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THE FREEDOM OF THE NEW WAY Romans 7:6 With grateful acknowledgement of these sources of direction and inspiration: the Holy Spirit; the Word of God; Larry Crabb, Inside Out and The Pressure’s Off; John Piper, The Hidden Smile of God and Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ; Anne Graham Lotz, My Heart’s Cry   July 3, 2005 Given by: Pastor Rich Bersett [Index of Past Messages] Introduction I want to give thanks to God almighty who has, in His mercy and grace, smiled on this great nation and, in spite of our unworthiness and our consistent mistreatment of His blessings, has continued to pour out strength and prosperity on the United States of America. It behooves us to be mindful of these things and to be thankful for them. You’ll recognize this partial quote, I’m sure: “…our forefathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty…” Liberty, freedom. It is why they came, it is what they dreamed, it is what hundreds of thousands have died for since. It is our great blessing, and it is our stewardship as a nation. Don’t forget to pray for leaders and those in authority over you, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men. It isn’t political freedom I want to address this morning, but spiritual freedom. God has provided for those who will receive it a great salvation, a deliverance, and incredible freedom through Jesus Christ. So central to our life in Christ is the concept of freedom that the apostle Paul could even say, It is for freedom that Christ has set us free… [webmasters note Galatians 5:1] What exactly is the freedom that Christianity, uniquely and exclusively, makes available to those who trust in Christ? There are at least three areas of freedom we have been given through the provision of Christ at the cross. In each of these areas Christian freedom replaces a form of bondage--even slavery--into which we have fallen due to sin. Some people love to ask, is it because of Adam’s sin or is it because of our own sin that we are under a spiritual death penalty? Well, yes! That’s the answer given to us in Romans 5:12 where Paul says that sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned… The Bible is consistently clear on this negative theme: sinful human beings are in bondage! One of our members just returned from a mission trip with some folks from another church. That group was accompanied by a clergy woman who was quite liberal. She insisted at the beginning that when they taught people they shouldn’t focus on the negative stuff like beings sinners. She said theirs was to be a “positive message.” Listen, in the first place, the Bible is crystal clear, if not downright negative about the fact that we are all sinners, and we’re lost and condemned. That may seem negative, but it’s truth! If my mechanic looked over my car and noticed something seriously wrong with the water pump, I wouldn’t want him saying to me. Don’t worry—everything’s fine. You should have a wonderful time driving through the desert. You’re good! Secondly, if we aren’t desperately lost, why did Jesus die? Why have any faith in Him? Why go on any mission trips? And lastly, the bad news of our condition is what makes the good news…good news! We need a savior and God loved us enough to send the very best—His only-begotten Son. And our response needs to be a whole lot better than ignoring the reality of sin and judgment. We should be saying “Thank you, Lord, for sending us a redeemer to get us out of the dreadful and desperate situation we are in! And, by the way, thank you also for caring enough to tell us honestly just what is wrong with us!” The fact is, we are in bondage (slavery) and we need a deliverer. We are in bondage, the scriptures teach, to sin and death. It couldn’t be any plainer than Romans 3:23 – All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That is bad news, no question about it. But Romans 6:23 adds more bad news, saying that the wages of sin is death… Because everyone has sinned, we are all equally condemned under God’s righteous judgment. We may not like that bit of truth, but it is nevertheless true. We can’t just wish it away. Death here is more than physical death, although that is linked to sin as early in the Bible as Genesis 3. Death is spiritual separation from God for eternity. Sin and death. These are our lot as sinners. We are under indictment by God and His righteous law. The Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (Galatians 3:22) We are therefore in bondage to sin, “slaves to sin” (Romans 6:20). We need a Savior. According to the Bible, we are not only in bondage to sin and its consequential death, but we are also, as sinners, in bondage to our sinful nature. What is our sinful nature? It is our overwhelming tendency to continue in a life of sin. That is, our very souls have been negatively affected by sin, so much so that we can hardly even think good thoughts, let alone behave righteously. All of our natural desires and appetites have been poisoned by the sin in us, so that even the most natural of impulses get warped out of their intended shape. Now as sinful people, we don’t just eat to live, but we tend to go in extreme directions—from bulimia to anorexia to gluttony. Sex is no longer the perfect expression of love between a husband and wife; it is the recreation of millions who recklessly practice it outside the limits of its intended venue. Aberrations come in all forms: homosexual behavior, weird erotic behaviors, including the violence of rape and the molestation of children. Romans 8:5-8 – Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. The God-given enjoyment of food and drink and a satisfying relationship with Him give way in humankind’s sinful nature to drunkenness, drugs and the breaking of taboos to experiment with anything and everything, hoping to get another, greater thrill. And we try to convince ourselves that through abnormal behaviors and addictions we are gaining freedom and happiness, but it all leads inexorably to misery and more bondage, the ever-worsening bondage of our sinful natures. Sinners need a savior, a deliverer. Thirdly, the Bible says we sinners are also in bondage to a spirit of religion that keeps us convinced that if we just do enough good, it will eventually outweigh the bad and will win us enough favor with God that He will let us into heaven. Closely related is the notion that God cannot possibly judge people, because He loves them and wouldn’t ever send them to hell. The only thing wrong with this brand of thinking is that it’s wrong. It simply isn’t that way, according to God’s Word. Not too long ago I greased the rollers and chain on my electric garage door opener. The grease designed for that job is really messy, and if you apply it the way you’re supposed to, you will make an awful mess. I grabbed an old rag from my very organized workbench and cleaned up the messy spillage. Very soon I had a rag that was virtually uncleanable. I did the only reasonable thing I could do with it. I wadded it up and pitched it into the trash. There was no way I was going to try to launder it back to usefulness. The Bible’s assessment of even our very best efforts as sinners is like trying to offer God such a filthy rag as a gift. (Isaiah 64:6) But the devil keeps us sinful people convinced that there is a chance we can get good enough on our own, if we just keep trying. We won’t, though. Why? Because sin is a terminal disease—and you don’t get better; you just keep getting worse. Until you find the cure. We Christians know—there is no cure outside of Jesus Christ. And it is only in Him that we find freedom from our bondages. The reason is that He alone can do it for us. Nobody else has loved us enough to go to the lengths He did to save us. Nobody else has the credentials to save us. But He is the sinless Son of God, and His sacrifice is enough to save the entire world full of sinners if they will come to Him in faith. His sacrifice is enough to save you, even if you are the worst of all sinners ever born. When an individual says yes to Jesus Christ, committing his life to the Lord, Jesus saves him from His sin, His sin nature and futile religious attempts at self-salvation. He is the complete answer to all our needs because only His sacrifice buys our freedom. Because of how much Jesus loves us and what He has done for us, we can be free from our sins, and the consequences of those sins. The Son of God, the holy Lord of all, is willing to forgive you of all your sin. Isn’t that awesome? And here is how you may receive that forgiveness and that pardon from the eternal death sentence: come to Him in humble repentance and faith and give your life over to Him, trusting Him to save you. He will not let you down. Yes, every sin you’ve ever committed, in thought, word or deed, will be remitted if you trust Him. But what about that stubborn sin nature that still hangs on to even the most avid Christian. What about that perennial tendency to keep sinning in ways we’ve become accustomed to and in areas we enjoy? Jesus is your deliverer there, too. The Bible says that He is the double cure of that ongoing sinful nature. First, once you are a child of God you may enjoy forgiveness for your sins, on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice, for the rest of your life, if you will just confess that sin to Him and ask for His forgiveness. Secondly, He gives you the gift of His own abiding presence in your life to help you in the lifelong battle against this rebellious sin nature. Along with forgiving your past, present and future sins, God also places His own Spirit within you. And He helps you in countless ways to live for Him. This is how He brings you His gradual, growing freedom from the sinful nature you live with. Here I want to make two things clear. First, it is He who is in charge of this sanctifying process, not you. His power at work within you will do it—not you trying to muster up your own ability. The key is to stay humble before Him, listening to His leading and being instantly obedient. Secondly, remember it is a process. It will not be finished or perfect until you meet the Lord face to face, although it will be at that point, thank God. The worst thing you can do is get in a hurry and start to take over the business of your own maturity. That simply leads you back into the bondage to your sinful nature. Thank God today that He has given you freedom from your “self” and all your foibles and sinful tendencies, and start celebrating your freedom by loving and obeying Him in everything. This obedience is not, of course, in order to earn your salvation (or even to try to pay Him back for it)—it is rather your loving response to His grace out of gratitude and a true desire to want to glorify Him. That brings me to the final issue—the freedom Christ brings us from our bondage to religion. When Paul wrote to the Galatians he was very direct as he dealt with them. They had trusted in Christ for their salvation and had been freed from their sins. They had received the Holy Spirit and were being delivered from their sinful natures. But they were not continuing in their walk in Christ because of some false teaching they were receiving. Teachers from among the Jews had come in among them and were misleading them into believing that, in addition to their faith in Christ, they also needed to obey the law and customs of Judaism. This drew a strong response from the apostle, and he wrote to correct the issue. His primary point was that the Galatians had received the Holy Spirit because of their faith response to the message of the gospel, but they were jeopardizing that faith by mixing in a reliance on their own good works of trusting their obedience to the law and traditions. This is what I am calling “religious bondage” and it does not mean it is wrong to obey the commandments. What was wrong was the Galatian Christians were thinking they were earning merit toward their salvation by doing so. In other words—they HAD to obey the law in order to maintain their salvation. Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?... Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? …All who rely on observing the law are under a curse… Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us…[webmasters note Galatians 3:3-13] Here is the contrast, and the point I have coming to. We don’t do religion in order to earn our salvation from God (or to somehow repay Him for what He’s done). Our ministry to the Lord is BECAUSE He saved us, not to CONVINCE Him to save us. Religious living is distorted and destructive of our relationship to God when we do it to earn His favor. He loved us while we were yet sinners and because of that great love He saved us. We can never earn or repay God for what He has done. All we can do is willingly and thankfully surrender our lives to the One who loved us so. The key to living for the Lord is just the opposite of relying on our own strength and resolve. It is living by His Spirit whom He sent into the life of each child of faith. The Spirit is our motivation, our power and our personal religious director. Look at Romans 7:6 – we have been released from the law so that we serve in the “new way” of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. I have always loved the story of the Bolshevik woman who married a man who was a real ogre. She loved him and wanted to please him. He would return from work each day and command her to take off his work boots and clean them and shine them. He expected his dinner hot and ready when he wanted to eat. He treated her like a possession and not a person. The woman continued to try to please him by doing everything the best she could. She often failed and had to apologize under the vicious scolding of her husband. One day her husband died. She was sad, but secretly relieved. Many months later she met another man and fell in love with him. He was kind and loving and very tender toward her. He asked her to marry him and she did. Every day when he returned from work she gladly had his dinner made. As soon as he walked in the door she kissed him and told him to sit down. She took off his boots without being asked, and cleaned and shined them. She enjoyed serving her husband’s every need, and he always smiled and treated her with tender love and care. Romans 8 – Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit… Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You however are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. (verses 1-4, 8-9) Christians, we are no longer under the law. We serve the Lord because we have experienced His grace and love toward us. Serving the Lord is a joyful privilege for those who have been redeemed. The difference is that we are now living in the realm of the Spirit. Before, under the law in our sinful human nature, we tried to please God and couldn’t. Now, in the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to do even better than keep the law; we can excel at it. And we excel precisely because we are focused on life in the Spirit and not life under the law of sin and death. The difference between Christian faith and religion is huge. We don’t do religion, but we serve in the NEW WAY. It is not another religious tradition, another set of laws and commandments and it is certainly not another way to try to earn God’s forgiveness or pay Him back for our salvation. It isn’t a new religion—it is a new WAY. What this means is we have been given FREEDOM from the law of sin and death, freedom from sin, freedom from our sinful natures and freedom from stifling religious systems. We are free to love and serve the Lord in joy and gratitude. I want to make one specific observation about this Spirit life, and that is this: we live in submission to God’s loving Spirit. Ours is a dynamic walk, following a person, not a stultifying series of efforts trying to keep a list of commandments. And since we want to please the Lord, we can, because we are led and empowered by His Spirit. Here is an important key to living in the Spirit and not getting overcome by the law of sin and death, the sinful nature or any kind of religious bondage. Look to the Spirit of God for everything. To even look at temptation or the security of religious systems or even the law, with a view to keeping it, will lead us away from life in the Spirit. Paul said, So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature…if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law… Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. [webmasters note Galatians 5:16-25] I want to encourage you, as we come to the table of the Lord, that you thank Him for the freedom He has given you in Christ, and for the Keeper of that freedom—His own Spirit placed in our hearts and lives.   [Back to Top]    
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