"Free for All"

Wanting to be an ideal hostess, a mother asked an out-of-town pastor who was staying over night at their home, if he would care to read something from the Bible and offer a prayer before retiring for the night. The pastor assured her he would. The woman sent her son to bring the book that mother and daddy read so much. Her son returned with the Sears and Roebuck catalogue.

A nine-year old Sunday school boy was the only one in his class who responded when the teacher asked who knew the story of Jonah. After his accurate summary, the teacher complimented him on being the only student who had read the Bible lesson that week. Painfully honest, the boy corrected the teacher. "I didn't read it in the Bible," he explained, "It was on a bubble gum wrapper." (not something you'd find on a bubble gum wrapper THESE days!)

Little Maggie had bought her grandmother a Bible for her birthday and wanted to write a nice inscription inside the front cover. She racked her brain until she remembered that her father had a book with an inscription of which he was very proud. So Maggie decided to copy it. Imagine her grandmother's surprise when she opened her gift of a beautiful Bible and found the following phrase inside the cover: "To Grandma, with the compliments of the author."

A small girl told her Pastor that she knew everything there was in the Bible. The pastor, amused, remarked that she might know a few things, but not quite all. "Oh yes I do know all that's in it," was the girl's quick reply. Her mother, who had been listening, rebuked the girl for saying such a thing. The daughter was persistent and said, "But mom, I do. There's three dead leaves, a lock of hair, a love letter and a recipe for brown bread, and that's all there is in the Bible."

And finally something that comes from a book by Robert Ketchum, "I Shall Not Want." He tells of a Sunday School teacher who asked her group of children if anyone could recite the entire 23rd Psalm. One four-and-a-half-year old girl was among those who raised their hands. A bit skeptical, since the girl was so young, the teacher asked if she could really recite the entire psalm. The little girl came to the front of the room, faced the class, made a quick little bow, and said, "The Lord is my shepherd, that's all I want." She bowed again and went and sat down. That may well be the greatest interpretation of the 23rd Psalm ever heard.

Because the Lord Jesus Christ is our Shepherd, life, now and forever is Free for All. That's the title of my sermon today, "Free for All."

That's a great phrase, "free for all." No matter what age we are, we like to see that something we really want is free. Many people, thinking they are expounding a wise saying, respond to something that's free by saying, "If it's worth anything, it isn't free." Or you hear, "If they say it's free, you better watch out because there's a gimmick and you're going to end up paying through the nose." Or you hear, "Nothing in life comes free. There's always a price to pay."

There certainly is some wisdom to those phrases, but they don't hold true across the board, and the sad matter is, that although one should always teach children to be cautious, phrases like that teach children to categorically distrust others.

There's another phrase that I like better, and that's "The best things in life are free." Sometimes that gets used as though it's a soothing balm to explain to someone why things that cost money aren't worth having. And used of course, by a person who doesn't HAVE things that cost money or go places that cost money.

But it's true, really, that the best things in life are free.

Here's another phrase, "Money can't buy happiness." It's true. Happiness, love, friendship, loyalty, honor, the beauty of God's created world, you can't buy those things; they're free.

And there is, of course, something that is categorically free for all. That's the saving grace of Jesus the Christ. There's no price to pay; Jesus paid the price. But, unfortunately many people seem to be skeptical, that because it's free there's a catch to it. And unfortunately there are many Christians who PRESENT that saving grace of Jesus to someone with a catch. It's only free if you do this or that.

No, it's free. Period. Unfortunately, many people don't accept gifts. They feel it makes them obligated to another person in some way. And they approach this free gift of salvation in the same manner. They are given the gift, but they don't open it; they don't use it, make it part of their life.

In the 10:15 service, because it's Children's Sunday, the Children's sermon will also be the adult sermon. As part of that sermon I'll mention a version of the game of hide and seek we used to play and that was "All-ee-All-ee-in-free." That was, if someone made it to the home spot without being tagged by the person who was 'it', they could get everyone else in free, safely, by calling out "All-ee-All-ee-in-free."

That's what Jesus does for us; gets us 'home free' by taking the power away from the Devil to prevent that from happening. Now, in the game, you had to be careful because the person who was it could 'cheat' and call out "All-ee-All-ee-in-free" and tag you as you came to touch the home spot. You had to be careful, from some spot where you were still not visible to the person who was 'it', to check and see if there was some person who was standing at the home spot calling out those words and it wasn't the person who was 'it.'

It's the same for us today. We have to make sure we have our eyes on Jesus so we aren't fooled by the Devil trying to trick us. The Devil uses lots of ways to trick us into believing that something is safe and won't be harmful to us. Some things don't seem harmful at all, but what they do is to separate us from God. When we follow the ways of the world that deceive us into thinking negatively, that's the Devil. When we're thinking and acting negatively, we are easy prey for the Devil because we aren't focused on the love of Christ. We aren't focused on the Holy Spirit to guide us. If you're focused on what Jesus taught, then you'll see the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, the phrase, "Free for all" can be looked at in at least two other ways. It can mean that something is wildly out of control. Like, "There was no order at all in the classroom; it was a wild free for all." And it can be used in a similar manner to negatively describe some scene or gathering that was out of control.

But, it can also mean something wonderfully joyous. It can mean that someone viewed a particular gathering as something very liberating, very freeing. It can mean that they were able to beneficially experience a part of themselves they hadn't experienced before.

So what does the phrase "Free for All" mean for us right here and now? First, Christ teaches us a better way to live out lives so that we live as it as a freeing experience, and we know that life after death, salvation, is free to all. We know that right here and now, we have the opportunity to be free from all the limiting phrases that the Devil wants to plant in our minds. We know that to believe in the "best things in life" is to believe in the love and compassion and forgiveness of Christ. We know that we are free to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit rather than the screwed up ways of the Devil that just lead us to places of negativity and unhappiness.

Right now, and right now any minute during your day, you can know that Christ has called everyone in free, "All-ee-All-ee-in-free," and as you stay focused on Christ you'll be aware of the guidance of the Holy Spirit that will keep you free from the trickery of the Devil.

It's always our choice: accept the free gift of love that is salvation, or go on hiding, go on trying to do it on our own, go on not using the gift, the power of the Holy Spirit to help us live a life that is free.

Without accepting the gift, life is not as full, and free, and powerful as it could be. We are not the blessing to others that we could be unless we live our lives as individuals who know what it is to live a life that is free because of Christ. Christ calls: All-ee-All-ee-in-free-now and forever.

It's Free for All.

It's a 'free for all' 'free for all'!


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