Tag Archives: Freedom

Faith Is Freedom

given on Sunday, July 2, 2017

Scripture connections:

 Opening: Psalm 68:19-20, NLT

19 Praise the Lord; praise God our savior!
For each day he carries us in his arms. Interlude
20 Our God is a God who saves!
The Sovereign Lord rescues us from death.

 

Sermon:

Romans 5:20-21, NLT

20 God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Romans 6:3-4, 10-12 & 14, NLT

Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. . . .

 

10 When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. 12 Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. . . .   14 Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.

 

Romans 7:4-6, NLT

So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God.  When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death.  But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.

 

Closing: Ephesians 1:6-7, NLT

So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.

 

Reflection: Faith Is Freedom

 

I picked up the latest copy of Reader’s Digest the other day and began absent mindedly flipping through the pages starting at the back. The first thing that caught my attention was a series of pages with colorful maps on them. I slowed to figure out what was being shared—“Who Knew? You say tomato. . .” was the article title and each map simply showed the differences in terminology Americans use. For instance, the western 1/3 of the country uses ‘fireflies’ while the rest of the country, primarily the Midwest and South, uses ‘lightning bugs.”

Interesting, but what else was in the magazine?

In a world that the print media is struggling to survive, the Reader’s Digest holds a special place in my life. We grew up with it and it resided in the bathroom. By the end of the month, it was well dog-eared. I loved the humor sections, the drama in real life, and who knew what else would capture me. This month’s edition is a special issue, “Your America,” and is filled with features about all facets of our lives.

The brief story, “Sergeant Turner’s Ride Home,” caught my attention. A veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder committed suicide in California, but his family was in George and could not afford to claim his ashes. The Marines stepped in and tried to figure out the best way to get him home.

We live in a country that has struggled to understand how to live with God and country while not infringing on anybody’s individual freedoms. Yet, God works in mysterious ways and this holiday weekend we are graphically reminded how important freedom is. Sometimes we forget that freedom is not a political platform of any one party—Democrat, Republican, Independent, etc. Freedom is living in a manner that allows for free decisions about how we live.

All too often, the simplest solution to a problem is forgotten by all the legalistic hoops that humans have created in an effort to live in an orderly, independent, free society. The answer is so simple: love one another as you want to be loved. God’s Golden Rule solves all the complications that one might encounter in daily life, yet it is ignored as our elected officials try to find ways to spell out the specifics and include all the different exceptions to a rule it can.

Faith is freedom. God is. God loves. And we mess things up over and over because we are human. We have the ability to make decisions on our own. The gift of free will has caused the downfall of humanity over and over. Paul, himself, experienced the rigidity of the Jewish faith, the legal structure of the Roman government, and God’s attention-getting blindness. He knew free will, he knew the Jewish laws, and as a Roman citizen he experienced unique privileges. Yet he had to be blinded to see that true freedom comes from faith in God.

Do we have to be blinded in order to see, too? Paul wrote to the Romans in order to introduce himself, but also to outline what faith means in the lives of the new Christians whether they were Jews or Gentiles. He knew the complex Jewish rules. He was a Roman citizen, too, so he knew the civic laws under which he had to live. But when he was blinded and learned the extent of God’s forgiveness, he was freed of all the restrictive laws of the Pharisees and the Romans.

In his letter, he outlines the connection of the sinfulness of humanity to God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ:

21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

The life and teaching of Jesus was designed to free us from all the sins of our own choosing and from all the evil outside forces that could enslave us too. Choosing to accept God’s grace and the forgiveness provided through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus provides us with freedom:

Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death?

 

Once we have accepted Jesus Christ as the means of salvation, we are choosing to live by the simplest laws possible. First, we chose to love God above all else; and then we chose to make daily decisions based on the Golden Rule. The freedom we experience from our faith provides unlimited joy. It guides our decisions, our relationships, and our perspective in life:

11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. 12 Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.

 

As Americans, we celebrate the birthday of this country this week; but sadly, we have failed to celebrate the fact that we are Christians first who are free from sin and all earthly constraints because God loved us so much that Jesus Christ was sent to demonstrate how to live the very freedom that faith in God provides.

As Americans who are Christian first, the decisions we make are to fulfill the commandment to love one another as we want to be loved. Christian freedom is the foundation to live freely loving one another without fear that we are breaking any law that humanity can design

Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.

 

Paul’s letter may have been written to the Romans back 2,000 years ago, but the words apply to us here in America right now, too. We are to live our faith freely to do all that we can in all the ways that we can for all that we can.

The Marines freely did what they were called to do. They could not allow Sergeant Turner’s ashes to be simply boxed up and sent via FedEx or any other delivery service to his family. The Patriot Guard Riders, American Legion motorcyclists who provide escort services to the veterans, organized the return, “. . . a caravan—or as they described it, a ‘pony express of iron horses’”:

“On August 5, 2015, dozens of Patriot Guard Riders, many veterans themselves, accompanied Turner from Ontario, California to a Love’s truck stop in Lake Havasu, Arizona, on the California border. A veteran wearing white gloves somberly handed off the wooden box containing Turner’s ashes to the PGR captain from Arizona. Then the Arizona chapter drove the ashes 388 miles to the New Mexico border. The handing-off ceremony was repeated, and then the New Mexico Patriot Guard Riders transported the ashes to Texas, and so on until the ashes reached Georgia five days and some 2,000 miles after leaving California.

“The great state of Georgia proudly accepts this man on the final leg of his return home,” the captain of the Georgia PGR told his Alabama counterpart. “Thank you, Alabama, for bringing him home.” (Simmons 2017)

 

Faith is freedom, but freedom does come with a responsibility and that is to live your life in relationship with God. Accepting Jesus Christ as your savior, being baptized, and participating in a faith community provides the means to live a Christ-centered life with others to assure that we continue to grow in faith, be accountable to God, and to serve one another in love.

Members of the Patriot Guard demonstrated the very principles that God asks of us to love one another as we want to be loved. The riders did not know Turner personally, but they demonstrated their love for a fellow patriot by escorting his ashes across the country. Do we live our lives demonstrating love of one another?

As we step to the table to share in the bread and the cup, we can celebrate our freedom from sin. Faith is freedom. God loves us so much he sent Jesus Christ to demonstrate how to live our faith freely. He assures us that we are saved from our sins by our faith. We accept that gift of salvation at our baptism, we remember it through communion, and we live it freely as we love one another in the same manner that Jesus Christ showed us.

Closing prayer

Dear almighty and loving God,

 

We celebrate the freedom

that you have designed for us.

Even when we stumble and stray,

You continue to love us:

Loving us so much

that you forgive us when we ask.

 

During the week ahead,

May the freedom of our country

Protect all those who seek

To live the freedom you provide.

 

Guide us to live responsibly

Protecting the freedom you provide.

Help our faith be beacons of hope

To those still seeking freedom from sin.

 

May our actions of love for one another

Provide evidence of your love

In your name

and of the Son

and of the Holy Ghost, amen.

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How does God’s law fit into our American community?

given on Sunday, July 3, 2026

Scripture references:

According to the Gospel: John 15:11-15, MSG

“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.

 

Guiding scriptures: (esp. when talking freedom)

 

  • Galatians 3: 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile,[a] slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

  • Galatians 5: 13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.

 

Guiding scripture: Galatians 6:7-10, NLT

Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

 

Reflection:

 

Americans are celebrating this weekend—at least as much as the weather will allow—but the celebration marks the country’s 240th year since its declaration of independence from the British. Consider that time span. What has this country experienced? Why has it survived? What will the future be—another 240 years?

These questions cannot be answered, but reviewing history we can trace the changes that the nation has experienced. Not all the stories are happy, not all turned out as citizens expected, yet the country has existed for 240 years and that is worthy of a celebration.

The question for today’s Christians, though, is challenging: How does God’s law fit into our American community? Certainly this is not a unique or even novel question to ask, but for this 2016 year, the question seems to spring up in the midst of mudslinging, verbal attacks, and sometimes even worse behaviors as the country braces for the election season this fall.

God has seen it all before, I am sure. We have the stories of the Old Testament that share similar human behaviors just not on the global video screens we have sharing every bit of it in real time in full color right in our own homes. There seems no escape from the unethical, un-Christian behaviors playing out before us.

The negative behaviors are exhausting. We add to that the continual news feeds of the horrible atrocities whether nature inflicted or human inflicted. The world needs God as much, if not more, than it ever has needed him, especially since God is love.

God’s creation is losing the battle with evil and Christians cannot give up. God created the Old Law in order to assure that humanity could live in harmony with each other but also with the rest of God’s creation. A set of ten laws was all God thought was needed. He gave them to Moses to implement and the ancient Israelites were to follow them.

For thousands of years, regardless of the geographical location of the Israelites or the political powers that were ruling the lands, the Israelites were held accountable to the Ten Commandments. Still more laws were added to the original ten; judgments were made, punishments metered out, and the Old Law became unmanageable.

To shorten the recap of God’s faithful and the complications that developed during those ancient times, 21st century Christians can jump ahead knowing that God decided to make a change. Out with the Old Law and in with the New Law.

Certainly the Old Law could have worked, but God could not get the message to the faithful that the application of the Old Law became overly complicated. Action was needed and God did act. The answer to the 21st century question was answered over 2000 years ago when God arrived in the form of man, Jesus Christ.

There was no cataclysmic event destroying all the life on earth, rather there was the simple birth of a baby and a span of 33 years as that child grew up, became an adult, and began his ministry that ended in his death and miraculous resurrection. The simple New Law replaced the Old Law—Love one another, as you want to be loved.

How simple. One law. One rule to learn and to follow. One, not ten and not a thousand or more that had been created by the Pharisees trying to make sure the ten were followed.   One law is all God said we needed then and all we still need today.

The question that seems to confuse us is how do we live with just one law today, in the 21st century, in our community, in our nation, in our continent within the global community. The answer seems overly simple and that might be the problem. That one law should evaluate each action of each person. The rubric or the answer key is just one question: Does that action/word/behavior show that you love others as you love yourself?

For instance, driving down the highway and needing to move into another lane does the action show that you have put the others safety first or does the action put self first at the cost of others safety and comfort? Does calling up a friend with the latest scuttlebutt about a neighbor share love for that person or does it hurt that person? When God checks you on how well you are carrying out his law, do you pass the test or do your fail?

The New Law, the Golden Rule, is now over 2000 years old and the news reports are filled with the very behaviors God does not want to see. We are God’s hands on this earth, and we are responsible to apply the New Law in the best way we can. That is how we use God’s law in the 21st century.

Use God’s law daily. Find ways to treat family, friends, and neighbors, even strangers the same way you want to be treated. The more we use the New Law, the more we internalize God’s love.

Paul knew first handed the power of God’s love. It was strong enough to blind the Pharisee Saul persecuting the earliest Christians. God used that same love to heal Saul and to send him as a missionary sharing the message beyond Jesus’ own world.

As the Christian missionary, Paul used any means he could to share the story and he refused to let even the Galatians corrupt the New Law by scolding them and reminding them how to live under the new law. In his letter, he explained how to focus on living the law:

  • Galatians 3: 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile,[a] slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

  • Galatians 5: 13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.

 

These verses, as well as the entire letter, apply to us right now. The new Christians in Galalea were no different than we Christians here in our own American community nor any other global community.

God’s law frees us from all worldly restraints. Applying God’s law supersedes all laws. Living by the Golden Rule eliminates any risk of breaking any human rule. God’s law answers our question “How does God’s law fit into our American community?”

Live God’s law and we are free. Just remember that with that freedom comes a responsibility to love one another. Love is the method we use to operate in the home, in the neighborhood, in our country and even around this globe. The freedom we experience living God’s law also calls us to serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13).

You are called to love one another. You are called to serve one another in love. You are commissioned by God to share his love in any way that you can. Use Paul’s words to check yourself.

  • Are you serving one another in love as you want to be served?
  • Are you willing to give up a few minutes or even hours to serve others in some way you might not typically do?
  • Are you able to open a door to someone new?
  • Are you sure that you reflect God’s love to all you meet?

This Independence Day is special for us as American Christians, but it is also a time to review what freedom is. Following God’s law truly frees us from all the worldly restraints and that gives us such joy that it explodes inside us like the fireworks sparkling above us as we celebrate our national American heritage. Let others find God sparkling in your life, lighting others up in love, too.

Closing prayer

Dear Loving Father,

Thank you for the freedom your New Law

gives each and every one of your faithful.

 

We acknowledge that we all too often

fail to serve one another in love.

 

We ask your forgiveness for our flaws,

our closed hearts, doors, and minds.

 

Thank you for the strength of Paul’s words

teaching us how to live by the Golden Rule.

 

We ask you to fill us with the Holy Spirit

so we may share your freedom with others.

 

We ask you to open the hearts, doors and minds

to others in our community so they are free, too.

 

And when our days seem gloomy and dreary,

let your Son shine in our lives so others find the way.

 

In the name of you, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

grant us peace, now and forever. Amen.

 

 

 

 

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