Honouring Our Freedom
Is it not true that we often take our freedom for granted? Day after day, week after week, year after year, we take for granted the freedom that we enjoy.
And friends, I am not speaking of the freedom we enjoy as Canadians. I am speaking about the freedom we have as Christians.
Yet, before we examine the nature of our freedom as Christians, I think it will prove helpful if we examine the nature of our freedom as Canadians.
Remembrance Day reminds us that the freedom Canadians now enjoy came at a price. Thousands lost their lives fighting for our country in the World Wars. And today, we have been awakened from our slumber because of the terrible events of September 11.
It seems obvious to me that our national freedom, which came at a great price, will need to be constantly defended. Our freedom will need to be defended by our military. Our freedom will need to be defended by those working for C.S.I.S., R.C.M.P, and local police. There remains a price to be paid for national freedom.
Now let me paint a scenario for you. How would you feel towards a person who objected to wearing a poppy? What would you think about a person who constantly criticized law enforcement officers? How would you react if you saw someone cursing a police officer?
My guess is that your response would lie somewhere between disappointment and disgust. It is bad enough that we take for granted our national freedom, but few of us can tolerate people who are irreverent about our freedom.
I want to tell you this morning that national freedom is a precious thing. I greatly value the service of men and women who have fought for this country and I'm thankful for those who continue to serve Canada in this time of uncertainty.
But friends, I must tell you plainly, there is a better freedom than national freedom. For the Bible tells us that Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone, can make men truly free.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us, "If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed"(Jn. 8:36). Ultimate freedom comes from our Lord. And to learn the nature of our freedom, we will turn in a few minutes to Romans chapter 6.
To give you a very brief overview of the first 5 chapters of Romans, I should tell you that in the first 3 chapters, Paul establishes how serious our sin problem is. In chapter 3, verses 10-12, Paul writes "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one."
What Paul is telling us is that there is no such thing as a good person. Now I recognize that, in our view, the world is filled with "good people". But in God's eyes there are none deserving of His favour. God is perfect and holy, and we are far from that. And the bad news is that God does not mark on the "curve".
In chapter 5, the chapter that precedes today's text, we are called "sinners" in verse 8. And the implications of our sinful condition is spelled out in the next two verses when we are told that as sinners we are objects of God's wrath and we are counted by God as His "enemies"(Rom. 5:9, 10). Elsewhere in the New Testament, Paul tells us that non-Christians are "dead in (their) trespasses"(Eph. 2:1) and are "slaves of sin"(Rom. 6:18).
We may enjoy countless freedoms, but if we are not free from sin what have we really gained? As Jesus puts it, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?"(Mk. 8:36).
Those who have been the special recipients of God's grace, those who have trusted in Jesus Christ for eternal life, hear again the Good News: Jesus Christ has set you free from a life of sin. Charles Spurgeon reminds us that "the Lord Jesus came to take away sin in three ways. He came to remove the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and last, the presence of sin"(Spurgeon, All Of Grace, 35). "If the Son has set you free, you shall be free indeed"(Jn. 8:36).
Even still, there are some who would distort the Gospel message. There are some who, after learning that Christ forgives us of every sin, conclude that there is no problem with continuing in sin. The apostle Paul anticipates this distortion and asks rhetorically, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?"(Rom. 6:1-3).
Paul is not looking for an answer here, he is making a statement. Parents, this is like when you say to your children, "How do you expect to keep your room clean when you are constantly throwing your clothes on the floor?" You are not asking a question, you are making a statement. Paul is reminding us that we cannot die to sin and live in sin at the same time.
When Jesus tells us that we shall be free, He means that we shall be free from sin. Does this mean that the Christian will never sin? No! Paul explains in the next chapter of Romans that Christians will continue to battle sin, but the difference is that we no longer have to sin(1Cor.10:13). Sin is no longer our master. Before we are a Christian, sin controls us and we lack the freedom to break free from it. As Christians, however, sin no longer has dominion in our life. How do we know this? Because Christ has done the work. You have not set yourself free, Christ has set you free, and so "you shall be free indeed".
Paul explains this process quite clearly in verses 5 - 7, "For if we have been united with (Christ) in a death like His, we will certainly be united with Him in a Resurrection like His. We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin."
Christ does not save us for the sole purpose of keeping us out of hell. Christ saves us in order to transform us into His likeness. Christ is not content to deliver us from the penalty of sin, He rose again to give us the power over the dominion of sin.
For the Christian, the shackles of sin have been removed. The prison door has been opened. It is now our responsibility to leave behind the life of sin. This is what Paul means when he says in verses 11 and 12, "Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts". If the Son of God has made you free, it is inconceivable that we would continue to live as slaves.
Yet, perhaps there remains a question for us to ask. Jesus said that "if the Son has made you free, you shall be free indeed". Perhaps a prudent question to ask ourselves is: Are we free?
I cannot answer this for you, but I implore you to make an inquiry into it. If sin is not your master, then Christ is, and you must live to please Him above all else. If you have been freed from the dominion of sin, then you must not continue in sin, but you must live for God's glory.
In the ancient world, the distinction between son and slave could be quite pronounced. The son dressed differently than the slave. Their sleeping quarters would be of a different quality. And the responsibilities of the son would be markedly different than that of a slave.
Would it be unkind of me to say that the problem with many Christians today is that they differ very little from those the Bible regards as slaves?
One of my favourite hymns is the hymn, "And Can it Be?". Verse 3 seems quite fitting to our discussion, "Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature's night. Thine eye diffused a quickening ray: I woke--the dungeon flamed with light! My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee." Now can you imagine that verse ending like this, "I woke--the dungeon flamed with light! My chains fell off, my heart was free, but I decided to stay in the dungeon because that is what I was used to"?
Christ has purchased you from slavery with His own blood. Christ has freed you to follow Him. Shall we continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be!
The way we honour our freedom is by reckoning ourselves dead to sin, and by following Jesus Christ. Let us never cease to honour the One who died for our freedom--our freedom from sin and eternal condemnation. And let us cherish the beautiful truth, "If the Son has set you free, you shall be free indeed." Amen.