Freedom and Obedience

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Freedom and Obedience

Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White

Sunday 22nd July 2018

Over the years, I’ve preached quite a few messages on freedom.  But I remember one time using a great little image that gives a pretty nice idea of what freedom might look like.

Image: “Live like someone left the gate open.”

Here’s this little guy going for his life – free as a bird – taking off and escaping into the great unknown.  Total Freedom!

And it’s a picture of living life without limits – with carefree abandon…

But I just wonder how free this little fella is going to feel when dinner time comes, when he’s ready to find a bed – and how safe he’s going to feel if he’s not used to roads, traffic, Rottweilers, and whatever else might come his way.

I remember when we lived on Ballina Road, Alstonville, before the bypass.  And the girls were only little.  Megan was outside with our little dog, Cindy.  And Cindy decided to run across the road, with Megan screaming for her to come back.  She took no notice of Megan, and at that moment a semi trailer came flying past.  Cindy went straight underneath the semitrailer – rolled around – and then shot out across to the other side of the road without a scratch.

Her disobedience and desire to do whatever she wanted to do just about cost her her life. But amazingly she went on to live to a ripe old age of seventeen. That puts her in the very elderly range in the equivalent of human years.

As I preparing for this message today, I had what I thought were two conflicting concepts going on in my head – freedom and obedience!  But as Venese and I talked about it, I realised they weren’t conflicting at all.  There’s a tension between them, but they are in fact speaking of the same thing.  

Freedom is something that Jesus Christ bought for us on the cross.  He paid the price for our sin so that we could be free to enter into eternity – to have the freedom to enter into a beautiful intimate relationship with the Father.  But it not only came through Jesus Christ’s own obedience to the Father, it comes to us through our obedience to Christ and His Word.

John 8:31-32 (NKJV),  “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the  truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

True freedom only comes from one place – the revelation of Jesus Christ and His Word.  

The truth that John is talking about isn’t a set of rules and regulations based on law simply for the sake of having a law. 

The truth sets boundaries for living that actually cause life to be more abundant and more prosperous and the most fulfilling experience this side of heaven that we could ever have.

Any reputable parenting program will tell you that children thrive the most when they have clear, consistent boundaries… put in place for a reason.  Actually they not only thrive, they feel safe and they feel secure – they feel cared for and loved.  They are free to live and grow in an environment that guides them to make choices that lead them away from harm, and into health and vitality.

And it’s not a lot different with our Heavenly Father.  His Word gives us boundaries and guidelines for us to obey, that lead us into healthy lifestyles, healthy relationships, and true freedom to become the best version of ourselves that we could ever be. 

That is God’s desire for us – that we would become everything that He destined us to be.  And that freedom comes through relationship with His Son, and obedience to His Word.

John 8:34-36 (NKJV),  “Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you,  whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”

Listen to what it says in the Passion Translation – because this could possibly be my favourite scripture out of all the ones I want to share this morning.

John 8:34-36 (Passion),  “I speak eternal truth,” Jesus said. “When you sin you are not free. You’ve become a slave in bondage to your sin. And slaves have no permanent standing in a family, like a son does, for a son is a part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free from sin, then become a true son and be unquestionably free!”

This message is not ultimately about freedom and obedience – it’s about becoming a son.  And that’s not about gender – it’s about belonging to the family of God- it’s about being His.

So what is true freedom?  It’s knowing who we are as true sons of God.  Sonship releases you into your true identity and destiny.  

That should mean everything to every one of us!

Christ has made us free to be who we really are!

Freedom is also about being free from bondage, and bondage comes in many forms.  Being a slave to sin is bondage.  Being held captive in your mind and emotions to past experiences is a form of bondage.  Hearing and responding to the endless tape in your head, over and over again, of critical and negative lies that have been spoken over you is a form of bondage.  

So I want to share a few scriptures that we mightn’t normally associate with becoming free – but are powerful truths.  

This is a prophetic word to Cyrus, King of Persia.  He was a pagan king, however he helped to fulfil biblical prophecy when he helped the Jews return to Jerusalem from Babylon to rebuild their temple and reestablish their lives and their worship of God.

But I believe this is a prophetic word for us.

Isaiah 45:2-3 (NLT),  “This is what the Lord says: “I will go before you, Cyrus, and level the mountains. I will smash down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness— secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.”

Is the path you are walking on right now full of mountains and obstacles?  Do you feel as though you are wandering aimlessly, trying to find your way around stuff?  Finding yourself up dry gullies and desolate places because your vision is clouded and unclear, or because how you see yourself is blurred by wrong thinking and false mindsets?

God is saying to you this morning that He Himself is going to make the crooked places in your life straight and level the mountains before you.  And the awesome thing is – He’s already given us His plan – it’s aligning ourselves with His Word – the Truth – the blueprint for life.

Maybe you see before you bronze gates and iron bars and the way forward just seems to be impossible to break through.

This is something else I feel God is saying to us, that we are in a season of breakthrough.  

And I have this vision that God gave David as he was facing up against the Philistines one time. And He sought the Lord as to whether it was time to go up against them, and God said yes.  David and his army defeated the enemy and he said,  2 Samuel 5:20 (NKJV),  “…The Lord has broken through my enemies before me, like a breakthrough of water.” Therefore he called the name of that place Baal Perazim.

Other versions say the breakthrough was like a raging flood.  

It’s time for the treasures of darkness and the hidden riches of secret places to be revealed and turned into vessels of glory.

I believe this means literal treasures and riches of the world that may have once been part of spiritual darkness.  But there is an even greater treasure that God is about to bring into the church and His kingdom, and that is the souls of men and women who have been held captive until now in dark and hidden places.

And God is tearing down and breaking into pieces the gates and bars that have held us back from entering into this glorious place of seeing the salvation of souls.  

This church is in a season of breakthrough already.  That’s not an arrogant statement – it’s simply a fact.  We are being positioned, healed and seeing that raging flood begin to flow over us.

There are so many threads to this message.  Remember I also spoke last week  about the seeds that God is breathing upon and causing to come to life in our own lives and in the lives of others that we minister to?  Those seeds of gifting and talents that are taking root and becoming fruitful trees…  

Well Peter speaks about the fact that we are seeds that have been sent forth into the world.  He specifically mentions those disciples from Jerusalem who were dispersed into the world through persecution…  but again, this is prophetically still speaking of Christ’s disciples even now.

1 Peter 1:1-2 (Passion). “From Peter, an apostle of Jesus the Anointed One, to the chosen ones who have been scattered abroad like “seed” into the nations living as refugees, to those living in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and throughout the Roman provinces of Asia and Bithynia (in Ballina and Alstonville and the region of the Far North Coast) – I hope God doesn’t mind me adding that in to make a point).  You are not forgotten, for you have been chosen and destined by Father God. The Holy Spirit has set you apart to be God’s holy ones, obedient followers of Jesus Christ who have been gloriously sprinkled with his blood. May God’s delightful grace and peace cascade over you many times over!”

Obedient followers…  with cascading waters of breakthrough in grace and peace flooding your souls…

Peace was one of the themes that Came though the Word and through song last night at the Worship Evening.  We finished with a beautiful anointing of peace cascading over us.  We positioned ourselves also is a place of breakthrough – which was our worship, our prayer, our bowing down…  that’s the best place of warfare and fighting ever!

You have been chosen with destiny in your heart, by your Heavenly Father.  That means you are set apart as sons.  Sons know true freedom.  Sons walk in obedience.   Sons are from the seed of the Father.  You may be scattered.  You may feel like a refugee in this world.  The bible also says that we are pilgrims passing through.  We are aliens in a world that we are part of but of which we don’t really belong.

Let’s just go back to Isaiah for a moment.

Isaiah 57:14-15 (NLT),  “God says, “Rebuild the road! Clear away the rocks and stones so my people can return from captivity.” The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.”

Here it is again…  instead of gates and bars, it’s speaking of rocks and stones.

Let’s get rid of those rocks and stones in our own lives, and become true sons of righteousness, and also be part of the removing of rocks and stones in the path of those who are returning from captivity.  That’s part of our mandate as Seacoast Church.  Zephaniah 2 says, The Seacoast will see God intervene and return the captives.  

Let’s come with humble and contrite hearts, because in that place the Father can heal and restore and revive our spirits, and remove the rocks and stones in our lives first.

In that place of repentance, where we are truly broken before God because of the bondage of our sin, in that place we find courage to move forward.  Sons have courage because they know who they are.  They know who their Father is.  They know they have a destiny.  Sons know they can do anything that the Father asks of them.

Then further down in Isa 57, it says:

Isaiah 57:18-19 (NLT),  “I have seen what they do, but I will heal them anyway! I will lead them. I will comfort those who mourn, bringing words of praise to their lips. May they have abundant peace, both near and far,” says the Lord, who heals them.”

Here it is again, that abundant cascading peace and healing. 

I want to invite you to simply close your eyes for a moment.

Right now, in this moment, I want you to position yourself under the cascading waters that the Holy Spirit is pouring out over us.  Come Holy Spirit – Bring praise to our lips.  Bring comfort to our soul.  Bring peace in place of our striving and thrashing about as someone wandering aimlessly…  put us on a straight path.

Some of you might need a raging flood to come and dislodge you from your place of captivity – to break you out of those bars and gates…  see those gates of bronze and bars of iron being broken and torn down.

While your eyes are closed, allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you about what obedience means for you in this season of your life.  What does true freedom really look like for you?  What boundaries of the word is the Holy Spirit reminding you of?

As God speaks to us of making a choice to become a true son, what does that mean for you?  True sons are free.  True sons don’t live under bondage to anything or anyone – and yet they keep themselves safe and secure and protected through obedience to the Word.  They know whose they are and where they belong.

I feel as though God is activating some seeds right now and causing them to come to life.

You may feel as though your life has been scattered like seed and you are in a land as a refugee or an alien.  But God is saying to some of you this morning, I have positioned you exactly where I need you to be.  You are about to uncover treasures and hidden riches and it will all become clear.

The Father is calling you by name.  And He is saying, you are unquestionably free.

You can open your eyes again…

This really is an opportunity for healing this morning… freedom from bondage is freedom from sickness and disease, from mental anguish, and emotional turmoil.

I want to firstly acknowledge that there is something that God does through our suffering.  Even Jesus, the bible says, had to learn what obedience really meant, through His suffering

Hebrews 5:7-9 (NKJV),  “who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him”

Jesus, in His humanity, said Father, if this cup could be taken away…  if there’s some other way…  and yet, in obedience…  in knowing what obedience would cost… He went to the cross.

And in the background, there is the voice crying out from the last book of the Old Testament…  

Malachi 4:2 (NKJV),  “But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves.”

Some of you might be horrified to think of yourselves as fat, stalled fed calves.  But when we are in Christ – living in obedience to His Word – that is what we are.  Fat with the goodness of God.  Healthy and joyful and released into freedom.

And in the NLT:

Malachi 4:2 (NLT),  “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.”

It’s an awesome picture.  Imagine how happy these calves must have felt. Being let out from the confines of their stalls… prancing around in freedom in the pastures…   but presumably they were still in the safety and security of the boundary fences…  freedom, wrapped in the place of obedient protection.

But the real message is the joy of healing.  Jesus sure did rise with healing in His wings.  

It’s part of the the glorious exchange at Calvary.

As we stand to worship again now, whatever it is that is holding you back, see that thing broken from you as you are released like a calf being let out from it’s confined stalls, out into the wide and beautiful pastures of freedom.

As with many things, freedom has to be something that is first of all experienced on the inside.  The leaping of joy has to be in our heart first.

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