COMMITTED to train men and women
to have minds for the Lord Jesus,
hearts for the truth, and
hands that are skilled to the task.

"freedom" Tagged Sermons

THE FUTURE IS UP TO YOU

Before we go into our biblical text, let me quote Chris Hedges, a war correspondent who witnessed plenty of power struggles:
“Not having to make moral choices frees you from a great deal of anxiety. It frees you from responsibility. And it assures that you always be wrapped in the embrace of the powerful as long as, of course, you will do or dance to he the tune of powers play… When you do what is right, you often have to understand that you are not going to be lauded and praised for it. Making a moral decision always entails risks, certainly to one’s career and to one’s standing in the community.” Chris Hedges

“It is perfectly possible for a man to be out of prison and yet not free- to be under no physical constraint and yet be a psychological captive, compelled to think, feel and act as the representatives of the national state, or of some private interest within a nation wants him to think, feel, and act… To him the walls of his prison are invisible and he believes himself to be free.” Aldous Huxley “A Brave New World Revisited”

“So, you see, that the world is governed by very different personages to what is imagined by those who are not themselves behind the scenes.” Benjamin Disraeli (1801-1884)

“The world is divided into three kinds of people – a very small group that MAKES THINGS HAPPEN, a somewhat larger group that WATCHES THINGS HAPPEN, and a great multitude that NEVER KNOWS WHAT HAS HAPPENED.” Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler (1862-1947)

Pastor Erwin Lutzer in his book subtitled “A defense of Christ in an Age of Tolerance” writes this hypothetical story:
“In A.D. 303, the Emperor Diocletian has issued a new order, requiring all people to attend the religious/political ceremony designed to unify the nation and revive lagging patriotism within the empire. Specifically, this ceremony involves burning a bit of incense and saying simply: CAESAR IS LORD. Those who do this receive a seal of approval; those who don’t might well be put to death.
Christians discussed the issue and what their response should be. The answer is not as obvious as it seems. For one thing, they actually would not have to stop worshiping the true God; after they have sworn their allegiance to Caesar as Lord, they are free to privately worship whatever god they wish. Every religion is tolerated; freedom to choose ones own god is generally accepted. Indeed, there is richness in diversity.
Second, this was not simply a religious decision, but a political one. Caesar was convinced that it was not possible to be a good citizen without affirming his lordship. The argument was that if one had allegiance to a god above Caesar he could not be trusted in time of national emergency, a war, for instance.
Third, this requirement was but once a year. Even if one did not tell a lie, forgiveness through Christ was readily available. Why not argue, as some did, “For a moment my mouth belongs to the Emperor, though my heart always belongs to Christ.”
Rome was cruel. Many converted pagans who were now in the church had observed firsthand the brutality of the Roman citizens.
If Christ were seen as one option among many, Christians could give allegiance to other expressions of the divine. Why not find common ground, the central unity of all religions.
So the choice, strictly speaking, was not whether the Christians should worship Christ or Caesar; it was whether they would worship Christ AND Caesar.”

Edward Gibbon in “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” stated:
“All religions were regarded by the people as EQUALLY TRUE, by the philosophers as EQUALLY FALSE, and by the politicians as EQUALLY USEFUL.”

ESCAPING THE DECEPTION

Let us go on a fast-paced history journey:

In 1932 Aldous Huxley wrote the novel: “Brand New World”
In it he made the prediction that mood enhancing drugs and genetic engineering will be a part of our life.
Several decades later in 1950, antidepressants were first popularized to the masses, and in 1972 the first DNA manipulation was announced.

In 1948 Novelist Ray Bradbury wrote the book: “Fahrenheit 451”
He envisioned a world in which people were tuned into TVs and tuned out to each other.
Decades later, iPods, cellphones, and earbuds would take the world by storm.

In June of 1949 British novelist George Orwell wrote the book: “1984”
In it he warned against a world in which the government spies on its citizens. It would take us only about sixty-five years to realize he was right.

October 2, 1959 the Emmy Award-winning TV series called “The Twilight Zone”, written and produced by Rod Serling was launched.
He wrote over 80 episodes that were filled with a mix of comedy and superstition.
Here is what the author said:
“This is not a new world: It is simply an extension of what began in the old one. It has patterned itself after every dictator who has ever planted the ripping imprint of a boot on the pages of history since the beginning of time. It has refinements, technological advancements, and a more sophisticated approach to the destruction of human freedom. But like every one of the super states that preceded it, it has one iron rule: ‘LOGIC IS AN ENEMY, AND TRUTH IS A MENACE.”

In all these novels and TV series and movies, the writers and filmmakers sounded the alarm bells HOW DECEPTION WILL BE THE WEAPON OF CHOICE TO BRING EVERYONE INTO SLAVERY.

John Whitehead in his book “Battlefield America” published in 2015, writes:
“How do you get a nation to docilely accept a police state? How do you persuade a populace to accept metal detectors and pat downs in their schools, bag searches in their train stations, tanks and military weaponry used by their small town police force, surveillance cameras on their traffic lights, police strip searches on their public roads, unwarranted and forced blood draws at drunk driving checkpoints, whole body scanners in their airports, and government agents monitoring their communications?
Try to ram such a state of affairs down their throats, and you might find yourself with a rebellion on your hands. Instead, you bombard the citizenry with constant color-coded alerts, terrorize them with reports of shootings and bomb threats in malls, schools, and sports arenas, desensitize them with a steady diet of police violence, and mesmerize them with entertainment spectacles (what the Romans used to refer to as “Bread and circus” distractions) and electronic devices, while selling the whole package to them as being in their best interests.
ll the while, the American people remain largely oblivious to the looming threat of their freedoms, eager to be persuaded that the government can solve the problem that plague us, whether it is terrorism, an economic depression, an environmental disaster, OR EVEN A VIRAL EPIDEMIC.”

HOW CAN SUCH A THING BE HAPPENING RIGHT UNDER OUR OWN NOSES? HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE NOT SEEING IT ALL FOR WHAT IT REALLY IS?

Nazi Field Marshal Hermann Goering was one that was on trial. At one point during his trial he made this remark:
“It is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy.
All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.”
On July 18, 1925 Adolf Hitler wrote the book: “MEIN KAMPF”
“The very first essential for success is a perpetually constant and regular employment of violence.”

I quoted earlier Rod Sterling who is the screen writer for the TV series “The Twilight Zone”.
“We’re developing a new citizenry. One that will be very selective about cereals and automobiles BUT WON’T BE ABLE TO THINK.”

We live in an electronic concentration camp. Call it what you will, the meaning is the same: in our quest for less personal responsibility, a greater sense of security, and no burdensome obligations to each other or to future generations, we have created a society in which we have NO TRUE FREEDOM.

Before we take a closer look at the letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Colossae, let me give you a quote from Dallas Willard found in his book “The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God”
“Their union with Jesus allows them now to be a part of his conspiracy to undermine the structures of evil, which continue to dominate human history, WITH THE FORCES OF TRUTH, FREEDOM, AND LOVE. We can quietly and relentlessly align ourselves with these forces, wherever they are, because we know what is cosmically afoot. To overcome evil with good, in the apostle Paul’s words is not just something for an individual effort here and there, is actually what will come to pass on this earth. The power of Jesus’ resurrection and his continuing life in human beings assures of this.”
“If cheap propaganda stunts does not secure the compliance, open threats will suffice. (here goes the freedom: the second force)
For instance, in the US, city mayors and local politicians have threatened to “hunt down”, monitor social media and jail those who break lockdown rules.”

CHRISTIAN COUNTER-CULTURE

This account shows everyone is living the same life on Instagram by Cara Curtis —
“When scrolling through your Instagram feed, do you ever feel like you’re getting déjà vu? This is probably because people seem to be living the same life on Instagram.
Whether it’s a perfectly shot piece of avocado toast alongside an artistic looking latte or a breathtaking image of someone jumping from a waterfall, it’s been done before. A million times.
Long before over-sharing online was a normal thing to do, humans have always been attracted to tourist destinations to capture the perfect photograph.
I think we’re all guilty of it to some extent, but now, instead of taking home a gift shop souvenir and relaying your trip to your close friends, people post every detail of their lives online to hundreds of followers who they may not necessarily even know.
Because of this urge to document our lives in real time, originality is becoming a thing of the past and a new-age of copycatting is creeping up on us.”

Before we go to our text, let me read from a chapter titled “the Instagram Life”
“Every society has a way of transmitting its values to the young. Some societies do it through religious festivals or military parades. One of the ways we do it is through a secular sermon called the commencement address……Many young people are graduating into limbo. Floating and plagued by uncertainty, they want to know what specifically they should do with their lives. So, we hand them
• THE GREAT EMPTY BOX OF FREEDOM.
The purpose of life is to be free. Freedom leads to happiness! We’re not going to impose anything on you or tell you what to do. We give you your liberated self to explore. Enjoy your freedom!
The students in the audience put down the empty box because they are drowning in freedom. What they’re looking for is DIRECTION. What is freedom for? How do I know which path is my path?
So we hand them another big box of nothing –
• THE BIG BOX OF POSSIBILITY!
Your future is limitless! You can do anything you set your mind to! The journey is the destination! Take risks! Be audacious! Dream big! But this mantra doesn’t help, either. If you don’t know what your life is for, how does it help to be told that your future is limitless? That just ups the pressure. So they put down that empty box. They are looking for a SOURCE OF WISDOM. Where can I find the answers to my big questions.
So, we hand them
• THE EMPTY BOX OF AUTHENTICITY.
Look inside yourself! Find your true inner passion. You are amazing! Awaken the giant within! Live according to your own true way! You do you!
This is useless too. The “you” we tell them to consult for life’s answers is the very thing that hasn’t yet formed. So they put down that empty box and ask, “What can I devote myself to? What cause will inspire me and give meaning and direction to my life?”
At this point we hand them
• THE EMPTIEST BOX OF ALL – THE BOX OF AUTONOMY.
You are on your own, we tell them. It’s up to you to define your own values, No one else can tell you what’s right or wrong for you. Your truth is to be found in your own way through your own story that you tell about yourself. Do what you love!
You will notice that our answers take all the difficulties of living in your twenties and make them worse. The graduates are in limbo, and we give them uncertainty. They want to know why they should do this as opposed to that. And we have nothing to say except. Figure it out yourself based on no criteria outside yourself. They are floundering in a formless desert. Not only over their heads.

David Brooks “The Second Mountain – The quest for a Moral Life”
The author summarizes the big SIM TO NOWHERE with these words:
“The average American has seven jobs over the course of their twenties. A third of recent college graduates are unemployed, underemployed, or making less then $ 30,000 a year at any given moment. Half feel they have no plan for their life.
These are peak years for alcoholism and drug addiction. People in this life stage move every three years. 40% move back in with their parents at least once. They are much less likely to attend religious services or join a political party. People in their odyssey years tend to be dementedly optimistic about the long-term future. 96% of 18-24-olds agree with the statement “I AM VERY SURE THAT SOMEDAY I WILL GET TO WHERE I WANT TO BE IN LIFE.”
But the present is marked by wandering, loneliness, detachment, doubt, underemployment, heartbreaks, and bad bosses, while their parents go slowly insane.”

You still don’t believe it; let me give you one more example written by the same author:
“When enough people are going through this phase at once, you end up with a society in which everything is flux. You end up with what the Polish philosopher Zygmunt Bauman calls “liquid modernity.” In the age of the smartphone, the friction costs involved in making or braking any transaction or relationship approach zero. The Internet is commanding you to click on and sample one thing after another. Living online often means living in a state of diversion. When you’re living in diversion you’re not actually deeply interested in things; you’re just bored at a more frenetic pace. Online life is saturated with decommitment devices. If you can’t focus your attention for thirty seconds, how on earth are you going to commit for life?
Such is life in the dizziness of freedom. Nobody quite knows where they stand with one another. Everybody is pretty sure that other people are doing life better. Comparison is the robber of joy.”
“You know that at some point you should sit down and find some overall direction for life. But the mind wants to wander from the meaty big questions, which are completely daunting and unanswerable, to the diverting candy right on your phone – the tiny dopamine lift.”
All of this points in one direction; INTO THE DITCH. Political freedom is great. But personal, social, and emotional freedom – when it becomes an ultimate end – absolutely sucks. It leads to a random, busy life with no discernible direction, no firm foundation, and in which, as Marx put it, all that’s solid melts to air. It turns out that freedom isn’t an ocean you want to spend your life in. Freedom is a river you want to get across so you can plant yourself on the other side – and fully commit to something.”

Dallas Willard in his book “Divine Conspiracy” writes:
“Perhaps many people will find that they are already humble. Just be humble, they say. But such a way of reading the beatitudes also gives various other kinds of people automatic access to the kingdom of heaven in terms nicely suited to them – especially if they have a distant God and not a present King. If they are not in a position to be humble, they perhaps can mange to mourn, or be meek, or become persecuted, and then one of the other Beatitudes will, on the interpretation in question, take over to secure their blessedness.

AUTHORIZED

Charles R. Taber, in his book “Missiology and the Bible” states:
“The very existence of the Bible is incontrovertible evidence of the God who refused to forsake his rebellious creation, who refused to give up, who was and is determined to redeem and restore fallen creation to his original design for it…
The very existence of such a collection of writings testifies to a God who breaks through to human beings, who disclosed himself to them, who will not leave them unilluminated in their darkness…..who takes the initiative in re-establishing broken relationships with us.”

As Charles Van Engen in his book: “THE RELATION OF BIBLE AND MISSION IN MISSION THEOLOGY” writes: “The whole Bible renders to us the story of God’s mission through God’s people in their engagement with God’s world for the sake of the whole of God’s creation.”

Authority authorizes; it grants freedom to act within boundaries.
Authority is the source and boundary of freedom.
Authority must be connected to reality.

“The authority of the Bible is that it brings us into contact with reality – primarily the reality of God himself whose authority stands behind even that of creation. Reading and knowing the Scriptures causes us to engage with reality. That in turn functions to authorize and to set boundaries around our freedom to act in the world.
The authority for our mission flows from the Bible because the Bible reveals the reality on which our mission is based.” Christopher Wright

This God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Holy One of Israel, is the very AUTHORITY that those Scriptures mediate, because we have no other access to YHWH’s reality than through these Scriptures. Only in the Bible can we find God’s identity and God’s character.
The entire Old Testament is telling a story about the reality of God, the reality of the story (real live) and the reality of God’s people, all pointing to an anticipated future in the purposes of God.

What does that mean?
If it is true that the Bible reveals the reality of this Only True God, the reality of this story that answers the four fundamental questions
Where are we?
Who are we?
What’s gone wrong?
What’s the solution?
And also reveals the reality of this people called Israel, what should be the impact of the way Israel in the Old Testament and the Church in the New Testament SHOULD LIVE NOW?
In Jesus we meet this God who shares the identity and character of YHWH and ultimately accomplishes what only YHWH could. So, to know Jesus as savior and lord is to know the reality of the living God. It is to know the way, the truth, and the life, the Word, the Creator, Sustainer and heir of the universe.
God’s mission is our mission and it flows from the AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE.
This is the God we worship, this is the story we are part of, this is the people we belong to.

ONLY TWO SURVIVED

“You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is required. The stars neither require it nor demand it.” Annie Dillard
“Imagine a world designed so that we experience a mild jolt of pain with every sin and a tickle of pleasure with every act of virtue. Imagine a world in which every errant doctrine attracts a lightning bolt, while every repetition of the Apostle’s Creed stimulates our brains to produce an endorphin of pleasure.” Philip Yancey
In fact, for the Israelites it nearly eliminated the need for faith at all; clear guidance sucked away FREEDOM, making every choice a matter of OBEDIENCE RATHER THAN FAITH.
Power can do everything but the most important thing; it cannot control love. Love does not operate according to the rules of power.
In other words, just as God found it nearly impossible to live among sinful people, the Israelites found it nearly impossible to live WITH A HOLY GOD IN THEIR MIDST.
“In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” Oscar Wilde

YOU ARE COMPLETELY FREE

Philip Yancey ins his book “DISAPPOINTMENT WITH GOD writes:
I found that for many people there is a large gap between what they expect from their Christian faith and what they actually experience. From a steady diet of books, sermons, and personal testimonies, all promising triumph and success, they learn to expect dramatic evidence of God working in their lives. If they do not see such evidence, they feel disappointment, betrayal and often guilt.” Philip Yancey

C.S. Lewis nails it when he writes in Mere Christianity:
“Either we give up trying to be good, or else we become very unhappy indeed. For, make no mistake: If you are really going to try to meet all the demands made on the natural self, it will not have enough left over to live on. The more you obey your conscience, the more your conscience will demand of you. And your natural self, which is thus being starved and hampered and worried at every turn, will get angrier. In the end, you will either give up trying to be good, or else become one of those people who, as they say, “live for others” but always in a discontented, grumbling way – always making a martyr of yourself. And once you have become that you will be a far greater pest to anyone who has to live with you than you would have been if you had remained frankly selfish.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson said:
“The God of the cannibals will be a cannibal, of the crusaders a crusader, and of the merchant, a merchant.”

THE SAME GOD STILL REIGNS

Jonah was sent back by the Lord to fulfill his ministry to the arch enemy of Israel. Remember, Jonah was a patriot. He was a prophet to Israel. He knew that their God is in the business of restoring Israel no matter how bad they treated God and how often they followed idols. But that same mercy and forgiveness did not belong to those who invaded Israel and where bend on destroying them for good. But a prophet of God has no business to formulate his own message. If we like the message or not does not matter.
Remember, the Apostle Paul was once a persecutor of God’s people, the follower of Christ, just as the Assyrians who lived in Nineveh where enemies of Israel. Never forget, God is in the Restoration business. 40 days and it’s all over was the message. You deserve judgment for your wicked deeds. And Jonah liked the message. He understood the meaning of the number 40.
Jonah is watching all this unfold before his very eyes. He cannot believe what he sees and hears. Must be a foxhole conversion. I know these people. They are evil to the core. Their ancestors are evil and their founding father is no other than Nimrod. Impossible!
God looked at the heart of the people in Nineveh. They genuinely repented and sought the Lord for mercy. Jonah could not believe such a thing. Salvation in done in the heart of people. Jonah was not long ago resurrected from the dead by God’s power, he was in Sheol and yet he did not see what God was doing in the heart of men. That’s God’s business. God decides where he is reigning. The people of Nineveh repented and because of that their hearts were right with God. As a matter of fact, God gave this city another 100 years before they finally were defeated in the famous battle of Carchemish, 605 B.C.
Jonah knew how merciful God is because he himself experienced that mercy on many occasions. But extending that mercy and compassion on his enemies was more than he could handle. Jonah had his own plan how God should reign in the lives of those inhabitants of Nineveh. Now Jonah changes his prayer. He asked God to let him die. This time for good. He has done his job. He made it to Nineveh and he preached God’s message. I am done, he said to God. Jonah rather would die than see the enemy of Israel experience God’s compassion. In other words, Jonah believed that moment that it would be better to die than physical life in a world dominated by the hated Assyrians.
I am glad God reigned in the life of Jonah and he still reigns in our life. Jonah once again experiences God’s mercy and compassion. The Lord was not finished yet with his prophet. God gently rebukes his prophet with a question: “Is it right for you to be angry?”
Then God teaches his prophet another lesson. Jonah knew how to prophesy and how to preach God’s messages. But he did not yet understand God’s love and God’s grace. So God uses a simple plant and a tiny worm to teach his prophet the next lesson. With great compassion, just as the Lord PREPARED a great fish, He also PREPARED a plant, He also PREPARED a worm, and He also prepared a strong east wind. Who do you think reigns supreme here? Jonah or God Almighty?
God prepared all these things just for Jonah. He calling and his ministry was never in question. What God was doing is showing Jonah how compassionate he is towards all people, towards Jonah as well as the people in Nineveh. He has a purpose for everyone.
Why did Jonah not get it? He was more interested in BEING RIGHT than being a tool in God’s hand.
The same God that called Jonah to go to Nineveh is the same God who calls us to be witnesses unto Him. He still reigns the same way He did during the time of Jonah. We have been set free, but we are not free to do what we want to do, but rather what HE has commanded us to do. Doing His will is experiencing absolute FREEDOM. HALLELUJAH!!!

GOD ORCHESTRATED THE ENTIRE DRAMA

When we look at our world today we think that God somehow lost control of everything that is going on. That God orchestrated the entire drama even during out lifetime becomes evident whenever we consult God’s book, the Bible, instead of consulting political or economic periodicals.
Jonah is the son of Amittai, a native of the tribal area assigned to Zebulon. This region was later a part of Galilee. Jonah was born a few miles away from the city of Nazareth, where our Lord Jesus Christ was brought up.
Why did Jonah decided NOT TO GO? The Assyrians where arch enemies of Israel. Why should Jonah get a better treatment than being killed by those enemies? A dangerous mission indeed. Well, once on the ship, Jonah proved however that he was not afraid to die.
No, Jonah hated the people in Nineveh so much that he was afraid that if they hear that God is about to destroy them, they would have a chance to repent and God would spare them.
There are a few things we need to highlight in these verses.
How did Jonah KNOW that the storm would cease once he was off the ship? Jonah told the sailors to send him to his death. He was willing to die so they could live. Did God tell Jonah to do this? I believe that it could have been so because Jonah heard God speak to him before. Remember, Jonah was now in the middle of the Mediterranean or Atlantic and how could he ever get back to Nineveh. God must have told him that He already had a great fish on standby to take him back to where he is supposed to be. Seems like Jonah was willing this time around to follow orders.
Jonah knew his God. He never starts anything and then leaves it half finished. He always finishes what He starts.
What Jonah did not know is HOW GOD IS GOING TO BRING HIM BACK WHERE HE BELONGS.
What can we learn from this?
First there is nowhere in this world God’s people can hide from God. We can run, we can disobey, we can go the opposite direction, but God will meet you and me somewhere on our journey. If necessary, a mighty storm in our life will bring us to our senses. The people who have helped us to disobey God without even knowing it will be a part of this storm. If we repent God will tell us what to do, saving those around us while at the same time bringing us back to where we belong.
God’s people are NOT CALLED to make our nation a better place or to help the world to live a better life.
God’s people are CALLED TO
GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS, BAPTIZING THEM IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER AND OF THE SON AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
TEACHING THEM TO OBSERVE ALL THINGS THAT I HAVE COMMANDED YOU, AND LO, I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS, EVEN TO THE END OF THE AGE. AMEN.
That is when we enjoy the freedom God has given us. That is when we are truly free. Not free to do our own thing as Jonah did, but free to serve Almighty God who orchestrates the entire drama. Hallelujah.