Since it was first Introduced in Dr. Seuss’ 1954 Horton Hears a Who, Whoville has been a staple in popular culture. In 1957 Seuss reintroduced Whoville in his book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and the location and residents have been popularized in different media through the years. There has been a TV special of each book, a direct to VHS version of Horton Hears a Who, three movies, a Broadway special and a 19-minute paint on glass animation entitled, I Hear You, was released in Russia in 1992.
And that really has nothing to do with our series, other than it provided a really cool kickoff point. And our visit to Whoville is based on Who We are in God’s eyes.
You see, often our identity comes from how others see us or how we see ourselves. And while that is not completely bad, if that is the only way we define ourselves as Jesus Followers then it is a flawed matrix.
Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
So, if that is your reality, if you belong to Christ, then your identity is new as well, and God has specific descriptions of you as his new creation
Over the past few weeks, we’ve looked at how God calls us his children, victors, disciples, ambassadors and his friends. And I trust that some of those have resonated with you.
This morning I want to focus on the words of Jesus that were read earlier.
John 8:31-32 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Free what tremendous connotations this conjures up in our mind. Freedom a concept, an ideal a theory. And yet it is more than that because it’s a concept, an ideal and a theory worth dying for and there aren’t many of those around today.
It was for freedom that Abraham Lincoln split his country with civil war. It was for freedom that Orange Scott left the Methodist Episcopal church and formed the Wesleyan Church. It was for freedom that Canadian soldiers fought and Died at Vimy Ridge and Dieppe.
It was for freedom that Martin Luther King Jr. organized the freedom march, went to jail and eventually died. It was for freedom that my great grandfather escaped the tyranny of Estonia, and left his parents and brothers and sisters to start a new life in Canada.
And it was for a much greater freedom that Jesus Christ the Son of God, Emmanuel, the Messiah left his home in heaven, was born of a virgin, lived on this earth for thirty-three years and died on a cross. For your Freedom. Free at last, free at last thank God almighty we’re free at last.
It was this freedom that Paul wrote about in Galatians 5:13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.
At that point, freedom was an even more marvellous, more wonderful and more beautiful concept. Because in the time of Paul life was polarized, you were either free or you weren’t and there was no middle ground.
And it is to our detriment that we have become so used to freedom, so convinced that it is our God-given right, so blasé about the fact that we are free to do virtually anything we want that the concept of freedom no longer really means much to us at all. That word, that concept means nothing; it is no longer marvellous, wonderful or beautiful. It has become just another word, just a collection of vowels and consonances.
And yet there are millions of Canadians today who are in bondage. They enjoy their external freedom, the benefits of their political freedoms, and the rewards of their economic freedom and yet they are slaves. Slaves just as surely as if they were black Africans in Atlanta Georgia two hundred years ago. Slaves just as Onesimus was a slave 2000 Years ago when Paul wrote about him in the New Testament. And they don’t even realize it.
And the bible says, you, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. Who was called to be free? Paul said, “You, my brothers and sisters.” Christians are called to be free. And Christ offers the only true freedom that There is.
So, let’s begin with 1) What Being Free Isn’t
So often in this world, we hear people who make the fatal mistake of believing that freedom is the freedom to sin. Yet that isn’t freedom at all. You say “Oh yes it is I’m free to do whatever I want to do.”
Charles Kingsley stated, “There are two types of freedom, the false where a man is free to do what he likes and the true where a man is free to do what he ought.”
Do you do it because you want to do it, or do you do it because you have to do it? Because you are driven to do it? The natural man, the man who has been so perversely altered by sin and Satan has a compulsion to sin. It’s not a choice. He doesn’t sin because he wants to; he sins because he has to.
Collins dictionary defines “Free” as, “able to act at will; not under compulsion or restraint.”
That means not even under an internal compulsion. Paul states on four separate occasions in Romans 6 that we are slaves to Sin. Sin is not the master though; sin is simply the chains that hold us secure to the master.
“That’s silly,” you say, “I can’t be a slave, because I was never sold, and slaves, must be bought and sold.” I got news for you, you were sold, or perhaps sold out is a better description.
You ever got taken, on anything? I think most of us have been had, at one time or another. My biggest weakness has been for automobiles, and in the last 42years I Have had 28 cars and 5 motorcycles, 3 VWs, 3 Dodges, 2 chevs, 1 Pontiac, 1 Oldsmobile, 2 Plymouths, 3 Chrysler, 7 Toyota, 1 Holden, a Nissan, 2 Fords, a Mazda, a Suzuki and a Mercedes, actually a smart Car but it was made by Mercedes, plus the motorcycles 3 Hondas and 2 Yamahas.
Not Necessarily in that order. And let me assure you that from time to time I have been taken in trading my cars. Not that I was necessarily upset, I had wanted the cars and I had gotten them.
But the biggest con in history had nothing to do with a car or a house, or insurance it was over a simple piece of fruit.
Clear back at the beginning we were sold down the river by Adam and Eve. They were the first and last human beings other than Jesus Christ who had a say in whether or not they would sin. For one bite of a piece of fruit, they sold themselves and everybody else into slavery.
Think about it? If I asked you, why do you do things contrary to the teaching of God’s word? Your answer would probably be, “Because I want to!”
Really? My experience was Like Paul’s in Romans 7:14-20 So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
What was Paul talking about? He was talking about being under the bondage of sin. Why do we do the things we do. Why do you do the things that are contrary to the will of God?
Once Adam and Eve gave in to the desire to rebel, it was the end of the story because they established the pattern for the human race. From that point on we no longer had a choice. It was no longer our decision as to how we lived our life, we were compelled to sin.
Why do you think Noah got drunk? Why did Moses get angry, why did Saul rebel, why did David commit adultery, why did Jonah run, why did Peter deny Christ. Because they wanted to? No, because they were compelled to.
Which is the same reason little kids throw tantrums, defy their parents and bite their siblings?
When I was a kid a comedian by the name of Flip Wilson had a variety show on television and his favourite line was “The Devil made me do it.” And you know Flip wasn’t all that far off.
Sin isn’t our master, but it is the chains that hold us to our master and the key is held by Lucifer, Satan, the devil himself. He has bound us to his service. And only one thing can free us, and that is the master key. Only Jesus Christ can unlock those chains and set us free.
Remember where we started? John 8:34-36 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
So, now that we know what being free isn’t let’ look at, 2) What Being Free Is
Only Jesus Christ can set you in full control of your life. Only Jesus can make you free indeed. The secret you see is not being free to sin, it’s being free not to sin because that is when you are in control.
The laws of the Jews in the Old Testament were to prevent people from sinning. You see if everybody would drive at 110 km on our highways then there would be no need for the speed limit. But because certain people won’t maintain that speed the government had to legislate the speed limit. They have had to say, “This is right, and this is wrong.”
And when Jesus Christ frees us from the tyranny of sin, he has also freed us from the tyranny of the law.
For example Galatians 5:1 So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.
Now then in saying that let’s say this. In order for our lives to be in harmony with God, without being burdened down with rules and regulations we need to develop a lifestyle which reflects God and Jesus Christ.
We need to come to the place where we walk so close to Jesus that we don’t need external guidelines. And even though our lives will, by and large, reflect those rules it will be because of our close walk with Christ not because we’re trying to live according to the rules.
It has been said that a dog isn’t a dog because he barks, but he barks because he is a dog. And a Christian isn’t a Christian because of the life they live; they live that life because they are a Christian. And they live that life because Jesus Christ is in Control and he has to be in control if we are going to live the life that he wants us to live.
Now some of the early Christians were just waiting for this, they were real opportunists. “So, now that I don’t have to sin, and now that I’m not doing it for the Devil then it’s not wrong” and that’s why Paul asked the question in Romans 6:1 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?
What a scam. I don’t know what super salesman thought that one up, but I can just hear him now. “When we sin, only God can Forgive us right?” And he forgives us by grace right? And grace means God’s Favour, right? And the world needs more of God’s favour, right? Well then if God’s grace or God’s favour comes to the world when He forgives us for sinning. And if the world needs more of God’s grace or favour. Then by sinning, we bring more of his grace to the World.”
And incredibly, salvation by grace has turned sin into a public service. But neither grace nor freedom is a reason to sin.
In early 1988, before everything fell apart for them, Charles and Diana, Prince and Princess of Wales, and some friends took a skiing trip to Switzerland. The shocking news came one afternoon of a terrible accident caused by an avalanche in which one of the prince’s lifelong friends was killed and another seriously injured. It seemed sheer chance that the prince himself was not killed or hurt. How did it happen?
A day or two later the press reported that the Prince’s group had chosen to ski on slopes that were closed to the public. The avalanche warnings had been posted, but they had chosen to go beyond the fences because, as one of them observed, that’s where the optimum fun and excitement was to be found.
Most likely, they found a brand of pleasure that was indeed more than attractive. But it went beyond the margins of what was wise and prudent. And the avalanche exacted its price among those who went beyond the Fences. The result? Several broken worlds.
Like the prince and his party who could not stay inside the fences, all of us become curious enough at times to edge out to the fences and see what’s on the other side.
Perhaps we become curious to see how far we can sneak away from God and not suffer the consequences. But that isn’t what our freedom is all about it’s not the freedom to
To see how far we can lean over the cliff without falling over. Paul tells us that both grace and freedom provides us with the power to not sin.
Remember the quote from Romans 6:1 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?
A rhetorical question and you know what a rhetorical question is? You don’t expect an answer to it. “How dumb do you think I am?” “Is the Pope Catholic?” Paul answers this question himself in Romans 6:2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?
And in Galatians, he addressed those who would pervert our Christian freedom by making it a licence to sate our fleshly desires with these words, Galatians 5:13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.
Our biggest problem then is with Christians who continue to wear the chains of sin after they’ve been unlocked. The only explanation is that Jesus has become saviour but not master over their life. There is nothing worse than somebody looking for cheap grace.
You know the person who wants eternal life but doesn’t want any changes in his temporal Life.
In Exodus 21:1-11 gives us the law concerning slaves, and listen to Exodus 21:5-6 But the slave may declare, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children. I don’t want to go free.’ If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door or doorpost and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will serve his master for life.
That tells the story of a slave who is a slave because he wants to be one. That needs to be the reason that we serve Christ because we want to serve him, not because we have to but plain and simply because we want to.
Let’s go back to the text that we looked at earlier in, Galatians 5:13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.
Ok, then what does Paul suggest that we do with this new-found freedom? His answer? Serve one another in love.
The word that Paul uses here for serve in the Greek is doulos, and it literally means slave, the Greek word for love here is agape. And so, Paul tells us “because of God’s Unconditional love exhibited in your life, make yourself a love slave to Christ Jesus.”
If every Christian was intent only on serving one another and wasn’t concentrating on what he or she could get out of life, then we wouldn’t have to worry about indulging the sinful nature.
When we take the key to our chains away from Satan and give it to Jesus Christ, then we become a bondservant of Jesus Christ serving him out of love, not out of obligation.
And always remember that if we spend all our time doing the dos in the bible then we won’t have time to do the don’ts. If we concentrate on the positive aspects of Christianity, then we just won’t have the time or inclination to be caught up in the negatives.
If every waking moment we seek to serve other Christians, love other Christians and uplift other Christians, then how would the world react? It has been said that Gandhi
made this statement, “I would have followed Jesus Christ if it hadn’t been for certain Christians that I had seen.”
Dollars to donuts that those Christians weren’t serving one another through love.
And always remember that “If you learn to like the things you have to do, then you will never have to do anything you don’t like to do.”
How are you serving one another in love today? Look around and before you leave ask yourself “How can I make the life of a Brother or sister in Christ easier today.”