Freedom In My Heart

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Freedom in my Heart. What does it mean to have freedom? How often we take our freedoms for granted. What is freedom, how can we experience it, and what can we do to protect it? Let us open God’s word, and do a little study on the meaning of freedom. I call this section:

The Word of Freedom

Our only freedom is found in Christ.

John 8:31-32 If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

By contrast, to be separated from Christ is to be entangled in a yoke of bondage.

Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

The key to this freedom is found in Christ’s forgiveness. But notice how Jesus prayed, in the Lord’s prayer:

Mark 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

It would seem, from this verse, that the freedom we experience in Christ, is only proportional to the freedom we grant to our fellow mankind.

How did Jesus demonstrate the principle of freedom in the economy of the gospel?

Matthew 20:25-28 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

 

Jesus came as the king of a new kingdom, but in doing so, He did not usurp or replace the authority of the civil governments of this earth. At least, not at this time. He taught his disciples:

Mark 12:17 Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, and to God the things that are God's.

John 18:36-37 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

Unlike the nation of Israel, which was established as a theocracy, Jesus did not come to establish the Christian church as a political or earthly form of government. Paul wrote this to the Roman Christians:

Romans 13:1-2,7 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. … 7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

With these thoughts in mind, let us take a few minutes to review the history of our own country. We’ve been studying the Word of Freedom, let’s move on to:

The Nation of Freedom

The fathers of our nation knew what it meant to live without freedom. For centuries, Christians who voiced their disagreement with the state-churches of the Old World were repressed and persecuted. Families fled their native lands and set out, as pilgrims, on the long and dangerous voyage to the New World with one object in view—to find a new land in which they could worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience. Those who framed the constitution of this country, embedded into the core of our existence the principle of the separation of church and state.

“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Our fathers were no stranger to that came from a close alliance between the church and the state. What would seem to be a mutually beneficial relationship inevitably worked to degrade the integrity of both. True, churches would be filled, but many would come, not for worship, but for political gain, or to escape punishment. True, the government offices would be filled with Christian nobles, but these Christians-turned-rules would use their power to persecute and crush any belief that disagreed with their own.

When the United States of America established a republic—a self-governing nation built on the principles of liberty—this nation flourished. Thinking men and women from every place on earth flocked to our shores, driven here by oppression and persecution in their native lands. Within a few short years, this nation rose to prominence and became a model of freedom and self-government to the nations of the world.

Of course, the history of freedom here in this country has not been without its blight. The practice of slavery, and the American Civil War which brought it to its end, nearly obliterated this country. But we have come through, and since the abolishon of slavary this nation of freedom has shone brighter than ever.

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and loose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. - Abraham Lincoln

The prophesies of Revelation, chapter 13, pictures two beasts—first a leopard-like beast, rising out of the sea, with 7 heads and 10 horns. A second beast then rises out of the earth, with two lamb-like horns. Many students of Bible prophecy have understood this second beast, with it’s lamb-like horns, to represent the United States of America. If this is true, then Revelation 13:12 should give pause to you and me, who live in this land where we enjoy such peace and freedom.

And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.”

Causing those who dwell on the earth to worship. The Bible is clear and unequivocal. vs. 16-17:

And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”

Let me be clear—I’m not making this up. Seventh-day Adventists have been teaching this for over 150 years. A hundred years ago, people laughed at us! “What! How can you believe such a thing? America could never abrogate the principle of the separation of church and state! It’s written in our constitution.”

Today, people still laugh at us—but for the opposite reason. “What? You believe in the separation of church and state? What a silly idea! Can’t you see we’re supposed to be a Christian nation? The constitution—that’s not really what they meant. It needs to be updated.”

Friends, I’m telling the truth—I am amazed. I should not be surprised that the Bible is being fulfilled, but I am amazed to see it happening so quickly, before our very eyes. We—the people of America—have done an about-face on our belief in the separation of church and state. I don’t want to enter a political debate here, but I can’t help but point out what should be obvious to all of us.

The executive order that our president has signed, temporarily banning immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries—along with the rhetoric that has come from this administration against the Muslim faith—is tantamount to establishing a religious test to anyone entering this country. Politics aside, this is very troubling to me. Have we forgotten our history so quickly?

The president has also promised to revoke the Johnson amendment—a law that prohibits churches from endorsing political candidates or engaging in political campaigns. It is without a doubt that our current president was greatly helped in the last election by the vote of the Evangelical Christian community. While I feel that we all should engage in our civic duty, I’m also concerned that this is one more barrier being broken down between church and state. The more the church becomes engaged in the election process, the more the political leaders may feel indebted to the churches, or vise versa. It sets a dangerous precedent for the encroachment of our religious liberties.

These are only a couple of the most recent examples. We could spend all day talking about the changes that our nation has been making—how our liberties are being eroded before our very eyes, and with our willing consent. But we’ll save that discussion for another time.

Let me just point out this simple principle: Civil governments, by nature, must use force to coerce its subjects to abide by the rule of law. The principles of Christ’s government, as we have seen, are antithetical to the use of force. Like oil and water, these two principles cannot mix.

My Country ‘tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing:
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountain side
Let freedom ring!

Our fathers’ God, to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright
With freedom’s holy light;
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King!
(Samuel F. Smith)

How can we make this practical? What can we do, to insure that we and our families can continue to enjoy freedom of conscience? There are some things we can do. We can write our senators and representatives in government, and explain to them our concerns. We still have the freedom to engage in civic life, and I encourage each and every one of you—get involved. Study into the issues, and let your voice be heard in your own community. Talk to people in local and state government, and yes even in the federal government, and make a difference. Get involved, and you never know where the Lord might place you. Daniel of old became the prime minister of Babylon. Today, for the first time in history, a Seventh-day Adventist is serving on the cabinet of the United States President.

Our church publishes this periodical, Liberty Magazine, which we send to community and civic leaders and officials around the nation. At the end of our service today, we will be taking up a special offering, as we do each year, so that this magazine can go to leaders right here in our community in McCreary county.

We’ve heard the Word of Freedom. We’ve discussed our place in this Nation of Freedom. Last, but not least, I’d like to look at the principles of:

The Life of Freedom

But, there’s more we can do. There’s something every one of us must do, in order to protect this freedom that we all enjoy. In fact, if you do this, I can guarantee you’ll have freedom for the rest of your life. I call it living the life of freedom. You might not be involved in civic activities. Maybe you don’t want to touch politics with a 10-foot pole. I won’t blame you! But I urge you—I implore you—study to live the life of freedom. If you do this one thing, I can guarantee that no one will ever be able to take your freedom away.

What do I mean by this? It goes right back to where we started-to the heart of what it means to have freedom in Christ. Jesus said:

John 8:31-32 If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

Continuing in God’s word—getting to know Jesus—that will make you free. Jesus gives us freedom, and when we experience true freedom in Him, nothing can take that away.

John 15:17-19 These things I command you, that ye love one another. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

When the world sees the freedom that Christ has to offer, if they reject that freedom, they will also reject us. Yes, we will suffer persecution. That is inevitable for the Christian.

John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

How does this affect our relations to other people? What does it mean to “love one another”? Love is freedom. Love is letting go. When God made the angels, he made Lucifer, and in His love He allowed His creation the freedom to rebel. We know that Lucifer chose to rebel.

Adam and Eve were given the freedom to choose, and they, too, chose to go against God. Oh, I can only imagine how much God wished to stop Eve from putting her hand to the tree! But He didn’t. He allowed her to choose, because He knew it was the only way He could allow her to love.

So, you and I can show God’s love by demonstrating His principle of freedom in our day-to-day relationships.

The Gospel teaches me that I can sit down next to a muslim, and count him (or her) as a brother (or sister). I can love that person; I can value his opinions and beliefs, even though I may disagree with them. I can love that individual as a person, whether or not he or she may ever accept Christ, or not. Of course, as I have opportunity, I will want to share my faith with him, but I will be equally interested to hear his own unique experiences in life, so that I can better relate to his experience.

Think about this—we could spend the next hour on this subject alone. Honestly, the Lord still has a lot to teach me in this area, too.

Think about this, the next time your about to speak a harsh or critical word: Do I love the person I’m speaking to (or about) like Christ loves them? Do I love them enough to let them make a wrong choice, even if I have to bear the consequences of that choice?

This principle of freedom can apply anywhere. We come to church, and sit next to our brothers and sisters in the pew. But do you really think we all believe exactly the same? We all read the same Bible, but do we all understand it the same way? How many of us are quick to correct a brother, or condemn a sister, for something she did or said?

You know, I think in our homes and families, we have a lot of work to do in learning this principle of freedom. We can come to church and put on a good face, but the doors of the home can often cover all sorts of abuses. So many loving Christian women—and yes, men too—are being abused by other Christian family members. Husbands and wives, parents and children. The abuse doesn’t have to be physical or sexual abuse, although too often it is. But even more common are the less-visible forms of abuse—emotional abuse, and yes, even spiritual abuse.

Did you know there’s such a thing as spiritual abuse? If you use the Word of God to try and compel another person, that’s spiritual abuse. God’s word isn’t about force, it’s about love. He doesn’t push you—He draws you. That’s what we’ve been talking about today. It doesn’t have to be a powerful church-state entity to bring on persecution. It happens every day in homes around this country. It doesn’t have to be forcing a person to go against their conscience, either.

Spiritual abuse happens when a person re-programs the conscience of another individual, to the point that they can exercise almost total control over that person, in the place of God. An extreme example of this was the Jonestown Massacre, when the psychopath Jim Jones convinced 900 of his followers to commit suicide by drinking poison.

But abuse doesn’t have to go to that extreme, in order to qualify as spiritual abuse. Any time a person uses religion as a way to control or manipulate another person, that’s spiritual abuse—and it leaves horrible scars, as bad or worse than any other kind of abuse.

How can you live a life of freedom? The gospel of Christ breaks the bonds of spiritual and emotional abuse that tie us down to those who are using us. The gospel frees us, gives us an identity all our own, and points us to Christ, who doesn’t compel, but stands waiting to welcome us home.

As we sit here, where do you fall in this picture? Have you been hurt and abused? Have you even found yourself perpetuating the cycle of hurt and abuse? Yes, we have been hurt—many of us badly so. You know, you can be hurt the worst by those closest to you—a spouse, a parent, a child, or a trusted friend.

Jesus came to this world, to give us a second chance, and we murdered him.In His dying words on the cross, He prayed, “Father, forgive them.” In dying at our hands, He forgave us. And as he forgave, He taught us also to forgive. For us, who have been hurt and abused, can we forgive, and give our brothers and sisters the freedom to love again?

That’s the beautiful thing about freedom. Freedom is the ability to turn around, once again—to return to God and experience the re-birth and new life that he has to offer.