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Power To Be Free
Fourth In The Series: Tell Them About Jesus
December 6, 1998

MATTHEW 3:1-12

We have just sung, "Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free." John 8:36, "If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." The Messiah came, the Word was made flesh, Jesus was born to set us free! The word free resonates with most of us. We are proud to be free Americans. We are glad to be free from dictators and tyrants. But, what does it mean to be set free by Jesus?

A asks a woman, "Are you free Saturday night?" Is that what we mean by free? A youth turns 21 and rejoices, "Now, I'm free to drink." Is that what we mean by free? Does being set free mean we can do anything we want, without restraint, without responsibility, without accountability to something and someone outside ourselves? I don't think so.

Does being set free mean we are free from worldly concerns and are able to see beyond ourselves? From e-mail:

Sherlock Holmes and Watson were camping. They had gone to bed and were lying there looking up at the sky. Holmes said, "Watson, look up. What do you see?"

"Well, I see thousands of stars."

"And what does that mean to you?"

"Well, I suppose it means that of all the planets and suns and moons in the universe, we are truly the one most blessed with the reason to deduce theorems to make our way in this world of criminal enterprises and blind greed. It means that we are truly small in the eyes of God but struggle each day to be worthy of the senses and spirit we have been blessed with. And, I suppose, at the very least, in the meteorological sense, it means it is most likely that we will have another nice day tomorrow. What does it mean to you, Holmes?"

"To me, it means someone has stolen our tent."

Holmes saw the absent tent. Watson was free to see the majesty of creation.

Does being set free mean we are free from duty, frustration, persistence, and failure? From e-mail: (Where did preachers get their material before e-mail??) Good News and Bad News For a Pastor

Good News: The Staff-Parish Relations Committee accepted your job description the way you wrote it.

Bad News: They were so inspired by it, they asked the District Superintendent to find someone capable of filling the position.

Good News: You finally found a choir director who approaches things exactly the same way you do.

Bad News: The choir mutinied.

Good News: Mrs. Jones is wild about your sermons.

Bad News: Mrs. Jones is also wild about the "Gong Show, "Beavis and Butthead" and "Texas Chain Saw Massacre."

Good News: Church attendance rose dramatically the last three weeks.

Bad News: You were on vacation.

No, being set free does not mean free from frustration, disappointment, or even failure.

The Son sets us free! What does free mean? Continuing the sermon series, TELL THEM ABOUT JESUS, we look to Jesus to see what it means to be free. Jesus was possessed by a purpose. He freely chose to live and die fulfilling his purpose. He was free from anything that threatened to sway him from his course. He was free from the need for affirmation and approval, free from the restraints of public opinion, free from the pressure of his family to come to his senses and come home, free from the fear of ecclesiastical and political censure and execution. Jesus was free to be who he was called to be, free to fulfill his destiny. The life Jesus lived was rare, bold, full, alive, electric, contagiously attractive, free! We call him Messiah, Savior, Lord.

Jesus was born to set his people free. For you and me to be set free means we are free to be grasped by a purpose. To be truly alive is to have a vision, to dream and do the will of God. What God wills for you is what you, deep down in your heart, really want to do. You were created for a purpose, for a reason. You have imbedded within you the call of God.

To be set free means to be able to do what you were put here on this earth to do,

free from restraints,

free from what other people think,

free from the power of ridicule and criticism,

free from weakness,

free from temptations to cheapen yourself and compromise your principles,

free from long-range consequences of b ad decisions (you do have second chances),

free from limitations imposed upon you by family or from those tapes that play in your head, "Don't embarrass us." "Who do you think you are?" "You can't do that." "You're weak, you're insignificant, you're just one person." To be set free means to be free from the power of the tapes in your head that try to hold you back.

To be set free means to be free of the driving need for affirmation. When Jesus was affirmed, it was fickle. They shouted affirmation when he rode into Jerusalem. A few days later, they shouted, "Crucify him." Jesus was not even affirmed and encouraged by his mother. She tried to get him to come home; the neighbors were talking about him. To be set free means to find your affirmation deep within you, an affirmation from God that gives you a sense of peace and deep joy.

O the joy to be doing what you were created to do. O the joy to be the person you were created to be.

On the other hand, when you don't exercise your freedom to be you, when you ignore and stifle the call of God which is deeply imbedded within you, you will never be happy. You will be constantly searching for something to fulfill you, something to give you peace and joy. You will be constantly trying to fill the hole with things or alcohol or drugs or popularity. To be set free means to cut through the stuff, to dig deep within you, discover who you really are, and then follow Jesus where he leads you.

Another free person was John the Baptizer. Do you think he cared what people said about him? Dressed in camel skin with a leather belt around his waist, he was free from the power of advertising, the lure of Gottschalks! Do you think he cared about fashions? (He did eat health food-- locusts and wild honey!) John was free to be the prophet God created him and called him to be. Did you hear his sermon? He called the religious leaders, "You brood of vipers!" John did not win popularity contests. John was not voted the best preacher of the year. No one told John they enjoyed his sermons! No one was wild about his preaching! John didn't meet any of the criteria of modern job descriptions designed by Staff-Parish Relations Committees or the Book of Discipline. And, John didn't care. He was free! Of course, King Herod finally did him in. John was executed, which is often the price of freedom. But, John the Baptizer was free.

To be a disciple of Jesus is to be set free, to be set free to be our deepest, truest selves. To be set free is to receive the power to expand our lives and break the limits that have been imposed on us by others and often, by ourselves. Jesus sets us free and gives us the power to live, love and give as Jesus did. When the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!

© 1998 Douglas I. Norris