15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
The Pharisees walked excitedly down the street.
Tonight they were going to a dinner party. They’d dress up in their most religious robes; tighten their prayer tassels around their waste; comb their beard into symmetrical theological style; and walk stoically down the street for all to see.
But this wasn’t like any other night.
Tonight they were going to eat with Jesus. The Jesus. The Jesus that the whole city was buzzing about. He had incredible teachings. He was a dynamic speaker. He had made the blind to see, the lame to walk, and the incurably sick to be well.
Besides that, Jesus was quite possibly the only person in town who was holier than the Pharisees. He seemed to have a special connection with God. He had an incredible knowledge of the Scriptures. He followed local temple rules – and he did so with a smile on his face. Holy was effortless for him.
The Pharisees couldn’t wait to sit next to him. They couldn’t wait to rub shoulders with him. They couldn’t wait to talk about the sinful problems of “the other” people in the city and discuss the best angle of posturing for making prayers most acceptable to God. Most of all: They couldn’t wait for peasants and lower class people in the city to see that they were worthy of eating at the same dinner table as Jesus.
I. WRONG ATTITUDE: Jesus is for “Righteous” People like Me.
In the fading light of the evening sunset, they made out the address of the dinner location. With their fingers, they smoothed out their beards and unwrinkled their robes. Then, they knocked on the door ready for a night of righteous, upper class, religiously noble company.
A tax collector answered the door.
Let me say that again: A no good, deceptive, money grubbing, no problem stealing, friends with the despicable Roman government, no time for church, worshipping the almighty dollar, tax collector answered the door.
Were they at the wrong address?
“Come in my friends, I am Levi. And I am thrilled to have you join us tonight. Jesus is in the other room. He’s excited to spend time with you tonight.”
The Pharisees cautiously walked in. Maybe – this Levi was just the hired help. Perhaps the others like them were just beyond the door.
They turned the corner of the home and were shocked to see the company that had gathered there.
Immediately they noticed a few other men with fine jewelry and the Roman insignia on their clothing. They must have been Levi’s friends -- other tax collectors. A whole group of men who must have been discussing how to steal from their own people and gain more money from themselves.
Seated near them were a few women wearing clothing of a different variety. Their dresses were a bit short --- showing off a bit more than a godly woman should show. Their fine jewelry identified them as prostitutes – women who would sell their bodies for money – women who these Pharisees had avoided even making eye contact with.
Then there was Malachi – the drunkard. He looked as disheveled as always and though he wasn’t currently holding a drink – the unmistakable cologne of liquor that had been permanently etched into his breath pungently hit their nostrils.
Sitting next to him was a man with a very effeminate look to him. The Pharisees knew who he was right away – they had disowned him as a heathen shortly after he had completed Hebrew school and began dating other men. He was a homosexual!
There was even Joshua – he had been a bright student in the synagogue, but he left the Jewish culture to join the Roman world. He didn’t believe in God. He didn’t believe in Judaism. He didn’t believe in religion at all.
In the middle of this collection of societal scum, was Jesus. He wasn’t sad. He didn’t seem uncomfortable. He was calm. He was talking about theology and God in the exact same way that he had talked to them.
The Pharisees were in shock. They motioned for a few of Jesus’ disciples – filthy fishermen, sure, but perhaps the holiest of this rag tag group.
“Why does your master eat with sinners” The implication? “Jesus should only be for “righteous” people like me.”
Have you ever said that? Maybe not those exact words, but be careful. This sinful attitude works its way into our actions in more ways than one:
“That person just posted a rainbow picture on their profile – Time to unfriend them on Facebook.”
“Let’s see – I invited my nicely dressed friend to church. But my other friend dressed like a stripper. Church isn’t for her.”
“Pastor, I do know some people who aren’t Christians, but they play loud music and are into drugs. They wouldn’t fit in here.”
“That person looks like a visitor over there – except – phew I can smell the alcohol. I’ll go talk to that nice looking, nice smelling visitor over there.”
Don’t these phrases and actions essentially agree with the Pharisees? Are they saying: Jesus is only for righteous people like me. Therefore, Jesus isn’t for homosexuals, porn stars, drug dealers, drunkards, greasy insurance lawyers, transgender activists, and bloggers on AtheistsAreTheBest.com.
II. Jesus is for “Sinful” People like Me
Listen to how Jesus responds to the Pharisees’ comments. He says, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Here’s something I’ve learned from Precious Lambs. Kids loves band aids. Does this ever happen to you? Your preschooler comes running up to you with tears in her eyes screaming at the top of her lungs. “I need a band aid.” You say, “Ok, where.” They point. “Here.” And you look. You look some more. You get out your magnifying glass and look even more closely. The wound is nowhere in sight. They don’t need a band aid.They just want a fashionable Dora the Explorer accessory.
But if that same child came toward you with blood starting to come out of their finger, you quickly run to your First Aid kit.
It isn’t the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
The same is true spiritually. It isn’t the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick.
That’s precisely why Jesus was where he was. It’s why Jesus was eating with the tax collectors, prostitutes, drunkards, and other “sinners.” They needed help and he could provide it. They needed healing and he could provide it. They needed his forgiveness and he came to earth to win it!
But here’s the thing. I can almost guarantee you that many of the Pharisees heard Jesus’ comments and thoughts, “I guess that makes sense. Jesus, I’m gonna head out then. You’re working. You need to help these people now. I’ll leave so you can attend to those who need you.”
As if Jesus was telling the Pharisees, "I’m helping them because they need it. You don't’. So…we’re cool."
But if that’s the case, then why did Jesus continue to convict the Pharisees of sin? Open up Matthew 23. There you find a whole chapter where Jesus repeatedly calls out, “Woe to you Pharisees! Woe to you Pharisees! You are in trouble.”
Essentially Jesus is like the cancer doctor leaving message after message on your answering machine – “Hi, just calling again to tell you that I am a professional and I did see cancer on your MRI. Trust me; you need help! Don’t ignore me.”
Jesus was saying the same thing, “It isn’t the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. That’s why I came for these prostitutes. That’s why I came for these tax collectors. That’s why I came for this drunk. It’s also why I came for you – Pharisees.”
It’s also why Jesus came for you – 21st century short time, long time, any time in between church goer. Jesus came for you, because you are sick – sick with sin!
How do I know? Hold up two fingers. Put them on your neck. Do you feel that? That’s a pulse. If you’ve got a pulse, you are sick with sin. You need Jesus’ help. Scripture says this, “All have sinned.” Romans 3:23 You don’t get to divorce yourself from the "all."
In fact, if you are trying to be just like the Pharisees were, that’s a symptom of the sickness. The disease of sinfulness causes denial. It causes pride. It causes, “I’m just fine, I don’t need any help.”
Knocking on doors and inviting people to church last week, I encountered a man who spoke just like that. He said, “That church stuff isn’t for me. I’m fine. My life has improved. I raise good children. I’m good enough on my own. Jesus is fine if you feel like you need him, but I don’t.”
How foolish! Jesus is the Great Physician. He sees into the heart and sees what’s wrong. He sees that you are sinful. He’s screaming at you today to listen to his plea – because sin is deadly. Eternally so.
But Jesus isn’t like WebMD.com. He doesn’t just diagnose without providing any help. Jesus knew the solution and provided it. It isn’t a pill. It isn’t a diet. It isn’t more exercise. It isn’t less Doritos.
Jesus knew the only solution to the disease of sin – is a full soul transplant.
That’s exactly what he came to earth to do. He exchanged his fully healthy and fully free from sin spirit. Like some kind of medical gauze, he soaked up every last viral bit of sin – He took all the lust out of your eyes – he took the greed out of your brain– he took all the overindulgence out of your stomach – and He took all the pride deep within your heart and He placed it on himself. He reached through the annals of time and eternity to place your sinfulness on himself thousands of years before it even happen!
Then, He took his now sinful specimen to the cross. His goal? Kill the disease. Kill the sin. That’s what happened. His body was crucified. He was killed. And your sin was eradicated.
So he says, “put your faith in me.” Because through faith in Jesus, you are healed. Whether your sin is greed – lust – overindulgence – one of the ‘filthy in the eyes of the world’ sins – or ‘Pharisaical pride,' the cure is the same. Trust in Jesus for complete healing!
My dear friends, fellow sinners – and fellow Redeemed. Please take on an attitude change with me.
Instead of thinking, “Jesus is only for the righteous like me.” Recognize that for the sinful, diseased, lie that it is. Instead, listen to the words of the Great Physician. Adopt a new attitude: “Jesus is for sinners like me.”
Now suddenly – you’re the same. You’re the same as your cousin struggling with homosexuality. You’re the same as your neighbor struggling against drugs. You’re the same as your friend struggling with alcohol abuse. You’re the same as your husband struggling with pornography. You’re the same as your wife who struggles with depression.
You’re a sinner. They’re a sinner.
They need help just like you. They need Jesus just like you.
My back has been hurting recently. I was telling some people that and do you know what they did? They gave me the number of a good chiropractor. They told me about a helpful analgesic. They recommended exercises that they did when they have the same problem.
Wont you don’t the same thing for those who need spiritual help? Won’t you give him The Great Physicians’ number? Won’t you introduce them to Jesus?
John rubbed his wrists.
The chains were a bit tight. That as well as the bruise on his stomach where a punch had landed during his arrest were causing him to groan a bit.
“We’ll be ok,” a voice said. Though he couldn’t see because of the darkness in the prison, John knew that it was Peter. He had an unmistakable voice. Although, there in the prison, it sounded a bit defeated.
They had been arrested –arrested for talking about Jesus – for telling others about the sin-ridden state of their souls and for explaining that Jesus Christ was the only cure.
As the darkness deepened late into the night, thoughts swirled in John’s mind – “Why are we doing this? We are putting our very lives in danger. Is it worth it? If these people don’t want to hear about it, why should I tell them? I should just be quiet – mind my own business – and never see a prison cell like this again.”
John heard another voice…less familiar. “Come,” it said, in harmony with clicking locks. John’s chains were loosened. Peter’s chains were loosened. The doors were opened and the guards weren’t aware of any of it.
As they followed the voice into the light, they saw who was speaking to them. They had seen someone like him before – at Jesus’ own resurrection. It was an angel. An angel of God. The angel said to them, “Go, stand in the temple courts, and tell the people the full message of this new life.” Then, he was gone. And as the sunrise began to peek over the east side of the city, the disciples were faced with a choice: Go home, hide, run away, stay quiet, or…listen to God – and do the exact same thing that had gotten them into trouble in the first place.
To them, the choice was easy.
“At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.”
I. Our Culture Says, “Be Timid”
I’m not so sure that Christians are as bold today.
I was at a wedding not that long ago. It was a Christian wedding. In Christianity, we tach that Jesus is the center of a successful marriage. I was expecting the preaching to talk about Jesus being the center of the marriage.
But at the end of the ceremony, the number of times Jesus was mentioned? Zero.
Christ? One time – in passing.
To be fair the phrase “Eternal God” was used a lot of times, but you can imagine why. The pastor didn’t want to offend anyone. By mentioning the generic “god” then no one is offended. No one could accused this service of being “Christian.”
That’s not so bold.
But I think there's a reason this pastor was timid. It's the way our culture reacts to the word "Jesus." Have you ever noticed that? You can talk about religious thought. You can mention a "Divine Being." It's not a big deal to say "God."
But as soon as you mention Jesus...
Take Caitlin Jenner. Jenner won an ESPY award this past week for courage. Twitter was filled with congratulations! “Way to go.” “Way to be brave.” “Thanks for being bold.” The Twittervese was thankful that Jenner stood up for beliefs.
This is the exact same Twitterverse that three years ago saw Tim Tebow bow his head in prayer after scoring a touchdown, step in front of the cameras and say, “Thanks and glory be to Jesus,” and Twitter replied, “Shut up!” “Stop talking about your Christianity!” “Get your beliefs out of my face.”
This is American society. A place of free speech. A place that hates it when you talk about Jesus. They would rather you “Be silent,” “Keep your religion to yourself,” and “Leave Jesus out of it!”
That’s not bold. That’s timid.
But should we be surprised? Silencing Christianity might seem like a modern thought. But it isn’t. Look at what the local Pharisees do in response to Peter and John’s temple talk. They arrested them the first time. Then, after being encouraged by the angel to speak again – the Pharisees do the same thing. They arrested Peter and John again.
What’s interesting is what Scripture describes as the reasons for what they did. Check out Acts 4:2 when they first find out what Peter and John are doing. “They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.” Do you see why they didn’t like the message? Because instead of facing sin and then hearing the Gospel message, they were scared by the implications. “If Christ was raised, then what have we done? We killed him! We will have to face God for what we’ve done.”
Does finding out that you killed God’s sound like a pleasant experience? Not so much.
It’s why they were doubly furious when they found the disciples the day after the prison break preaching the exact same message in the temple courts. 5:28 says, “The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be question by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in his name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
None of those Pharisees are alive anymore. There isn't anyone still living who literally used their voice to shout for Jesus’ death. There aren’t any Roman soldiers around who literally swung the hammer.
But they are plenty around who killed him. Plenty who killed God’s Son.
1 Peter 3:18 says this, “Christ died for sins once for all.”
That’s a scary thought. It means our sins (my sins) are what put Jesus on the cross. It's because of my lust, my hatred, my gossip, and my greed that God's Son died.
It's a scary enough thought that many refuse to believe it.
They hate to hear it.
They want it to be silenced.
And that’s sad. Sad because that’s not the end of the message.
II. Counter Culture says, “Be Bold”
Back in the courtroom, John looked around at the many eyes glaring at them. The tension was palatable. A drop of sweat fell down Peter’s beard.
Maybe they should be quiet before it cost them their lives.
John swallowed. He looks at Peter. Their eyes met and they spoke boldly, “We must obey God rather than men! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins.”
Talk about bold. Notice how Peter and John not only say, “We’re not going to listen,” but they begin to preach the very thing that God them into trouble in the first place in front of the very people that had gotten them into trouble in the first place.
Why were the disciples so bold? Their speech gives us two reasons:
1) For the Sake of God
It’s a powerful statement. They knew that ultimately they answered to God. Not the Pharisees. Not the Sadducees. Not any members of those angry men glaring at them.
They answered to Jesus.
Jesus had been powerfully protecting his followers for centuries. When three men refused to bow down to a golden statue and were thrown into a fiery furnace as a result, God kept them from having even a hair on their heads singed. When Daniel refused to pray to anyone but the true God, God calmed the stomachs of the hungry lions who were supposed to viciously attack him. When Hezekiah dutifully prayed to God for help, when the Assyrian siege called for Him to denounce God and give up – God silent, quietly, removed that threat before the light of the next dawn.
And Jesus? They had seen him die for being bold – for boldly saying that if they killed him, he would rise again.
With such a powerful God on their side, how could the disciples do anything but speak his truth.
How can you do anything but speak the truth? Remember: You’ve got the same big, all powerful, all loving, all wise God on your side. He is your Creator, Redeemer, and Protector. He is the one you answer to. Not the media. Not your Facebook friends. Not your coworkers. Not the Twitterverse. Not a group of angry scientists. Not the talking heads on TV. Not the government. Not the homosexual agenda. Not even your own family.
Jesus is our leader. Jesus is our Savior. “We Must obey God rather than men!”
2) For the Sake of Those that want us to be Timid
But God isn’t the only reason that we speak boldly. Take a look at the rest of Acts 5 in your bulletin, “The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross.” We’ve heard that before. But now look at the end game for the disciples. “God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins.”
The Pharisees were Israelites. So were the Sadducees. This means that the very men who were considering putting Peter and John to a violent end – were the very people that Peter and John were trying to save!
When I was younger, I hated Robitussin. For whatever reason, I remember needing it a lot. It tasted awful. I used to close my mouth and bite my lips so that I wouldn't have to put it on my taste buds.
But my mom always insisted. Then, I’d get better. I’d be healed.
As bitter as it may be to hear the truth about sin, eternity, and Jesus as the only Savior, it is also the only way for salvation. This is why we must be bold. We know how helpful the medicine is. (We know the medicine of Jesus is the ONLY medicine!) We must be bold for the sake of the very people who want us to NOT be bold! To bring them peace. To bring the forgiveness. To bring them heavenly joy. To bring them a promise of eternity.
To bring them to God.
Who do you know? Who needs to hear about Jesus? Who needs to hear about their Savior? Who’s hurting? Who is feeling shame? Who is struggling with guilt? Your co-workers? Your friends? Your neighbor? Your kids? Your wife?
Be bold. Tell them about Jesus. Tell them about how he lived perfectly. Tell them about how he died innocently. Tell them about how he rose triumphantly to save you from your sins. Be bold. Amen.
“It is my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself.” These words began Franklin Roosevelt’s first inauguration speech, given in the darkest days of the Great Depression to give comfort, confidence, and courage to a desperate American populace. The fear of fear was something Roosevelt practiced through the even more trying days of WWII until his death 70 years ago. Inspiring words given by an inspirational leader. Yet what limits our fear so that it is contained by itself? Fear can grow and move with any of our many new challenges in our lives. When attacks by the devil and the world are at the point of overwhelming us, fear paralyzes our faith and trust in God. Yet God tells us to always trust the powerful Savior. Our human weakness cannot hinder his power and love.
Putting trust in God is something that is often talked about but less often done; “In God we Trust” is our nation’s motto after all. When we are faced with difficult circumstances it is natural to look to a stronger power. As children we turn to our parents, grandparents and teachers, later to friends, bosses, spouses, doctors and banks, corporations, and governments to aid us where we fall short. Yet all of those things can and have let us down. Who else can we turn to when all else fails? Sadly, we often turn to God as a last resort and ask him to help us. Many people did turn to Jesus when he walked on this earth, often in the most desperate of circumstances. Yes, they put their faith in Jesus, yet it was a faith that was timid and nervous.
In today’s reading we find the account of Jairus, the synagogue leader, begging Jesus to save his ill daughter’s life. We don’t know exactly where Jesus and his disciples landed after crossing the Sea of Galilee, but many believe that he returned to his base of ministry operations in Capernaum. By this time Jesus had already preached, driven out demons and healed many in this area. No doubt Jairus had heard of Jesus and he had ample opportunity to witness his ministry. Jairus was a lay leader in the synagogue, something similar to an elder or president in the congregation. He was a man who seemed to have a rather happy life. Jairus was a man blessed with a wife and daughter, a girl of 12 whom he still viewed as a dear little child. He had the respect of those in his community, and was wealthy enough to have servants. Yet, just like today, status cannot prevent a person from suffering hardships and disaster.
Whether his daughter’s illness came suddenly or progressed slowly, we do not know, but it is clear that the little girl’s life was in danger. It is a terrible feeling any parent has when he or she looks down on an ill child who is suffering in pain; all that is made worse by feeling powerless to help. Very quickly the perfect life can be clouded over by hopelessness. But Jairus had not lost all hope, he turned to only one who could help. In his time of need he looked Jesus.
One can see how distressing this situation was to Jairus, once he saw Jesus he immediately fell to his feet and begged for his precious little girl’s life. No words were necessary, of course Jesus was willing to go and help him. It was a desperate and urgent situation. Every minute counted. Yet, Jairus wasn’t the only one who desperately put hope in Jesus that day. A woman had been suffering for 12 years from internal bleeding, 12 years! That was the entire lifespan of Jairus’ daughter. She had spent her whole fortune on doctors, operations, and medicine in attempting to fix her condition. Yet despite their best human efforts, her bleeding became worse. We ourselves have experienced many similar stories. An illness or medical condition is no light matter. It can easily consume a person’s time and money and leave them a hollow shell of their former selves. Yet this woman too, had a glimmer of hope. At last she put her faith and trust in the power of Jesus and her faith was rewarded. She was healed.
Yet there is something disturbing in the faith of both Jairus and this woman. They both were hindered by fear. They had seen and heard of Jesus’ merciful healings and the love that he had to offer to everyone freely. Yet the woman too fell at Jesus’ feet and trembled with fear. While all this was happening, Jairus must have been standing by anxiously as precious time was lost by this woman’s distraction. Then he was dealt the heavy blow he was so desperately trying to avoid. Word came that his daughter had died, and this message was followed by very poor advice to leave Jesus alone and not to trouble him. “Don’t trouble the teacher anymore.” The servants thought it was hopeless now, a done deal. Jairus’ weak hope had been transformed by doubt into fear. Nothing could change the fact that his little girl was dead and gone forever.
Jairus must have been visibly distressed and afraid when he heard of his daughter’s death, for Jesus himself said, “Don’t be afraid; just believe!” A few days before Jesus came to heal Jairus’ daughter he calmed a storm on the Sea of Galilee. During that storm his very own disciples were afraid that they would lose their lives. After calming their fears as well as the storm Jesus taught them that they should trust him. He would always care for them; with him their lives were secure. Jesus tells Jairus the same thing when it seems like all hope is lost.
As Jesus arrived at Jairus’ house he came across professional mourners who were already hard at work; wailing and crying loudly. Their job was to set and maintain a mood of sadness and defeat. The shaken Jairus would find no comfort in them. Once Jesus arrived there was no need of despair or distress. He sent them away, the girl was not gone forever, but only “sleeping.”
How often do we find ourselves in similar situations? No matter where we are in life you and I have hard things to do and many challenges to overcome. Homework and chores add up, responsibilities at home and at work can come into conflict. That nice nest you were building yourself may not look so cozy anymore. Relationships and health deteriorate, and yes, loved ones leave and die. Our natural reaction is to turn to ourselves first, we like to be self-reliant we like to be in control. But we are open to the idea of asking for help when we need it. We turn to family and friends, and professionals. Yet they too fail us; they cannot love and care for us perfectly. All this time we ignore the one standing by to strengthen, help and support us. God our Father, Savior and Comforter is always there in his Word and Sacraments. We know that our weakness in health or faith cannot stop God’s love and power. We know we don’t have to be afraid because Jesus teaches us not to be! He tells us clearly who he is. He is our prophet, priest and king, our sacrificial lamb who atoned for all our sins. Through baptism we are buried with him and raised with him. We cannot be separated from his love.
You see, all people have three common enemies: sin, death, and the devil. Jesus has defeated all of them. Throughout the Gospels we see how Jesus drove out demons, resisted temptation, healed frail bodies and forgave sins that only God could forgive. The whole time he also had power over death. Death was no longer final but temporary. A simple rest before we are raised and renewed After reassuring Jairus and encouraging his faith, he showed Jairus, his disciples, the mourners, and us that death cannot stop him. With two simple, yet powerful words, he fully restored life and health to that 12 year old girl; immediately she got up and even needed food. Jesus overcame the death which had claimed this girl. With his own death and resurrection Jesus has secured our own inevitable resurrection at the final call of the last trumpet of victory.
The pressures and distresses of this world can make us feel desperation and despair. We often face challenges that make us afraid for ourselves and our future. We are comforted by Jesus’ words to lose all fear, and simply trust and believe in him. Instead of turning to ourselves to find courage in dark times, turn to the one who heals and saves us from sin and death. Jairus and the suffering woman turned to Jesus in faith yet were hindered by fear. We have God’s own reassurances we need not have any fear at all, not even our weakness can kinder Jesus’ power and love. Whatever else happens, we know that Jesus is our life and eternal resurrection. Amen.
Happy Fourth of July weekend! It’s a weekend in which people all over America celebrate Freedom.
Did you? Did you grab a sparkler and spell out the letters ‘F-R-E-E-D-O-M’ in cursive?
Did you throw a bunch of poppers on the ground and yell “freedom”?
Did you launch a bottle rocket and sing?
Everyone celebrates freedom on Fourth of July weekend. Yet throughout most of the year we complain about not being free.
What does freedom entail? What does freedom really mean? Are you really free?
Today we’re going to look at what freedom means to our culture and what it means to God.
I. The Source of Real Freedom
Ever visited ffrg.org? That’s the official website for the Freedom From Religion Foundation. It is a website that heralds “free thought” and “free thinkers.” Sounds nice right?
Under the “About FFRF” tab on the website they tell you more about what they mean by free thinking: “The history of Western civilization shows us that most social and moral progress has been brought about by persons free from religion...”
In other words – if you want to be really free, you need to be free from religion.
It’s interesting though. Take a look at the first statement again. “…the most moral and social progress has been brought about by persons free from religion.” Isn’t the statement highly subjective – as in – it’s their opinion?
Isn’t it their opinion who the most influential people were in a movement?
Isn’t it their opinion how ‘free of a thinker’ and uninfluenced by religion a certain thinker was?
Isn’t it their opinion what moral and social progress is in the first place?
If all of these opinions must fit within the realm of the “free thinkers” established code of what established free thinking, then what about the thoughts that are free from free thinking?
I wonder what would happen if I sent them an email. “Dear Free thinkers, I have a free thought. It was developed apart from your website. I freely think that there is a God. It’s a freeing thought. Could you please add me into your Foundation? Thanks!”
Hmmm…I’m guessing there’s a reason that all of the people who are members of the organization are declared Atheists.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has become slaves to its own thoughts.
Jesus speaks differently. He says, “If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” This is such an interesting statement especially if you combine it with something Jesus will say in just a few chapters of John. “I am the Truth.”
Meld those thoughts together for a minute. Understand what’s going on. The Truth sets free. Jesus is the Truth, therefore Jesus sets free. “Then you will know the truth, me, Jesus, and the truth, I, your Lord, will set you free.”
Our world claims true freedom comes apart from all religion –including Jesus. Jesus says true freedom comes from Himself.
Who do you believe?
Let’s make it objective. Let’s objectively look at which one is understand freedom better.
Jesus was not bound by the laws of physics – he walked on water.
I Google searched it. There aren’t any atheists been able to that recently.
Jesus was not bound by the laws of medicine – he healed people of incurable diseases simply by touching them.
You can check scholarly journals. There aren’t any records of doctors able to work outside the realm of medicine.
Jesus was not bound by the laws of the universe – he stopped storms with a wave of his hand.
Scientists can’t even predict them correctly, let alone stop them. They are bound by their inability to control the weather.
Jesus was not bound by death – he died and came back to life!
If you go to the Free Thinker website, you’ll see that many "free thinkers” were unable to free themselves from death. In fact, they’ll freely admit that they aren’t expecting to escape it!
Objectively speaking – Jesus lived in real freedom. He’s the only one who lives in real freedom. So only he can bring real freedom!
II. Freedom from What?
The Pharisees didn’t. When the Pharisees heard Jesus’ claim that true freedom came from him, they immediately started to rebuke him. “We are Abraham’s descendant and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
They didn’t see any chains around their ankles. They weren’t wearing computer chips to let their masters know where they were. They weren’t even slaves to the cruel Egyptians like their forefathers had been at the time of Moses. They didn’t see themselves as slaves. They didn’t see any reason for them to need freedom.
“Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”
Think of what Jesus is saying:
If you are a sinner, you are enslaved by sin. Whether you believe sin exists or not, you are a slave to sin. Whether you are religious or not, you are a slave to sin. Whether you are a ‘free thinker’ or not, you are still a slave to sin.
If you were in prison, a good old fashioned, locked down, no TV, behind bars, sleep on a cold metal bed prison, it may seem “freeing” to think that you aren’t in prison. It might seem freeing to imagine yourself only a beautiful Pacific island. It might seem freeing to imagine that you can do whatever you want whenever you want.
But it will only seem freeing. You’ll still be in prison.
If we are honest, being a slave to sin is awful. Have you ever felt it?
I slept with that guy again and I feel so ashamed. I don’t want to do it again, but I feel like the only thing that will make me forget the shame will be to be with him again!
I have a terrible headache. I’ve caused all kinds of friction in my family. I cussed out my wife. I’m dealing with all kinds of guilt. I’d stop doing it, except that’s all there is to cure me of this guilt.
I just got done losing my temper. I don’t like that. I won’t do it again. I hurt people. Except – what’s that? Someone is coming to confront me? I won’t stand for that. I must lose my temper again!
I’m a very proud person. I hear you saying that in order to be saved I have to admit that I’m a sinner, just like anyone else. See I would do it, except the thing is, my pride won't let me do it – literally! It doesn’t want to be destroyed and has too much of a grip on me. My pride rules my life.
I’m trapped in despair. I feel terrible. I feel not good. I can’t get out of this feeling. I hear God coming for me, but I can’t see where He is.
Brothers and sisters, if you are slave to sin – it’s easy to feel like things are out of control and there’s nothing you can do. No matter which sin it is that enslaves you – hear the Good News of Freedom from Jesus himself, “If the Son, if I, set you free, you will be free indeed.”
This makes so much sense. This is like someone from the free world – a jailer – someone with freedom – coming down to your prison cell with a key to unlock the door. Who are you gonna believe knows the way to freedom? The guy who came from freedom? Or the curmudgeonly old prisoner in the back who long ago gave up on freedom being a true thing?
Jesus is free.. Follow him to freedom!
He gives us freedom from sin in three awesome ways:
Free from Sin’s Guilt. Jesus freely came to this earth as no slave of sin. He never let sin take a hold of him either. Not till the cross. And then, it wasn’t his sin. It was yours. It didn’t have a hold of him, he had a hold of it.
Jesus took your sinful slave drivers – addition, sexual immorality, pride, despair, lust, greed, and whatever else might have hold of you – Jesus took those sins captive and he took them to the cross. He forced them to die with him – never to return to God’s sight.
This means you are forgiven. Be free from your guilt. Hear that again. You. Are. Forgiven.
Free from Sin’s Punishment. God punishes only sin and those enslaved to it. You aren’t enslaved anymore. You’ve been set free from sin. You will not be punished by God’s Almighty wrath!
If you were on death row and new evidence came to light exonerating you from all crime, you’d be release. You wouldn’t be punished.
New evidence came to our eternal Father. It’s the perfect life of Jesus. It means you will be set free from punishment in hell. Rather, you will spend eternity in the freedom of God’s peace.
Free from Sin’s Power. This is the part that really affects your day to day living. Before Jesus, sin is your master. It controls you. It tells you what to do.
But after Jesus, it can’t do that anymore. You aren’t a slave. You are a son. You are a daughter. You are a child of God who lives and breathes to serve his father.
Galatians 5:1 empowers us to do just that, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Let us stand firm then and not be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
I mentioned in the children’s lesson how much my dog loves getting off of his leash. He runs around with his tail wagging and the dumbest dog smile on his face.
That’s what happens – usually.
Every once in awhile I let him off his leash and he lazily lays down by my feet. It’s like he’s still chained up. He won’t move.
Same thing with his kennel. Sometimes he just sits inside. I open the door and he doesn’t move.
“Come on! You’re free!”
That’s what God is frantically urging you this morning. “You’re free! Get out of your sin. Stop your addiction. Turn to me for forgiveness and live apart from that sinful relationship.”
Brothers and sisters, won’t you listen to his beckoning call? Won’t you follow the one who set you free?