Tag Archives: Freedom

Grace and Truth

Peninsula Community Church

Grace and Truth 

September 2, 2018

John 1:14-17  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

As we read Scripture, there are some words that blow me away, as I try to understand them. The word grace is one of those words. Within this word there is so much truth that bears our consideration. For that reason, over the next couple of weeks, we will look at the amazing grace that has been given to us. We will explore the duality of grace and truth, as well as grace and mercy. We will consider what it means to be a good receiver of grace, but also what it means to be a good giver of grace. Additionally, we will consider how to give ourselves much needed grace personally. An understanding of grace is critical as we encounter those who are EGR people, and when we face EGR moments in our life. Do you know what EGR people and moments are? They are people and moments in our life where Extra Grace is Required. Of course many times, we are that EGR person, even to ourselves. 

This week we will begin our study by briefly defining what grace means. In that regard, we find that one of the most common definitions of grace is “God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense.” To understand grace is to understand that grace is receiving what we do not deserve. We receive the blessings of God not because we deserve them, but because of who He is and because it is He who is giving them. The fact is, grace has been and continues to be the mechanism by which God gives us everything we need for life and spiritual growth because none of us are worthy in ourselves of God’s grace and blessing because we have all sinned.

In our passage today, we find that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. That is a big deal. Christ freely came to give us grace. That is the linchpin of our salvation and it is the cornerstone of the belief system we live by. Without grace, there would be no free salvation. Without grace, we would have to work and work hard for our salvation. We would also have to work hard to keep our salvation. Without grace, there would be no hope for us. We would worry about making it to heaven and being acceptable to God. Without grace, we would be forced to attempt to reach a level of holiness and righteousness that is unattainable, apart from grace.

The Word, Christ, became flesh and He dwelt with us. That is grace at its best. Christ freely left heaven to come to earth and be an example of what life could be and should be. Think about this, the God of Heaven came to live among us. He did not just come to earth as an observer or an uninterested party, He came to live among us. That is amazing to me. He did not have to, but He did. He did not have to give up heaven, but He did. He did not have to humble himself, but He did. He did not have to forgive me, but He did. That is amazing and that is grace in action. 

The second aspect of this passage is that grace and truth are inseparable. There is a sense, by some, that grace is an excuse to sin and do whatever we please, whenever we want to. That is not the objective of grace at all. Grace is never an excuse for sin, but it is a means to receive forgiveness and healing. Unfortunately, there are some who believe in hyper grace that says we can do whatever we want because we are under grace and God will cover our sin. While that is true to some degree, grace can never be an excuse for sin, but it is the primary reason to seek forgiveness and redemption. 

When discussing grace, we find that too often grace is equated with the idea of a free pass. We see sin, and somehow we imagine that God gives us a free pass, but when grace is combined with truth we realize that we cannot ignore sin but rather we must confess it. We are living in a culture that encourages the minimization of sin, and the cover up of unrighteousness, particularly if it is our sin and our unrighteousness. Our culture scoffs at taking responsibility and accountability. We are quick to give a free pass and to receive a free pass but that is not entirely what grace is about. True grace gives us the power to give forgiveness and seek redemption, because, we recognize these things are freely given by a gracious God. We do not have to hide them, but we can expose them and be delivered from them.

True grace does not ignore truth, but the real power of grace starts with truth. It is grace that settles the score that is against us and it is that grace that sets us free. It is by grace that we are redeemed. It is by grace we are given the free gift of salvation. So you see, grace is the undeserved favor of God. 

As I was preparing for this message I read an interesting take on how the Lord’s Prayer illustrates God’s grace in many ways. Let me explain. It begins by calling God “Our Father.” We do not deserve to call Him Father, but by grace we have been adopted into His family. We ask for His kingdom to come. We do not deserve His kingdom, but he allows us access. In this prayer we ask for “daily bread” we do not deserve, and for forgiveness we cannot earn, and for deliverance from temptation we cannot overcome, from a devil we cannot defeat on our own. This prayer from beginning to end is a frantic cry for undeserved favor. It is call for grace. Why? Because grace changes us. As we encourage truth, God’s grace turns rebels into citizens, orphans into children, enemies into friends, and an adulteress into a sinless bride.

The second aspect of this passage is that For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John here makes a great theological statement. He states that the law came through Moses. This is critical for those in John’s day as they understood the concept of the law. The law was all that was available to them to deal with their sin. The problem however is that the law was good at pointing out sin, but it did little to remove sin. John understood this and that is why John’s next statement is so powerful. The law came from Moses, but the fullness of grace and truth came from Christ. 

Paul understood this when he wrote the following in Romans 5:20-21. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. The law increased the trespass by revealing what was wrong.  Grace came so that where sin abounded grace was there in great abundance. In other words, there is no sin beyond the ability of grace to cover and redeem. The law calls us to work harder. Grace calls for us to trust God. The law does nothing to heal, but grace restores and heals. 

The law was limited but grace came in the fullness of all we needed. It does not lack anything. The law continually demands righteousness from man, while grace gives righteousness freely to man. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins (Romans 3:21-25). Listen to romans 4:15-16. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.

The law is connected with Moses and works; grace is connected with Christ and faith. The law demands that blessings be earned; grace is a free gift. I love this quote “The law was given by the servant, and made men guilty. The grace which came by the King freed them from guilt.” In His grace toward us, God says, I see your sin and I have made a way for your specific sin to be dealt with upon the cross of Christ. You do not have to cover it up, ignore it, or try to deal with it on your own. Because of Christ, you have an avenue to be free of your sin. How? We confess, repent, accept his grace, and you will be completely forgiven.

Here is what God’s word says to us. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 1:7). For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:8-10).  For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! (Romans 5:17). Grace amazing!

So where do you need grace today? What sin or wrong is haunting you? What are you trying to cover up and hide rather than deal with? Where do you need to confess sin and receive His grace? That can be done and the riches of His grace is available to all who will seek Him. Turn to Him, repent, confess, and accept His grace, today. 

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Price of Freedom

Peninsula Community Church 

The Price of Freedom 

July 2, 2017

Galatians 5:1,13; 1 Peter 2:16 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

This is the week we set aside to celebrate our freedom as a nation. As a result I have been thinking a lot about our freedom both as a nation and as a believer in Christ. As I was thinking about this I have a couple of thoughts about freedom I would like to share with you.

The first of these is freedom is never free. Throughout our history as a nation, wars have been waged and lives have been sacrificed for freedom. The men who founded our nation loved their freedom. They were weary of the constraints and the bondage the state and the church had on them. In that day the Church of England controlled its members and the state controlled the church. They wanted their freedom from an oppressive state of rules and laws of the state and church. That is why in our constitution it states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

They wanted a separation from a government run church but their goal was not to remove God from government but rather it was to remove the state’s control over one’s religious beliefs. They had a conviction that mankind should be able to worship freely however they may choose without constraint from the government. Because of their convictions these men were willing to pay whatever price necessary to make their freedom a reality. In the end, they sacrificed their lives, their homes, and their finances to secure this new freedom. What a price to be paid!

Our freedom as believers is no different. We were under the constraints and bondage of a spiritual force that was set on keeping us bound with guilt, regret, and sin. Something needed to be done, so the Father of all creation devised a plan. He would send His son to pay the ultimate price that would secure our freedom. He was no ordinary man. He was the very son of God who came to this world for one reason. He would give His life and every drop of blood to secure our spiritual freedom. He died so that the curse of sin would be lifted and we would be free from the chains that bound us and held us back. He did what man’s law and religious rituals could not do, He died to purchase our freedom. And oh what a price!

Secondly, freedom must be preserved! Our freedom as a nation cannot be taken for granted. We have been so blessed as a nation but too often people find a way to complain, grumble, and find-fault. They would rather complain than actually do something. Don’t get me wrong there is a lot to complain about. Politicians promise one thing and do something else. There are those who obstruct what is right and march in the streets and bring violence to the streets in the name of liberty and freedom.  We have become selfish and have sought political correctness and financial gain at the expense of truth and righteousness. The problem we have is that when freedom is not preserved it leads to bondage.

Spiritually, Paul warns us that we are to be careful and not become slaves again to sin. We can never coast so to speak. We must continue to move forward by allowing God’s truth to permeate us. You see there is a battle for your soul. It is a fierce battle that is being waged at all levels of our life. This hit home this week when the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, stated that he envisions Facebook becoming the entity that will mimic religion’s role in society.

But why not, especially since many in modern Christianity have settled for less than God’s best. The church in many ways has abrogated its role in society. It seems that there is one of two extremes that occur. There is the legalistic arm of the church, where the rules and law are paramount. Sin is managed through a list of do’s and don’ts rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to bring change and transformation. They bind people up in rules and regulations rather than through grace and love. They demand legalism but cannot obey all the rules themselves.

The second extreme is to compromise one’s lifestyle and Biblical truth. It is here that anything goes. There is no moral high ground and there are no absolutes of truth. The gospel is watered down in an effort to attract people but in so doing it becomes powerless to bring change. John Wesley the founder and leader of the methodist movement understood this when he made the following observation. I am not afraid that the people called Methodists (add whatever church you want here) should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out (from Thoughts Upon Methodism, 1786). Sadly for many churches this has become their commentary. They have a form of religion but one absent of God’s power. I read this week that one church is removing God from its vocabulary as it has become too offensive.

You see the overarching question today is whether or not we will be transformed by society or we will transformer the society in which we live. That was Paul’s exhortation to the church at Rome when he stated in Romans 12:2. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. You see it is easy to be conformed and shaped by society. It is easy to go with the flow. It is easy to settle for less than God’s best. It is much harder to go against the flow and be a transformer. To be a transformer we must do more than just talk about freedom we must live as freedmen. Freedom requires accountability and it requires responsibility. Without these elements we tend to drift. Without these we risk losing our freedom.

The third concept here is that freedom has never been a license to do whatever we want! The greatest misunderstanding about freedom is that we can do whatever we want to. Some believe that freedom gives them permission to act and to say whatever they may choose. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. We must have a system of reasonable laws and boundaries. For example, how many would say to your child or grandchild “go be free.” There are no boundaries or rules. Go ahead run with those scissors. Go ahead stick your finger into the electrical outlet. Go ahead cross that busy street without looking. Do not worry about it because you are free to run and roam. The truth is none of us would consider doing this as we have an understanding that there are some non debatable rules for us to have a long life and a full life. At the same time we would not place our child in their bedroom never to venture outside the door in fear of something happening to them. You see, there is a necessity for man to have real boundaries in which to live. It is in these boundaries that one is the freest.

As a believer, we have been freed from sin but we have also been called to righteousness. Therefore, we cannot live any way we want to because there is a way that seems right to man but in the end it leads to destruction. We are saved by faith alone but salvation leads us to obedience. God has given us reasonable boundaries in which we can live. It is in those boundaries that real freedom exists.

One of the problems is that too many promise freedom but the result is bondage to a greater degree. Notice here that whatever overcomes a person is what they become enslaved to. This can be physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental issues. What we give ourselves to is what we become ensnared by. In 2 Peter 2:19 Peter stated, They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. Peter also understood that we must never use our freedom to cover up evil. We see that today in our society. We see so much that is allowed because we use freedom as a means to do whatever we decide.

Fourth freedom is to be received! 2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. The Holy Spirit’s presence brings the freedom we need. When we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us, we are exposed to the power of freedom. That is God’s plan. We receive Him and He gives us freedom. He convicts of sin. He speaks truth. He warns us of impending trouble. We always have the right to refuse but if we allow Him to He will guide us into truth and real freedom of heart, mind, and spirit.

The Holy Spirit never seeks to bring us into bondage but chooses to free us from the power and guilt of sin. Christ frees us from the power of sin. He frees us from the cringing fear of God. He frees us from the fear of man. He frees us from the fear of death. He frees us forever. We never have to go back to the way was. As Jesus said “Whom the son sets free is free indeed!”

How are you doing? Are you living as a free man? Do you allow the Holy Spirit to guide and direct your steps? He wants to and He will if we give Him full reign of our hearts!

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Spirit of the Lord Brings Freedom

Peninsula Community Church

The Spirit of The Lord Brings Freedom 

July 24, 2016

Good morning! To be honest with you I did not anticipate that I would be sharing this message this morning as I had thought I would be in Richmond welcoming our new little prince into the family. But, as He often does, God had a different plan. With that said turn with me in your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 and let’s read together.

2 Corinthians 3:12-18 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

As we look at this passage this morning let me ask you a question. How many times have you found that people reject the truth? Have you ever tried to share undeniable truth with someone and they defiantly reject the truth that you are offering? For us, who know truth, the truth seems so believable and right and yet, there are those around us who resist the truth and the path of righteousness. We find that such blindness to truth comes from two sources. First, the god of this world blinds us so that the truth is not revealed. Secondly, truth is rejected when there is a desire to believe a lie more than to accept the truth.

As we look around our world, we do not have to look too far to see the results of this around us. Notice how Paul starts this passage. Paul stated that there were problems but there is also hope. That hope is found in Christ. Paul also makes an interesting observation. He notes that Moses had to place a veil over his face because the people of Israel were not ready to receive the truth and thus they missed the hope that was available to them. In essence, Paul is saying that this was the way things were but that was not the way things had to be.

You see the reason Moses would place a veil over his face is that the Children of Israel could not see what God had done in Him. The reason was simple. The children of Israel had hardened their hearts and they were not ready to receive what God had done. They saw, but they refused to allow the work of God to make a difference in their life. They closed God out and they kept God at a distance. We see this evidenced in the way they lived. One moment they would be praising God and they would deny and reject Him in the next moment. Why was this? It was because the truth had not found its way into their heart. They were rejecting the truth and the ways of God.

Paul also addresses this when he makes the following statement in 2 Corinthians 4:3-11. He says and even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 

Though different, Paul is presenting the same message. The god of this world had blinded the mind of the Corinthians so they could not see the light of the gospel. Their minds had been blinded so that the word of God cannot penetrate their heart. You see when we share faith with others we must understand that many have had their minds darkened and their minds cut off from the light of truth. But that is not the end of things.

Rather than give up we can stand strong as God promises us that the light can shine into darkness. You see no matter how dark one’s life might be the light of the gospel can penetrate the darkness. Notice what Paul says in our text this morning when one turns to God and the veil is removed, truth is revealed and life comes rushing in. Then Paul makes a powerful statement that should be held close to our hearts. He states that the Lord is a spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. Because the Spirit of the Lord brings freedom we realize three things that come from the spirit of freedom.

First, the Spirit of the Lord brings freedom. By way of the spirit of the Lord there is freedom to receive the grace of God. By way of the spirit of the Lord there is freedom to change. By way of the spirit of the Lord there is freedom to live in truth and not in darkness that leads to a hardened heart.

I love one of the first messages that Christ spoke. It was the initiation of His ministry. We find it in Luke 4:18-19 that Jesus proclaims “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” The Spirit of the Lord is upon Christ and He has been anointed to proclaim the good news, to proclaim liberty to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. The ministry of Christ is to bring liberty and that liberty is available to those who turn to Christ.

Elmer Townes had this to say about revivals and the experience of witnessing the move of God in one’s life. He says that we are to seek intimacy with God rather than the hand of God. In other words while God moves in us He calls us to seek His intimacy. He wants a relationship. In his book “The Worlds Ten Greatest Revivals,” in regards to the great revival of 1904, Townes states The changed lives of converts resulted in reductions in crime, drunkenness, and gambling, along with increases in honesty, truthfulness and chastity throughout Great Britain. In America throughout the nation, political reform was effected as corrupt district attorneys, mayors, governors, senators and assemblymen were replaced with those perceived as honest. Why was this happening? It is because the Spirt of the Lord came and things began to change. The Spirit of the Lord brought freedom and change. How many would like that kind of change?

Second, the Spirit of the Lord shines His light in and the darkness goes. Now that is a powerful statement. You see He is the light of the world. In Him there is no darkness. In Him there is no shadow of darkness. He is the light. And where He is there is light as well. So yes, one’s heart and mind might be darkened by the god of this world but that does not mean that is where they have to stay.  It is for that reason that I love this year’s VBS theme. It is Following Jesus The Light of the World. He is the light. He brings hope and He brings us freedom. Jesus is the Word and it is the Word that is a lamp unto our feet and a light on our path.

Third, the spirit of the Lord comes to transform us into the image of Christ. You see, not only does the Spirit of the Lord change sinners but it changes us as well. First of all because Christ is in us, we find that we do not have to wear a veil. We have an open invitation into the presence of God. We can behold the glory of God. What is the glory of God? It is the character of God being revealed in us and through us.

Often I am asked what a mature Christian looks like. I would say to you today that a mature believer is one that looks like Christ. Are you being transformed into the image of Christ? Are you being changed? If the spirit of the Lord in us we will find that we are being transformed. Once again the idea of transformation is to be totally changed. We are not what we were and we are not going to be what we are now We are changing and we are being changed for His glory and for His honor.

We must understand that our model is not anyone person here on earth. We have some good role models but they are still human and humans will fail and will fall short of the glory of God. That is why Christ must be the model of our transformation. The spirit of the Lord transforms us into His image. How much do you look like Christ? That is the measure of your success and maturity as a believer.

Will you stand today in recognition of your need for the freedom that comes from Christ? Will stand and receive the truth that we need a revival in our hearts? Will you acknowledge that the revival must begin in us?

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Freedom Received and Freedom Given

Peninsula Community Church

Freedom Received and Freedom Given

May 27, 2016

Galatians 5:1,13For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day. For many, it is a day to barbecue and head to the beach. It is a time for families and friends to enjoy time together. It is also a time to relax and enjoy some down time. But the reality is that while it is a weekend to enjoy it is also a to pause to remember those who have given their lives so we could have the freedom we experience today. Unfortunately, too many have forgotten the purpose and value of Memorial Day.

On Memorial Day we are reminded that so many of our men and women in the armed forces have died fighting for our freedom. As we look down the halls of history we are reminded that our freedom as a nation was not cheap. In fact, it was priceless. Our freedom has come at the expense of the blood of young men and women who chose to give themselves to gain our freedom. Listen to these numbers. During the revolution war, 4500 people gave there life to acquire our initial freedom as a nation. The Civil War was the bloodiest campaign on American soil. 498,000 Northern soldiers were killed and 133,000 soldiers from the South died. That is a total of 631,000 men killed. In World War One, 116,000 American soldiers died and in World War Two that number increased to 407,000 American soldiers who died on our behalf. In the Korean conflict there were nearly 40,000 who gave their life for our freedom. The Korean conflict was followed by the Vietnam conflict where 58,000 died. Then most recently we have seen the Middle Eastern conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq which together have claimed more than 7000 lives. In total more than 1.2 million Americans have died to gain and keep the freedom we enjoy in this country. Let me put this into perspective. In our day, this would include every man, woman and child who live in Delaware, Somerset county, Dorchester county, Wicomico County, and Worcester County.

So today as Americans, Memorial Day is more than a picnic or family gathering, it is an opportunity to remember those brave soldiers who have sacrificed their lives defending our country and our freedom. Jesus understood this great feat when He stated that “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for friends” (John 15:13). These men and women who loved this country and loved the freedom we possess laid down their life for us. Our freedom through the years has run crimson red with the blood of those who gave themselves sacrificially. This does not even include those who were maimed and who suffered the mental diminishment that comes from battle. The fact is these men sacrificed so we could live free.

I am so glad to be an American and live in the freedom that is ours but there is another freedom that I would like to talk about today. We find this freedom referenced in our passage. It is here that we discover that as believers we have a great freedom provided for us. This freedom was paid by the blood of one man, Jesus Christ. Many gave themselves so we could have national freedom, but He gave Himself so we could have personal spiritual freedom.

Paul states that it was for freedom that Christ has set us free. If you want to know the will of God, it is here. God wants us to be free. It is His will. It is His desire that we live free from the power of sin and from the past which tends to bind us and control our future. He wants us to live free from the emotional bondage that dictates our present circumstances and future experiences. Pauls is saying you are free so live as freemen.

In preparing for this study, I was reminded about a conversation I had with a pastor who had faithfully served God behind the iron curtain. Right after the wall, in the Soviet Union, had fallen I had the privilege of getting to know this pastor. As I was talking to him about this new found freedom he made an interesting observation. He stated that the people of the Soviet Union had lived under the thumb of communism for so long they did not know how to live in freedom. He went on to say that they had to be taught in many cases what that meant. He even gave me an illustration to explain what he was trying to communicate. He stated that a baker in his town use to have the government tell him what time he was to open and close, because he was subsidized by the government. The problem is after the wall fell, he continued to close at odd times. He would have a line of people with plenty of bread left over and he would just close because he decided it was time to close. He was so used to being controlled by the government that he did not know how to live without their control. That is why the Scripture tells us that we have been given freedom so we must live as free men.

This brings me to a second idea presented in our text. In our freedom we cannot be yoked with slavery again. Paul gives us a clear and unqualified command here. Stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. He desires uncompromising, unrelenting and indomitable freedom. It is for this that He died. It is for this that He rose. You see the problem is that too often we so easily want to go back to what is comfortable and easy rather than what is right. The problem is that too often we fall back on the things that cause us to be yoked again to slavery. Freedom is not easy and it is not cheap. We must fight for it whatever the cost.

There is a second idea to be considered here. The problem is that too often we are set free but we become constrained by legalism. We are saved to freedom but we begin to live in bondage to the rules and regulations more than to the person of Christ. It is noteworthy that there are some who purport to be free but they still live under the thumb of legalism similar to the Russians who had been freed from Communism but still lived as if communism still reigend. Legalism is understood as the act and art of adding to what Christ has done for us. The fact is there is a tendency for all of us to have a bit of legalism in us. To understand this we must look at what controls us? Is it legalism or is it our freedom in Christ? Do we live as free men or do we live like Russian citizens?

One of the things Paul is communicating is that our freedom is always being tested and it is always under attack. The enemy does not want us to live in freedom, in fact it is the opposite, he wants us to be yoked and hindered in our walk. He does not have to stop us he just has to get us to compromise. We see this from a national prospective today. The enemy has lulled us into allowing our freedoms as a nation to be eroded one step at a time. We are on a slippery slope of sin and compromise. Step by step we have seen our freedom eroded and sin being elevated to a position of acceptability and as being natural.

We are also reminded that Jesus did not come to replace our chains with more chains. He came to set us free. We must remember that we do not lose our free will when we choose to follow Christ. We are urged to lay aside our wills in exchange for His. We do this not because He is a mean God that simply wants to control us, but because He knows what is best for us. When we choose to follow Jesus we are presented with a life full of freedom, but we must choose to live it. It’s up to us to refuse to become re-enslaved by the Law, by rules, and by sin. Jesus came to bring love and freedom. Let us not trade these precious gifts in for duty and slavery. As a nation, we have been given freedom as a precious gift. We must be so careful that we protect that freedom and do all we can to keep our freedom safe.

The third idea presented here is that we are not to use our freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. What is Paul saying? Paul is saying that while we are free in Christ we must never use our freedom in a way that allows the flesh to have authority over us. Notice what is happening in our nation today. We are using our freedom that was paid for by the blood of men and women who freely served to allow sin to reign. That is Paul’s warning here!

Who would have ever thought that we would be discussing or debating the issues that we are discussing today. Many of those who gave themselves for us are rolling over in their graves to know that the freedom they fought for is being abused. Who would have ever thought that we would be discussing the right of men to use the women’s restroom and vice versus just because one identifies as a man or a woman and not as God has created them. In our walk before the Lord, we must never use our freedom to allow the flesh to reign in us. Here is the problem that must be addressed. Our freedom never gives us permission to allow sin to reign in us or for us to do anything we want without boundaries. Your freedom is not license to sin. Freedom means taking responsibility and doing what is right. That is so lacking in our nation today.

Finally, in these passages Paul instructs us to love and serve others. We are to walk in freedom. Through love we are to serve others. There is a distinct link between the work of Christ in our life and the work of love that we are to give those around us. Too often we forget all that God has done for us. Too often we forget the freedom we have. In so doing we hold others to a higher accountability than we ourselves want to hold. Here is amazing fact, freedom allows me to love. Freedom makes love possible for me. Too often we attempt to walk in freedom but we put others in bondage because of our own condemnation and judgmental attitudes. Without spiritual freedom we are constrained by what makes us look good and not by the power of God. This applies to our church family, our personal family, and the community in which we live. Our service to others must be motivated by love.

So what do we do? First, we must realize that freedom not used is freedom abused. We are seeing our freedoms being eroded and I question whether or not it is because we have taken our freedom for granted. This applies to us as a citizen of the United States but it also applies to those who are passionate followers of Christ. We must never take our freedom for granted.

Secondly, we must realize that freedom abused is not freedom at all. We live as free men or we are not free at all. True freedom is not a right to allow us too see how much we can get away with but rather it is the opposite. True freedom gives us the strength and wisdom to follow after God’s heart and His will.

Thirdly, we must act with purpose. The question we must ask is do we settle or do we act with a purpose. Do we value our freedom? Do we do “the right things” for Jesus because you have to or because you want to. Ask yourself, why you are doing the “Christian things” that you do? Is it out of love or is it out of obligation? Love must always rule over obligation.

Fourth and finally, we need to celebrate our freedom by being a people that lives in appreciation of what we have been given. We must live with thankful hearts and gracious hearts. By having thankful and gracious hearts we will never take the freedom we have for granted. Nor will take those around is for granted either. Remember it is for freedom that we are free.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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How Easter Gives Hope

Peninsula Community  Church

How Easter Gives Hope

March 13, 2016

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

This morning I am excited about this new series. Over the next few weeks we will look at how we can overcome strongholds and mindsets that hold us back from being what we need to be in Christ. This series is a natural outflow of the prayer series we just completed. You see through the movie “War Room” we were challenged to pray. Through small groups we have been challenged to understand the grace of God and the power of forgiveness.

Two weeks ago, we looked at the Lord’s Prayer to gain a greater understanding of how to pray effectively. As you remember, one of the key parts of the Lord’s prayer is praying that God’s kingdom would come and that His will would be done in us and in our circumstances. By praying this pray we are literally asking that God’s Kingdom and His will would invade everything about us. We pray He would invade our minds, our jobs, our relationships, our health issues, and so forth. The fact we are verbalizing the desire we have for Him to rule our life.

That brings us to our study today. While we sincerely pray and desire for the kingdom of God to be established in us, the fact of the matter is there are many kingdoms vying for that position. As we have read in our text today, Paul reminds us that we walk in the flesh. We live in a world that has been subjected to the power of sin and the rebellion of mankind. Because of this, we walk in the flesh and we are subjected to the work of the flesh in our lives. But Paul is also clear that even though we walk in the flesh, as passionate followers of Christ we have a set of weapons that can destroy the schemes of the enemy and the the strongholds that have been established in us.

So what is a stronghold? If you look at the second part our passage for today, you will find that Paul defines the idea of a stronghold. He states We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. So a stronghold is a mindset or thought process that controls our lives. It can be a sin we continue to confront, a shortcoming or failure we continue to experience, a past experience we can’t let go of, or a strong emotion such as fear, jealously, or anger that keeps surfacing. Without dealing with these strongholds they hang onto us and deter us from who we should be. They become a stumbling block and serve to defeat us rather than strengthening us.

As we look into this subject let me give a warning at this stage. We must never become so focused on spiritual strongholds or demonic activity that we fail to see that Christ is victorious in us. To do so gives credit to the enemy that he does not deserve. To do so allows us to justify our sin, our actions, and our negative thoughts. It is more effective to focus on His victory, His word, and His power in our life. That is the message of Easter and it is our message today.

With that said, let me dive into this subject. We must understand that while we have come into a relationship with Christ, we come into that relationship with baggage from our past. This baggage can include but is not limited to various mindsets, emotions that have not been healed, sins that have not been confessed, or a misconceived theology for living. As we live life we are also impacted and affected by the experiences we have and the people we encounter.

To fully understand this battle our discussion must not begin at the fall of mankind or focus on the post fall condition of man. We must begin our story earlier in the narrative. The fact is we must begin with the intent and desire of God in the creation. Therefore it is necessary to  begin with the creation and not the fall. That is why it is not a mistake that the Biblical story begins in Genesis 1:1. The first chapters of the Bible teach us that God created something beautiful and wonderful. After each day of creation, God proclaimed His work “good.”

But why start here? We do so because we need to be reminded that in creation we were fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). We were not only created out of the dirt of the earth, but we were created in the image of God. That should mean something to us. Because we are created in the image of God, we have value and we have a purpose. This also means that every life has value no matter who the person is. He made an amazing creation created in His image and filled with His breathe.

But as we know, by way of the historical perspective of the Bible, there was a problem. Because of the fall of mankind, what God created was contaminated by sin. If you will for a moment think about life in the Garden of Eden before the fall. Man walked with God and He had an acceptance with God and with each other. That was priceless. They walked in an innocence that was pure and perfect. In the Garden, man was called to have dominion over the earth and the animals of the earth. So, we find that in the Garden of Eden mankind had acceptance, he walked in innocence, and he had dominion over God’s creation.

But, as we know, that all changed on the day Adam and Eve sinned. All of life was pushed out of kilter. From that day forward what was once so easy for mankind had now become a battle. What God had given man and the essence of creation has been defamed and destroyed. With that said let me make sure that we know that while the situation has changed we are still valuable in the sight of God. We are still a creation of God. That is why the process of redemption is to restore mankind to His original purpose. Redemption provides us with acceptance. We are given  forgiveness which is restored innocence. And dominion over all of creation has been restored.

As we consider this in relationship to the theme of strongholds, we begin to realize that humankind’s attributes before the fall become glaring needs after the fall. First of all in the Garden mankind walked in acceptance. But after the fall acceptance by God and subsequently by others was replaced by rejection. The result was a need to belong and because of sin it became more difficult to feel accepted. The problem is exasperated when we are rejected over and over again. The result is that we begin to feel rejected as a person and we begin to think that rejection is a way of life for us. Because of the feeling of rejection we strive more and more to be accepted and loved. In our effort to be more accepted and loved we succumb to peer pressure to be liked and loved. If we are not careful we will do whatever it takes to be accepted by our peers, our coworkers and our family. We end up in a vicious cycle of wanting acceptance but we experience rejection. The result is that we allow a stronghold of rejection to establish a false kingdom in our heart. When this happens we filter our decisions and the actions of others through the filter of rejection. Because we feel rejected, we lose the will to try.

Secondly, because of the fall of mankind innocence was replaced by guilt and shame. The result is that too many people have a poor sense of self-worth therefore they strive to find their worth and value in people and things rather than in Christ. The advertisement world plays on the need for self worth. If you buy this car, shop at this store, wear this brand of clothes you will have worth and you will be accepted by your peers. Striving for a sense of worth can cause a stronghold to be established as we will do anything to feel worthy, even if it is a false worth. You see we strive for self-worth by doing things we believe will fill that void in our life. We work harder and do more and yet we feel more shame and guilt. To make things worse we begin to filter the activity of our through shame and guilt which inevitable brings more shame and guilt.

The third aspect here is that dominion was replaced by weakness and helplessness therefore we have a need for strength and self-control. People attempt to meet this need by disciplining themselves or by trying to control others. Trying to control others is in reality a symptom of insecurity and a lack of self worth. In essence, we try to satisfy the need for dominion by trying to control others. Control is a stronghold that is sin’s answer for lost dominion. On the other hand while we try to control others we also try to control ourselves. We do so through strict and extreme efforts to discipline one’s self and one’s actions. We try to manage sin rather than dealing with sin. The result is that we are led to a spirit of legalism, perfectionism, and self-destruction. Additionally, when we try to control ourselves and control others we are never satisfied so we try and control more. Thus the stronghold only gets stronger.

As we bring this to a close today, I read this week that as believers we are not trying to become saints we are saints who are becoming like Christ. That is so true. That is why we do everything we can to bring every thought into captivity to the glory of God. We filter everything not through the hurt or stronghold but through the filter of God’s word, His redemption, and His power. In our HVAC systems we have filters that take out contaminates and dust out of the air. If that filter becomes clogged it will not allow the air flow through the filter and then there are problems. The same goes for our mind as well. We need a new filtering system. That is what we will be talking about over the next few weeks.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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