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Monday, July 4, 2011

Sunday Sermon, "Freedom From What?"


Last week the pastor at the Colusa Methodist Church asked me to preach there, so I did. As usual, I really dreaded the event, but once begun it wasn't half bad. I put a lot of prayer into it, and I know God is able, but still the butterflies keep warning me to run away, quick! I didn't.

Scriptures: Isaiah 61:1-3; Psalm 119:41-48; John 8:31-36; and Romans 6:15-23

The people who wrote and signed our Declaration of Independence were perhaps the epitome of bravery. When King George found out about it, and he would, it would mean that if his troops got hold of them, they would be imprisoned or worse. The signers knew this when they signed it, and yet they did. They'd had a bellyful of the tyrannies dished out by the king. They were supposedly a colony of Great Briton, and yet they were not even given the basic freedoms that Britons enjoyed. They signed this Declaration because they wanted to be free. And they knew they would have to create a government to replace who they would be subject to.

Christians are basically the same. We want to be free of those sins which so easily beset us. The Bible says that when we yield ourselves to sin, we are allowing that sin to rule over us. What sin could rule over us?

What does "freedom" mean to you? Freedom from what?
Jealousy?
Rage?
Hatred?
Violence?
Alcoholism?
Drug addiction?
Gluttony?
Greed?

Anytime we yield to the temptation to, for instance, scream at the crazy driver on the freeway, it becomes easier to repeat that same action the next time someone drives in a manner you don't approve of.

The Bible says if we are in Christ, we are free indeed. But what does it mean to be in Christ?

Freedom requires submitting to something. Freedom to yield to rage then means you become it's slave. On the other hand, freedom from that rage means you yield yourself to God.

Way back when I was a teenager, I began eating too much--gluttony. As a young adult, the tendency increased. I not only ate until I could literally hold no more, but then I'd go to the restroom and put my finger down my throat. That's called binging and purging. I thought I was pretty much free of that, but a few months ago I messed up. It wasn't so much the amount I ate or even what I ate--but the fact that all the time I was doing it, I could feel God saying "No. Stop. Don't do this." I did quit before I reached the way-too-much point, but I felt like so much pond scum because of the disobedience.

I went to my bedroom and knelt beside the bed, and begged God's forgiveness. I remember saying, "God, I don't know how You can even stand to look at me." It felt like forgiveness and a good relationship with God was now impossible. I cried. My cat came into the room and jumped up on the bed, came over to me and purred and rubbed his head up against my head, pouring out love to me. I started to push him away--I mean, after all, I was trying to communicate with God, not the cat. But then I felt the presence of God in such a real way. Have you ever experienced that? That warm held-in-His-arms feel? And then I felt Him say, "Can your cat love you more than I do?" Ahhhh, wow, God.

And He freed me. I haven't been tempted to gorge myself since. I just remember how dirty I felt--and how He forgave me and loved me despite of it. I'm free of guilt and subject to Him once more. It feels so much better.

God can forgive you that addiction, that anger, that jealousy, or whatever, and set you free. But you have to let Him in to do that. Let Him in everywhere, even the areas you wish He wouldn't go. Take Him with you every place, every time, in every way. How do you do that? One moment at a time, one item at a time, one day at a time.

I asked you a few minutes ago if you had ever felt His presence around you. If you haven't, you are in for a real treat. Nothing else feels this good. Nothing.

There's a man I've become acquainted with on FaceBook over the past year or two. I think he must spend every moment that he's not on FB on his knees, because every day, several times a day, he puts these jewels on. This is a combination of two of the posts Mike Clark put on FB last week.

"You face a crisis of belief when you know what God wants you to do, but you don't do it. One thing God absolutely wants you to do is to turn away from any wrong thing, any bad habit, any fear not surrendered, any ambition that prevents you from making Him master. Receiving and giving away is the basic motion of life. A constant in-and-out exchange animates both plant and animal life. Obviously,a failure to inhale is fatal,but so is a refusal to exhale. Life is all about breathing. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Love as I have loved you. Do to others what you would have them do to you. Be humbled & you will be exalted. Give and you will receive."

Yield to Him, invite Him in. He loves you and wants to be there with you. That's how you get to be in Christ.

Amen

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