The Measure of Freedom
Text: Colossians 1:1-14
Proposition: Freedom is measured in the way we think, the way we live and the way we love, these are anchored to the One who has set us free, Jesus Christ.
Introduction: Redemption, it’s a word that when people hear it they immediately turn their ears off, it has too much religious insignificance to the world today. Perhaps that’s because they don’t know what the word actually means. The Greek word ‘apolytrosis’ literally means ‘liberation procured by the payment of a ransom’. Metaphorically it has the picture of one who goes into the market place and purchases someone, takes them out of the market place and then sets them free. When people talk about human slavery or human trafficking, they are talking about a market place. The Freedom Center of the National Underground Railway makes this simple statement about why slavery exists in the 21st Century. “At its heart, slavery is an inhuman perversion of a simple economic principle: the best way to maximize profits is by minimizing the cost of labor.” That’s the market place that human trafficking grows in. Redemption is very much a physical and social and emotional need here, captives need to be taken out of the market place, brought to a place of safety and set free. But setting a person free who has experienced such abuse and spiritual disfiguring is not just a matter of changing their location or even removing the master that has been over their lives. Post traumatic stress is a term that has become familiar to us all, we recognize it in soldiers, victims of assault, people who have experienced the worst that humanity is capable of. How do you redeem these ones, how do you set them free? How do you change what people believe in, how do change the way they see themselves? These were the questions that Jesus was speaking to when He spoke about how hard it is for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. When the disciples then marveled saying, “Who then can be saved?”, meaning there is this same value in everyone of us (Matt 19). Jesus replied, “With men this is impossible but with God all things are possible.” My point is simply this, is it possible that freedom is more than changing people’s circumstance and condition as critical as that need is? Is it possible that the measure of freedom also has to do with the way they now think, live and even love? The measure of freedom has both a physical and a spiritual dimension to it which implies that the market place of captivity is also greater than we might first have imagined it. It has a spiritual dimension to it that encompasses every human being. Redemption by man’s own efforts is impossible but with God all things are possible. No amount of self effort frees us from sin, the shackle is too strong, the master relentless. By His incarnation Jesus Christ entered that market place of humanity. He came to purchase us at great price, to take us out of the captivity and set us free to serve Him, He Who not only knows us best but loves us most. Turn with me to Colossians 1:1-14, it’s a passage that is all about the measure of freedom.
I. The Measure of Freedom Begins With What You Believe.
Strangely enough it is a runaway slave named Onesimus who now carries this letter back to Colossae from Rome, along with Epaphras the leader of the group. Paul writes that they are so thankful for this small church and that he prays for them often. It’s what he says next that forms the core of the measure of freedom for any person. He describes what their belief looks like, how it is built upon these foundation points:
1. Faith – it’s a faith not about the existence of Jesus, not about the certainty that He is or that He had actually walked the earth, it’s not even a faith about Him dying on a cross and being raised from the dead. Rather it’s a faith ‘in Him’. The difference is significant, it sees not only Who Jesus is and what He did, it believes that He did this for me. It would be the difference of believing in the capability of a life boat to save you verses actually climbing into the boat and trusting your life into its ability to save you. Faith in Christ Jesus, that’s what the title ‘Christ’ means, ‘Messiah’, the Savior who would come to do what the people could not do for themselves, He would save them. It’s that faith in Christ that brought freedom.
2. Love – it’s a love for the saints. I like how a young child once described what a saint is. His parents had been taking a tour through a Cathedral and had been looking at the huge stained glass depictions of the apostles. They told him that it was Saint Peter, and Saint John. At the end of the tour his mother asked him what he thought a saint was. His simple answer was, “It’s one who the light shines through.” Saints are the other occupants that are with you in the life boat of Christ Jesus. It’s your love for them that indicates your measure of freedom. Love is more about giving than it is receiving, for one who has been a captive and has had everything stolen from them the ability to give love is a true measure of freedom.
3. Hope – the greater the thing is that you hope for the broader the base for love and faith to rest upon. In this case Paul says that their hope is laid up for them in heaven which implies at least two things. 1. Their hope is not heaven itself, it’s in what is laid up or stored for them in heaven. 2. Whatever it is that is laid up can’t be stolen, devalued or destroyed by people this side of the grave, it is imperishable hope. Paul takes it a step further and says that this hope is itself is built upon the truth of the words of Jesus Christ in the Gospel. Having hope that is only illusion or optimism at best is like a mirage in a desert, but when you get closer it fades and disappears. Hope needs to be connected to truth, it’s very substance needs to be real or else it is not hope at all. The thing is we have been shaped in our souls to want more than this life can ever offer. C.S. Lewis once wrote “The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.” (Till We Have Faces: A Novel of Cupid and Psyche) The hope that is laid up for us in heaven is the hope of being free from sin, free from death, free from the wiles of our spiritual enemy Satan. In essence free from evil. It’s really the Lord’s prayer isn’t it, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. When there is this transcendent hope in Christ Jesus it becomes in us the measure of freedom.
II. The Measure of Freedom Is Established When You Do What You Believe.
Paul prays that they would be, “filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” Our purpose statement is that as a result of Faith Community Church being here people would know more about Jesus than they did before. The hope is that in knowing more they will know God’s will more and with the lens of wisdom and spiritual understanding see their lives with a godly clarity. But it doesn’t stop at just knowledge. I remember seeing a little sugar bowl once that had these simple words printed on it, “Kind words do not fill.” Freedom is all about doing what you believe, you have this knowledge of God that you use to direct the way you live or walk, one day at a time, one step at a time. The things you do ought to bear fruit, they ought to have seeds of life in them. If this is what you earnestly pursue know that you won’t just be doing it in your own efforts. That phrase ‘strengthened with all might’ means that God will empower you with all you need for each situation. This strength will often have the purpose of increasing your patience, people problems, and longsuffering, circumstance problems. The effect of seeing this in yourself will cause you to be thankful, knowing you could never have gotten through this on your own.
Freedom is all about doing what you believe, sometimes that means doing things for others who can’t do it for themselves. Prayer, interceding, finances, time, hands and feet, it will take all of these to do what you believe. But as you do the measure of freedom is poured out, not only in you but in the very lives you reach out to. It begins with your faith in Christ Jesus, it grows with knowledge and wisdom and finds root in your life by doing what you believe. This takes us to the epilogue of this passage, verses 13,14, “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”
The dominion of darkness is where sin is undetected, where the sin nature has no boundaries, where the master of that domain keeps slaves bound by a thousand different shackles. Into that market place Jesus Christ came and by His blood He purchased us, He delivered us, transferred us from being under the power and control of darkness to now being free in His kingdom. Redemption, it takes the shackle off your arm and calls us to be involved in reaching those still bound by the dominion of darkness until they too know the measure of freedom.