Freedom of the Spirit 5-24-15 LMPC Dr. Sloan
?The Spirit of Freedom? 5-24-15 (Pentecost/ Memorial Day) Dr. J. Ben Sloan at Lake Murray Presbyterian2 Cor. 3:17
Today is a unique.? It is a vortex of freedom.? Today is Memorial Day in which we remember those who gave their lives for our freedom.? Today is also Pentecost Sunday- in which we remember the Holy Spirit gives us birth.? As our passage says, ?where the spirit of the Lord is- there is freedom.?? Freedom is much in the news these days.? Freedom of Religion is not to be taken for granted.? Today we appreciate the freedom won by those who served and gave their lives for our country.?? Yet there is a freedom that the Spirit gives that is a different and deeper freedom.? No nation can grant the freedom that the Spirit brings and no nation can take it away.? One of the lessons of Christ is that they tried to take his life and his freedom away on the cross, but the resurrection is a reminder that God sets us free from even death.? Luther liked to say, ?A Christian is a perfectly free Lord of all subject to none; and a Christian is a perfectly free servant of all subject to all.?? Today I want to look at the freedom Christ gives and about freedom to speak of our faith. I. REAL FREEDOM IS GIVEN BY THE SPIRIT- Our Brief Statement of Faith says that the Spirt, ?sets us free to accept ourselves and to love God and neighbor.?? The Spirit is like the wind and we are like sailboats. ?If the wind does not empower a sailboat, it just sits there useless, unfree, frozen.? Unless the Spirit of God empowers us – we just exist useless, stuck in today, pushed around by the waves of our feelings and the world, unfree, frozen.? But the Spirit enables us- gives us courage to not be consumed with ourselves or what people think, and do something of ultimate good.? The Spirit keeps us from being bound to this life and limited time.? The Spirit gives us the perspective of eternity and a direction and purpose. ???? We can be free from oppressors, free from hunger, free from housing needs and still be captive.? We can be captive to greed, captive to lust, captive to worry, captive to covetousness.? When our passage says, ?Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom?? many bristle at that.? Many say religion brings shackles.? Some of you may have felt like you were shackled into coming to church today.? Some say that rules about not lying, not committing adultery are inhibiting.? True freedom is finding direction and purpose.? If you want to go to the beach but you don?t know where the beach is or which beach you want to go to- it may lead to just the frustration of the freedom of no direction.? But if you know where you are going and what you are going to do it gives a sense of joy and anticipation and hope.? Too often we hurry off but we don?t know where we are going- like fire ants who know they are stirred up ?but don?t know where to go.? Today is also my 35th anniversary.? Some say that getting married is like being ?shackled up? or ?hitched up- with a bridle in our mouth.?? But to me, it is a very freeing thing.? You don?t have to play the dating game any more.? You are secure in the love of another and they are secure in yours.? Freedom and commitment are not antithetical- but go together.? Do not be afraid to be committed to God or to one another in love- as if you will somehow lose your freedom.? Freedom comes with direction, purpose and commitment. ?? ??Jesus was a man of true freedom.? He said, I lay down my life freely- no one takes it from me (Jn. 10:17-18).? He knew where he was going.? Nothing scared him.? He touched the leper.? He confronted Herod and Pilate with boldness.? He walked through a mob of protestors.? He was not concerned with winning a popularity contest.? He slept through a violent storm.? He said, ?Don?t be afraid of those that kill the body.?? Yet he was lovable- children loved him.? People respected him.? He ate and drank with sinners.? He came to tell us to be free.? ?You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.?? He said, ?Freely you have received, freely give.?? Jesus shows us how to live freely and gratefully- escaping grudges and worry.? Everyone of the beatitudes begins with ?Blessed are you?? or ?Happy are you.?? He came to? bless us ? and He did.? Jesus was and is a free man.? He is the truth that sets us free. II. REAL FREEDOM TO SPEAK UP AND SPEAK OUR MIND- When God prompts you to speak up for what is right, what is just, what you believe ? do not be silent.? Jeremiah said he was too young.? But God set him apart.? Esther said it was too risky and not proper to speak before the king without being invited.? But she was raised up by God ?for such a time as this.?? Moses said he stuttered, and he implied that God should send someone else.? ????? ???? What if Moses didn?t speak to Pharaoh?? What if Jeremiah didn?t speak up even when they were taken off to captivity?? What if Esther had done what was proper and millions of Jews were killed?? What about you? You are never too young, with not enough talent, and not enough opportunity to do something or speak up for God.? Jesus told this band of fishermen and tax collectors that he would send the Holy Spirit and He would tell them what to say!? For now, we have freedom to speak.? But there are those who would take that freedom away.? There are powerful people with lots of money and political power would silence any protest of unrighteousness.? There is a chance that if you take a risk and speak up people still will not hear you.? Jeremiah did this.? Ezekiel was told whether the people listen or fail to listen, you must speak up.? He said you are like a watchman on the walls.? It is not your job to make people listen.? It is your job to speak up when you see danger and evil approaching.? If you speak up you might be misunderstood and people would not like you.? This did not stop Jesus from speaking and it did not stop Peter or Paul from speaking up either.? When Christians are silenced by the shame of evil that is awful.? Evil wins when the good people hide in the shadows out of fear.? Fear is the greatest enemy of freedom.? The church is not revived by Christians who are afraid- in fact the church is weakened by scared Christians.? You know what the church does if it tries to be safe?? Nothing.? You know what you do if you try to not care- to stay in your own little world- to not give of yourself to others?? Nothing.? To walk by faith and not by sight means to take a risk for God to do something for Him- to choose good over evil and not be afraid to invite others to do the same.? If you are waiting for Christianity to make perfect sense for you and to have a perfect church before you join, or if you are waiting to take the risk out of the faith- then you will wait forever.? Faith is not worldly perfect.?? Jesus showed us that faith involves risk to be real faith. ??????? Yesterday there was an article in the State Paper criticizing a religious organization that has existed for decades to help families and to help churches work together for a greater good.? It was caricatured and demeaned as a hate group.? A house member from this county said that Dabo Swinney [and implying any other coach], ?should not receive an award because this group opposed a political position that he liked and Swinney worked partially for the government.? If you receive any money from the government- medicare, social security, food stamps, veterans pension will you be told you cannot go to certain places or speak in certain ways??? Freedom to speak, freedom to believe what you want, and freedom to worship in the way you want is not something abstractly threatened.? . This past week a Navy Chaplain- Lt. Commander Wes Modder was told by his base commander he could not pray in the name of Jesus. ?Last week a chaplain, Captain Lawhorn was told he could not put Bible verses on a suicide training handout.? These are not secular psychologists, they are chaplains.? I believe there are times when we need to be respectful of others and the time and place of sharing faith.? But to indicate that we cannot share our faith is a travesty and a loss of freedom of speech and freedom of worship.? Peter was told, soon after his Pentecostal sermon, ?by the local government that he should not speak about Jesus.? His reply was that he ?must obey God rather than man.??? There is a freedom that no government can give or take away- and it is inside those who believe.? III. USING OUR REAL FREEDOM FOR GOOD- The Spirit gives us freedom in order that we might freely honor God with our lives.? We are no longer enslaved or addicted to sin.? We have been enabled, awakened to God.? The blind eyes have been opened.? The chains have been loosed.? The prison doors have been flung open.? So how do we respond?? Do we go back to prison?? Have we become so used to the chains of sin that we put them back on??? I worked with a prisoner in Asheville who had been in prison for twenty years and he was finally getting out.? He was out for two weeks when he robbed a convenience store and looked right up at the cameras.? I asked him why he did this.? He said he missed the security of prison.? In prison he didn?t have to worry about what to eat or what to do or where to go.?? There are some who love being bound. ???? Real freedom is not just being set free from fear and oppressors like ISIS or those who would tell good people to shut up.? Freedom is taken advantage of when we use it to make the world a better place. ???? Galatians 5:1 says, ?It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.? Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.?? We can be a slave to sin and selfishness.? But by the power of Christ we can repent and find real freedom to leave the sin behind.? As we said today in the baptism vows- turn from evil and turn toward Christ.. ???? I am a big advocate of freedom.? People should be able to pray freely to whomever they wish.? People should believe whatever they want as long as it does not physically harm another.? As our confessions say, ?God alone is Lord of the conscience.?? We should not be afraid of hearing about another religion or hearing another person pray in our world. Christians and others should have a right to assemble, to speak, to worship and believe.? We should also have the freedom to speak up and stand up for what we believe without fear. ???? Perfect love casts out fear.? Not being afraid brings freedom.? When you are not afraid to die- that is a freeing thing.? When you are not afraid of what others may think- that is a freeing thing.? The Holy Spirit brings peace, consolation, comfort and courage to be a believer and to love others. ???? Paul wrote great words of freedom.? But Paul had spent 5.5 to 6 years in prison for preaching the gospel.? Paul sang in prison and gave thanks in prison.? When there was an earthquake in Philippi he could have escaped but instead he stayed in prison and the jailer was converted.? It wasn?t being or not being in prison that made Paul free- it was the Holy Spirit that made Paul free. ???? Pastor Saeed Abedini is an Iranian American who went back to his native Iran in 2012 and was arrested for starting house churches soon after his conversion in 2000.? On May 11, 2015 the US Senate voted unanimously to ask for Iran to release him (they vote unanimously on very little).? Saeed wrote from prison at Christmas- that he had been beaten numerous times; that his prison cell was dark and cold.?? But that Christmas was about Christ?s lava-like love coming into the world.? He said the Holy Spirit is a fiery rain of God?s Holiness and Mercy that flows [to us] making this dark, cold wintry world into radiant burning brightness.? He is turning our world into a world full of peace, joy, and love that is so different that the dark, cold, and wintry world that we used to live in.? He said pay any cost to speak up and bring the lava love of Christ to our dark world. So be free!? And use your freedom to speak up for the One who sets us free in the ultimate sense.