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Pursuing Liberty

The Verdict / John Munro
The Truth Network Radio
July 5, 2022 10:51 am

Pursuing Liberty

The Verdict / John Munro

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July 5, 2022 10:51 am

Dr. John H. Munro July 3, 2022 Psalm 119:105

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The pursuit of freedom is an ancient one. Throughout history, this desire to be free has always beaten in the human heart.

We think of the children of Israel, for example, in bondage in Egypt for many, many years and then being delivered by the mighty hand of God under the leadership of Moses. They never ever forgot that once they were slaves, but now they are free. In England in 1215, the Magna Carta was signed, limiting the power of the king and stating that no man was to be imprisoned apart from the due process of law.

Think of that in 1215. In my own country, in 1320 in Scotland, the declaration of our growth stated this. It's a magnificent statement, I think.

I'm biased, of course. As we think of freedom from the English, for as long as a hundred of us remain alive, we shall never under any conditions be subjected to the lordship of the English. For we fight, not for glory, nor for riches, nor honors, but for freedom alone, which no good man gives up except with his life. Isn't that well stated? That we fight not for glory, nor for riches, nor honors, but for freedom alone.

1320. In Braveheart, William Wallace says, you can take our land, but you can't take our freedom. And we think of that today in a place like Ukraine, where Putin and the Russian army comes and that strong, very impressive people of Ukraine believe this. They are fighting not so much for land, but for freedom.

To be free, that they as a people can decide how they want to live rather than being told by the Russians. Here on July 4, 1776, the American declaration was signed. Isn't it a magnificent declaration?

Here it is. You've memorized it, I know. We hold these truths to be self-evident. Notice that, self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Now notice that these rights are correctly stated as unalienable. That is, these rights, they don't come from Congress, they don't come from the courts, they don't come from the president, they don't come from a king, they don't come from the United Nations as it were. No, the Declaration of Independence correctly stated that these rights come from our Creator, God.

That they're given to us by God, that we're created in the image of God and that we're all equal before God. And notice the emphasis on liberty. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We all want to be free. We all want to have liberty. We all want to pursue freedom.

And so this July 4 weekend, we celebrate freedom and I've called this message, pursuing liberty, pursuing liberty. We just sang the words of Jesus, and I want you to open your Bibles if you brought your Bibles to the fourth gospel. Gospel of John, which Tim has already referred to. John chapter 8, and we have a brilliant statement by our Lord Jesus Christ regarding freedom.

And we're going to read it together. John chapter 8, here's the Word of God to us today, verse 31. So, Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, if you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.

How important. We tend to think that God's truth and truth brings us into bondage, that God is a kind of killjoy, that we'd be far better if we lived our own way rather than God's. And Jesus is saying, absolutely not. The truth, that is the truth of God, God's eternal truth, this truth will set you free. The answer to Him, we're offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. I mean, why are you talking about liberty and freedom?

We've never been slaves. How is it that you say, you will become free? Jesus answered them, truly, truly say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever, the Son remains forever. So, if the Son, referring to Himself, sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Look at that. If the Son, the Son of God, our Savior, if He sets you free, you will be free indeed. This is the truth of the Gospel. Contrary to what you may hear, that Jesus sets us free, sets us free. You know, as we think of July 4 in this country, millions of people throughout the world would love to become citizens of the United States. But for various reasons, they're unable to become citizens.

It's a wonderful thing to be a citizen of the United States, but the reality is many people who want to be citizens are unable to become citizens. That's not true of the freedom which Jesus Christ offers. The freedom which our Lord Jesus Christ offers is not to a particular class, is not to a particular nation, but is offered to everyone. No person is excluded from this freedom which is offered in Jesus Christ. And so Jesus Christ comes to set us free, to give us rest, to give us peace, to give us fulfillment in life and freedom. Do you understand that freedom is at the very heart of the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ? He comes to liberate people from spiritual oppression. Here's the words of Jesus, for example, in Luke 4 verse 18, He has sent me, that is the Father has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind to set at liberty those who are oppressed.

Do you ever think of Jesus coming that way? To give us liberty to free those who are oppressed. Do you say, well, who is oppressed? We read the words that anyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. And this is what sin does, isn't it? Sin does in your life and mine. Sin has many consequences and none of them are good. Ultimately, it ends in death. The wages of sin is death, but think of some of the consequences of sin in our lives. Shame, guilt, addictions, selfishness, self-absorption, bondage, bondage. The devil tells us if we do things, if we have this new experience, you will truly be free.

The reverse is the case. But into this dark world, a world of spiritual oppression, a world of bondage, yes, Jesus Christ comes. And do you understand that Jesus Christ not only died on the cross for our sins, praise God that He did that, in His death, His burial and resurrection, He conquered the forces of death and of darkness and of sin and demonstrates that by rising from the dead. He's the victor over sin itself. We've been singing about that. Charles Wesley in a brilliant song, O for a Thousand Tongues, he says this regarding our Savior, He breaks the power of cancelled sin. He sets the prisoner free. Another of his great hymns, he says, my chains fell off.

We were singing about that. My chains fell off. My heart was free. I rose, went forth and followed Thee. That Charles Wesley pictures the sinner in the cell, the condemned cell with the chains and into that darkness shines the light of the Gospel, the beauty of Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ not only forgives our sins, He sets us free. Another hymn says on the cross, He sealed my pardon, paid the debt and made me free. Do you understand that? That Jesus Christ comes to liberate us, to set us free.

And this pursuit of liberty, this pursuit of freedom, which I suggest to you beats in the human heart, should point us to Jesus Christ. It's a wonderful thing to be a citizen of the United States. Do you realize that becoming a citizen of the United States is not easy?

Goodney and I know that from our own experience. It wasn't easy for Goodney and me to become citizens. I recall over 16 years ago when I was candidating here, I sat or stood up here and dealt with certain questions from the congregation. And I remember this question, the question was, are you a legal alien? Do I look like an alien?

The answer is yes. But in fact, at that point, I carried in my wallet a card saying that I was a legal alien. Now, it's not politically correct to call people aliens, but 16 years ago, that was the case. I was a legal alien.

But at that time, we were going through the process of becoming citizens of the United States. Some of you have gone through that process. There's long forms to be filled. They take your fingerprints.

They check your background. There's a very thorough, at least there was in our case, a very thorough examination. And finally, at the end of the process, which was here in Charlotte, we had our interview.

And I remember it well. I go in front of this woman who had an accent as bad as mine and had become a citizen. And she asked me some questions about the Constitution, some questions about America, which I was able to answer I think fairly satisfactorily. And at the end of the process, she said, there's one thing more, sir. I said, what's that? She said, are you able — she hesitated in her accent — are you able to write a sentence in English?

I thought, boy, that's a tough one. I said, well, I think I might manage that. I said, there's any particular sentence? You know, I love Jesus Christ.

Are you saved? Or what do you want me to write? And she said, well, perhaps you could write. Could you do it? Could you manage to do this? I wish to become a citizen of the United States.

I said, yes, I thought I could do that. It's a lengthy process. And then the day came, 16 years ago, here in Charlotte, when we became citizens of the United States. So, Goodney and I are Charlotteans. There's not many of us. Many of you have come from the north, the south, the east, and the west. But Goodney and I, by choice, are Charlotteans.

We're still working on the language, but there we are. But my point is this, to become a citizen of the United States legally, I'm talking about legally, you have to do it the U.S. way. It's difficult, it's arduous, a little humiliating, standing in long lines, being interrogated as if you're a criminal.

But there it was. I want to say to you, for you to be truly free, to become a citizen not of the United States, but of something much, much better, to become a citizen of the kingdom of God, you must come God's way. That is, to experience true liberty, you must do it God's way. And there are basically two approaches in life as people try to be free. Most people do it their own way. They pursue freedom as they think. They don't think of the consequences. They just live a certain life, a way that they like, perhaps following the culture, following their own desires, copying someone else, but basically they do it their own way.

That's totally wrong. To become a citizen of heaven, to realize your true potential as a human being made in the image of God, the wonderful thing is this, that Christ does it for us. This is the gospel, the good news, that Jesus Christ sees us in bondage. You may not think you're in bondage, but you are. And He comes to us, He comes as it were to our condemned cell, dies on the cross for our sins, rises again, and offers us in His grace forgiveness of sins, yes, and of freedom that He sets us free. I don't know if we understand this.

There are many of you here, I'm sure the majority of you here would profess to be followers of Jesus Christ. But the problem is, we often seem to want to go back to the bondage of the past. Have you noticed that's what the devil does? The devil always wants to take us back, back to the old life, reminding us of the old sins. He wants us to get you back into the old life. But my question is, why would someone who has been a prisoner, who has been liberated, go back to that bondage?

Why would you do that? Why would someone who's known the glorious freedom of being a follower of Jesus Christ go back to the bondage of the old life? The answer is, we still have sinful desires, that's true. There still can be a hankering of the old life. And some of your old friends, some of your old attitudes, some of your own old pleasures beckon you, don't they? And I'm saying to you, do not go back.

When Jesus Christ sets us free, we must never, ever go back. Just a few weeks ago, my grandson, Ian, sitting here, paying attention to you. Not so sure. But he and I, we find ourselves at Edinburgh Airport. Now I know Edinburgh very, very well.

And we're standing and we're in front of the immigration people, the Scottish immigration people. And any time I leave U.S. territory, and I give advice to those going to Kenya, my invariable practice is to carry something in my pocket. It's a little blue book I got here.

Do you know what it is? It's a passport. And it is a passport of the United States of America. So I come to the immigration person, the lady, and I show her my passport and I show her Ian's.

And she looks at them. And she says to me, I see you were born in Scotland. And I said I was.

In fact, I was born very close to the airport, just a few miles away. I said, that's right. She says, but now you're an American, aren't you? And I said, I am. Y'all, I'm an American now. And she says, OK, you can get in.

Then we go in. Now, do I like Scotland? I like Scotland. Are there things about Scotland I love?

Yes, there is. I even love the rain. I love haggis. I love iron brew. I don't say I love whiskey.

I'm a pastor. But I love iron brew. So there are things about Scotland I really like. However, I'm an American. And I'm not going to go back to live in Scotland. That's a choice that we made. Are there things about it that we like?

Yes. And as you think of your past life before you came to Jesus Christ, there are things about the past life that you liked. Some of these sins, some of these pleasures you really liked, and there can be a tendency because of pressures on you by society, your friends, your family, or your own sinful desires to go back. But Jesus is saying, listen to it again, if you abide in my Word, you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.

And here is the wonder. Jesus Christ is saying, if I abide in His Word, that is, if I follow His teaching, if this Word of God, this living Word of God is part of my life, that's going to direct me and is going to help me and to sustain me, I will know a tremendous freedom. And the more I drink of the living waters of Christ, the less the pleasures and the temptation will be to go back. Because, if you've got your Bible open at Romans, at John 8, look to verse 44. He says, you are of the Father, the Devil, and your will is to do your Father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning. Remember that in the abortion bait, our enemy is a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he speaks, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Do you get this?

Here is a sharp demarcation. Here is the living Christ, whose Word is absolute truth, that it is eternal, that it is without error, that it is perfect from first to last, and that when you come to Christ, you are set free and the one who is free is free indeed. On the other hand, we have an enemy.

And says Jesus, there is absolutely no truth in him. Remember that. Remember that. Don't listen to our culture with its persuasive lies, its distortions, its deceptions, its temptations. And the more you listen to it, the more you'll be captured by it. And the more you pursue sin, the tighter the bonds of sin are on you.

It makes us slaves. And that's why when we pursue it, we get deeper and deeper into it, and it becomes more and more difficult to be freed from it. But God's Word sets us free. Do you understand that?

If you know Jesus Christ, if you're following Jesus Christ, you will be free indeed. Psalm 115, verse 105, one of our favorite verses, Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Difficult to navigate through life, isn't it, sometimes?

With our personal circumstances, with the political situation, with the divide in our country, with all of the rhetoric. Difficult sometimes to follow Christ, isn't it? There are other voices. There's my own sinful desires. There's the voice of the enemy. Absolute lies. Remember that the devil always, always speaks lies. But here is the Word of God. Here is the divine truth. And day by day, your prayer and mine should be that we will follow the light. What am I going to do here? What does Jesus say?

That's the question on this gender and sexuality with the booklet I've called it. What does Jesus say? That's it. He is a light to my feet. He's a lamp to my way. And He is going to shine in front of me through His Word and through His Spirit. And so that we will live a life of liberty. And to Galatians, the great chapter on spiritual freedom, I'm encouraging you brothers and sisters to live a life of liberty, a life of freedom.

Not a life of bondage, not a life of compromise, not a life of going back to the darkness from time to time, but to follow Jesus who's the light of the world and who promises the One who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. Here's Paul, Galatians 5 verse 1, for freedom Christ has set us free. It's amazing how Christianity sometimes is distorted, doesn't it?

And it becomes legalistic, it becomes harsh, it becomes judgmental, it becomes very negative, and there are churches and there's communities that seem to specialize in that. Distortion of the Gospel. The Gospel of grace, Paul is saying, for freedom Christ has set us free, stand firm therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Now verse 13, for you were called to freedom brothers. Freedom calls. Only, do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word. You shall love your neighbor as yourself, but if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you're not consumed by one another. Paul is saying, Christ has set you free.

That's tremendous, a great privilege. We are the freest people in all of the world, but don't use your freedom in a selfish way. Don't use your freedom in a self-interested way, but rather through love serve one another. See, this is the nature of true freedom. Freedom is not throwing off all restraints. We sometimes see that a young man, young woman goes off to college and they're free from their parents, from the church and they just live as they like and they think, well now I'm truly free.

The opposite, of course, is the case. That's going to lead to frustration, conflict, despair, self-loathing. Young man's sin never, never leads you into freedom. You can try and justify it any way you want, but the bottom line is this, sin never leads you into freedom. You can think you're free, you can argue about it, but sin never leads you into freedom. Jesus said, we read the words in John 8 verse 34, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. That is, going your own way rather than God's way never results in freedom. It leads to slavery.

So why are you pursuing that course? Why are you having that attitude? You know it's wrong, you know it's sinful.

It leads you away from God and it leads you into slavery. We have today this great notion, and some people seem to buy it, is that living spontaneously is thought to be living free. You just live for the moment. Spontaneous living is cool. It's the secret of freedom and happiness we're told. Have you noticed more and more people take a long time to accept or decline a social invitation?

People don't want to be tied down to it. No, planning is for losers. Be spontaneous. We want to be text at the last minute and decide then whether we'll go to something or do something. I'm told there are dating apps, this is incredible, which tells you at the exact moment that someday in a nearby bar is waiting to meet you. You think, what a way to live, isn't it? Can you imagine going to a bar?

You never met this character, but they're spontaneous and I want to meet someday. Planned approach is boring. Spontaneous approach to life is thought to be cool and liberating and free. Is that freedom? Being spontaneous may be a sign of insecurity. We don't want to commit to an event or a person or something because something cooler might be happening elsewhere and this way we never really enjoy the moment. Therefore, we're not truly free. What is true freedom? We see a musician who sits down and she plays the piano and she's improvising seemingly spontaneously and freely.

Everything is wonderful. I think I wish I could do that. Yeah, but behind that seeming spontaneous playing are hundreds and hundreds of hours of training. We watch Ronaldo kick a ball, a free kick. He's got a group of defenders right in front of him.

The goalkeeper knows he's going to hit the ball into the net and he's wondering what side is it going to be and Ronaldo comes up and he gets that ball over the defenders and bends the ball right into the corner of the net. That is wonderful. That looks so easy, doesn't it? No, hundreds of hours of practice, thousands of hours have gone into that.

That's a result of disciplined training. Freedom isn't doing what you want on the spur of the moment with disregard to the consequences of our action. That's irresponsibility. No, freedom, please listen, freedom is doing what you know to be right and having the power to do it. That's freedom, isn't it? That's the joyful freedom of living in the presence of the Lord Jesus. Your word is a lamp to my feet.

Your word is a light to my way, following Jesus as an authentic disciple day by day following Him, day by day claiming His wisdom, His power and His help. That's freedom. As Eric Little, the great runner said, God made me for a purpose and God made me fast and when I run I feel His pleasure. That's freedom, isn't it? Have you ever experienced that? The hand of God on you. That you know in that situation, whether it's in your home, raising your children, whether it's doing some multi-dollar deal, whether it's playing a sport, whatever it is, but you know that you're right in the presence of the Lord. That your conscience is clear and you're seeking God's will and you realize as you are at work, at home, on sport, whatever it is, that the hand of God is on you.

Marvelous, isn't it? That's freedom. True freedom is not self-determination. It's not self-autonomy. That's self-indulgence. That selfishness leads to conflict and frustration and disaster. We are now, since the recent decision on abortion, we hear women saying all the time, I believe in the autonomy of my own body.

You're not going to tell me what to do. This is my body. It's for me to determine what I do with my body. Too bad, of course, for the unborn babies and their body. But even leaving aside the question of the baby and their womb, they've forgotten, haven't they, that their body is not their own. It's given to them by God. And that they and their babies are created by God. And that therefore we are accountable to God. And we don't live our life in saying no one's going to tell me what to do.

No. Paul is saying to the Corinthians, listen, Christ has set you free. Now this is how I want you to live. I want you to use your freedom in a responsible way, not in a selfish, self-indulgent way. I want you to serve others. Don't use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love, serve one another. Verse 16 of Galatians 5, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. That as you follow Christ, as you use your freedoms to serve others, through the Spirit of God, you will be given supernatural help to do God's will. And that we use our freedom, brothers and sisters, to help others.

That's an act of love. We were just recently at the beach. I'm walking along the beach with my 14-year-old grandson who's as tall as I am, seems to have awful long legs. And he says to me as we're coming near the house we're staying, he says, Grandad, I'll race you. Have you recently run on sand and I used to be a runner and I think, you know, I'm not going to have my 14-year-old grandson outrunning me. I mean, come on, I've got some dignity, I think. And we started, I mean, a fella hadn't gone five yards and he's, you know, 50 yards ahead.

I thought, this is not going to work. And I says to him, you know, Alex, why don't we just walk together? And as we walk together, let's walk at grandad speed.

It's tough getting old, isn't it? And he says, OK. Because I think my grandson loves me. And he uses his freedom, he can run like a window, he uses his freedom to walk alongside his grandfather.

You get the point? In Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven, and now we have the freedom to do the right thing by the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God indwells us, the Spirit of God guides us. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, there's freedom.

The Spirit of God is in this place this morning, there is freedom, there is liberty, it is sin, it's Satan, it's our selfish desires that bring us into bondage. So, my question is, when did you last use your freedom to serve someone another in love? When did you last refrain from doing something, which have been quite legitimate for you to do, which you have the freedom to do, but you didn't do that in order to help encourage, serve someone else?

You do that at work with your colleagues? I'm saying pursue liberty. Use your freedom to serve others in love. It's called Christianity. It's called loving your neighbor as yourself. We're a very selfish people, aren't we? We've been blessed incredibly as Americans. I know there's much to complain about, but think of the way God has blessed us. Think of the way God has blessed this nation. Compare it to any other nation. But are we using our freedom to serve others? In England on June 22, 1772, that's 350 years ago.

Try and picture this. A 31-year-old man called James Somerset, he was an African. As a young boy in Africa, he'd been captured as a slave and taken to the New World, the United States, as a slave. His master was a man called Charles Stewart.

He was Scottish. And Stewart took young James Somerset from Boston back to the United Kingdom, England, as a slave. James Somerset was a remarkable young man, and of course, there were people like William Wilberforce and others working against slavery. And they became this case, this very famous case, of James Somerset, the young African slave, against Charles Stewart, the wealthy Scottish slave owner. And the question was, now that James Somerset was in England, whether or not he was a free man.

The law then, you kept him in the West Indies, if you took him to one of these islands, Jamaica or wherever, and put him in the sugarcane fields, that was okay. But now that he was in England, was he still a slave or was he free? And the case became before the most famous judge at the time, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Mansfield, and he said this.

I put it on the screen. Let justice be done. Though the heavens may fall, and ruled that in England the air is too pure for a slave, and every man is free who breathes it. James Somerset was not a piece of property, but free.

There's a book by Stephen West called Though the Heavens May Fall, which I've read, I've taken this from, which is well worth reading. A judge was saying something very important, something revolutionary then, 350 years ago, that anyone who comes to England is entitled to the protection of English law, and no sooner does a slave touch English soil than his shackles fall from him and he's free. Wonderful case, momentous decision. A slave was free the moment he or she stepped on English soil. That moment, the shackles fell from him.

That legal decision in 1772 was to set in motion the abolition of slavery in Great Britain and the United States. But think of this, whoever you are, with your bondage of sin, no sooner does the Savior touch you. No sooner than you trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. No sooner does Jesus come into your heart and the chains of your sin will fall from you in a moment, and you will be truly free. Think of it, the worst of sinners, like you and me, coming to our sinless Savior with our bondage, with our change, and we come to Him and He says, come to me, and I'll give you freedom. And we receive Christ, and that moment, all, yes, all of our sins are totally gone, covered by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we are free. Wonderful. That's the Gospel.

Today we celebrate that we live in a free country. Have you turned from that sin? Has the Savior touched you, and the shackles of your sin fall from you?

If not, come to Christ today. Fellow believers, is there some sin holding you captive? You see, the more you follow sin, the stronger the bonds of sin are in your life. You want to be free from that anger? Some of you have battled anger for a long time, that greed, that envy, that lust, that addiction, that gossip, these lies, that hypocrisy. You bring it all to the Savior, bring it to the cross of Christ, acknowledge that you by yourself cannot free yourself, and confess it.

And the blood of Jesus Christ is so powerful that you'll be cleansed, and you'll be free to live a life for Christ. Don't live your life in a self-indulgent way. Don't use your freedom in a selfish way.

Through love, serve one another. A fish is only free as long as it swims in water. A train is only free as long as it keeps on the rail tracks. We are only free when we follow our Lord Jesus Christ. We're only free when we do God's will, and our lives are conformed to the Word of God.

This Word is a lamp to our feet, a delight to our path. Follow Christ. Live a life of freedom. Live a life of joy.

Live a life using your freedom to serve others. Help us, our Father and our God, to do that. We thank you for our Lord Jesus Christ who breaks the power of canceled sin, who sets the prisoners free. And we thank you for your perfect Word, the very food for our souls. May we follow Christ. May each day we open your Word as a light, as a lamp, and in the darkness and in a crazy world, help us to follow Christ and to live lives of freedom, lives glorifying you, we pray. And there are some here today who have never opened their heart to Christ, who have never been freed from the bondage of sin. May your Spirit shine on Christ. May your Spirit convict them of their sin and point them to Christ. We ask it in His name. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-27 19:02:00 / 2023-03-27 19:15:37 / 14

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