Saturday, July 2, 2016

Slaves of Freedom


Luke 4:18
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,

There is much to be learned just here in this verse alone not to mention the verses leading up to it and just after it, we could literally be here all day, but what I want us to focus on today primarily is just one word freedom and not just the word itself but what Jesus meant by his use of that word and what type of freedom He offers us here today.

This is a powerful event Luke has recorded.
If we look further down in verse 23 of this same chapter we can read that Jesus had already been in Capernaum

A portion of that verse states- 'Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.'"

So we can see that Jesus had already created quite a reputation healing and teaching even though in the text it would appear as though he had just emerged from his forty days in the desert.
So it looks like Luke placed this account here not because of any chronological order but possibly because it made a perfect kind of title to place here at the start of Jesus’ ministry because it encapsulates what His  ministry would be about.

This was likely a synagogue that Jesus frequented as a boy and young adult growing up in Nazareth. At this time in synagogues like this one they would often invite visiting Rabbi’s to teach but this wasn’t just any Rabbi, this was a well known hometown boy returning to His local church.
 Nazareth at this time is thought to have had a population no larger than two thousand people and being the son of a carpenter and then being a carpenter himself Jesus no doubt was well known by many here long before his ministry began.

Jesus opens the scroll to this portion of Isaiah that we now understand to prophesy of His first coming and also His eventual return and He reads it aloud. He then takes His seat, which was customary for a teacher to do before teaching or expounding on the text read. He goes on to tell these folks that He’d known all his life, in no uncertain terms, that He was the Messiah that the prophet Isaiah was speaking of.
 But as I said our focus here today has to do with this proclamation of “freedom for the captives” that was prophesied by Isaiah and begins with the coming of Christ into the world and no doubt continues still today.

So to begin to understand this proclamation we should ask ourselves “What is freedom” and who are the “Captives” Christ spoke about?
 Well I believe if you were to ask a Jew at this time in history it’s reasonable to assume that they would tell you this portion of scripture meant the very real physical release of the Jewish people from Roman oppression by a conquering Messiah leading an Israelite army. We here today however know that’s not the case.

Many in this area of ancient Palestine that would be freed and saved by Jesus were “Captive” to the oppression of the warped use of the law and the lies being hoisted upon them by the Pharisees, but what does this proclamation mean for us here today? 

What is freedom? As modern Americans living in an ever growing secularized culture we are again and again told that freedom is the ability to do whatever we want, however we want to do it, with whom ever we want, wherever we choose.
 We will work where we want, be friends with whom we want, dress how we want, talk how we want, listen to what music we want, be entertained how we want, and marry who we want.

 I think if you were to walk up to just about anyone on the street here in America today and ask them what freedom is their answer would resemble this if not be dead on the same. But is this real freedom, is this what God intends for us, is this the form of freedom that Jesus came to give us?

Did Jesus come and live a sinless life and then die the horrific death of being nailed to a tree paying the penalty we owe for our fallen sinful nature so that we might be free from the law to live a life of unlimited self indulgence and self exaltation? So that we might be free to hoist high up on the ladder of priority our own personal preferences and pleasures and follow those to our own ends?

I would submit to you today that when we look at real freedom, this very real and authentic freedom that Jesus is proclaiming here in his hometown church it looks very much the opposite of what our society tells us freedom is, and it is also often this real freedom that even we who profess to follow Christ reject for our own lives.

Secular society preaches to us a steady sermon of individuality and autonomy. We hear phrases like
“Be your own person, be true to yourself, make your own way, and do it for yourself.” The voices on the televisions and the radios tell us we must “Find out who we are and in finding ourselves we will somehow find happiness.”
 According to our culture we hold all our own truths, we alone decide our direction in life, and the best thing we can do to make ourselves happy and fulfilled is to look inward.
 Is it any wonder as we look out on the current landscape of our society that we see so much depression, suicide, drug addiction, divorce, violence, and promiscuity?
 To hold ourselves to such a high degree, to think all our answers lye in the truths we ourselves get to create is nothing more than another delusional form of idol worship. Simply indulging ourselves and being guided only by our own desires, pleasures, and preferences leads to another very real form of captivity. One of the many forms of captivity I believe Jesus comes to set us free from today.

Truth is not something we as created beings get to create. We can recognize it, we can utilize it and we can adhere our lives to it but we did not and we do not create it, and the truth is we are not independent beings at all, quite the opposite we are dependent beings, and we were created to be dependent beings and going further we were created for a specific purpose.

So when we live as though we are an end unto ourselves, as if all the answers and all the truth we’ll ever need are to be found within ourselves or even found in another fallen sinful human being, we get sick, we get lost, and we get imprisoned. When we remove God from the picture and say we’ve been evolved by forces of chance into a being that is totally self sustaining and completely independent we create a truly unnatural environment for ourselves.
 The idea that we are such dependant beings is very counter cultural and something we ourselves don’t like to here but the Word of God makes it abundantly clear.

Colossians 1:16 all things have been created through him and for him.
Colossians 1:17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

These are just a couple out of the multitude of verses throughout the Bible that tell us that not only did God create us but he created us for Himself and it tells us that He sustains our very existence. The action of the atoms and molecules spinning around right now to create a church pew of solid material for us to sit in is being sustained through Him. Each breath we take is being given to us, willed to us by almighty God. 

We are created beings created for a specific purpose and the Word of God tells us what that purpose is over and over again. These are again only a couple verses out of a multitude that tell us of our purpose throughout the Old Testament and the New.

Isaiah 43:21
The people I formed for myself, that they may proclaim my praise.

1 Corinthians 10:31
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Here in his letter to the Corinthians Paul is talking about foods some people abstain from but that others eat and he instructs us that whatever we may be doing we should do it to the glory of God. We were created for God not for ourselves, we were created for His pleasure and purposes not our own, we were created to glorify Him and be in relationship with Him and that is the freedom Jesus offers us, freedom to be what we were created to be and do what we were designed to do.

Paul confronts this modern self fulfilling type of freedom our culture preaches to us earlier in this same letter.

1 Corinthians 10:23-24
23“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

In seeking to do good for others we glorify our Father.

Have you ever used a knife for a screwdriver, or a drill for a hammer? You break the tip off the knife ruining it or you crack the plastic casing on your cordless drill, trying to use these tools for tasks they are not designed for turns out to be bad news for us and the tools involved.

Would it be possible to find an electric drill out in the woods and come to the conclusion that nature with billions and billions of years had put that drill together? Take a look sometime at the mechanics and processes of the human cell and you will see something far more sophisticated and advanced than the simple rudimentary cordless drill. We have much in common though because we and the drill were both designed for a specific purpose. Using these specifically designed tools for uses other than they were designed for always leads to frustration and brokenness. 

Some might here a message like this and think we’re speaking of following a bunch of rules and denying ourselves the things we most want to do. But it’s when we have been indwelled by the Spirit of truth and completely placed ourselves under the joyful authority of God that what we want to do most is what we were designed to do, it is then that we experience real freedom.
We talk to Him, pray to Him, have a deep continuous relationship with Him and what we want most is to be about His purposes and His work.

When we stop looking inward and start looking upward we begin to know and thoroughly enjoy what authentic freedom is. We ask Him where we are to work, where we are to live, and who it is we are to be. And we begin the struggle Paul spoke much about. We train, we run, and we strive to abide in the real and authentic freedom the Lord has graciously provided.

In Galatians 5:1 Paul tells us
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

In John 15:5-8 Jesus gives us a remarkable picture, He says

5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Jesus came to this planet telling us He only does that which the Father wills and the purpose of His coming was to make us one with Him as He is with the Father and once we have tasted of the joy that is given when we are being made one with the Father through Christ Jesus we know what true freedom really is, and we begin to see that those who the Son sets free are free indeed!