I Am Free

Psalm 30: 1-5
LUKE 9: 10-17

July 3, 2022

That crowd … each and every member of that crowd made a conscious decision that day. They were free to go on their own … to journey home, free to follow someone else/anyone else, and even free to develop their own plan for self glory … no one was coercing them, no one was saying you have to go lock step repeating words someone else wrote for you to use … you do not have to seek Him … because after all you are free.

Friends, I am free to make my decisions too … you are ALSO free. Even those living in the most oppressive societies in the world have some degree of personal freedom for how they choose to live their lives.

There are so many songs about freedom. Our opening song of the day spoke of our having received freely the loving gift of God in Jesus Christ …. Perhaps I need to clarify that … the loving gift of God has been given freely to each and every human being but even though we don’t have to memorize a secret societal handshake to get into the club called Christianity … and there is not one single recorded prayer nor Scripture that we must repeat over and over again or force others to hear … there is something called faith wrapped around belief that is verified through personal change that God asks of us. That is if we make the free choice to become followers of Jesus Christ … to believe.

The gift of Jesus Christ is not merely ours because God has offered it to us … the gift of God does have some elemental requirements that any human being can take on but the reward of salvation is not merely available by declaring that one is a Christian. Perhaps the easiest clarification that Jesus provided was when He said that the world will know who His followers are by their love. Of course that is an action word not merely a secretly held thought where you go around thinking. … I love that one, and that one and that one … I love those people and those people … God, don’t worry I am thinking loving thoughts about all people even though the words I use, the words on my social media, and the words of my buddies just might be cutting down one or more humans each day.

Yesterday, we celebrated Dax’s third birthday. Babies seek out those who care for them but babies love everyone … everyone who does them no harm. Babies have not yet been taught to dislike or hate one group or another. Babies have not had their freedom coerced by an adult or group of adults who will eventually tell them to establish dividing lines amongst humanity … you see babies are a gift of love. However, we each know … once we hit a certain age that those outside influences begin to rule and even as children we freely make decisions to include or exclude others. Which might mean excluding Jesus Christ if our parents or grandparents are not in love with the Son of God. Sometimes our free choices come through experience because as we will again witness during Vacation Bible School …. Children whose parents do not bring them to church … but children who discover Jesus in VBS more often than not have a Jesus connection of love forever regardless of their parents disregard for God. FREE CHOICE

Jesus as His last days approached … at the table that He instituted for all of us … after Judas had left … Jesus said, “A new command I give you: LOVE ONE ANOTHER. As I have loved you … SO – YOU – MUST – LOVE – ONE – ANOTHER. This is how EVERYONE will know you are my disciples … WHEN YOU LOVE EACH OTHER.

Obviously, many make the free choice not to love as Jesus loved even though this was His command … so “EVERYONE WILL KNOW YOU ARE MY DISCIPLES.’

We like to make our choices don’t we… we like to label ourselves with a variety of adjectives that delineate who we enjoy being with and perhaps some of our labels are there to say who we are not going to be with … the folks we don’t want to be associated with … they are on the other side … our FREE CHOICE even though Jesus declared something about loving ALL so that we could be associated with Him … our FREE CHOICE is frequently about rejection of other humans.

Jesus had His plans for the day we are told in today’s Gospel lesson … He was headed to Bethsaida privately to be with His disciples. He wanted to hear about the disciples recent sharing of the Good News in the villages Jesus had sent them out to …. To hear about the healing they had done. He knew they were tired …. He had told them to go “taking nothing for their journey … no walking stick, no bag, no bread, no money and not even an extra shirt.” It was a faith-challenge because they were going for Jesus and not for themselves. They were free to not listen to Jesus’ directive … they were free not to do what Jesus had told them to do but we read that “they departed and went through the villages proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.

In one of their classic songs of Christmas, the songwriters from Trans Siberian Orchestra wrote the following lyrics paraphrasing Jesus, “[1]After all the roads you followed and for all you did not find and for all the dreams you had to leave behind, I am the way, I am the light. I hear your hopes; I feel your dreams; and in the dark I hear your screams. Don’t turn away …. Just take my hand … I’ll be right there; I’ll never leave and all I ask of you …. BELIEVE.”

It’s a free choice, friends … the disciples had a free choice … those 5000 men and others did not have to follow Jesus that day when Jesus was trying to have some private time with His disciples. ….

However, it is of the utmost importance this morning …. July 3rd in the year 2022 that I need to again ask you …. Do you value your freedom that God has given … wherever you are in the world in this moment … “God forgave my sin in Jesus name, I’ve been born again in Jesus name … He said freely, freely you have received.”

We heard again today from the psalmist who reminded us of the value of worship, “You who are faithful to the Lord, You who. Are faithful to the Lord … sing praises to Him, give thanks to His Holy name!”

We are free to worship not forced … we are free to share our faith; to live as Christians like the song suggests … “Go in my name and because you believe others will know that I live.”

Our actions … our faith … this week I can only suggest it was Holy Spirit driven when I opened up my Bible to one of my favorite historical reports from Luke’s Acts. It was the report of the Roman centurion named Cornelius. Cornelius made the free choice to live as a godly man who put his faith into action even though that would not have been the popular thing to do amongst the Roman legions. We hear from Acts that Cornelius worshiped God and loved God. He was a man who valued prayer and he gave to the poor and hurting. Yes, he represented Rome in his official day job but he had found Jesus Christ and God even while living along the Mediterranean in the palatial residences of Caesarea. He had his own servants even.

The angel of God came to Cornelius and he sent for Peter. This led to Peter once again sharing the revelation of Jesus Christ that set aside the old laws while bringing in clarification of what God’s intent is. Cornelius had his family and close friends together and he bowed down before Peter but Peter quickly said, “I am just a human like you.” Peter being Jewish was surrounded by Romans or Gentiles … He probably was smiling as he said “You all realize that it is forbidden for a Jew to associate or visit with outsiders …. HOWEVER God has shown me that I should NEVER NEVER call a person unclean nor impure. ANY PERSON!”

Peter continued, “God DOES NOT SHOW partiality to one group of people over another. In every nation, whoever worships God and does what is right is acceptable to God. In every action … this is the message of peace God sent by proclaiming the good news through Jesus Christ; He is Lord of ALL. He commanded us to preach to all the people to testify that He is the one whom God sent … everyone … EVERYONE who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”

We read how Cornelius’ household received God’s Holy Spirit that day … a FREE CHOICE … BELIEF … CHANGE …. GOINNG FORWARD for GOD and CHRIST!

When the crowds figured out that Jesus had gone to Bethsaida they followed Him. Jesus welcomed them, spoke to them about God’s Kingdom and He healed those who were sick.” The Twelve came to Jesus at the end of the day and told Him to send the crowds away but ….

Jesus said, “YOU … give them something to eat.”

And the disciples made the free choice to stay, to allow Jesus to use their five loves of bread and two fish in a powerful way … and everyone ate until they were full.

Friday … Canada celebrated its freedom from a tyrant and from a kingdom that forced them to have a government religion … tomorrow we remember and celebrate those brave men who gathered five miles from here to declare this nation’s independence from another tyrant choosing never to allow one man to have so much power they wrote, “a prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of free people” … those signing the parchment declared that we would not have a government religion forced on us … we would not have taxation without representation … we would have a free press and freedom of speech.

We are blessed to have our freedom in this nation just like so many others are blessed to call their home nations their own but God’s love does not stop at the borders. God’s salvation is not partial and God is looking for those from every nation who have made their own free choice to follow Jesus … those who do right showing their faith through their actions … and those who freely choose to worship God.”

And, so you and I are free … free to show the love of Jesus Christ through our words and actions …. Free to care for the poor and follow all of Jesus commands … free to let our faith be what we are known for. How are you choosing to be free today? AMEN

[1] ‘Believe’ lyrics by Paul O’Neill and Trans-Siberian Orchestra

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