True Freedom

By Rev. Heidi L. Barham |  July 3, 2022

Click here to listen to the service 
Read John 8:31 – 36(NIV)
As we find ourselves poised to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday, or what we frequently refer to as, “Independence Day,” I think it is fair to say that our country is at a crossroads when it comes to the idea of independence and what it means for us to be a “free” country.
But rather than engage in a lengthy debate over the recent attacks against many of our freedoms… including a woman’s freedom to choose, a person’s freedom to vote, a child’s freedom to learn (and their freedom to live, I might add), as well as an individual’s freedom to be who they are and love who they love…
I want to encourage us not to look at freedom simply as the world might define it, but to reflect on what it means to be free in Christ… so, as we focus our attention on the text found in the Gospel of John, I want to invite us to reflect on the theme, TRUE FREEDOM.
Now Webster’s Dictionary gives the definition of freedom first as the quality or state of being free: as in a:  the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action and b:  liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another: (i.e., independence, quite appropriate on this Independence Day weekend).   And it is then further defined as a political right, franchise or privilege.
But the freedom that Jesus talks about in our text for the morning is the freedom that comes from knowing the truth.  Although in this world of alternative facts, some might ask, just what is the truth?
In our text, Jesus says, [reading from the Message Paraphrase], “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.”  And later, in John 14:6, Jesus tells His disciples, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…”
Now, like the people who lived back in Jesus’ day, we generally don’t like to think that we are not already free… we rarely want to admit that we are in bondage to anything or anyone. 
But Jesus went on to tell the disciples, and by extension says to us:

I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave. A slave is a transient, who can’t come and go at will. The Son, though, has an established position, the run of the house. So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through.
Whether we like it or not, sin has a way of enslaving us, controlling us and dominating us.  And sadly, it happens when we least expect it… generally, it is when we have let our guard down and find ourselves just going about life as usual. 
Ask anyone who has become ensnared by an addiction to something… be it drugs or alcohol, pornography or even food.  When we allow something or someone to keep us from doing what we know to be the right thing to do… we become enslaved to that person or thing… and it assumes mastery over our lives.
But the good news today is that Jesus has made a way out for us.  We do not have to live a life of bondage… bound against our will to anyone or anything.  However, while I do not want to suggest that it will be easy or that it won’t take perseverance and discipline… I will say that it is possible… because as Jesus told the disciples, “…with God ALL things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).
As we continue looking at the text, we find Jesus’ promise that He will make us free… and He offers us the assurance that whom the Son sets free is free indeed.  What Jesus gives to us is TRUE FREEDOM.
Let me suggest that our text for the morning highlights three aspects of the TRUE FREEDOM that Jesus provides for believers…
The first is that it is freedom and deliverance from being a slave to sin.
The second is that we have the freedom of being a child of God forever.
And the third is the assurance that it is the ultimate freedom that can only be found in Christ.
Let’s look at these freedoms in a little more detail.
First, Jesus gives us TRUE FREEDOM and deliverance from being a slave to sin.
It is over in Romans 6 (6-7, 17-18), that the Apostle Paul writes:
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin…
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
When we intentionally follow the teachings of Jesus, we find deliverance from being slaves to sin and we become slaves to righteousness. 
But let’s be perfectly clear, even when we follow the teachings of Jesus and desire to live a life of righteousness… seeking to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength… and doing our best to love our neighbors as ourselves… we will still be faced with the temptation to sin.
It is a natural by-product of the fallen world in which we live.  But as Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 10:13):
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
As disciples, as followers of Christ, we have been given tools for our toolbox to help us resist the temptations that confront us on a daily basis. 
For example, when we are faced with the temptation to give that store clerk a piece of our mind, we should stop and ask ourself the question, “What would Jesus do?” and then make the conscious decision to do that.
Or when that driver cuts us off on I-480 or 271, before we use some of those creative hand gestures to express our displeasure, we should pause and ask ourself, “If God was sitting in the car with me, would He be pleased with my actions?”  Because the fact is that He is sitting in the car with us and has seen every instance of our road rage. 
Now, when we read the scriptures and spend time with the Lord in prayer and study, we learn what will be pleasing and acceptable to the Lord as well as what will not.  Being armed with that knowledge will help us to walk away from the temptations that confront us and keep us from being held in bondage and captivity to sin.
Now, someone may be thinking that the sins they are dealing with are more intense than simply lashing out in road rage or having a quick temper.  But rest assured, there is nothing that any of us may be grappling with is too big for God to help us get through – we just have to trust Him to guide us and deliver us.
We can praise God that through Christ, we have TRUE FREEDOM and deliverance from being slaves to sin.
Now, according to the text, we also have been given TRUE FREEDOM to become the children of God, forever.
Throughout the scriptures, we can find many passages that give us the assurance that we are God’s children. 
For example, in John 1:12 we read, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”   
And over in Galatians 3:26-27 we read, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
But just what does it mean for us to be the children of God? 
It means that wherever we go and whatever we do, we are never alone… for the Lord has promised never to leave us nor forsake us (see Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:5, and Hebrews 13:5). 
But it also means that our lives out to reflect the light and love that God has planted inside of us.
It’s like when we were children and our parents told us that we needed to be on our best behavior when we left the house because whatever we did would reflect back on them. 
And it is no different for us as the children of God… because when we say we are believers and identify ourselves as Christians, some people will look at our actions and use that as a barometer for how they, in turn, view God.
I know I told you the story before about the woman who was struck by a horrible case of road rage when the car in front of her failed to move through a yellow light forcing her to sit through the red light.  The woman laid on her horn and gestured wildly with some of those creative hand gestures I mentioned earlier.  And when the light changed, the frenzied woman raced past the car in an attempt to hurry on to her destination.
However, a policeman witnessed all of this and pulled the woman over.  After taking her license and registration, he went back to his car for several minutes.  When he came back, he explained to the woman that he had watched her interaction with the other driver and having seen the WWJD sticker on her back bumper and the cross dangling from her rear-view mirror, he assumed the car must have been stolen.
All kidding aside, the fact of the matter is that as the children of God, we need to make sure that the things that we say and do, do not reflect poorly on God, who has made us in His image… but instead display the glory of God that is our inheritance... which according to 1 Peter 1:4 is, “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.”
Now, not only do we have TRUE FREEDOM and deliverance from being slaves to sin and TRUE FREEDOM to become the children of God forever… our text offers us the assurance that the TRUE FREEDOM which can only be found in Christ is the ultimate freedom.
The last verse of our text declares, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
If we think about it, the “freedoms” that this world offers have a tendency to be distributed unequally and at times are accompanied by conditions and qualifications that must be met. 
However, the freedom that comes through our faith in Christ is unconditional. 
It is not based on membership in any particular organization or affiliation with any particular group… political or otherwise.
It does not depend on our socio-economic status, our age, race or gender identity.
It is not predicated on whether or not we have dotted all the “I’s” and crossed all the “T’s”.
And it is certainly not the result of us earning or deserving the right to be free… because the fact of the matter is that NONE of us are worthy of such a precious gift.
As Paul wrote to the Ephesian church (Ephesians 2:8 – 9), “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Simply put, the TRUE FREEDOM… the ultimate freedom… we have in Christ has been given as an extension of God’s love and grace for us.
Christ gave His life in exchange for ours, so that none of us would be lost… to ensure that every one of us could be truly free and have eternal life.  In fact, if we were to look back at John 6 (39-40) we would read:
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.  For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.
Jesus’ mission was for us to find TRUE FREEDOM in Him. 
It is in Luke 4 (18 – 19) that we find Jesus reading these words from the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  
As a result of Christ’s sacrifice for us we have TRUE FREEDOM, and the assurance that if the Son sets us free, we will be free indeed.
Now, before we prepare to move to the Communion table, I want to share a prayer with you that is credited to Peter Marshall, a Presbyterian pastor who was also the chaplain to the United States Senate.    It is said that he prayed this prayer as he began his daily official duty. 
It is a prayer that I believe all of us, and most certainly our elected officials, would do well to pray often:
Lord Jesus, thou who art the way, the truth, and the life; hear us as we pray for the truth that shall make all free. Teach us that liberty is not only to be loved but also to be lived. Liberty is too precious a thing to be buried in books. It costs too much to be hoarded. Help us see that our liberty is not the right to do as we please, but the opportunity to please to do what is right.  (Retrieved from:
Let us give thanks to God that in spite of what the world may say to the contrary, we have been given TRUE FREEDOM and liberty through Jesus who is “the way, the truth and the life,” (John 14:6a).
And let us pray for a world where TRUE FREEDOM is the order of the day… where, as the lyrics to our Hymn of Discipleship say, “everyone respects each other’s ways… where love is lived and all is done with justice and with praise” (O for a World, words by M.T. Winter, music by C.G. Glaser).
And if that is your prayer today, won’t you stand now and join in singing our Hymn of Discipleship: O For a World #683…