Steve Merryman Reunion Community 10/11/2020
In Luke 4 we have the very first passage Jesus ever spoke, it was His first public message, He 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 teaching, said, “I came to bring good news”. He said, “I've come to set people free”. Then later on in John 14:6, He said, “I am the truth” and then in John 8:32 He said, “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free”. And in John 8:36 He said, "If the Son will set you free, you will be free indeed." Jesus’ mission was to bring freedom. Jesus’ calling was to give freedom. Jesus’ purpose was to offer freedom.
It case you haven’t guessed it yet, I want to talk about freedom today. In Luke 4 Jesus said, "I've come to set you free." And in Galatians 5:1(GN) Paul writes, "Freedom is what we have. Christ has set us free." Jesus promises real and lasting freedom.
Freedom from what though? This morning, I want to give you five things that Jesus said, "I've come to set you free from". We are going to look at five things that Jesus makes us free from, so that we can be and do all of the things that we were created for. So, let’s get into it. Are you ready?
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. How many of you remember the TV show Columbo? Well, you can see it on reruns everyday if you want to. Columbo was a detective and in one episode the bad guy was Johnny Cash. They had him cast as a country-western singer (wow, that’s a real original idea!) In the episode, Cash’s character murdered somebody. At the end, Columbo, as always, figured out what happened and Johnny Cash got caught. In 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. So, how do you live with it? Usually we do not cope with guilt very well at all.
Jesus said, "I want to set you free from it." Ephesians 1:7-8 (GN) says, "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." You see, guilt robs you of happiness. It causes depression. It can make you sick. Some 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."
In Romans chapter 7 Paul goes on and on about the battle that rages inside of himself. He wants to do right, but the law of sin is at work in his body and he sins. Then he suffers guilt and shame over that sin. He tries to do right again, but again he sins. But then in Romans 8:1 (NKJ), he offers the solution to this guilt cycle and says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
As a minister I have talked to a lot of people who have been in therapy for years. Some of them just need to be forgiven. They don't know how to get rid of the past. They say, "I am a prisoner of my past. I don't know how to let go of it. 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. In Isaiah 38:17 the Bible says, "I've taken your sins and put them all behind My back." Our sins are out of sight. In Psalm 103:12 the Bible says, "I've separated them as far as east from west." Our sins are out of reach. And in Hebrews 8:12 the Bible says, "I've put them where I remember them no more." Our sins are out of His memory. Once we understand that God can forgive and forget, we need to forgive ourselves as well. The Bible says in Micah 7, when we confess our sins to Him, He takes them and puts them in the deepest part of the ocean. There is a ‘No Fishing’ sign there too! He doesn't want you pulling them back out. He doesn't want you bringing them back up, because He knows the damage that guilt can do.
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, what about that pain I caused. . ." He’d say, "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 believing in Jesus just to have a clear conscience. There is joy that comes from knowing that I'm forgiven. The slate is clean. But that's not all. Another way that Jesus provides freedom is:
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 tiny church. One of the sisters got engaged to a guy and about half way through the engagement he broke off the engagement and married the other twin. Talk about 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. If you went to this church you had to choose. For the next 70 years this went on, those sisters up in their 90's and the church was still divided. That's what bitterness can do. It can wreck you and the people around 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 4:31,32 (NIV) 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 to get even. We want revenge. We want to retaliate. We get resentful, but the thing is, 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. 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!" Well, that's how resentment works!
If you come to me and I say, "You make me so mad!" You walk off and you forget it. You're not even bothered by it. I'm at 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 that is hurting
Some of you are holding on to a hurt. Somebody hurt you 5, 10, 15 or even 50 years ago. Maybe in a divorce, maybe your parents, maybe somebody at school, somebody hurt you badly. You're still holding onto that hurt. You don’t have to, you can let go of it!
The Bible says, “Get rid of all bitterness and resentment”. Let Jesus 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? Your Child? You say, "But I just can't forgive that person! They hurt me too bad!" That's why you need Jesus. You need that supernatural power to let go of it for your own benefit. Then you will 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.
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) says, "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, and looked alike. They probably even smelled alike! They were alike in almost every way. Even in our nonconformity we conform to each other.
It reminds me of the non-conformist pledge. Now, repeat after me:
“I promise to be different.” “I promise to be unique.” “I promise not to repeat things other people say!” - Good!
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 following Jesus is that 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 Him, 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. We need to get to the point that Jesus sets you free so you can 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.
Do you remember the peer pressure that we went through when we were teenagers? The pressures to conform were strong. There are pressures to act a certain way and to do things a certain way and to be a certain way. Do you remember the high school parties? Typical Friday night 20-30 people go over to somebody's house and cram into a room that usually holds about 10. They turn the lights down, turn the stereo up, maybe a few people dance a little, we’re starting to have some fun now. It starts getting hot and humid in there and then someone brings in the beer, maybe even a keg, so now we’re drinking beer and then someone breaks out a little pot, so now some are drinking some beer and smoking some pot. After some time goes by and we’ve drank a good amount we start feeling a little queazy. Your stomach feels upset, your head starts hurting. 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 you are hungover. Your eyes are blurry. You feel terrible. You talk to your friends and they say, "Wasn't that party great! I can’t wait to do it again next week!” We had to be a little warped to think that was fun! But we wanted to fit-in, so we did it over and over again.
But not everybody did it. I know a Pastor who recounts the story of how he dealt with the pressures of being a Christian as a teenager. He was student body president of his high school and he used to get invited to a lot of parties. They'd say, "Let's go smoke some pot." He would say, "No, thanks. Jesus set me free!" They’d say, “Let’s get drunk!” He would say, “No thanks. Jesus set me free!” They’d say, "Let's go pick up some girls!" He would say, “No, thanks. Jesus set me free!" They'd say, "See there! That just proves you're restricted. All the Christian life is, it’s just a bunch of don’ts. You can't do all those fun things." He’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 girls I want to mess around with. The thing is, Jesus 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 just 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, we as adults are just as bad at conforming. We fall into the same traps. We say, "Look at me!" by the way we dress, by the car we drive, by the kind of house we live in and what we put inside of it. It all says, “Look at me. Don’t I measure up?”
The pressure with us is materialism. I've heard it 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. And this brings us to the next thing that Jesus sets us free from.
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... I just can't get control of my anger… I just can't stop lying." Remember what Paul was describing in Romans 7? All of the things Paul wanted to stop doing, he couldn’t. Whatever, you name it. What's your pet habit? It is a part of our life that is out of control.
The Bible says that Jesus came to set us free from our own desires. John 8:34 and 36 (NIV), "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. The philosophy of the world today, hedonism, it says, "Do your own thing! If it feels good, do it. Whatever you want to do, do it." A guy says, "I'm free to go out and live anyway I please." But 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 hear people say, "I’ll break God's laws. It doesn’t matter." 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 a magazine about Ernest Hemingway. The article talked about how Hemingway had no regard for God. He lived his life any old way he wanted to. He was quite an immoral 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 yet 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. He wasn't free. He was a slave to his own desires and eventually he felt empty and desperate.
Look at what the Bible says in Galatians 5:16-17 (JB), “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.
What drive or desire is out of control in your life? What 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 friend who was one of his generals. 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.
There's one other thing Jesus said He wants to set you free from:
5. 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 2:14b-15 (GN) says, "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 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 me, 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 either. It's inevitable.