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BY FAITH WE ARE SET FREE

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

26 SEPTEMBER 1993

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Proverbs 16:18-20
Matthew 21:23-32
John 8:31-36
James 2:12-13

Religion, which is in reality our human method of relating to God, is filled with many people who are so stuck upon their form of religion and their rituals, that they fail to see the presence of the Lord, even when He is right in their midst.

Such people live in the pride of their religion, or religious position.

And as we are told in Proverbs 16:18-20,

18. Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling.

If pride and haughtiness goes first, we will indeed stumble and run the risk of having certain aspects of our life destroyed.

19. It is better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly,
Than to divide the spoil with the proud.

20. He who gives attention to the word shall find good,
And blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.

Thus, faith allows us to see beyond our human-made traditions and rituals, even right into the presence of the Lord, that He may direct our lives.

With faith in the forefront of our religious life, we come to recognize our doctrines and traditions only as tools for remembrance, and as guides to discerning the truth.

The Temple leadership in Israel in the time of Jesus was caught up in the pride of their religion and religious positions, a condition that can be plainly seen in their conversation with Jesus in Matthew 21:23­32.

23. And when He had come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him as He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?"

24. And Jesus answered and said to them, "I will ask you one thing too, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Jesus knew that these men were asking Him these questions out of their pride, and not because they really wanted to know the truth. So He asked them a question, that in their answering, they in fact would answer their own question, or show their falseness and pride.

25. "The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?" And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Then why did you not believe him?'

26. "But if we say, 'From men,' we fear the multitude; for they all hold John to be a prophet."

27. And answering Jesus, they said, "We do not know." He also said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

They knew the truth, but their pride kept them from living in the truth.

Having no real faith, they were focused on the law and rituals; so they never recognized the consequences of their actions.

They lived only in the present, and could see the threat Jesus presented to their position.

But the people who were gathered around Jesus to listen to His teaching were, for the most part, different. They wanted to know the truth.

So, as a way of teaching the people who were gathered there, Jesus continues to question these leaders. Note what He says:

28. "But what do you think? A man had two sons, and. he came to the first and said, 'Son, go work today in the vineyard.'

29. "And he answered and said, 'I will, sir'; and he did not go.

30. "And he came to the second and said the same thing. But he answered and said, 'I will not'; yet he afterward regretted it and went.

31. "Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The latter." Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you that the tax­gatherers and harlots will get into the kingdom of God before you.

For by their repentance, their pride left them.

32. "For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax­gatherers and harlots did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterwards so as to believe him.”

The tax-gatherers and the harlots and all the others who came to believe were set free from their bonds of sin.

But I want you to know that Jesus loves all sinners equally; yes, He wants them to repent of their sins and believe in Him, but He still loves them the same.

We can see this love by Jesus' answer to the prideful leaders at the end of verse 31: "Truly I say to you that the tax-gatherers and harlots will get into the kingdom of God before you."

Note how Jesus left the door open for these prideful leaders: By saying that these repentant sinners would get into the kingdom of God before them, He implied that when they get rid of their pride, they too, can follow these other sinners into heaven.

But until their pride goes, they will remain imprisoned by their sins.

John records a similar conversation in chapter 8, verses 31-36.

31. Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;

32. and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

In this passage, Jesus gets very specific about who is, and who is not, His disciple.

Only the person who abides in His word is His disciple.

They are not the people who say that they believe or the ones who go to church and then go off and do their own things apart from the word of God.

It's those who truly abide in Jesus' word, who are set free from sin and death.

There are a whole lot of people out in the world fooling themselves into thinking that God will accept them into heaven, when in fact they are heading the other way.

We even put our faith in the hot water tap on our sinks, expecting that hot water will come out because it's connected to a water heater.

But it's useless to think that we can turn on the cold water tap and expect hot water to come out. Even if we left it on all day long, it would still flow cold.

Likewise, we are only fooling ourselves if we think the Holy Spirit will abide in us if we have turned on a worldly way of life.

In fact, He only enters when we turn from our former worldly ways, and abide in Jesus Christ and His word.

And it is the Holy Spirit who comforts us and helps us to remain in God's word, with a life that reflects Jesus Christ.

This is faith! This is being free!

But note the way the people answered Jesus:

33. They answered Him, "We are Abraham's offspring, and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, 'You shall become free'?"

They so easily forgot that they were under Roman rule, and never really were politically free since before the Babylonian captivity.

But Jesus had something else in mind.

34. Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.

35. "And the slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever.

36. "If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”

We simply can't make ourselves free, only the Son of God can do that.

And He only does this when we learn the truth, and then by faith abide in it.

Listen to how James expresses it, in 2:12-13.

12. So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.

13. For judgment will be merciless to the one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

If more of us really thought about going to hell, more of us would do something to free ourselves from its grip.

And if we truly want to be free, we must begin by turning our eyes upon Jesus, and then live a life that's reflective of our being in His presence.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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