Real Freedom

Sunday was one of those times when my sermon got turned upside down the night before.  I was all set to continue preaching through the Sermon on the Mount when God spun me around.  It had a lot to do with the weekend and the festivities, because God was working on my heart throughout the weekend.  I will confess to getting pretty cynical lately.  I have a stack of news stories that are nearly depressing that I have waited to unload in a post here, but I am going to take a different tack with this I think.  It has to do with Peter’s words in 1 Peter 2:16, “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.”  This was a reminder that I sorely needed.  Our physical freedom has dwindled away in this country.  We have taken the privileges and gifts of freedom that were given to us by those who came before and frittered them away.  But Peter wrote these words originally to people who lived under a maniacal emperor and far less physical freedom than we have today.  Our freedom isn’t based on government and it isn’t dependant on government; our freedom comes in Christ alone.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t pay attention to what is going on in this country and the way our freedoms are being frittered away.  I think it is still important to speak up and defend the freedom that many fought so hard to give us before it is gone completely.  So in that vein, with the understanding above, I submit several stories for your perusal.

1. Apparently, our Congress doesn’t need bills to vote on anymore.  They just vote for vague generalities and call it a day.  Really, this is the final straw for anyone who felt that we still followed the Constitution in any way, shape or form.  How do you vote for a document that doesn’t technically exist?  There is no possible way to know what is in it or what it will do.  This is the most candid admission that Congress just does whatever it wants to do regardless of the law.

2. While this is going on, the state of Pennsylvania is editing prayers that are prayed in the state house there.  Aside from the crazy notion of approving prayers ahead of time, I still can’t get used to the idea of writing out a prayer beforehand:

The policy — not yet three months old — requires guest chaplains to first submit their prayers in writing and then, if deemed necessary, agree to change their words to meet “nondenominational” guidelines established by McCall’s staff.

Seriously, I have yet to write out a prayer to be prayed in public.  I always felt that prayer is heartfelt communication with God and I don’t generally write out what I am going to say to my wife after dinner either.  If it were me, I guess I would submit a prayer to them, accept their edits and then say whatever came to mind anyway when the time came.  What would they do? Fire me and tell me to never come back?

3. Apparently, Pennsylvania is on fire when it comes to limiting liberty these days.   I am sure my brother Will knows all about this stuff from his close exposure to it.  This blog post is a long one, but it is worth the read as I am sure this is the kind of thing we can come to expect if the government takes over health care and becomes more involved in keeping us healthy proactively.  I really like this section from the post:

What is without question, though, is that through “food safety,” people at this Pennsylvania church are being deprived of freedom.  And it is so profound a freedom, it is taken entirely for granted.   It is the freedom to choose what they eat.  The state of Pennsylvania is saying very clearly that they do not have that right, in pies or in milk, or in any food stuffs the state decides to declare “unsafe.”

It may or may not be unsafe food.  That is not what matters.

What matters is whether this democracy allows the state or federal government to take control the public’s choice of food.  That IS unsafe.

The confusion of the church people involved at St. Cecilia’s is the experience of free people running up against the insanity of totalitarian control for the first time.  They try to understand, they try to comply, but when it’s clear that “normal” and “good” have become illegal, they begin seeking ways around the law to protect what matters to them.  It may only be pie but it embodies everything in their culture, in their way of life, in their rights as citizens.  It is the picture of normal existence being forced into a corporate box.

Safe to say, we are in trouble in terms of the freedoms we thought we had in this country to be sure.

4.  If you are really dismayed at this point, go back and read about true freedom.  Read 1 Peter 2 again or Galatians 5.  Then, when you have regained your composure, check out this post from a fellow North Dakotan about these same issues.  Her perspective comes in regard to transportation regulations and flying, but she runs the gamut a bit as well and it is well written:

Case in point: people in Washington state who have now begun smuggling dish detergent from Idaho, all due to a ban on phosphate-based dish detergent which left them with “environmentally friendly” detergents that did a lackluster job. Normally law-abiding grandmas are turned into law-breakers because they want clean dishes. Grandma becomes a kind of Palmolive Al Capone, and my friend is forced to plunge a few hours after a rough meal.

God bless America, the land of the formerly free but currently choked-on-bored-lawmaker’s-minutiae. A waste of resources all around, these stupid laws and the enforcement of them.

Currently choked on bored lawmaker’s minutiae indeed.  Apparently, the laws are so pointless that even Congress can’t be bothered to read them anymore before they vote on them.

5.  If you want a little encouragement after all of this, go have a listen to the message that God gave me to preach this past Sunday and hear about true freedom in Christ.

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Categories: Culture, Freedom, Humor, Persecution, politics, Signs of the Times, Truth | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Real Freedom

  1. Jeff,

    Pretty good sermon. I know how much this freedom in Christ means to you. It was quite evident in your sermon.

    I thought it was great until the end (placing a restriction on the gospel…”if you”).

    But, hey, I know that is a Baptist thing and I wouldn’t expect you to do anything else right at this point in your theology.

    Other than that, I thought you did an outstanding job.

    God bless you, Jeff, and your passion for Jesus Christ, and your desire to see many come to HIm.

  2. Steve,
    Thanks for the compliments, but I am confused(probably shouldn’t be). What restriction did I place on the gospel? “If you” is pretty vague so I am not sure what you are referring to in the sermon specifically and it is the same kind of language that Christ used Himself, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25, Mark 8:34-35, Luke 9:23-24) For me it’s not a Baptist thing; it’s a Jesus thing.

  3. “If you” turns the gospel into another form of the law.

    It is boiled down to something that ‘you must do’.

    We don’t believe that. When Jesus spoke to Niccodemus He made it clear that ‘being born again’ is not something that we can do. Jesus also tells us that He chooses us, we do not choose Him.

    Faith comes by hearing. When the gospel is announced, without strings attached (“if you”) it remains the gospel…given FOR YOU.

    Well then, how do we do it?

    We preach the law (in a variety of ways) pointing out how sin, death and the devil have got us in this world, making sure that the sinner is cut to the marrow. Then we announce what Jesus has done about it. We make no offer, that Jesus be sized up and decided for. We say this has been done for you.

    Once in awhile people will actually hear it and come to faith. Not because of something they’ve decided, but because of what Jesus has already decided for them…on the cross…in their baptisms…in the supper….this is the external Word which we can have assurance in.

    I said in my earlier comment that Baptists don’t believe in that type of theology and you do things your way. That’s ok.
    I ‘m just being honest and letting you know there is a better way, a more biblical way that puts the onus on Jesus and takes it away from us.

    But, I still think you did a wonderful job in everything else other than asking for “the decision”.

    Off to church …to be slain…then raised (hopefully) by the Word!

    Thanks, Jeff!

  4. Steve,
    I know we don’t see completely eye to eye in this area, but I am not talking here about salvation. God will bring people to salvation in His way and time (I think we completely agree on that), but God has also given me the privilege to exhort His people to the life He has called us to live.

    Jesus is the one who said, “If anyone(if you) would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me(you must do). For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

    This isn’t a question about how someone is saved, rather it is a statement to those who are chosen by God to live for Him. The invitation comes from God through Jesus Christ. The decision you hear is me exhorting Christians to live as they have been called to live. Any non-Christian would have to be drawn by the Spirit of God. It happened to me and He continues to draw men unto Himself.

    God bless you, Steve. I appreciate you taking the time to sharpen me and add your input here.

  5. Jeff,

    I see what you mean.

    We see God as exhorting people and calling people in the message itself.

    We see the invitation at the end of a message as turning the gospel (now) into something that ‘you must do’ or that ‘you must decide’.

    We feel that this leads to a false sense of security and also to pride.

    So, when we give a fine law/gospel sermon as you did, we would just leave it with the Word of the gospel (what Christ has done about your sin problem and the world’s sin problem) and let it go with that.

    There really isn’t a formula, but if there were it would look like this Law (to kill off) then Gospel to raise. End on the gospel.

    Anything that the sinner should, ought or must do to make all of this come to pass…is just more law.

    Thanks, Jeff.

    – Steve

  6. We see the invitation at the end of a message as turning the gospel (now) into something that ‘you must do’ or that ‘you must decide’.

    Steve,
    I would totally agree with you that the invitation can be and often is/has been misused in exactly the manner that you describe. Here is the rub:

    Anything that the sinner should, ought or must do to make all of this come to pass…is just more law.

    My automatic assumption is that no one can respond to God without His work to draw them to Himself. If I give people an invitation to respond, it is simply a moment for them to recognize what God is doing in their life. They are not saved by their decision in any way. I further assume that most people who are coming to church(particularly in this day and age) already are part of His family. This doesn’t mean I will not explain the gospel for those who may never have understood it before, but it does mean that my focus is on the saints of God and strengthening the body through the Word. We aren’t supposed to be just preaching the gospel in church hoping that the lost come to hear; we are to be taking the message of the gospel as we go everywhere that we go.

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