Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we bask in the afterglow of our country’s independence day, may we especially bask in the truth that genuine freedom belongs only to Christians! For by Your grace You have set us free from the ravages of sin and the guilt that it brings. Moreover, You have replaced our human license to sin with a Spirit-wrought love which enables us to live apart from the reign of guilt and shame. May we always rejoice over such Christian freedom! Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO HAS TAKEN ALL OUR GUILT AWAY THROUGH HIS CROSS!
TEXT: Galatians 5: 1, 13-25
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
I really enjoy teaching confirmation class. It is a challenge to make God’s truths memorable and applicable to the lives of young people. And when I have an especially “good” day, when they really “get” it, I’m thrilled. I recall one young man who “got” it when it came to understanding original sin vs. the voice of the Spirit. In his mind it was like having two voices, each one perched on an opposite shoulder and each one whispering competing thoughts into his ears. The question for him was: which voice do I listen to? Well, in view of this morning’s lesson, that same question comes to each of you. Yes,
WHICH VOICE DO YOU LISTEN TO?
Slavery is abhorrent. America fought a civil war against slavery about 150 years ago and over 600,000 men died in that war. What sane person would want to live in slavery? And yet, all people are born into spiritual slavery. We call it original sin. We all easily listen to the voice of selfishness, pride and personal evil, because it seems so natural. Although, as Paul writes, Christians have been set free from the clutches of such spiritual evil, nonetheless, it is easy for us to abuse our new-found freedom in Christ and once again succumb to its devilish voice perched on our shoulder. “But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature…the acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Over the years, I’ve had a debate with others and with myself as to whether sin was more rampant in previous generations of Americans vs. today. Finally, I’ve come to a conclusion. It is worse today. And I’ll tell you why. First, sin has always been with us. Hatred, drunkenness, immoral behavior and the like never seem to go out of style—unfortunately. That being said, previous generations of Americans generally looked down on such behavior because the restraining voice of Christianity was more pronounced. Christianity introduced a sense of shame among the populace. Because of this, often you had to go looking for avenues to indulge the flesh and had to work harder to find them. All that has been tossed aside with our information age and the internet. It has been tossed aside with liquor stores on every corner, legalized gambling in every state, legalized prostitution in some, and our all-encompassing, greed-filled, materialistic culture.
I’ve seen how easy it is for Christians to get caught up in all this and more, simply because it’s so commonly accepted and available. You know the litany: “Who are you to judge? Do you want to re-institute Puritan times? Satanic worship and the occult don’t hurt anyone, so who are you to tell them what to do? Pornography is a personal preference that doesn’t hurt anyone else. Wife or husband swapping may not be your taste, but whatever is done in the privacy of one’s home is o.k. And for young people, “hooking up” or sex before marriage is just fine as long as it is “safe sex” because they’re just going to do it anyway.”
The fallacy in all those statements is three-fold. One, sin hurts not only the person doing it, but others either directly or indirectly.—Just ask the wife who’s husband is addicted to porn or gambling. Two, it breeds a sense of guilt among those who know better and yet succumb to temptation. And three, it alienates people from God, Who calls us to higher ideals in life—namely to: “Love one another.”—Which includes telling someone they are engaged in self-destructive behavior. Yes, when life is all about “me” and what I want, respect for others and a dwelling upon truths which transcend human life get left in the gutter, don’t they?—And that my friends, is not love!
So, which voice do you listen to? The voice of sin, or the voice of the Spirit? The voice of momentary gratification, or the voice of eternal happiness? The voice of slavery in which your body controls everything about you, or the voice of freedom, Christian freedom, in which you can rise above such baseness and live with a clear conscience?
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery….the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
Occasionally I listen in on the Narcotics Anonymous group that uses our hall each Sunday night. The stories are tragic, and yet uplifting, too. And they all have a similar refrain.—“I didn’t listen to my conscience. I went along with the crowd. Shame didn’t mean anything to me. I thought I had life under control, that I was in charge. But, finally, I couldn’t quiet the voice of inner guilt any more and I crashed. Then I sought help.” Folks, armed with the Spirit’s power we don’t have to go through those steps of heartache, that kind of slavery, anymore. For when we focus on the fact that God sent His Son to suffer and die for our sins on a cross and thereby has won a full and eternal pardon for our shame; when we focus on the fact that He personally gives us that pardon through the gift of faith in Christ; and when the Spirit replaces life’s bad side with His good side, we’re free! Free, not to go back to the sad past, but free to go forward into a blessed future! Free to live without any fear, because God’s love is the absence of fear.
If you or I were left alone to decide all on our own whose voice we’d listen to, we’d be sunk. Our past experiences show the imperfect choices we make. But, but, we have the Holy Spirit on our side. His voice whispers loudly in our ear. We know right from wrong. We know truth from error. We know good from bad. Yes, aren’t His fruits of: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control better and more appealing than their opposites? So focus on His voice and you’ll discover that eternal freedom really does belong to you, His beloved child! Amen