death of an innocent. In the Old Testament, the ‘innocent’ was the sin offering of a lamb. The lamb became the substitute for the sinner and died in his place. In the New Testament, it was Jesus’ offering of Himself as our Lamb and as our sin offering. He took our penalty onto Himself on the cross. Scripture teaches that we deserve death because we chose to disobey God’s commands.
Obviously, as someone who has sinned, we could not offer ourselves for anyone else and neither could any man or woman do so. It would have to be someone who had never sinned that would be able to take upon Himself the penalty that was due to us. It had to be Jesus.
We are free from that death that once and for all time seals the fates of those who have died without Christ. Recently there have been a number of celebrity deaths, celebrities who did not acknowledge Jesus, or accept his gift of eternal life. The death they died forever ended all chances for them to repent to change their mind and opt for Heaven. Many of them left millions of dollars, beautiful homes, now all empty shells of what they worked for here on earth. Now none of those things they called theirs matters a bit to them.
When we obeyed the Gospel, that’s when we died to the penalty of sin that those celebrities and others now are paying because they did not accept God’s free gift of salvation in Christ. There was a saying not too many years ago that appeared on these new things called Christian T-shirts. It read, “Die Once = Eternal Death; Die Twice = Eternal Life”
B. FREE FROM HELL
In Luke 16, we are told the story of a very wealthy man who Luke describes as living in luxury every day. He had the best of everything. By contrast, there was Lazarus, a beggar. Lazarus longed to simply catch whatever fell from the wealthy man’s table. What that means is that he never got even the scraps from this rich man. Understand that in this day, the wealthy used bread as more of a napkin than a side dish. The rich man would wipe the grease from his hands and face with bread and toss the bread off the table to feed the dogs. He saw Lazarus begging in filth and disease and turned a blind eye to his needs.
It happened then that both men died. Lazarus was by Abrahams’ side being comforted from his long painful life. The rich man, however, found himself in Hades. It was a place of torture. He was on fire, even his tongue was on fire! You know how painful a burn is but even when you burn yourself, eventually here, the pain goes away. In Hell, the pain, the torture never stops. The rich man begged for just a drop of water he just wanted a little bit of relief, however fleeting from the agony he was in. How many days did the rich man see Lazarus begging for food, for water for relief from the torment called life that he was living?
Now, to this very day, that rich man is rolling around in the torment of never ending pain. Was it because he was rich? No. It was because although he knew the law and the prophets, he ignored them. And he begged Abraham to allow Lazarus to go warn his brothers so they could avoid the penalty of Hell. But he was denied.
Part of this penalty of Hell, notice is that those in Hell can from a distance see those who are being comforted. Every chance they had to repent, every chance they had to turn their lives around is now gone. And they are reminded of that each and every day for an eternity.
But because of Jesus, we are free in regards to the penalty of sin, if we have died with Christ. We are free from condemnation and eternal separation from God in Hell. If we have died with Christ, we are alive to God. That part of us that died when we obeyed the Gospel is left behind and we have an eternal life and eternal Heaven to look forward to.
What should our response be to the freedom God provides us from a punishment we all deserve? Gratitude? Love? For some, it’s just a part of their casual life, something they have always believed or accepted. For others, it is a tremendous grace and a key turning point in their life.
Through the whole book of Romans Paul is telling us that because we are free, that there is no longer any condemnation
As Christians we are free from a life of sin and the penalty of sin.
WE ARE CELEBRATING A FREE COUNTRY
Today we are celebrating a Free Country. 234 Years ago, God-fearing men drew up a document in the face of a tyranny. This tyranny dictated to our Founding Fathers what religion was allowed, what speech was acceptable, and what wasn’t. These were preachers, hymnal writers, professors at seminaries. They spent days in prayer before drawing up the Declaration of Independence. Their reading of Scripture showed to them a God who desired that His people be free. Free to choose their own path in life, free to speak out against the wrongs of society, free to worship God, free to live without fear of interference from an authoritarian government.
The principles used in the founding of our Country were Judeo-Christian values. Scripture verses line the marble chambers of our Washington government buildings. Throughout our history, we have had leaders who in good times and bad would acknowledge the sovereignty of God.
These freedoms we have been given in this country have allowed our country, our churches to be a blessing to the world. When there’s a tsunami, an earthquake or a major catastrophe, the world turns to America for help. Churches in America are responsible for the missionary hospitals, schools and aid services to every country in the world. When is the last time that the world turned to Cuba for help? Or France? When there is a pressing need in the world for a cheese and wine festival followed by a quick surrender, France is the first country we’d call.
But they call us. Why? Because we can help. The freedom we have in this country is an example to each and every government out there. The Statue in New York is a symbol of freedom, it’s saying to the world, ‘Hey Look! This is what the people of a free country can achieve, this is what freedom does!’
But things are changing. For those of us who have grown up here in this country, perhaps we don’t see it happening because we have never lived under oppression. We haven’t lived in a country where you can be jailed because you disagree with the government. Our Constitution protects us from that happening. But our Constitution is in trouble.
Just this week, a second Supreme Court justice who doesn’t believe in the First Amendment right of free speech was appointed. She is in favor of banning books. She doesn’t believe in the natural rights given us by the Declaration of Independence, the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Not three months into the leadership of this current administration a call went out from the White House urging American citizens to report their friends, family and neighbors to the government if they were speaking against the Health Care plan. Do you understand just how dangerous that is? No American leader has ever suggested such a thing. Our freedom is in jeopardy!
It is only because our Country honored Judeo-Christian values that God has blessed us. It is only because of our freedom that we have the ability to bless the world with financial help, with medical help, if we lose our freedom here, the world will have no where else to turn. America is the last stand of freedom in the world! No more America means no more missionary hospitals, no more support for Christian schools and orphanages around the world.
And the people in our government are so enamored with the dictator and socialist governments of Europe that they are trying to make America as unsuccessful as the rest of the world. We have a duty as Christians, a duty to our kids to fight to keep the freedom we have enjoyed in our lives. We have a duty as Americans to protect and defend the Constitution from the very people we put in office to protect and defend the Constitution. If we fail to do this, we will bequeath to our descendents a Country that is a shell of what it used to be and a country that according to our President is not a Christian nation. Mr. President, I beg to differ.