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Freedom - Words in Red

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(6/30) July 4th is 4 days away. July 4th is a special day for our Country. It was on July 4th, 1776 that the final approved version of the Declaration of Independence was drafted. By the way, the Declaration for Independence from England was made on July 2nd but the document wasn’t actually signed until later in August of 1776, but July 4th is the date on the final approved draft of that Declaration of Independence. I know this stuff, because I was born on the 4th of July over 6 decades ago, and I wanted to know more about this day that we celebrate so loudly every year.

Every once in a while I like to go back and look at that document and remember what our founding Fathers were willing to do to procure freedom for their country and eventually for us. So, allow me to go back for a moment and look at the Declaration of Independence. Most of us are familiar with the first paragraph or two that speaks of our God-given equality, and our inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But do you know the last paragraph? Here it is below. It is the last sentence I want to call your attention to.

"We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

56 men would sign their name to this document knowing full well that they could lose their fortunes, their families, and their very lives. Still they signed. Of these 56 men:

• 5 were captured and tortured and died

• 12 had their homes sacked and looted, and burned by the British

• 2 lost sons in the war

• 1 had two sons captured by the British

• 9 would die from either the hardships of war or from bullets

The 4th President, John Quincy Adams said, "Posterity, you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it."

Eighty years after the last bullets were fired in the War that secured that Independence, on this day, June 30th (which was a Tuesday), 1863. Two armies were advancing on Gettysburg. Tomorrow would begin one awful 3 day long battle that pitted Americans against Americans. When July 4th came, the country in and around Gettysburg was finally quiet as both sides gathered up their wounded and started burying the dead, and Lee began his retreat back to Virginia. Over 8000 men had died, 27,000 had been wounded, and over 11,000 were captured or missing from those 3 days. That Civil War would see between 620,000, and 700,000 deaths. Over 200,000 would die in battle, and over 400,000 from other causes, like diseases.

Just 5 weeks ago was Memorial Day and we paused to remember that since we declared our independence in 1776, somewhere between 1 ¼ and 1 ½ million Americans that donned a uniform for America, died fighting for, or preserving our freedom and our way of life under our constitution, or to make freedom possible for other nations, and millions more would be bear the wounds of those wars for the remainder of their lives, as they fought so we can be free.

While July 4th may be a day of fireworks and parades and celebration, it ought to also be a reminder of what we have been freed from; what we have been freed for; and what our freedom has cost. Our Freedom isn’t free; it has come with one horrible price tag- the blood of American patriots.

I want to remind you all that Jesus came and died so we would be free. Listen to what Paul writes to the Gal. in 5:1, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." So reads the NKJV. The NIV says "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 our study of Words in Red (the teachings and commands of Jesus), we are going to leave Matthew’s gospel for a Sunday and look at John’s gospel and what our blessed Lord Jesus says about Freedom. Let’s look at John 8:30-36. As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." 33 They answered Him, "We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?" 34 Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

I. The Context – To grasp what our Lord is saying in this chapter, we need to consider the context.

A. It is during the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. It is about mid-September and Jesus has spent the evening at the Mount of Olives and then He returns and goes into the Temple to teach.

B. While He is teaching, they bring a woman caught in adultery and ask Him His opinion about stoning her to death. He says it’s okay as long as the sinless person throws the first stone. When everyone drops their rocks He asks the woman if there is anyone condemning her. When she says no one, He assures her that He doesn’t condemn her either and she should go and sin no more.

C. There in the Temple, He continues to teach and gives one of the seven I Am statements that John records for us. "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." This is a tremendous statement. During the feast of Tabernacles while everyone camped out in their back yard to commemorate their wilderness years, a candelabra was lighted in the temple at night to remember the pillar of fire that went before Israel at night. For Jesus to say that He is the Light of the World is a direct assertion of His Deity. To claim that He is the I Am is to claim that he is the one who spoke to Moses in Exodus 3-4. He is the only one that can bring a person out of spiritual darkness and give light and life. Listen, anyone not following Jesus is in the dark, they have blinded eyes. Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 4:3-6, "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

II. The Conflict – vv. 13-to the end of the Chapter is basically a verbal conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees. We could go over the entire conflict but the bottom line is that these people were all in the dark in their knowledge of God and His Word. Jesus spoke of being in harmony with His Father and while the Pharisees questioned Him as to what He meant, many of the people understood exactly that He was referring to God as His Father and that He was implying that He was God in the flesh.

III. The Conclusion – Many believed. Look back at Chapter 7:28-31, 40, "Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, "You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. 29 But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me." Therefore they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come. 31 And many of the people believed in Him, and said, "When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?" Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, "Truly this is the Prophet." Others said, "This is the Christ." Here in John 8:30 it says, "As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.

IV. The Clarification – It is here that we need to pause and remember that not all belief is saving belief. You can believe in Jesus, believe He is God in the flesh, that He was born of a Virgin and Died on a Cross and rose again 3 days later, and not be saved. I remind you of James who tells us that even the devil believes and trembles, but he is as lost as can be. Here Jesus clarifies how saving faith is differentiated from intellectual faith. Saving faith will have visible results.

A. Christ – Followers will abide, remain, continue, settled down and live in and follow Jesus’ words. They will believe those words, trust those words, and obey those words. The words of Jesus will be the reason for everything we do. Do you understand this? A relationship with Jesus for forgiveness and eternal life may begin with a prayer but it is not limited to that prayer. That prayer is the first step in a new course for life. Today all over this world there will be a lot of people who are going to church and believe in Jesus but are as lost as anyone who has never heard of Jesus because they have no intention of trusting and obeying what Jesus says. They are like the people in Ezekiel 34:30-32, "As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ 31 So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. 32 Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them." James says that those who hear but don’t do the word are just deceiving themselves (James 1:22-24). True Christ following disciples report for duty. Christ-followers read, meditate in, memorize, listen to and follow Jesus’ word. The Bible is their owner’s manual, their field manual, their instruction book for life. For Christ follower’s this book is as necessary for life as the air they breathe, or the food they eat. Earlier in John 6, many of those who had been with Jesus, turned away and followed Him no longer and Jesus asked the 12 if they would also turn away and Peter said, "No way, would they ever turn away, you alone have the words of eternal life. And we believe you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God"

B. Christ – Followers will continue in His word and will know the truth. Post-modernist will argue that there is no such thing as absolute truth; that all truth is relative to each person. Philosophers have debated for ions about what truth is. Pilate asked Jesus, "What is truth?" But, truth is absolute. It as absolute as Mathematics. For this study, truth is that which is factual, honest, and real. Christ Followers will know the truth:

1. About Jesus – Jesus said in v. 19, "You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also." There are all kinds of false beliefs about Jesus. Some say He was a good man, a good teacher, a prophet of God, some say He was supernatural, but few say, He was God in the flesh. Those who continue in His word, discover that Jesus, is none other than the God of Creation, the God of Judgment, as well as the God of Grace who demonstrated love by leaving Heaven and donning the uniform of our flesh and then dying and rising again for our salvation. His word claims that He is God, and His actions proclaim that He is God, and His words declare that He is God. He said in verse 28 that when He was lifted up, that is crucified and subsequently glorified, that they would know who He is. His going to the cross, His words from the cross, His death on the cross, and His resurrection from the grave, all scream that this is your God-Your Savior- The Holy One and the Lover of your soul.

2. About the Father- Again, look at verse 19 (above). The Bible declares that God is one God that exists in 3 persons and that He is above all else-Holy! He has given us a book that we call Holy. I cannot explain this very well, but it is true. The eternal God is a personal God that wants people to be in a personal relationship with Him and to know Him personally and intimately, not just religiously. People everywhere think that doing religious stuff is what God is all about. I remind you again of what He said to Jeremiah in 9:23-24; "Thus says the Lord: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; 24 But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight," says the Lord. That’s why the first and greatest commandment is Deut. 6:4-5, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. This book will reveal the character and attributes of God and show you how God wants you to know and love Him and know what He was willing to do to rescue and adopt you as His own.

3. About Their True Identity (Sons of Satan) - There is the myth that says, "We are all God’s children," and it is a myth. God is the creator of all, but God is not the Father of All. Most of the world lives under the delusion of this lie. Satan is the spiritual father of most of the world and the world is doing their father’s will just as Jesus tells these Pharisees this very truth in verses 39-47. He will say it again in the Parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 18, as John will repeat in 1 John 3:10, "In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother." Listen carefully, one only becomes a child of God and can call God their Father when they by faith receive the Son as Savior and Lord. That is precisely the point when God adopts you into His family. Until you do that you are not a child of God and the Word of God declares that to be true. John 1:11-13, "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." So also says, Eph. 1:4, Gal 4:4-7; and Romans 8:14-18.

4. About their Bondage (v. 34) – I will come back to this in a moment, but if you continue in the Word of God, you discover this truth. It doesn’t matter where you were born, the color of your skin, or how wealthy your family is, you are born into bondage as much as any poor black child in the 17-1800’s. You are a slave to your self –centered sin nature that often doesn’t care what God’s word says. It only cares about what it wants when it wants it; that is a slave to Satan; a slave to your sexual desires; perhaps a slave to religion; you were a slave to fear, and you were bound –condemned to the penalty of sin, to the place of sin forever – the Lake of Fire. Jesus would remind them that because of their bondage they had no permanent place in God’s house. A slave’s place is always tentative and temporary. Only the children have a permanent place in God’s house. The Word of God brings this to light and reveals the only way to be set free and become a Child of God.

5. About Salvation – The Word of God will reveal that all of man’s attempts to secure eternity by his own efforts are futile. It doesn’t matter how many good deeds one does, how often he or she goes to church, how much he or she gives, salvation cannot be earned and cannot be had by sincerity. One can only attain eternal life and salvation by faith in who Jesus is and what He did on the cross. I assume that most of you know John 14:6 and Acts 4:12, but look at John 8:21-24, "Then Jesus said to them again, "I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come." 22 So the Jews said, "Will He kill Himself, because He says, ‘Where I go you cannot come’?" 23 And He said to them, "You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."

6. About Their Origins – There is so much more truth than these, but these are in the context. The Bible also reveals the truth about your origins. You did not come from some cosmic belch of compressed gas, you came from the word of God. You are His creation. I don’t know how many billions of dollars are spent trying to figure out where we came from when it is all in this book. Science can do a wonderful job in discovering how intricate we are and how to help us heal and mend when we are sick and broken, but the truth of origins is right there in Genesis 1-2. There is also the truth about money, marriage, relationships, heaven and hell, love and forgiveness, and much, much, more. There is no book in the world like this book.

C. Christ- Followers will know the truth and the truth will make them free – The Oxford dictionary defines Freedom as, "The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint." Someone described freedom to me a long time ago, as the ability to choose who or what you will serve. Our blessed Lord said that continuing, abiding, remaining, listening to and obeying His word will result in knowing truth and that will result in freedom. It will remove the restraints, unshackle, and release you from bondage or prison. Jesus stood in the synagogue in Nazareth and Read from Isa. 61 these words, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken hearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;…" Free from what and to what?

1. From Religion to a Relationship – The Jews of Jesus day, as many in many churches and faiths today, are bound by a system of things they have to do, Our Catholic friends have the seven sacraments, the Muslims have the 5 pillars of the faith, the Buddhist have the 8-fold path of enlightenment, our Jewish friends have the laws of Moses, I have to do this, I have to do that. But the Bible reveals that Jesus’ word sets us free from religion to enjoy a relationship with the living God. He adopts us as His child and we call Him Abba Father, our papa, daddy God. Jesus says we are His family, and the author of Hebrews says He is not ashamed to call us His brethren.

2. From Satan - to the Savior. Even if we didn’t realize it, we were all pawns of Satan as Ephesians 2:1-3 implies. Jesus even said to these Jews that we did or do the desires of our father. Listen to verse 44: "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do." But when we continue in Jesus’ word, we are set free from Satan’s power and desires (Heb. 2:14-18, and 1 John 3:8), and we enjoy the freedom of doing what is light and easy by choosing to follow the Savior. Everyone, please listen carefully, I speak from experience, we all get to the place when we are about 16-21 years old when we think that freedom is making our own decisions about drinking smoking, sex, money, and career and more, and that is what freedom is. What we don’t realize is, that is just total bondage to Satan, just as Pinocchio who learns that His freedom has turned him into a mule. It will inevitably result in regrets. What we think is freedom becomes our prison. But the way of the Savior is the way of peace apart from such pain and regrets and it will show us how to be forgiven and heal from those regrets.

3. From the Power of Sin – To the Power of the Spirit. Much of what we do flows from our sin nature, and specific things like lying and murderous thoughts, selfish, self-centered, me first thinking that disregards the welfare of others, flows naturally from our sin nature. Look at Romans 6:14-22. Romans 8 reminds us that the Spirit of God is given to us when we believe that we may be able to obey God and walk in His word and ways, and we don’t have to be controlled by that sin nature any longer. We can be free to do what is right.

4. From the Penalty of sin – To the Presence of God – The penalty for sin is as Romans 6:23 says – death and that death is separation from God in hell forever. But Jesus says in John 5:24 that when you hear believe His word, you pass from death into life and will not be never again be condemned, as does Romans 8:1. Like the thief on the cross, we are assured that when that day comes and we are absent from the body we shall be present with the Lord. Where He is, Jesus says, we shall be also." (John 14:1-3).

5. From the Fear of Death to the Hope of Life. Because our own conscience condemns us and because religion cannot assure us of eternity many people are afraid of their own inevitable death. Either they know they aren’t worthy of heaven or they honestly don’t know what dark death is all about, so they view it with fear and doubt. So says Hebrews 2:14-15, "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." The Promise of Jesus is life forever in His presence.

6. From needing the world’s approval to being accepted by God. While there is so much more to say about the freedom Jesus offers, let me use this as the last one. We spend so much of our lives wanting or needing the approval of our peers, our parents, and our public. We measure our own worth by what others think or say about us and or how they include us in their circle. Our self-esteem is measured by our looks, our education, our occupation, our past, our health and more. But when we come to faith in Christ we realize that God accepts me as I am and sees value in me, that he is committed to developing (Romans 8:28-29; Eph. 1:4) He has accepted us in the Beloved.

So, there you are. Words in Red. Are you a real disciple or do you just believe in your head? There is a difference! Are you free? Really? Jesus has in this 8th Ch. Of John’s gospel told us how to be sure we are free and truly His follower. I urge you to read it again, meditate in this chapter and then commit to doing whatever Jesus says to do in this book. The time you have left and eternity will be secure when you do.

If this has spoken to your heart, write to me and tell me, or ask me whatever you want about knowing God or having a relationship with Him, or how to be truly free at, or P.O. Box 1201, Emmitsburg, Md. 21727 or call me at 301-447-6565. Better yet, come and worship with us on Sunday at the Emmitsburg Elementary School at 10:00 A.M.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman