Looking For Freedom

Looking For Freedomfreedom1
by Rev. Jonathan Gale
13th July, 2014

Romans 8: 1 – 11

Life in the Spirit

8There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

 

Matthew 13; 1 – 9, 18 – 23

The Parable of the Sower

13That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!’

The Parable of the Sower Explained

18 ‘Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’


When Jesus entered his hometown synagogue and began his ministry by claiming to be the one who was going to bring release to the captives, the good people of Nazareth tried to throw him off a cliff.

Freedom is a scary thing.

The reluctance of the people of Israel to accept the responsibility of freedom as Moses led them out of captivity towards the Promised Land was marked again and again by rebellion and a hankering after Egypt, where they had been slaves for over 400 years.

Freedom brings change.

And yet freedom is a powerful urge. We all have a very strong desire to escape from dehumanising control – from any form of slavery.

Anyone hearing Freddy Mercury singing I want to Break Free for the first time is transfixed by the power of the song. We all identify with the desire to be rid of oppression of any kind – because we know instinctively that experiencing freedom is allied to experiencing the grace of God.

When we feel unfree we reason that we are not in receipt of what Jesus came to bring. That only increases our desire to be free.

And yet, the irony is that like the citizens of Nazareth we often don’t recognise true freedom when we see it. When Jesus, the epitome of truth stood before Pontius Pilate, Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”

We can have Jesus standing in front of us and we still hanker after freedom. Why is that? Why do so few Christians have genuine peace? Why are we so often at odds with ourselves, singing with Bono …

You broke the bonds and you loosed the chains

Carried the cross of my shame

You know I believe it

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

Well Paul (as always) makes it plain. In his letter to the church in Rome he says that the problem is that we set our minds on the flesh.

6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

At least, that’s how the NRSV translates Vs.6. It is worth noting: a more literal translation of Paul’s Greek is not so much having one’s mind set on something as it ishaving a mind-set.

It’s vital you get the difference. Our translation reads 6To set the mind on the flesh is death. It implies a responsibility to do something: to set the mind on the Spirit not on the flesh, to focus it, to prevent it from shifting back. We’re speaking of an anxious and constant monitoring of oneself that is related conceptually to the internal struggle Paul discusses in Romans 7 of his seeming inability to stick to doing good. “I must keep my mind set on the Spirit!”

 But a literal translation would read For the mind of the flesh [is] death. In other words we are simply stating a fact. Death is the result of being on the wrong team. This is supported by Douglas Moo in his commentary on Romans who says, “To walk according to the flesh,” then, is to have one’s life determined and directed by the values of “this world,” of the world in rebellion against God. There is no anxious internal struggle here.

This is a greatly freeing distinction because it does away with the idea of an internal dualism and focusses on the Kingdom of God and its values with which we associate. It’s a question of the mast to which you nail your colours.

In other words; what is your mind-set? Is it one that associates with the values of this world – me first, the consumer society, and extreme individualism that plays into the hands of licentiousness?

Or is your mind-set one that embraces the values of the Kingdom of God – consider others first, people are more important than things, and belonging that implies accountability to the community of God?

It’s not about anxious psychological navel-gazing but about our orientation: God’s values or the world’s values.

It’s far more liberating to accept that the work of Christ on the cross deals with the internal stuff as it were. As Vs 3 says, he’s sent his son to deal with sin. We can get into knots trying to sort ourselves out. God is a lot better at that than we are! We are required to sort out our turangawaewae and make sure we stand in the place we claim tobe our standing place.

It is when we align ourselves with God’s Spirit that we develop a Spirit mind-set. We don’t have to be perfect. It’s not so much how successful we are at the internal battle to be good, but rather the direction towards which we are orientated. It’s not so much about assessing our performance as it is about which team we’re on.

It’s also worth remembering that we are human and not perfect. At times (using the imagery of our Gospel reading);

  • We are the pathway from which the birds steal the seed – hardly aware of God’s word to us.

 

  • At other times we are rocky ground with shallow soil – we find ourselves inspired by God’s word for only brief periods of time.

 

  • At another time we might find ourselves amongst weeds where the word settles into us but our focus changes back to the world’s values and the effectiveness of God’s word to us is neutralised.

 

  • At yet another time we represent good ground and bring forth a harvest – the word of God multiplied in us 100, 60 or 30-fold.

 

The point is we don’t worsen our struggle by labelling ourselves according to any one particular category of receptivity to God’s word.

We are realistic and humble enough to know that at times we will fail, but that we can just as easily remind ourselves whose we are; which Kingdom we associate with, and be fruitful again.

We are not locked in to any one level of saintliness or otherwise. We have been freed by Christ. All we have to do is associate with the right Kingdom and its values.

This of course involves an entire lifestyle of association. It’s not some mental trick. It’s not simply setting your mind by an individual effort of the will. It is an embracing of the community of God, its values and its practices. It’s practical. We’re in it with others and we make progress with the help of others. We are committed to others – to fellowship with them in the Church – the Body of Christ.

That is real freedom. It does involve change. It inevitably involves responsibility too. But it does so in an environment of the love of Christ.

If you are frustrated in your Christian walk, if you find yourself hankering for freedom, you need to give yourself entirely to the Kingdom of God. It will cost you everything you are. God requires all of you: lock, stock and barrel. And the rewards are freedom, peace and love – in fact all the fruit of the Spirit.

We’re right to want freedom. It’s what Jesus came to give us. But let’s look for freedom

  • in the right way – in the cross of Christ, not in self-effort;

and

  • in the right place – by aligning ourselves with the Kingdom of God and giving ourselves over to it entirely.

This is what Jesus meant when he said in Matthew 16: 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

And so I have unearthed 3 perspectives on gaining the grace of God and I hope they are freeing to you:

  • Living according to the Spirit (and not the flesh) is not so much an anxious internal struggle – it is associating with the values of the Kingdom of God.
  • We are not locked into any one level of spirituality. Because we’re human we’re sometimes not receptive to God’s life-giving Word to us. But we can just as easily bereceptive and (like good soil) produce a good harvest.
  • True freedom in Christ means giving ourselves over entirely to Him and identifying completely with the Kingdom of God.

Let’s conclude by listening to a song called Looking for Freedom sung by Elayna Boynton and Anthony Hamilton from the film Django Unchained.

God bless you as you count the cost and understand the value of your freedom in Christ.

AMEN

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bdOTUocn5w

Felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders

 Pressure to break or retreat at every turn

 Facing the fear that the truth, I discovered

 No telling how, all this will work out

 But I’ve come too far to go back now


I am looking for freedom, looking for freedom

 And to find it cost me everything I have

 Well I am looking for freedom, looking for freedom

 And to find it, may take everything I have


I know all too well it don’t come easy

 The chains of the world they seem to move in tight

I try to walk around it,

 But stumbling’s so familiar;

 Trying to get up but the doubt is so strong

 There’s gotta be a weight in my bones


I am looking for freedom, looking for freedom

 And to find it cost me everything I have

 Well I am looking for freedom, I’m looking for freedom

 And to find it, may take everything I have


Oh not giving up has always been hard, so hard

 But if I do the things the easy way I won’t get far


Mmm, life hasn’t been very kind to me lately, (Well)

 But I suppose it’s a push for moving on (Oh yeah)

 In time the sun’s gonna shine on me nicely (One day yeah)

 Something tells me good things are coming and I ain’t gonna not believe


I am looking for freedom, looking for freedom

 And to find it cost me everything I have

 Well I am looking for freedom, looking for freedom

 And to find it, may take everything I have

[Anthony Hamilton]

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