Freedom in Christ

Jeff Miller

4/5/2020

Freedom in Christ

Isaiah 61

 

Intro: Good morning. It was nice to have a week off. And I’m glad that I get to speak to you the day after Independence Day. Even though we didn’t celebrate Independence Day in the traditional sense. Nonetheless, it is still considered the 244th anniversary of the founding of our nation and the freedom our forefathers fought for in order to obtain that freedom. And we get to celebrate that, commemorate it and toady participate in that freedom as we engage in our freedom of religion and our freedom to assemble.

As many of you are aware, freedom isn’t free. And the freedom from sin that we have wasn’t free either. Jesus paid the ultimate price to free us from our sins. And we looked at that on Memorial Day, and today I would like to take another look at our freedom in Christ. In fact, one year ago, I briefly looked at this scripture from the New Testament angle, when Jesus opened up a scroll and read this passage in the synagogue. Today, I would like to read you the full text of what Jesus read. So if you have your Bibles, please turn with me to Isaiah 61.

It’s 11 verses, and it’s kind of long for 11 verses. I was debating whether or not to read it in its entirety, but it is such a wonderful passage that I decided it’s worth it.

So let’s read Isaiah 61 in its entirety.

While you’re turning there, let me read to you three interesting historical tidbits I found regarding the Fourth of July. First, did you know only two people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, John Hancock and Charles Thomson. Most of the rest signed on August 2, several signed on a later date. Two others, John Dickinson and Robert R. Livingston (whom our county where we live is named after), never signed at all. And the last signature wasn’t added until five years later.

Also, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826, on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

And third On December 26 and 27, 1941, accompanied by Secret Service agents, The Declaration of Independence traveled by train to Louisville, Kentucky where a cavalry troop of the 13th Armored Division escorted it to Fort Knox. The Declaration was returned to Washington, D.C., in 1944.

So there is your Fourth of July history lesson for today. So let’s take a look at our scripture and go from American freedom to freedom in Christ. Isaiah 61.

 

Scripture: 

The Year of the Lord’s Favor

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,

2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. 

4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. 5 Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. 6 And you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast.

7 Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.

8 “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”

10 I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

 

Central Truth: It seems ironic that this chapter is titled, “The Year of the Lord’s Favor.” It seems that when you look around, this year has been anything but the Lord’s favor––a pandemic followed by riots in the streets. We don’t know what is going to come next. Thankfully we didn’t have the alien invasion like the Independence Day movie. But this Fourth of July weekend, we, who have the Lord on our side, can still have a year of the Lord’s favor in spite of what is going on around us.

 

Point 1: Like I said, last year I preached this out of The New Testament––out of Luke chapter 4 where Jesus begins his ministry and reads this scroll in the Temple. When he finished reading it, verse 20 tells us “Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.””

So Isaiah 67 is a prophetic word that tells of what The Messiah will do when he comes to earth. And of course they thought that they were going to be freed from the bondage of the oppressive empires that they had been under for so long. I talked not too long ago about Jeremiah finding hope in the midst of the Babylonian Empire coming down and destroying Jerusalem and taking the Jewish people captive. Since then, in one form or another, the Jewish people had been living under oppression for 400 years. There had to be a messiah to save them––and they thought he would be like another Moses who would come and say, “Let my people go.”

I mean, after all, what else could he be? But God’s plan was to rescue them and give them a different kind of freedom. A freedom for all people of all time in all nations. A freedom we can still possess today, 2000 years later in Watkins Glen. A freedom of the Spirit, a freedom that produces a kind of hope and peace in the midst of any trial––even under what our nation is going through now. 

The IVP New Testament Commentary states that in his gospel, Luke makes clear that the oppression in view here is mainly spiritual. Forces stand opposed to humanity that pull down and bring sin, pain and pressure. Being under demonic oppression is like being trapped in a prison of pain and despair. Jesus offers release from such pain and dark despair. That is what his miracles picture and point to, the reality beyond the act of the miracle.

The commentary goes on to say that, “Jesus’ statement that he liberates the oppressed makes it clear that he is more than a prophet; he effects salvation.” Jesus is more than a prophet, he is the fulfillment of what the prophets foretold. And the hope of all people still rests on him. If only our protesters and rioters and people in Washington realized that. And among the salvation that he offers is a myriad of other freedoms. 

I did a word search on freedom through Biblegateway. Here are some things that came up when it came to Jesus’ ministry:

  • Mark 5:29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
  • Mark 5:34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
  • Luke 1:64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God.
  • John 8:32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

So let’s take a look at that truth that sets us free, let’s continue:  John 8:34, Jesus continued, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” And by that he’s also saying that through our freedom from sin, we have a place in God’s family. We are children of God.

 

 

Point 2: Let’s take a look at what Paul has to say about freedom. In Romans 6:18 Paul says, “18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” The word slave here is sort of misleading, in the New Testament era, a slave was a willing indentured servant. A few verses down Paul says, “ 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

In Romans 8, probably the chapter that I most often quote from, Paul opens the chapter by saying, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

The type of freedom that Christ offers is the opposite of our natural way of thinking. When you ask someone who isn’t a Christian why they are not a Christian, a lot of them will say that they don’t want to live by a bunch of rules. They want to be free to do what they want. 

They’ll say that Christianity is too restrictive and we just live by a bunch or rules. They’ll say, “I don’t see anything wrong with…(fill in the blank).”

And that’s where we are in our society today. There’s no such thing as sin. I remember when it was still considered a sin for people who were not married to be living together. Some of you may remember when living together was such an absurd idea that it never even entered anyone’s mind and if someone did suggest it, it was shocking and offensive. There are a lot of things common in our society today that were completely unheard of, even unthought of and the mere mention of it would have been shocking and offensive 50 years ago. Now, it’s just the opposite. Mentioning that ‘fill in the blank’ is a sin is offensive to people today––even some churchgoers. Turn on the TV or radio, and you’ll now get those formerly offensive things, those things society used to call sins, pumped into your living room without the blink of an eye.

People are allowing and encouraging the rioting and looting going on now. Vandalizing and tearing down statues of some of our country’s founding fathers. Here it is, The Fourth of July, our nation’s 244th birthday, and this is how it’s celebrated.

This is the type of freedom we have in sin. We are finding our culture being free to sin. God actually respects our freedom as humans to the point where he will allow our humanity to sin to a ridiculous point. But Christ’s freedom frees us from living in such sin, and being slaves to sin. 

And for those of us who have been forgiven, don’t let our forgiveness be an excuse to sin. Because we receive pardon and forgiveness does not mean we are to take God’s love and grace for granted. We are not free to sin because of God’s great grace, but we are free from sin because of God’s great grace to free us from sin and a sinful nature.

Going back to Romans 6, the chapter begins with, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”

Dorothy L. Sayer once said, “The divine scheme of things, as Christianity understands it, is at once extremely elastic and extremely rigid. It is elastic, in that it includes a large measure of liberty for the creature; it is rigid in that it includes the proviso that, however created beings choose to behave, they must accept responsibility for their own actions and endure the consequences.”

John Henry Newman said, “Liberty of thought is in itself a good; but it gives an opening to false liberty.” We’re seeing a lot of that false liberty in our thought system. It’s how we got to where we are as a society. One false liberty after another, over time excused sin after sin after sin. 

John Diefenbaker said, “Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong.”

And one more quote, from Focus on the Family: “Jesus was not setting us free to do whatever we wanted; He was freeing us to do what we ought to do. He was liberating us to walk in relationship with God and to be the kind of people He created us to be.”

The freedom that we have in Christ is the freedom from sin to be the people we long to be and the people God intended us to be. Freedom from sin enables us to be children of God and it enables God to work in us to make us into a new creation.

Paul and Timothy addressed the Philippian church with this greeting, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” That’s the kind of freedom we have. God begins a good work in us. It doesn’t happen overnight, unfortunately. Sometimes we wish we were perfectly holy overnight. But God doesn’t work that way. But he does give us the ability overnight, to re-obtain our innocence and begin to live a life free from guilt and with a clean conscience through God’s forgiveness.

Did you know that there is a psychological factor to a clean conscience and forgiveness? Hobart Mowrer was Research Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois. Mowrer critiqued Freudian psychology and its assertion that guilt was merely a pathology to be dispensed with. In this excerpt, he describes the importance of forgiveness as it pertains to guilt and sin:

Just so long as a person lives under the shadow of real, unacknowledged, and unexpiated guilt, he cannot…‘accept himself’….He will continue to hate himself and to suffer the inevitable consequences of self-hatred. But the moment he…begins to accept his guilt and his sinfulness, the possibility of radical reformation opens up, and with this…a new freedom of self-respect and peace.

Not only are we given a freedom from sin, we are given a newfound freedom of self-respect and peace.

 

Point 3: And that leads me to my last point. When Jesus said, back in John 8, “35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” How great a joy iy is to live in freedom of the Spirit.

 

Look at what Isaiah said in verse 3:

to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy    instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

John Gill was a Baptist pastor and Bible scholar in England in the 1700s. This is what he had to say about this verse. He said:

“in times of mourning, it was usual to put on sackcloth and ashes, ( Esther 4:1 Esther 4:3) ( Job 2:8 Job 2:10 ) ( John 3:5 John 3:6 ) , instead of this, Christ gives his mourners the beautiful garments of salvation, and the robe of his righteousness, and the graces of his Spirit, and his gracious presence, together with his word and ordinances, and sometimes a large number of converts; all which, as they are ornamental to his people, they yield them joy, peace, and comfort: and this is a beauty that is not natural to them, but is of grace; not acquired, but given; not fictitious, but real; is perfect and complete, lasting and durable, and desired by Christ himself, who gives it.”

 

Closing out this chapter,

Verses 10 and 11 say: I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

 

John Gill also said this regarding these last verses:

in Christ, in that he is God, and so able to save to the uttermost, and keep from a final and total falling, and to preserve safe to his kingdom and glory: hence his person is excellent; his blood precious; his righteousness valuable; and his sacrifice efficacious; and all matter of joy to the believer: and who also rejoices in that he is his God, “my God”; God in our nature; Immanuel, God with us; the God-man and Mediator, through whom there is access to God and acceptance with him; and who stands in near relation to his people, and has all fullness to supply their wants, and makes all he has theirs; so that, they have great reason to rejoice in him indeed. 

 

Conclusion: So on this Independence Day weekend, let us rejoice not only in the freedoms that we have and are exercising this morning. Let us not only rejoice and celebrate and commemorate the freedom from tyranny and oppression so many have fought for and died for in order to obtain. Let us rejoice in the freedom of our spirits that Christ fought for and died to obtain.

Let us rejoice and be thankful every single day and not take for granted what it means to be truly spiritually free. Free from guilt and shame. Free from sin. Free from the bondages of who we used to be. Let us worship God for His doing of setting us, who were slaves, free.

 

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for the cross. Thank you for paying the high price, the ransom for us. We were enslaved to sin. We were born into it. But you have set us free. And I pray that you would continue that good work within us that you have started. I pray for an even greater freedom from those sins that we still struggle with. I pray for an increase of your Holy Spirit within us, an increase in your righteousness. And may we shine that righteousness in these dark times. In Jesus name, amen. 

2 thoughts on “Freedom in Christ

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s