This week’s message was delivered by Pastor Ricky, as Pastor Miles was called back east for his grandmother’s memorial service. Please pray for Pastor Miles and his family in their grief and celebration of her life.
In this Freedom Project series, we have learned about receiving freedom from our sin and the conditions of our hearts that ensnare us. Today’s message is about three individuals who either find freedom or fight for the freedom of others.
1 – Zacchaeus (Luke 19)
Zacchaeus was tax collector, which was a hated profession in his day, as was a Jew who had vowed to support the Roman government. Tax collectors were traitors to their people, often taking advantage of them by overcharging taxes and pocketing the excess.
Jesus has entered Jericho on his way to Jerusalem to be tried, convicted and crucified. He finds Zacchaeus in a tree (which he has climbed in order to see Jesus above the crowd) and he does a crazy thing: Jesus, a noted and respected Rabbi, calls to this despised tax collector and asks him to come down and welcome Jesus into his home.
The people complain that Jesus is associating with a known sinner. But Zacchaeus himself is so overwhelmed by his newfound freedom in Jesus that his wealth and power are no longer important to him; he just lets them go for the sake of righting wrongs and pleasing the Lord:
Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:8-10
2 – Philip (Acts 8:26-40)
In verse 26 of Acts 8, an angel tells Philip, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” He has no idea what or whom he will encounter, but he goes and finds an Ethiopian eunuch sitting in his chariot, reading God’s Word. Philip asks the eunuch if he understands the Word, and the eunuch asks for help. As a freedom fighter, Philip offers insight into the Bible, offers freedom to the eunuch, and baptizes him.
You may have heard the saying, “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words.” But this is not necessarily a biblically accurate phrase. Instead, the Bible tells us about the power of our words and, “always be prepared to give answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15)
We need to know the basics of our faith, that we may be ready to share the freedom of Jesus with others! Sometimes we hide in silence because we are afraid that someone will ask a question that we cannot answer. But we can simply say, “I don’t know. Let’s find out together.” Be prepared to share what you do know. As God did with Philip, He may put someone in your path with whom you can share biblical insight and the reason for your hope. In this way, you may be the bearer of freedom to someone!
3 – Levi (Matthew) (Luke 5)
After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi
sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great
banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and
drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:27-32)
In this day and age, being called to be a student of a rabbi was a very prestigious honor, like being accepted into Harvard. When Levi (whose name Jesus changes to Matthew), a powerful and crooked tax collector, is called to leave his life of sin to be a disciple of Jesus, he can’t keep his freedom to himself. He uses his wealth and influence to gather everyone he knows to meet Jesus, that they, too may experience the glorious freedom He offers.
And now it is your turn. If you are wrapped up in addiction or some slavery to sin, you don’t have to live like that. You are invited now to walk away from that life and leave your sin behind. Jesus wants to set you free!
If you are wrapped up in addiction or some slavery to sin, you don’t have to live like that. You are invited now to walk away from that life and leave your sin behind. Jesus wants to set you free!
You may have also heard the saying, “God will not give you anything you cannot handle,” a misquote of 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says “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.”
God actually does give us things that we can’t handle alone. He asked Noah, a man who had never seen rain, to build an ark in the desert to prepare for a flood! He told Sarah at age 90+ that she would have a baby! He gives us circumstances that are beyond our means because He wants us to trust in Him and rely on Him. In this way, He reveals His love, power, and faithfulness to us. So don’t be afraid to let go of your former life and move forward. It may be scary and seem insurmountable, but God is able to do what you can’t. Remember Jesus’ Words of encouragement from John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”