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Who Needs God?: Free Indeed!

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Psalm 119:41–48 ESV
41 Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise; 42 then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word. 43 And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules. 44 I will keep your law continually, forever and ever, 45 and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts. 46 I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame, 47 for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. 48 I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.
PRAYER
One of the greatest all time cries of freedom was yelled out by Mel Gibson, playing William Wallace, with his thick Scotish accent, unwilling to bow to the British.
When someone mentions freedom and how it is portrayed, that usually comes to mind!
OR
You know the Disney movie where the main character is kind of down and out or has family or friends that tell them they will never amount to anything. But then they realize that they shouldn’t listen to anyone else, they should just follow their dreams no matter where they lead. Where they run into obstacles but they find happiness by following their heart! And everything turn out!!
You know that Disney movie?
Where freedom to do whatever your heart tells you to is the absolute, and that anyone or thing that tries to tell you there are limitations and maybe even dangers to that kind of freedom are villains.
Here is the problem and it is a real problem.....
it is under the assumption that our heart, our will is trustworthy!!
It glorifies an autonomy that requires no input from others and definitely no input from a divine being. In fact it is the great celebration of emancipation from any sort of God that might tell me there are area I should not be free to go.
In we read words that are extremely foreign to us. And they are foreign not only because we are separated by thousands of years, language, culture, geography, but I think the biggest barrier to use understanding these words it that the concept of finding joy and freedom in something that was given to us, that we did not have say in.
The idea that we would rejoice and find our hope and freedom in the words of God for our lives is confusing in an age that equates freedom with control. In fact the idea of joining a group of people for a purpose larger than ourselves may seem to many as bondage; the group over the individual is so outdated. I should be in the control to steer my own life. Toward a calling created and implemented by me. And do not dare try to pry my freedom my hands.
Freedom is not being in control
in fact that is bondage/ and tiring.
Freedom is relinquishing control to the right thing!
This week our dog escapes numerous amounts of tie from our back yard.
When he does that we re all scared for him, because he is stupid.
One afternoon, my dad and I went into a canoe to check out Turtle Bay, just around the corner from the camp.
In our front yard, we have also had continuous visits from a large bear.
Now in his mind ,when he escapes from the backyard, all he is thinking is “freedom.”
But as we were making our way back, a storm came up.....the wind became intense and I started freaking out.
No barriers must be better than barriers
Freedom in the current understanding would mean that I was free to get myself out. That my dad handed me an oar and said follow your heart!
Dream big son and get us back.
Or my dad could have said I got this, and I could have said, not on my watch, you will not take my freedom!!
My claim to being in charge of my life would have been detrimental at that point. With my limited wisdom I could have main it very difficult to get us home.
Now in reality I was a cowering 6 years old in the front of the canoe, and my dad said, just sit.
You can lay down if you want, I will get us out of here.
In other words, this is not on you this is on me. I will get us home.
My
It was my submission at that point which gave me freedom.
In the end if I had fought my dad on who was in charge, we would have still made it, it just would have taken longer, and we both woud have been more tired.
There is a kind of freedom that only comes from relieving ourselves of complete autonomy.
The modern idea of freedom has more to do with self-assertion, the promotion of self. That we are truly free if we are able to do whatever we want.
Of releasing our control.
But what if what we want is in conflict with something else we want! Is that freedom or bondage!
And freedom comes with more choice and the more choice we have the freer and happier we are.
Further many believe that we choose our own values without any level of challenge and any government or institution that challenges ones beliefs is impinging on their freedom and is therefore bigoted or authoritarian.
and any government or institution that challenges ones beliefs is impinging on their freedom and is therefore bigoted or authoritarian.
The fewer boundaries we have on us the freer we feel.
But is that true!?
And I would argue that there are times and ways that a call for unfettered freedom in our lives brings chaos and burden not happiness; not just for ourselves bur for others.
I. Freedom is more complex than we think
An undending choice
a. Not easily understood
What does it mean to be free?
Provwerbs 28:26
Does is just mean getting whatever I want whenever I want it. And if so how does that play out with others. With family, friends, church?
And if it does is that a good thing?
Jeremiah 17:9 ESV
9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Luke 12:34 ESV
34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
our heart follows after our treasure----our heart goes where our gut goes..
Proverbs 28:26 ESV
26 Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
I mean if I go to get gelato I want to try a whole bunch of flavours before I make a decision and with every new flavour my mind changes. I thought I had just tried the BEST one, and then I try another one and all of a sudden my heart is changes/ my mind is made up....again!!
Is that really how I want to make important decisions for my life.
Or should there be something informing my freedom.
b. Can be paralyzing
Several years back Barry Swartz gave a talk on Ted Talks in which he pointed out that,...
the western world bases it happiness on freedom and that the bases of freedom is choice. The more choice the greater our freedom
This he says is so deeply embedded in the water supply that no on would think to question it.
Schwartz talks about going to buy jeans and having 1000 choices!
button fly, zipper, skinny, relaxed, distressed, (like we need that in our jeans too!!)
What kind do you want they asked at the store and he said, I want the kind that used to be the only kind.
He said he left with the best fitting pair of jeans he had ever purchased, but he was less satisfied than ever, because he figured with 1000 options their must have been a better choice.
In my week, and you will agree I’m sure… I have plenty of choice..
I can choose 20 ways to communicate with you. Facebook messenger, imessage, text, we have something called glip in the office that we use to communicate internally, email, phone call (introverts are like what is a phone call!! sounds horrible)
(later)
it is not freeing!
It is paralizing.
I find freedom when? NOT when i’m trying to write a sermon and messages keep popping up, OR having things come to mind and stopping everything I’m doing to communicate a thought before it disappeared. Then I have the joy of remembering how I communicated with that person in the past. Was that a text and email, a messenger? What was it ?
iTunes gives us less satisfaction because it gives us so much choice!
there must be a better song.
There are two effects that come about from the amount of choice in our lives and the belief that it beings freedom and happiness:
a. paralysis rather than liberation
b. less satisfied with our choices
itunes, always a better somng
Netflix always a better movie
we always ask what if I had made a different decision?
A lack of constraints actually steals life from us
What about in the more important arenas in our life; community, family, fulfillments?
The fact is unfettered freedom is in constant conflict!
There comes a point usually at about my age where people have to start asking serious questions about how they live their lives.
And usually it manifests in what is called a mid-life crisis, why is it a crisis.....because it puts important freedoms in question and tells us to pick one!!
It calls on us to limit our freedoms and when we decide we wont we have crisis.
One the lighter end it means less bacon and more exercise; make a choice!
it means authenticity of a toupee
On the heavier end it means your family or you work.
Your wife and kids or someone who make you feel better about your-self. In a follow your heart world that makes total sense!
But it is not good for individuals, for families or our society that says my feeling trumps others.
And it is not livable to say that I can and will follow all my desires.
That is why the psalmist looking with a much larger perspective and having what seems to be a very healthy understanding of his own heart says..
more choice doesn’t actually bring freedom, it brings confusion,
Psalm 119:43–45 ESV
43 And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules. 44 I will keep your law continually, forever and ever, 45 and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts.
As a result of following your ways....I will walk in an open space!
a wide place!
There is a freedom in it.
There is a freedom when I am not a slave to my whims!!
And it is better for me, for those around me and for my society.
and regret.
But what if freedom doesn’t come from a lack of of restraint but from the proper restraints.
Is that why Paul says in Romans 12:1...
Romans 12:1–2 ESV
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
1 Peter 2:16 ESV
16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
Peter writes in
1 Peter 2:16 ESV
16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
What are they getting at?
They are saying like the psalmist, that maybe freedom is more than lack of constraints.
And what Peter implies is that true freedom and life comes not from personal pursuits but communal ones. Not by solo endeavours but by living in and for the community.
Hebrews 10:25 ESV
25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Calling for commitment to church attendance and Community Groups is not just about getting buts in the seats so we can report good numbers, it is about our health!! It is about our spiritual formation! And it is actually about better living!
c. Modern Freedom sacrifices healthy community
Jonathan Haidt American Social Psychologist makes a very important point when it comes to the connection between happiness, freedom and community.
He says this,”
“Having [strong social relationships] strengthens the immune system, extends life (more than does quitting smoking), speeds recovery from surgery, and reduces the risks of depression and anxiety disorder....We need to interact and intertwine with others; we need the give and take; we need to belong.”
But then he says this...
“Ideology of extreme personal freedom can be dangerous because it encourages people to leave homes, jobs, cities, marriages in search of personal and professional fulfillment, thereby breaking the relationships that were probably their best hope for such fulfillment."
That is the part of Disney we don’t usually see. The family left behind, the brokenness of the individual who gave up family and community to pursue personal freedom.
Why? Because person freedom is portrayed above the needs fo the community.
What Haidt says, what Peter, what the apostles models and preached was a that to sacrifice the community for your freedom, is actually bondage to hopelessness ,and a lack of health; emotionally AND even physically!!
II. Freedom can be disguised bondage
you are no longer slaves to sin.....
Not just that you do damage by following any pleasure you desire, but that the reign of sin in the world does not need to rule you with fear anxiety and shame!!
That there is another way!
See most people are under the illusions that we live our lives in charge, and that when we say we will not worship God, or submit to anything outside of what we want that we are somehow autonomous, but what the Biblical writers would argue is that we are made for worship. It is in our make up and that if it isn’t Jesus, if it will be someone or something else.
And this is not just a biblical religious idea.
David Foster Wallace, a humanist and novelist, who took to task of the commonly held beliefs of what made society truly free. In a speech at Kenyon College in 2005, which has now become quite famous, and made into a book, says this to the graduates:
.....in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship.....is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.
If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you.....
Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.
They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.
___
And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self.
What is he saying......? He is saying…if you think for a second saying no to God is some sort of autonomy it is not!!
It is saying yes to the worship of somethings else! And those other things actually go against who you are and how your were created.
Some of you have sailed before. Not just sitting in the boat but actually sailing it.
When you see a sailboat out on the water skimming along at a good speed, seemingly without resistance, there is a submission that is happening with the sailor; where the wind is being obeyed, the boat is steering clear of rocks and shallows.
There is a way to live our lives where we submit and honour our given limits. And unless we submit to them, we will find ourselves continually fighting against the wind.
So we are not free to choose whatever we want if we truly want to life a life that feels free! That’s impossible!
We get the BEST freedoms when we are willing to submit our choices to the realities of how we are designed and how we are composed.
III. True freedom come from proper constraints
Real freedom comes from giving up some freedoms in order to gain other life giving ones.
With that in mind Tim Keller suggests this:
What we should be looking for are the right, the liberating constraints that fit our nature and design. Which master is the right master for our hearts and lives and so brings those right constraints?
Psam 139:1-6
Psalm 139:1–6 ESV
1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. 5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
This God who sees, does not stand far off, he comes in the person of Jesus Christ and says....don’t wander, don’t fight your make up..
Matthew 11:28–29 ESV
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
The invitation is one of constraint and giving up; yes!
There has never been any other message of Jesus than that. It is not a bait and switch.
As Deitrich Bonheoffer wrote makes it clear in his book The Cost of Discipleship....
When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.
And he didnt say that lightly....And it wasn’t just theology for him, he proclaimed it staring into the mouth of Nazi Germany..
But there is a way we are created/made to go and pursue where we are not fighting how we were created and actually find a level of freedom that we could never have in any other way.
Free from an on going lo-grade fear of the unknown, fear that our sin will catch up, that shame would be our constant companion.
See when we attach ourselves to Christ, and that is his invitation...we attach ourselves to one who gave everything for us!
If the gospel narrative is to be believed, if the story of Jesus is to be believed, and I believe there is very good reason to be believed (and we will hit that in the next few weeks), then when we submit to him, we submit to one who will not punish us if we fail him.
He has already proven that on the cross, he took our punishment for sin, so he absorbs our failures, So when we fail him, he will not punish us but FORGIVE us.....
Your career doe not make that promise! Your careers will not die for you, but it will require you to die for it.
If you live for your career, it WILL fail you.
Jesus is the only thing we can live for; as Wallace says worship, that will never exploit you.
Christianity is the only religion, the only worldview that says that God gave up his freedom so that we could experience the ultimate freedom.
Jesus gave up independence to be nailed to a cross. So that you and I could throw away whatever god we find ourselves worshipping today and submit to the ultimate liberating restraint of Christ.
That is the invitation.
For as Jesus says...
John 8:36 ESV
36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Conclusion
You are in a storm you cannot escape, only i can get you out of this
When someone mentions freedom and how it is portrayed, that usually comes to mind!
OR
You know the Disney movie where the main character is kind of down and out or has family or friends that tell them they will never amount to anything. But then they realize that they shouldn’t listen to anyone else, they should just follow their dreams no matter where they lead. Where they run into obstacles but they find happiness by following their heart! And everything turn out!!
You know that Disney movie?
Where freedom to do whatever your heart tells you to is the absolute, and that anyone or thing that tries to tell you there are limitations and maybe even dangers to that kind of freedom are villains.
Here is the problem and it is a real problem.....
it is under the assumption that our heart, our will is trustworthy!!
It glorifies an autonomy that requires no input from others and definitely no input from a divine being. In fact it is the great celebration of emancipation from any sort of God that might tell me there are area I should not be free to go.
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