Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 30, 2019
Speaker: Daryl Walter Series: Pentecost
Passage: Galatians 5:1
SERMON for June 30, 2019
Third Sunday after Pentecost
The sermon for today, the Third Sunday after Pentecost, is based on our Epistle lesson from Galations. It comes from the Lutheran Hour series, written by the Lutheran Hour speaker, Rev. Gregory Seltz and is entitled, “Don’t Touch That Dial”.
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Heavenly Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. AMEN.
The first verse of our Epistle reads: For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Today's message is going to be straightforward, truth telling, and prayerfully, freedom giving; but you may be tempted to change the dial before it's through. So I want to ask you up front. Will you promise to listen to the end? Don't touch that dial until you hear where true freedom comes from, and that it only comes from Jesus.
Okay, let's begin with a question. Who said these words, "Give me liberty, or give me death"? Those are the words of Patrick Henry, a founding father of the United States. They speak of the dedication of America's leaders to give freedom to the citizens of the United States of America. Isn't that a positive view of life, to speak freely, to report accurately, to worship authentically, to assemble humbly, and to enjoy freedom to do these things?
"Give me Liberty or Give me death," expresses the hope of the human spirit. The problem is that we are often our own worst enemy to actually make freedom happen!
That's why our Scripture reading for today is so important to our lives. If freedom is something for which your heart aches, if freedom is a deep yearning in your soul, there is only one place to finally resolve that quest. Real freedom can come only from God, receiving His freedom that comes from being His Son, or His daughter, and this comes only by grace through faith!
Our Epistle reading for today talks about a freedom beyond all others that Jesus Christ made possible for us all. It's a freedom one can live in now and forever; a freedom that can't be taken away by governments or enemies; a freedom that can be shared with others no matter who they are.
Don't touch that dial. Listen. There is more. St. Paul describes this unique freedom that comes when you put your faith in Jesus Christ alone. He says it this way, "Jesus Christ set us free from the law."
Wait a minute. That sounds impossible. We are under law from the moment we're born. We can't even get out of the hospital without someone signing legal papers or registering our names. There are rules and rules. Laws and laws. They are everywhere.
But those kinds of rules aren't even the most important ones. There are moral laws, written deep in our hearts, laws that you and I know are right. And when we transgress those laws, we bring all kinds of problems and pain into our lives and into this world. Transgressing the moral laws for family, intimacy, and friendships, has brought untold pain into our world. Venereal diseases, fatherless homes, poverty, brokenness, fear, loneliness, and heartache. And then there's the guilt that comes when we know that we are not just letting ourselves down, not just letting our loved ones down, but we're even letting God in heaven down. Free from the law? How is that possible when we feel we are bound everywhere we look, and everywhere we turn?
Well, think of this scenario then. Let's put these things in as real terms as we can. Imagine yourself as a prisoner who has been condemned to death, guilty as charged. Even though you want to make amends and set things right, you have no power to do so. There you are, sitting on death row as it were, just waiting for your last day as if that's all there is to life. Suddenly, you are set free. You walk outside the prison, no rap sheet and no parole officer waiting. You have been set free, declared completely innocent. How would you feel, standing outside those prison walls at that very moment? How would you feel being truly free? How would you feel, knowing that you didn't get what you deserved? How would you feel, knowing that you did nothing to accomplish it?
That's the picture the Bible paints of how God deals with people who are under the law. In fact, God already knows exactly who we are. He tells us straight, you might fool your friends and neighbors, but you don't fool me. The Bible says that we can all identify with this prisoner because that is who we are, we all are prisoners of our own sin. Jesus Himself says, "Everyone who practices sin, is a slave to sin!" And the Book of Ecclesiastes reminds us, "There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins." And the law of God points to the certain outcome of that kind of sinful life! The Bible says, "The wages of sin, "is death." Left on our own before God's law, and like that prisoner, we are on death row, waiting for the just payment for the havoc we've created in our lives, in our world, in our hearts, and in our minds. In fact, God's law demands perfection because that is how we were created. Because of our sin, we are powerless before the law's righteous demands.
What can I do? What can we do? We would dearly love to do something, and in fact anything.
Don't touch that dial. Listen. There is more. Here's more straight talk from the Bible about this freedom. There is nothing we can do. We can't fight for God's gift of freedom. We can't organize a freedom march to change God's mind. We can't buy our freedom or win it in a court trial. The bottom line is, there is no way we can liberate ourselves regardless of how hard we try, regardless of how we live, or regardless of what we do. If it is left up to us, all we can do is sit back and wait for the righteous judgment that we deserve.
Listen. I'll be honest. If we stopped right now, there would be no reason for this radio program. We would all just sit back and wait for our eternal punishment. But don't touch that dial. Listen. There is more. Thankfully, there is much more.
In our text, the Apostle Paul says, "Wait a minute, there is more to this." While it's true, on our own terms, with our own strength, there is no way out. There is nothing we can do. When we realize there is nothing we can do, the Apostle Paul says, 'Listen to this. Christ has set us free! Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.'" When Jesus died on the cross, He paid for every sin that we have committed, or ever will commit. Our sin drove those nails into His hands and thrust that spear into His side. His death was our death. His death was payment for our sins. And now, because of Him, we are standing outside that prison a free person, not because of anything we have done but because of what Jesus has done for us. The Bible in Ephesians 2 verse 8, tells us plainly, "For by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God".
That is so important it is worth hearing again. "For by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God".
To many today, freedom means, "Free to do as I please." To many, they think Christ has set us free from sin, so that we can be free to sin. That is just not true. That's just another version of spiritual slavery and leads to eternal death. You are free to live under the grace of God, to give God glory, and to serve your neighbor.
During the Spanish-American War, Clara Barton who founded the Red Cross, was overseeing the work in Cuba. One day, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt came to her wanting to buy food for his sick and wounded Rough Riders. Clara refused to sell him any. Roosevelt was perplexed. His men needed help and he was prepared to pay out of his own funds. When he asked someone why he could not buy the supplies, he was told, "Colonel, just ask for it!" Now he understood. The provisions were not for sale. All he had to do was simply ask and they would be given freely. That's how we as sinners receive eternal life. Salvation is a gift, a free gift as we just heard in Ephesians. God's gift of forgiveness is free for the asking. There is nothing we can do to earn it.
Too many people today think that the things of Jesus are just another set of religious rules to obey, and burdens to carry. There were many people in Paul's day who thought that Jesus' teachings did that too; but that's exactly the opposite of the way of faith in Jesus.
We should not see faith in Jesus and belonging to His church, as just another religion with a set of rules and regulations for life. Yes, we still need to strive to be faithful, moral, ethical, encouraging, serving, and caring people. Why? Because of the Good News of Jesus, a salvation and power that overcame our sinful ineptitude before the law. Jesus fulfilled the righteous demands in our place. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians, "For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that you and I in Him, might become the righteousness of God." Jesus kept all the demands of the law for us. He died under the curse of the law for us. With His death and resurrection, He made the great exchange. He took our sins on Himself and paid for them. In exchange, He gave us His righteousness as a gift. When God sees you and me in Jesus, He doesn't see our sins. He sees the righteousness of His Son that covers us by grace. Paul says, "In Jesus, because of Jesus, you are free. Why would you want to put yourself again under the yoke of trying to fulfill the law of God on your own? Christ has set you free!
Don't touch that dial, because there's even more Good News.
When Paul says, "We are free from sin," that doesn't mean free to sin. We are literally free, forgiven sinners who can now strive to do what's right in loving and serving others in His Name, just as He loves us. No compulsion, no coercion. But real freedom, real love, real power in Christ.
St. Paul reminds us that we are made right with God by grace, through faith in Jesus. That frees us from the burden of sin, from a guilty conscience, from the fear of death. This means we are free from sin, now free to live life for all its worth, trusting God in all things.
The reason for trying to live a Christ-like life is the freedom that Paul is talking about today. Christ has set us free for freedom. We are free to live in that freedom. We are free to live like one who has been saved, one who has been set free. In gratitude we strive to live a life filled with thanksgiving for the One who set us free. We are free to love others as Christ has loved us. We are free to serve others as Christ serves us. We are free to forgive others as Christ forgives us. We are free to be filled with the Spirit who brings us freedom. We are free to live without condemnation for the past or fear for the future. The law now becomes our guide to know how God wants us to live, and our desire is to let the Holy Spirit guide our life within His boundaries. Even when we stumble and fall in disobedience, we come to our Savior with repentant hearts. And then He reminds us simply to look to the cross and realize that in Him we are forgiven.
The real essence of Christianity is real freedom which does not come from the law, or a religion that makes us dependent upon what we do, but it is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, who saved you and me, and set us free in Him. Jesus Himself promises, "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."
So, Christ has set us free! Live in that freedom. Walk by the Spirit in that freedom!"
"Thanks to be to God who gives us this freedom, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
Thanks be to God for by His grace we have been saved, through faith. And this is not our own doing; it is the free gift of God"