The Lord’s Message July 5, 2015
Intro: The whole nation celebrated Independence Day yesterday, but do you know the history and why this day is remembered and celebrated? This is in commemoration of the day when the USA formally declared its independence from Great Britain and that day was on July 4, 1776. This independence has nothing to do with the military or soldiers winning a war. This was a declaration of Congress and approved on July 4 the separation of the thirteen colonies from British rule.
In the spiritual life we declare freedom from ourselves and the tyranny of our former master to dependence in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Unknowingly out of ignorance we were slaves to sin because of our sinful nature and naturally followed the ways of the world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient who Jesus called the devil as our father. We were independent in the sense that we were free to do what we want dictated by our sinful nature with the prodding and influence of the evil one to do wrong contrary to God’s will and nature. As a matter of fact we were all enslaved by self and sin and helpless because we were born with a nature prone to sin. Could anyone free himself from this slavery to sin and change from this nature? Impossible! Here’s the truth as revealed to us through the prophet Jeremiah. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.” Jer. 13:23
God also revealed this truth to David when he wrote this in one of the Psalms. “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” Ps. 51:5
We refer to this as the original sin. But what does the original sin bring about? “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men because all sinned – for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam who was a pattern of the one to come.” Rom. 5:12-14
Now babies and infants, though they have original sin they have not yet sinned by breaking any law. This I believe is the age of innocence. In order to remove this original sin the Roman Catholic Church created this doctrine of infant baptism to cleanse an infant from this sin in order to start life without sin. Is there any truth in this? Here’s what Peter wrote inspired by the Holy Spirit regarding baptism. “…God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but a pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone to heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” 1 Pet. 3:20b-22.
So why is water a symbol of baptism here? Does baptism save anyone? Not at all! The symbolism of water here is the Word of God and not the literal water to cleanse us from sin. Jesus said that before anyone can enter heaven he must be born of water and the Spirit. Two interpretations can be used here. One is referring to the natural birth of a baby. Birth is completed when the water bag that holds and keeps the baby alive is broken then the baby is born. The other interpretation is that the water as the Word of God. When Jesus talked with the Samaritan woman at the well and asked her for a drink, He opened the conversation with that and then said, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10
Then Jesus explained it further by comparing the water from the well to His Word. “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14
So then how does a sinner gets save? He must hear the complete gospel that Christ died, buried and was raised from the dead and is now at God’s right hand with all authority to save and those He saves submits to His Lordship. He is given all authority that even angels and all authorities submit to Him and that includes evil spirits. But what did Peter mean “not the removal of dirt from the body but a pledge of a good conscience toward God”? Paul has the answer to what this means. “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance, and have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Acts 20:21
Jesus said that one must repent and then believe the good news. So in order to be saved one must repent of all sins before coming to Jesus to be saved. So what then should this mean to one who has repented of his sins and is now born again? Where does he stand and what does he have in relation to Christ as Lord?
“Freedom from Slavery and Independence”
To the Jews who had believed in him, Jesus said, “If you hold on to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendant and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:31-36
When reading through a passage of Scripture it is important to know the historical background and the context who Jesus was addressing this to. Jesus was speaking this to the Jews. Then it says that these Jews believed in Him. Jesus then qualified what it means to believe by the word “if”. At this time the Jews had already many teachings from the teachers of the law that has been added to Scriptures known as traditions handed down from one generation to another. So then the “if” defines whether they really believed what Jesus was teaching or not. When Jesus said hold on to “my teaching” it follows that they have to let go of what they have been taught that is contrary to what Jesus taught. Jesus’ teaching is not just to be added to what they already believed but to hold on to what Jesus is teaching them as truth from God and to discard anything contrary to His. This is how one knows if he is a disciple of Jesus or not. Believing in Jesus is to believe the truth for He is truth and the only truth. All other teachings pertaining to God and the spiritual life apart from the teaching of Jesus from the Scriptures are lies and in error.
When Jesus said the truth will set you free, it means that you are now free to follow Him and no longer slaves to self and sin. However, they misunderstood the slaves as those who are not Jews and descendants of Abraham. How does this apply in our context today? There are those who claim to be Christians by virtue of being born to parents who are Christians and most of whom are Catholics. They also claim that they are Christians because they have been baptized as if saying I am not a pagan because I have Christian roots and grew up in a Christian home. So then, does baptism as an infant save or not. Not at all! Jesus was baptized as an adult not to be saved but to do what is right as the will of God. True believers are baptized to follow the example of Christ after they are saved because it is the will of God. It is not added to salvation but an act of obedience. Some Gentiles of the Old Testament were slaves of the Jews after they have lost the battle and captured by the Jews. That’s why they claim they are not slaves but children of Abraham. But that was not what Jesus was talking about. It is their slavery to sin. No power to say no to sin and resists them. Yet they can follow teachings of men that are not hard to do like the different rituals. But when it comes to sin, they are slaves.
So when one truly believes the gospel that saves he is set free by the Son from the penalty of sin and the power of sin. That’s true freedom, freedom from my sinful nature and freedom from the slave master the devil. Now picture those who are still unsaved trapped together with all kinds of people in the world acting their sinful nature and no way of getting out. Here’s a list of the different activities they do. “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness and orgies, and the like.” Gal. 5:19-21
These are just a few of the activities of the world and lived by those who have not yet been set free by the Son. Even those who are religious are guilty of idolatry. Were we not also involved in the past with these activities? We may not have been involved in all but did we have the power to resist the desires of the flesh. And here’s more of the evil carried out by the sinful nature that has become worse today. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, dis-obedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self- control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” 2 Tim. 3:1-5
Are we seeing these happening today? Just think of what the ISIS is doing, brutally killing innocent people doing it in the name of religion. Who can set them free?
Then there are those who think they are free and independent. Because we live in a democratic country we are free to do what we want. However, we don’t have total freedom because we have laws that govern us. There is a law that parents cannot keep their children from leaving home when they reach the age of 18. They want to be independent and free to do what they want. I don’t know if that is good or not but in the Philippines we don’t have that law and most likely children even when they reach 18 will still want to stay home and be dependent on their parents. There’s another kind of dependence that is happening here in the US and that is people who are out of work has become dependent on the government. This is not the freedom from dependence to independencethat Jesus set us free.
When the Son sets us free we are freed to follow Him as our shepherd. We are released from the slavery of sin and from independence. Picture now when you were trapped with the world and one day Jesus called you through the gospel having been chosen by the Father and then you responded in repentance and faith, He opened the door and broke the chain of slavery and set you free to follow Him.
Now you are free but does that give you independence? No! You are dependent on God the Father and slave to righteousness. We become dependent in the sense that He supplies all our needs from the source that is inexhaustible. “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life…For the pagans run after all these things and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matt. 6:25-27, 32-33
And the apostle Paul affirmed this base on his experience of God’s faithfulness. “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:19
Was Paul dependent on his God? Of course! Did Paul follow his Lord? Of course he did and not just followed but he served Him till the end of his life. And confidently he could say as he knew himself. “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Cor. 11:1
And he also gave us a warning concerning our freedom and how not to use it. “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love.” Gal. 5:13
Lastly, here’s the application of our freedom from the slavery of sin and to be dependent on God through the inspired words of David by following Jesus. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of my Lord forever.” Ps. 23:1-6
And who are those who can call the Lord my shepherd? Here’s what Jesus said, “My sheep listens to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27
How do I know I am one of His sheep? Am I reading my Bible daily in order to listen and hear His voice? When I read and hear His teaching do I follow Him and do what it says? Jesus said that if we do follow Him, this is what it will cost. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
Jesus already had His cross, so what is my cross? The cross means death. Here’s what it means to take up my cross. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal. 2:20 INVITATION