Opening Activity: Turn to your neighbors and show them what excited is by just using your face. Show them peace. Show them freedom. To show freedom we have to use our whole body and our voice. Is anyone free enough and brave enough to show us freedom?
Click Here for the sign for freedom in American Sign Language
Three Types of Freedom
1. Freedom = Freedom From
When we think about the founding of our country, we think about freedom from constraint. Freedom from: Oppression, Coercion, Tyranny, Harassment, Bullying, Prejudice, Abuse
2. Freedom = Freedom To
If we have Freedom From, that leads us to Freedom To. Freedom To: Worship, Vote, Speak, Work, Travel, Learn, Own things (including property/business), Raise a family according to my values, Rest and Relax. Freedom To is about access to opportunity- life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
3. Freedom = Freedom For
- living the kind of life I was made to live
- becoming the person I was meant to be
- my true self to come out
- living for something bigger than just myself and what I want
- the common good
- living into the Kingdom of Heaven
This kind of freedom, Freedom For, is the freedom found in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only One who can provide this freedom. The Good News is that this freedom is available to all people, no matter if you have the first two freedoms or not.
The story of Pastora Yolanda in Cuba. She does not experience much of the first two freedoms, but she does experience Freedom For. The truth of Jesus has set her free.
The three United Methodist Missionaries being detained in the Phillippines have Freedom For, freedom in Christ. Nothing can separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?” – John 8:31-33, NRSV
Most of the early followers of Jesus Jewish. Jesus himself was Jewish. Jesus is the Savior of the World and the long-awaited Messiah of the Jews. Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament promises, prophesies, and covenants which were mostly about what it means to be truly free and what it means to truly live.
The Jewish believers respond, “What do you mean freedom? We’ve never been slaves to anyone.” I’m thinking, What?? Where were you in history class?
- Slaves in Egypt under the rule of Pharaoh
- God led them to freedom and established them in a promised land. It’s remembered every year at the Passover celebration.
- Later invaded and conquered, Babylonian Captivity
- Jerusalem destroyed, the best and brightest taken into exile as slaves and allowed to return to rebuild Jerusalem after 70 years
- As their saying this to Jesus, they’re under Roman occupation and oppression
- Maybe they meant they weren’t literally slaves bound to a master. Slavery was an everyday reality of the ancient world.
We can think the same thing, “I’m an American. I live in America. I’ve never been a slave to anyone.”
- We are still suffering from the legacy of slavery in our country and the reality that there are modern-day slaves. Slavery has not been abolished.
- Slavery is alive and well in Florida. We have many ports. There are kidnapping and human trafficking groups supplying slaves for labor (agricultural especially), personal and domestic care, and sexual exploitation.
Slavery still exists. It exists in the literal sense and in the sense that we experience it in things like fear.
- Have you ever been held captive to your fear? Held captive to falsehood?
- Have you ever been in the chains of peer pressure or prejudice or addition?
- In the bondage of poverty, or disease including mental illness, lack of education, lack of opportunity?
- Have you ever been treated like property rather than a human being?
Jesus is talking about slavery and Jesus is talking about freedom. It is Big Picture. Jesus speaks in layers. It is literal and it is deep and it is wide. We must be careful in saying, “I’ve never been a slave.”
Jesus said you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. If the truth will make us free, then what will enslave us?
- Falsehood is slavery
- Lies, Sin, Spin, Misinformation is slavery
If you have a false understanding of God, have you found freedom in God? If you have a false understanding of freedom have you found freedom?
False idea: Freedom from external constraints and freedom to do whatever I want will give me true freedom.
How many times have we been sold that? Real freedom is nobody being able to tell me what to do. “You’re not the boss of me. You’re not my mom.” (Freedom From)
How many times have we been sold the lie that true freedom is the ability to have anything I want and to do anything I want, with whoever I want, whenever I want, and there will be no consequences? Some have even labeled that success.
Is this freedom? Is this real? Is this true?
No, it’s false. It’s incomplete. It’s twisting freedom into something freedom was never meant to be. It is actually backward. Freedom in Christ (Freedom For) empowers us to help with all the other freeing that needs to happen in our world and in our lives (Freedom From and Freedom To). Freedom in Christ first.
If we think freedom is about self-interest and self-determination above all else it’s not freedom. How many times have we seen this lie blow up a life, or blow up a family, or blow up a business? We’re seeing it blow up our nation.
A false understanding of freedom isn’t freedom, it’s slavery. Let’s see what Jesus says.
31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”
34 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:31-36, NRSV
True Freedom = Freedom For, Freedom in Christ
How are we freed?
- Acknowledging we are slaves to sin and death and a whole bunch of other things and that we cannot save ourselves
- There is a Savior! We are freed by saying, “I am saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus offers salvation to me. Jesus is my liberator. Jesus is my Deliverer. Jesus is my Lord. I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. Even though I may not know what I’m doing, even though I’m not perfect at it, Jesus help me. Save me.” I’m in need of saving. There is a Savior. I place my trust in the Savior.
- Then we are more and more free as we continue in the words and ways of Jesus
- We learn and live the truth
- We follow Jesus in sharing this Good News so others may be freed. Freed from sin and oppression and injustice. We join Jesus in working for the common good.
This is freedom. It is offered to each and every one of us. It is offered to you. You will know the Truth and the Truth will make you free and the One to know is Jesus.
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am Sundays or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.
sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.