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HOW TO EXPERIENCE REAL FREEDOM-Part 2

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HOW TO EXPERIENCE REAL FREEDOM

Feeling Free Again  -  Part 2 of 4

Luke 4:18-19 & Galatians 5:1

Rick Warren

       Luke 4:18-19 "The Spirit of the Lord has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted and to announce that captives shall be released and the blind shall see, that the downtrodden shall be freed from their oppressors, and that God is ready to give blessings to all who come to him."  Jesus' 1st sermon (LB)

       Galatians 5:1 "Freedom is what we have - Christ has set us free!" (GN)

5 Kinds of Freedom

 

1.  JESUS WANTS TO SET YOU FREE FROM THE ______________________________

       "For by the death of Christ we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven.  How great is the grace of God which he gave to us in such large measure!"  Eph. 1;7-8 (GN)

2.  JESUS WANTS TO SET YOU FREE FROM THE ______________________________

       "Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger ... Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you."  Eph. 4:31-32

3.  JESUS WANTS TO SET YOU FREE FROM THE ______________________________

       "We do not aim to please men, but to please God, who knows us through and through."  1 Thess. 2:4b (Ph)

4.  JESUS WANTS TO SET YOU FREE FROM THE ______________________________

       "Jesus said... `Everyone who sins is a slave of sin ... But if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.'"  John 8:34, 36

       "If you are guided by the Spirit, you will be in no danger of yielding to self-indulgence, since self-indulgence is the opposite of the Spirit..."  Gal. 5:16-17a (JB)

5.  JESUS WANTS TO SET YOU FREE FROM THE _____________________________

       "Jesus became like us and shared our human nature.  He did this so that through his death he might destroy the Devil who has the power over death, and so set free those who were slaves all their lives because of their fear of death." Heb. 2:14-15

What is enslaving you?


HOW TO EXPERIENCE REAL FREEDOM

Feeling Free Again  -  Part 2 of 4

Luke 4:18-19 & Galatians 5:1

Rick Warren

In Luke 4, the very first passage Jesus ever spoke -- it was His first public sermon, -- Jesus spelled out what was going to be the theme of His ministry.  "The Spirit of the Lord has appointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted and to announce that captives shall be released and the blind shall see, that the downtrodden shall be freed from their oppressors and that God is ready to give blessings to all who come to Him."  Jesus, in His very first sermon, said, “I came to bring good news”.  He said, “I've come to set people free”.  He said, “I am the truth, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free”.  And "If the Son will set you free, you will be free indeed."

This was the very first passage I selected when we started Saddleback.  In the very first sermon, I preached on this text saying that this is going to be a church of Good News.  I figured today, since about 1000 of you weren't there at that first service, I could get by with a rerun.  Someday you can go back and say, "I heard the very first sermon at Saddleback."

I want to talk about freedom today.  Jesus said, "I've come to set you free."  Galatians, "Freedom is what we have.  Christ has set us free."  Jesus promises real and lasting freedom. 

From what?  This morning, I want to give you three, four, five things that Jesus said, "I've come to set you free from".

1.  JESUS SAID, I WANT TO SET YOU FREE FROM THE BURDEN OF GUILT.

There are a lot of people bound up by guilt today.  One of the wisest decisions that the executives on television did was to put reruns of Columbo back on, on Saturday night.  I watch them every Saturday night.  Last night the bad guy was Johnny Cash.  They had him cast as a country-western singer (real innovative idea!). He murdered somebody.  At the end, Columbo always figures out what happened and Cash got caught.  The closing words of the scene, Johnny Cash says, "I'm glad I finally got caught.  The guilt was killing me."

You cannot live indefinitely with guilt.  But the fact is all of us make mistakes and all of us are guilty.  How do you live with it? 

Jesus said, "I want to set you free from it."  Ephesians 1:7-8 "For by the death of Christ we are set free.  That is, our sins are forgiven.  How great is the grace of God which He gave to us in such large measure."  Guilt robs you of happiness.  It causes depression.  It can make you sick.  Doctors say that 80% of the people in hospitals today could go home if they could get rid of guilt and bitterness.  The number one killer of college students now is suicide.  The number two killer of high school students is suicide.  Why?  Depression and guilt.  Yet God says, "I want to set you free."

I talk to a lot of people who have been in therapy for years and years.  Some of them just need to be forgiven.  They don't know how to get rid of the past.  "I am a prisoner of my past.  I don't know how to let go of the past.  It haunts me.  I'm afraid somebody's going to find out about it.  I've made mistakes.  How do I get on with my life?"  Jesus says, "I want to set you free from the burden of guilt."

The Bible says when we come to Christ, He takes us and forgives us instantly, He forgives us completely, He forgives us without question.  The Bible says, "I've taken your sins and put them all behind My back."  Out of sight. "I've separated them as far as east from west."  Out of reach.  "I've put them where I remember them no more."  Out of memory.  Once you learn that God can forgive and forget, what God forgets then you can forget.  The Bible says in Psalms, when we confess our sins to Him, He takes them and puts them in the deepest part of the ocean and then He puts up a ‘No Fishing’ sign.  He doesn't want you pulling them back out.  He doesn't want you bringing them back out. 

If you come to God and say, "God, I've really made a mess of my life.  I've made mistakes and this is what I've done wrong and please forgive me." You're forgiven, and God says, "I not only forgive but I wipe the slate clean."  It's like starting over. It's like being born again.  Then if you were to die and go to heaven and say, "God, about that sin..." He'd say, "What sin?" "About that mistake I made in that relationship..."  He'd say, "What mistake?"  "God, about that pain that I went through..." "What pain?"  That is the freedom of forgiveness.

God says, "I want to set you free from the burden of guilt"  "In Christ we are set free.  That is our sins are forgiven."  I believe that even if there were no such thing as heaven, it would be worth becoming a Christian just to have a clear conscience. The joy that comes from knowing that I'm forgiven.  The slate is clean.  But that's not all.

2.  JESUS SAYS I WANT TO SET YOU FREE FROM THE PAIN OF RESENTMENT.

In life we end up hurting people and other people hurt us.  When we hurt others, we feel guilty.  When people hurt us, we feel resentful.  Bitterness is a poison that will eat you alive.  It is worse than cancer.  It will affect your entire system and ruin you. 

I remember reading about twin sisters in a little town in Georgia in a little tiny church.  One of the sisters got engaged to a fellow and about half way through the engagement he broke off the engagement and married the other twin.  Problems!  Those two sisters developed a resentment and bitterness against each other. They even divided the church so that everybody had to divide up ‑- "Whose side are you on?"  Even in this little church, one sister sat on one side of the church, with the other sister on the other side.  You kind of chose.  For the next 70 years, those sisters up in their 90's, the church was still divided.  That's what bitterness can do.  It can wreck you.

You will be hurt in life, either intentionally or unintentionally.  It's not so important the fact that you're going to get hurt in life.  But what is important is how you choose to respond.  Are you going to be bitter or are you going to be better?  Jesus says, "I want to set you free from the poison of bitterness."


Ephesians 4 says "Get rid of all bitterness and rage and anger. Be kind and compassionate to one another forgiving each other just as in Christ, God forgave you."  If you forgive, you can move on, but if you harbor resentment, it ruins you. 

What we like to do when we are hurt is get even.  We want revenge.  We want to retaliate.  We get resentful, but resentment always hurts you more than the person you're resentful against.  Always.  It's like a boomerang.  You throw it and it comes back and hits you.  It's like shooting somebody:  You're trying to hit him but, with the kick of the gun recoil you hurt yourself!  Remember the radio program "Amos and Andy", later it was on TV?  One time this guy kept coming up to Amos at work and slapping him on the chest.  Amos said, "I'm going to get that guy!  I'm going to strap a stick of dynamite to my chest.  The next time he slaps me, it's going to blow his hand off!"  That's about as wise as being resentful.

If you come and I say, "You make me so mad!"  You walk off and you forget it.  You're not even bothered by it.  I'm home stewing and spewing.  You're out having a great time.  Whose the one who's being upset when you're resentful?  Not the person you're resentful against.  They've forgotten it and are out living their life.  You're the one. 

Some of you are holding on to a hurt.  You let somebody hurt you 5, 10, 15 years ago.  Maybe in a divorce, maybe your parents, maybe somebody at school, somebody hurt you badly.  You're still holding onto that hurt.  That is dumb!  Let go of it. 

The Bible says, “Get rid of all bitterness and resentment”.  Let Jesus Christ set you free from the burden of guilt and let Him set you free from the pain of resentment.

Who are you bitter against today?  A parent?  An old boyfriend? A husband?  A wife?  Child?  You say, "But I just can't forgive that person!  They hurt me too bad!"  That's why you need Jesus Christ.  You need that supernatural power to let go of it for your own benefit.  Then you learn what real freedom is all about. When you're free from guilt and you're free from resentment, you can face anything in life, but when you hang on to either of those life gets tough! 

There's a third thing Jesus said He wants to set you free from. We talked a little bit about this last week, so I don't have to go into it in detail.

3.  JESUS SAID HE WANTS TO SET YOU FREE FROM THE EXPECTATIONS OF OTHERS.

He said, "I want to set you free from the pressures to conform." The fact is, there are a lot of things in life that cause us to conform. 

1 Thessalonians 2:4 (Phillips translation) "We don't aim to please men but to please God who knows us through and through." 

Jesus says "I want you to be free to be yourself."  We spend so much of our time trying to dress like other people, act like other people, talk like other people.  A few years ago there was this big non-conformist movement.  What was funny was that all the non-conformists conformed to each other!  They acted alike, talked alike, looked alike, smelled alike.  They were alike. Even in our nonconformity we conform to each other. 

One of the greatest relaxing decisions of life is when you discover that Jesus wants to set you free from the pressures of conforming to others.  One of the things about becoming a Christian is it simplifies life.  All of a sudden you just say, "I'm going to center in on pleasing the Lord because if I'm pleasing the Lord, it will always be the right thing to do." Regardless of what other people think, if I'm doing what God wants me to do then that's what counts.  That's what is important!  Even God can't please everybody.  When you come to the point that Jesus sets you free when you say, "God likes me and I like me.  If you don't like me, what's your problem?"  He wants to set you free from the pressures of conformity.

Today's pressures on teenagers are incredible.  The pressures to conform are awesome.  They're much greater than any of us had as young people.  There are pressures to act a certain way and to do things a certain way and to be a certain way.  I don't know if you've been to any high school parties lately.  I haven't but I've done a lot of speaking to young people around the United States.  Let me describe the typical high school party.  Typical Friday night 60-70 people go over to somebody's house and cram into a room that usually holds about 30.  They turn the lights down, turn the stereo up, dance a little, have some fun.  It starts getting hot and humid in there and maybe soon they break out a little dope, smoke some dope, maybe do some pills, break out some beer, drink some.  Pretty soon with the drugs and beer, they start feeling a little queazy.  Your stomach feels upset, your head starts hurting and pounding.  You go out on the front lawn and throw up. You go home, get in bed and feel rotten and terrible.  You wake up the next morning with a splitting headache and hangover.  Your eyes are blurry.  You feel terrible.  You talk to your friends and say, "Wasn't that far out?"  You've got to be warped to think that's fun!  The devil says, "But everybody's doing it!" 

Not everybody's doing it.  I was student body president of my high school and I used to get invited to a lot of parties. They'd say, "Let's go smoke some dope."  I'd say, "No, thanks. Jesus set me free!"  "Let's go pick up some chicks!"  "No, thanks.  Jesus set me free!"  They'd say, "See there!  That just proves you're restricted.  All the Christian life is, is a bunch of don't's.  You can't do all those fun things."  I'd say, "I take all the drugs I want to take.  I get drunk all I want to get drunk.  I mess around with all the women I want to mess around with.  The thing is, Jesus Christ changed my want to.  I don't want to do those things any more.  They're fake.  They're plastic.  They're phony!  They're cheap thrills."

I see the look on some of you parents.  "My kid's here.  He needs to hear this!  Lay it on him!"  But I want to tell you, adults are just as bad at conforming.  We fall into the same traps.  We say, "Watch me!" by the way I dress, by the car I drive, by the kind of house I live in and what I put up inside of it, and the bumper sticker I put on my car, the kind of jewelry I wear. "Watch me!" 

The pressure with us is materialism.  I've said many times, we buy things we don't need, with money we don't have, to impress people we don't even like.  We're trying to conform.  Who cares what other people think?  We get so caught up in making a living we forget to make a life.  The Bible says God wants to set us free.  Free to be ourselves.

4.  JESUS SAYS I WANT TO SET YOU FREE FROM THE CONTROL OF DESIRES.

In other words, those habits that you just can't control.  How many times have I heard this phrase:  "I just can't stop!"  I hear it all the time.  "I just can't get control."  I see so many lives out of control.  "I just can't stop eating... drinking... reading pornography... I just can't get control of my anger... get into the habit of exercising... I just can't stop lying." Whatever.  Name it.  What's your pet habit?  Lives out of control.

The Bible says that Jesus came to set us free from our own desires.  John 8:34 & 36 "Jesus said, `Everyone who sins is a slave of sin.  But if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.'"  He's talking about bad habits, wrong thoughts, strong desires.  There's a philosophy going around today -- hedonism, Playboy, Penthouse philosophy.  It says, "Do your own thing!  If it feels good, do it.  Whatever you want to do, do it."  Guy says, "I'm free to go out and live anyway I please."  He's not free.  He's a slave to his own desires.  Jesus said anybody who sins is a slave to sin. 

There are certain laws that are always in action -- physical laws and moral laws.  If I were to take you up on top of the Empire State Building and you look down over the side and you say, "I'm free to jump off."  You are exactly right.  You are free to jump off.  Nobody's going to stop you.  You're free to jump off.  So you jump off.  As you're going down, somebody looks out about twenty stories down and says, "How's it going?"  You say, "So far so good." 

A lot of people are like that.  They're breaking every law in the book and say, "So far, so good!"  They haven't hit bottom yet.  There's a certain law that comes into effect.  It's called the law of gravity.  It has serious consequences when you ignore it.  You come face to face with yourself.

You here people say, "I break all of God's laws."  No, you don't break God's laws.  They break you.  Eventually you hit bottom. It's just a matter of time.  You are free to do anything you want to do in life.  You are free to live anyway you want to live. But the moment you make that decision, you are no longer free from the consequences.  You are free to choose any lifestyle you want.  You are not free from the consequences of that lifestyle. Regardless of what it is. 

Years ago there was an article in Playboy or Penthouse magazine about Ernest Hemingway.  I didn't read it -- I just want to make that clear!  The article talked about how Hemingway had no regard for God.  He lived his life any old way he wanted to.  He was quite a licentious man.  He drank too much.  He smoked too much. He had many illicit relationships.  He pretty much did anything he wanted to do.  At the end of the article it was bragging on how this guy lived his lifestyle ignoring common standards of society and was a tremendous, smashing success.  The closing line of the article was this quote from the Bible.  It said this, "`The wages of sin is death.'  But obviously for Earnest Hemingway it paid off."  And it left it like that.  It wasn't six months after that article that Hemingway put a shotgun to his head and blew his brains out.  He committed suicide.  His last words were, "My life is as empty as in a vacuum tube in a television with the plug pulled out."  He wasn't free.  He was a slave to his own desires.  He wasn't free.

Look at what the Scripture says.  Galatians 5:16-17 "If you are guided by the Spirit, you will be in no danger of yielding to self-indulgence, since self-indulgence is the opposite of the Spirit."  God will help you have self-control.  Self-control comes from Christ control

You say, “Live for today."  The new morality is just the old immorality.  Some people are so open-minded their brains fall out!  They don't think things through. Anything goes.  We have a number of national epidemics right now that prove that. 

What drive is out of control in your life?  Ambition?  "I want something so badly that I'm willing to sacrifice family and health to get it."  What's out of control in your life?  Jesus says, "I want to set you free from the power of sin that binds us, from the control of desires."  Maybe you've got a temper. You just can't get control of it.  Alexander the Great conquered the world as a young man, but he had one problem.  He had an uncontrollable temper.  One day in a fit of rage he struck his best friend who was his right hand general.  He struck him and killed him by accident.  He cried out, "I've conquered the world but I can't conquer my own soul!"  Have you ever felt like that? "God, how come I just can't get this area under control in my life?"  That's why you need Jesus Christ.

There's one other thing Jesus said "I've come to set you free from."

6.  JESUS SAID HE WANTS TO SET YOU FREE FROM THE FEAR OF DEATH.

That's probably the greatest fear of all -- the fear of dying. Hebrews 2:14-15 "Jesus became like us and shared our human nature.  He did this so that through his death he might destroy the Devil who has the power over death and so [circle this] set free those who were slaves all their lives because of the fear of death."  People don't like to talk about death.  We just don't talk about it very much.  We don't like it.  If you don't believe that, invite some friends over, set them down for coffee and say, "Let's talk about death!"  See what kind of response you get. 

We don't like to talk about death because most people aren't prepared for it.  They don't know what's going to happen.  They don't know what's going to happen in relationship to God.  They have no idea what's going to go on.  We always fear the unknown, but death is inevitable.  It's a fact of life.  The Bible says, "It's appointed unto man once to die."  That's one appointment I'm not going to be late for.  That's one appointment you're not going to be late for.  It's inevitable. 

Death is a great equalizer.  It doesn't matter how much money you make, how much education you've got.  All of us are going to die one day.  I think it's foolish to go all through life unprepared for something you know is going to happen eventually.  I'm not saying be morbid and think about it continuously.  I'm saying prepare for it then put it out of your mind.  Life becomes so much more relaxing when you're ready for what's going to happen at the end of it.  One guy told me, "I enjoy life so much more, that I'm ready for death." 

The test of a person's religion is not how he acts in the happy times of life, the weddings, the bar-mitzvahs, the confirmations, the happy experiences of life, graduations.  The test of a man's religion is how he reacts at funerals.  I've lived in the Far East.  I've seen what happens at Buddhist and Taoist funerals. I've seen the fear in their eyes.  They have no idea what's going to happen.  Jesus said, "I came to set you free from the fear of death."  God doesn't want you to fear death.  He wants you to know Him.  He wants to be your friend.  He wants you to have relationships but when it does come inevitably it's just a transfer on to better things.

What is it this morning that's got you enslaved?  Television?  A bad habit?  A temper you can't get control of?  Some regrets you just can't get rid of and you're hounded by them, and the past is controlling your future.  Some resentment?  You spend half your time worrying about, "What are they doing right now, that other person who hurt me?"  So you can't get on with today.  The expectations, the pressures to conform.  It's a great way to get an ulcer.  You can't please everybody.  Even God can't do that. How about the power of bad habits?  The control of desires? Legitimate drives out of control cause chaos.

Prayer:

       What is it that's enslaving you?  Some secret sin?  Some failure, past regret, mistake?  Relax.  Admit it to Christ. Ask forgiveness.  Let Him cleanse your conscience.  Let Him clean your slate.  Say, Jesus Christ, please forgive me for those things that I know that were wrong, those bad decisions, those dumb mistakes, those bad judgments.  Then say, "Lord, help me to forgive myself.  Help me to accept Your forgiveness."  If you're here today and you've been carrying a burden of guilt and you've just given it to God just now, I have a word from God for you, "You are forgiven!"  Accept it.  You are forgiven.  It's never too late to start over.  That's what it means to become a Christian.  Maybe you've got bitterness or resentment in your life, that anger, that hate has built up in your marriage, built up in that relationship with that child or parent.  Let Christ flush that poison out of your life.  Ask Him to fill you with love and forgiveness for that person for your own sake.  Are you pressured by the expectations of others?  Caught in the Saddleback Syndrome, trying to cope with the standards and lifestyles of other people, keeping up with them?  Let Jesus Christ simplify your life.  Decide to live for Him.  It will make you a better person, it will make you a better partner, it will make you a better parent. Maybe you've been enslaved by a bad habit and you say "I just can't get those thoughts out of my mind!"  Jesus Christ can set you free.  Maybe you're afraid of dying.  Have you made your peace with God?  Jesus Christ wants to come into your life and be your friend.  Receive Him today.  I invite you to receive Christ, not because you're going to die tonight but because you've got to live tomorrow.  The cross is the genuine statue of liberty.  It offers freedom. That's the basic message of this church.  Jesus wants to set you free.  It was His first message.  It was the first message in this church.  Would you open your heart to Him right now?

       Lord, I believe that right now You're setting some people free from worry, from jealousy.  Right now they sense Your love.  They sense Your Spirit in their lives.  You're setting them free from fear or anger, some from depression, some from tension, resentment, guilt.  It's like a mountain of pressure just sliding off their backs.  Lord, just now as they take in a deep breath and let it out, just let that be a prayer of confession that says, "God take me, all of me." Christian you may be saved and still enslaved.  You need to say, "Lord, I've taken some things back and I've allowed other things to bind me up again.  Jesus Christ, set me free today."

       Jesus Christ, thank You so much for the good news of freedom.  Freedom that we have from the things that bind us up and keep us from becoming all that You want us to be. Thank You that today, many are coming to know You.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

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