• Tag Archives Freedom
  • Featured Image A stone of stumbling…a rock of offense

    Romans 9:30–33 (ESV) (30) What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; (31) but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. (32) Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, (33) as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

    In case you hadn’t heard, the gospel is offensive.

    1 Peter 2:7–8 (ESV) (7) So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” (8) and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

    The gospel (good news) actually begins with bad news. Very bad news.

    That bad news? You are a disobedient criminal (sinner, wicked, corrupt, pick whatever synonym you want) by nature and by choice.  Wanna hear worse news?  Payment for your crimes is demanded and will come due.

    Can it get even worse?

    Consider this … that payment that is due is made throughout eternity, with no chance of parole. No bail. No visitation.

    Offended?

    Nobody wants to hear that they are a criminal facing an eternal prison. Nobody wants to hear that no matter how hard they try, their best will never be good enough to earn them a stay of execution.

    There is no reduced sentence for good behavior.

    And lest you think it’s “just them”, this prison sentence isn’t just for Joe who thinks he’s a woman, Sue who married her girlfriend, Jim who he beat his wife, or Bob who’s a creeper, it’s all encompassing – the gospel leaves no room for “acceptable” rebellion …

    Romans 3:10–19 (ESV) (10) as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; (11) no one understands; no one seeks for God. (12) All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (13) “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” (14) “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” (15) “Their feet are swift to shed blood; (16) in their paths are ruin and misery, (17) and the way of peace they have not known.” (18) “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (19) Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

    Notice carefully what Paul says it is that causes of all of this – not that “Joe thinks he’s a woman” or “Sue married her girlfriend” or “Jim beat his wife” or “Bob looks at women lustfully.”

    Far from it!  By quoting Isaiah, Paul says that the reason everyone has “become worthless” is not the individual ways in which sin manifests itself in our lives, it’s this:

    “All have turned aside.”

    We have all turned aside from and rejected God. We have all spit in his face. We have all thought that we know better. We have replaced the true God with ourselves.  Even when we thought more highly of ourselves.  Even when we thought that we didn’t really hate God when we only ignored Him most of the time.

    Yeah … that was hatred.  Calling it something else to make yourself feel better about your rebellion doesn’t change what it is or was.

    Rebellion.  God is your king regardless of whether or not we acknowledge it.

    And we replaced Him with anything else because “Ain’t nobody telling me what I can and can’t do!”

    And that rebellion, no matter how it plays out in our lives, is worthy of death.  Which leaves us with only two options (that is, if we don’t want the death penalty):

    1. I can pay for my own crimes for eternity
    2. someone else, someone who is able, can pay for my crimes

    And here is why the gospel is good news.

    The good news, though it starts off with a death sentence, ends with the hope of freedom! That the death sentence that we all deserve was already carried out, on a cross, 2000 years ago, on a hill outside of Jerusalem.  Executed by the only righteous judge in the entire universe, against the only person in the entire universe whose humanity demonstrated that he deserved life – someone who willingly chose to take the bullet for his enemies.

    Romans 5:6–11 (ESV) (6) For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— (8) but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (10) For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (11) More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

    There is only one way to be pardoned, one way to be free, and it goes right through the person of Jesus the Messiah.

    Acts 4:8–12 (ESV) (8) Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, (9) if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, (10) let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. (11) This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. (12) And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

    And yet, even in that great news, there is offense…

    John 14:1–7 (ESV) (1) “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. (2) In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (4) And you know the way to where I am going.” (5) Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (6) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (7) If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

    The “no one” that Jesus is referring to is literally “no one.”  Not one person in existence.  Not one person who has ever lived, is currently living, or who will live from now until the end of time.  Not you, not me, not anybody in the history of forever has any hope throughout forever except through faith in Jesus.

    Could it be that some of the best news of the gospel is perhaps the most offensive thing about it?  That you can do nothing to earn grace, nothing to deserve a pardon.  You can’t “out-good” your bad.  You can’t work off your sentence.

    And perhaps the saddest thing is that we try so hard.  Only to fail so miserably.  It never ends well when we try to do Jesus’ job for Him.

    And oh how we try.

    Remember Paul’s admonition?  Remember the condemnation he proclaimed?  That we have all turned away from God?

    Now hear the hope – turn away from yourself and trust in Jesus as your only hope of pardon, as your only escape from the eternal prison that awaits you, and set your eyes on this…

    Revelation 21:1–5 (ESV) (1) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. (2) And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (3) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (4) He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (5) And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

    He is powerful to make all things new.

    Even you.



  • Featured Image Jesus is Freedom…

    In my last post, I talked about truth and the importance of standing for it.  I hope we all see the value in standing for what we believe in.  Everyone stands for something, and everyone has truth standards, even if they don’t think you can know truth.  Probably the most absurd thing I have heard anyone say in regard to this is…

    “There is no such thing as absolute truth.”

    …because they never follow it up with…

    “Well, except for what I just said.”

    The statement “There is no such thing as absolute truth” is itself an absolute truth claim – a claim, by the way, which is self contradictory.  But that is the world in which we live – people don’t care about being consistent.  Being consistent takes work and guess what else…yup…consistency.  And in this day and age, people seem to care more about what others think is true than what is actually true.  You need look no further than Indiana’s plight right now to see that.

    Proverbs 12:15 ESV (15) The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

    It seems that we’d rather believe we are right than actually be right.  I suppose it’s because in order to be right, there must be truthotherwise, it’s all opinion.  And we do so love opinion…

    But contrary to popular belief, that knife cuts both ways.  If someone says to you …

    You can’t tell me what’s right – what’s right for you might not be right for me”

    … all you need to reply with is something like …

    Well, according to you, I certainly can.  You just told me what I can and can’t do, what’s right and wrong.  So, why can’t I tell you what’s right and wrong?  Did you really mean to say ‘I can tell you what to do because I’m right and you are wrong?'”

    … because what that person did was give you a moral truth claim:  “you can’t” followed by what you can’t do: “tell me what’s right“.  The unstated reason: “because I don’t agree with you.”  Chances are very good that, if this person was talking with an ally, they would be more than happy to give all sorts of moral imperatives.  They are proving what they scream to deny – that there is a truth out there somewhere – and in fact, that they are closer to it than you.

    But they’ll never admit that.  That would be arrogant.  And God forbid anybody speak as if they really believe what they are saying!

    But that’s really beating around the issue.  Moral relativism (at it’s core is an illogical fear of calling anything right or wrong) is a symptom of a deeper, much more serious problem, denial.  Not just denying that we can know truth, but the denial of truth altogether.  A couple thousand years ago, there was a very important discussion about truth.  It went like this…

    John 18:33-37 ESV (33) So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (34) Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” (35) Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” (36) Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (37) Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

    … and Pilate responded to this assertion with a question…

    John 18:33-37 ESV (38) Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

    And given what we know about Pilate, there is a good chance that his words conveyed this sentiment: “Whatever.  As if there is such a thing as truth.

    But what riled Pilate so much?  What was Pilate responding to?  Listen to the words of Jesus:  “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.”

    According to Jesus, there is such a thing as truth!  Imagine that.  And it’s not simply that there is such a thing, it’s that you can know this truth because Jesus testifies to it!

    Now, it gets really serious, far more serious than your belief that 1+1=2.  It’s serious because Jesus believes and teaches that there is such a thing as truth, and He came to testify to that truth.  So, if you want to know truth about Jesus, where should you go?

    Joel Osteen?  Oprah Winfrey?  Hollywood?

    Sadly, that’s where a great number of people go, and they come out with all sorts of crazy, wrong ideas about Jesus.  Ideas like:

    • Jesus was simply a good teacher
    • Jesus never really existed
    • Jesus is love, and Jesus wins, so Love Wins!  Hell isn’t forever!
    • Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers born from a father god and mother goddess
    • Jesus is merely a god, not the God
    • Jesus existed, but he didn’t really die
    • Jesus existed, and died, but didn’t resurrect
    • Jesus existed, died, and resurrected spiritually, not physically
    • Jesus wants you to live Your Best Life Now
    • and on … and on … and on

    But, if you really cared about truth, I mean really cared, you’d go to the source of truth, wouldn’t you?  But, that would require you to not only accept truth as a concept, it also requires you to accept truth as a person.

    Jesus, the way, the truth, the life.

    And if Jesus is actually the Truththen what Isaiah said is actually true…

    Isaiah 45:19 ESV (19) I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I the LORD speak the truth; I declare what is right.

    God’s truth is not spoken in secret.  God speaks the truth.  God declares what is right.  And since Jesus is God, He speaks the truth and declares what is right.

    So, what does that mean for you?  It means that if Jesus calls something true, right, or good, it is absolutely true, right or good no matter what you believe about that something.  It also means that if Jesus calls something false, wrong, or evil, it is absolutely false, wrong, or evil no matter what you believe about that something.

    And here is probably the biggest and most controversial thing I’ll say all post:  this also means that Jesus is the Lord of the entire universe, even of your life, even of your circumstances, whether you believe it or not.

    But why did Jesus come to testify to the truth?

    John 8:31–32 (ESV) (31) So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, (32) and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

    Are you ready to believe that?  Will you submit to your Lord and abide in him and be set free by knowing Him…the Truth?

    John 8:33–35 (ESV) (33) They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” (34) Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. (35) The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.

    Or will you continue to rationalize why you don’t believe what He says and remain a slave forever?



  • Featured Image Freedom in Christ…

    I heard a sermon today that was really good – the passage was Galatians 5 and the topic was about freedom in Christ.  The pastor spent a good amount of time defining freedom and how we as a society have completely gotten the definition wrong.

    Society wants to define freedom as “being able to do whatever I want, whenever I want.”

    But that’s not freedom, that’s slavery.  He used the analogy of the “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” and said that when we think that freedom is being able to do whatever, whenever, we are basically saying “true freedom is freedom to sin and have no repercussion”.  But that kind of “freedom” results in further bondage to sin so it’s not really freedom, it’s slavery!

    He then paraphrased John Piper who said

    “You are fully free when you have the desire, the ability, and the opportunity to do what will leave you no regrets forever.” (http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/you-will-know-the-truth-and-the-truth-will-set-you-free)

    and defined freedom as :  “the desire to do what you should do.”

    That leads to two pretty interesting results:

    1)  The desire to do the wrong thing – this is bondage to sin, and if unforgiven, will lead to eternal damnation.

    2)  Doing the right thing but not desiring it – this is bondage to legalism or religion in that thinking that just by doing it, you will be OK, regardless of your motivation.  If this is your heart, you are either being led astray like the Christians in Galatia, you are not a mature Christian and need to grow, or you are not really a Christian.

    But when we truly desire to do the right thing, and actually do it, with the fervor and attitude of one who understands that “for freedom Christ has set s free” (Galatians 5:1), then, and only then, are we truly free.

    Are you truly free?  What are you doing with your freedom?