SLAVERY IS NORMAL

In this country where freedom is cherished and exalted, it should bother us that so many of our people are still enslaved.
Slavery for us has become so common that we barely realize its devastating effects.
We must recognize the cause of slavery before we are ever able to end this horrendous practice.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Gal 5:1

NOTE: For a video of this message, click here.
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When we come to Christ, we are set free.

Instead of telling us what we are free from, Paul tells us what we are free for.

We have been freed so that we can experience what freedom is all about.

Many people are like the pharisees in their thinking about freedom.

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’?”
Jn 8:33

This was their response when Jesus said you can know the truth and truth will set you free.

At the very moment they said that, they revealed their obstinancy, for they were under Roman rule, not Jewish. They were slaves to Rome.

In our country, where freedom is cherished, exalted and honored, there are still multitudes who are enslaved.

At one level, we can think of those who are enslaved by their addictions. That is a slavery from which it is difficult to extricate one’s self.

There are other forms of slavery though.

Do you remember Dolly Parton’s song “9 to 5”? There is a slavery often—but not always—enforced by our need to make a living.

Many feel enslaved by their job, because they are not doing what they love.

They are just doing.

However, none of this is what Paul was talking about.

He was talking about religious slavery.

And in our country of the land of the free, this type of slavery is all too common.

In fact, many see it as the normal way for Christians to live.

What is religious slavery? And what does the freedom to be free look like?

The churches of Galatia to whom Paul wrote were not made up of Jewish people like many of the other churches.

These people essentially had no religion other than the possibility of the pagan idolatry so often encountered in the Roman provinces.

As these folks responded to the gospel message and churches were established, things began to change.

Jews who had converted to Christianity had a hard time letting go of the way they had been trained to please God.

Rules and Regulations were all they knew about how to live a religious life.

Many of these Jewish converts apparently would go around to other churches and try to introduce their legalistic form of Christianity to any who would listen.

Paul, however, was vehemently opposed to any form of law-keeping for the Christian believer.

His rationale was that you were either justified by faith or you were justified by the law.

He went to great lengths in his letters to the Romans and the Galatians that the law could not bring us to justification before God.

Only faith could do that.

The fact of the matter is that the law produces sin. It is what drives us to sin.

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Rom 3:20

But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.
Rom 7:8

Sin produces its own kind of slavery.

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
Rom 6:20

Since the law reveals and causes us to sin, we should be aware that any form of legalism is dangerous to the life of faith.

Legalism is the idea that we need to obey certain things in order to be pleasing to God.

We should be doing this and not doing that, and God will be pleased with us.

This is where it gets really sticky and tricky for the believer.

Doesn’t the Bible say that we should not lie, but speak the truth at all times?

Yes. Of course, it does.

Doesn’t the Bible say that we should not get drunk, but be sober-minded?

Yes. Of course, it does.

Well, aren’t these types of things rules and regulations that we should obey?

No, they are not.

I’m going to take a side road here for a moment, or as some of you say, a rabbit trail.

But, trust me, I will come back to this.

The Baptists have a doctrine that many have labeled “once saved, always saved.”

The teaching is called the eternal security of the believer.

Many people object to this teaching not so much from a biblical basis, but from a seemingly logical one.

License to Sin?

They say that this doctrine just gives people a license to sin.

Now, I have only been walking with the Lord for a few short years, but in those 50+ years I have yet to meet anyone—sinner or saint—who needed a so-called license to sin.

The thinking in that objection is that the law will keep people on the straight and narrow.

Really?

When was the last time you heard of someone saying, “I was about to steal that car, but then I remembered that the commandments say to not steal.”?

The law—any law—is only obeyed by law-abiding citizens, not criminals—or in our religious sense, sinners.

There is no law that will keep a sinner from sinning or a criminal from crime.

It is a mistake, then, to think that we need laws, rules and regulations to make sure that a Christian remains a Christian.

Laws, rules and regulations are necessary for a civilized society, or to run a group smoothly, but they are of no value to one’s eternal well-being.

You did not become a Christian by trying to obey God’s rules and regulations.

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?
Gal 3:2

You became a Christian when the Lord opened your heart and mind to receive and believe the gospel.

That’s it. That’s all.

And Paul says that the way you began is the way you continue—by faith.

Anything else will set you up for trouble.

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written,
“Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things
written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
Gal 3:10

If you think that we need to rely on the law to keep ourselves or our loved ones saved, you will find yourself in all kinds of confusion and turmoil.

It is simply not possible to obey the law for righteousness.

We did not follow the law in order to be saved, to become a Christian; and we cannot follow the law in order to stay saved or to please God.

In fact, it is only faith that pleases God.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, …
Heb 11:6a

QUESTION—If all this is true, then why do we have all the things in the NT telling us what we should do and be?

Good question.

Allow me to use a weak analogy from the sports world.

Running a mile in less than 4 minutes was a goal many runners had.

It seemed to be an impossible goal.

But, Roger Bannister broke that barrier on May 6, 1954 with a time of 3:59.4.

His record lasted only 46 days as other runners were able to remove the mental barrier against a human running that fast.

In order to achieve this goal, there were benchmarks along the way.

How fast would the runner have to be at the quarter-mile mark?

No more than one minute.

How fast at the half-mile mark?

No more than two minutes.

Those were benchmarks by which they were able to measure how they were doing in pursuit of their goal.

All the things we are told in the NT about how to live, how to think, how to be, are just that.

They are benchmarks by which we can measure our progress towards becoming like Jesus.

Jesus is our standard.
He is our goal.

until we all attain to the unity of the faith
and of the knowledge of the Son of God,
to mature manhood,
to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
Eph 4:13

It is only in Jesus that we find our true freedom.

It is only in Jesus that we are able to live for God.

It is only in Jesus that we are freed from any guilt for our sins.

and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.
Act 13:39

The law cannot bring freedom. It can only bring us into the bondage of slavery.

Many Christians still think that we are required to obey the law in some form.

There are those who believe we need to pay attention to Moses.

There are those who believe we should pay attention to all the things mentioned in the NT as standards for the Christian life.

They judge others by these standards, and if they see someone not obeying one of them, they question whether they are truly born again.

We are to be those who do not insist on any type of behavior as being necessary for the Christian life, because no specific behavior will either get you in or keep you out.

yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
Gal 2:16

So, when you stand before God and He asks you, “Why should I let you into my heaven?”, your only response should be—JESUS.

For there is salvation in no one else,
for there is no other name under heaven given among men
by which we must be saved.”
Act 4:12

WHAT DOES GOD THINK?

What does God think of you and what you do?
Are you constantly looking over your shoulder to see if you are about to be struck by a lightning bolt?
In this brief encouraging message, you will discover something that many people are afraid to believe.
I hope you will find something here to make you smile from the inside out.

Photo by Charl Durand on Pexels.com

NOTE: For a video of this message, click here.

NOTE: For a podcast of this message, click here.

He’s a real piece o’ work.

Usually, when we say someone is a real piece of work, we are using it in a negative fashion trying to say something about their character.

William Shakespeare used the same phrase in one of his numerous immortal quotes which he lifted from his reading of the Bible, but he was using it to glorify God’s creation.

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how
infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals.

When King David began to consider the greatness of God and His creation, he was astounded that God would even take notice of man.

When I look at your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Psa 8:3-4

Compared to the expanse and beauty of the heavens, how could one little puny individual account for anything?

As he pondered these things, God began to show David just how much He cared for us.

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens,
and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
Psa 8:5-8

David understood our position in the created order of things.

Even though we were the last to be created, we were placed above the rest of God’s natural world.

Notice that he says we are made just a little lower than the angels.

Can you see the difference between King David’s thought and Charles Darwin’s?

David says we are a little lower than the angels, but Darwin says we are a little higher than the apes.

Which comparison would you prefer?

Mankind has been crowned with glory and honor in that humanity has dominion over all other created things of the world.

We find this passage quoted in Hebrews in a different context referring to Jesus.

However, before he gets to Jesus, the writer acknowledges what everyone knows to be the current reality.

Now in putting everything in subjection to him,
he left nothing outside his control.
At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.
Heb. 2:8

That is certainly our reality, is it not?

Not everything is subject to us.

While we may understand shark behavior, we are not yet able to control those fearsome creatures.

Out in nature and unprotected, we are at the mercy of the beasts of the field.

We cannot simply tell that bear to lie down and expect it to obey us, because the reality is that not everything is subject to us at this time.

However, we begin to find a glimmer of hope for this situation as we continue with Hebrews—

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels,
namely Jesus,
crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
Heb 2:9

From His exalted position with the Father, Jesus was made a little lower than the angels for just a little while.

The writer of Hebrews then goes on through the rest of the letter to show how Jesus is exalted above everything the Jews held dear about their religion and history.

The conclusion of the matter is that we are to look only to Jesus and not to anything else for our salvation.

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
despising the shame,
and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Heb 12:2

We are told here that Jesus is the both the author and the finisher of our faith.

What does that mean?

My translation uses the word “founder” instead of author.

Founder can be interpreted as the one who formed the organization, but not necessarily the one who brought you into that organization.

However, when used in conjunction with the word perfector, or finisher of our faith, we are forced to see it in a different light.

Consider the way Paul refers to this aspect of our salvation.

And I am sure of this,
that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Phl 1:6

The good work of salvation was begun in us by an outside force and will be brought to completion by that same outside force—Jesus.

I am not sure I can belabor this point too much or too often.

It is ALL of God’s doing, not ours.

Again, to quote Shakespeare,

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely Players

—(from “As You Like It”)

In this passage of melancholy, Shakespeare brings for the truth that not much is within our control.

We are simply here, coming on the scene, doing our thing, and leaving.

Viewed from a negative mindset, though, this would certainly produce an existential angst; but viewed from a place of understanding God’s love for His creation, it produces a hope that goes beyond what the eye can see.

Let’s continue with God’s working out His will in us.

One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.
Act 16:14

The Lord opened her heart to hear. If God had not done that, she could not have heard the message with any understanding.

But God, being rich in mercy,
because of the great love with which he loved us,
even when we were dead in our trespasses,
made us alive together with Christ
by grace you have been saved
Eph 2:4-5

We were dead, apart from God. We could not muster up the energy to even ask to be saved, let alone do anything to earn it.

We were made alive from our deadness in order to be able to enjoy a life lived with the Father.

he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness,
but according to his own mercy,
by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
Tit 3:5

As the TV infomercial says, “Wait!! There’s more!”

Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth,
that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
Jas 1:18

We’re not done yet! There is still more!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
According to his great mercy,
he has caused us to be born again to a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1Pe 1:3

I have only begun to show you the many places where this truth is brought out; but we will stop there.

The question before us today is

“What is man that God is mindful of him?”

Out of the magnitude of God’s creation, why should humanity occupy such an exalted place?

What does God think of us?

After all, history shows that by and large we are not very likable creatures.

We constantly want to be better than our neighbor, to get more than they have, to take what they have for ourselves.

Yes, civilized society has put a tourniquet on that blood flow, but it still continues in more subtle forms as well as the outright slaughter of others for the sake of gain.

Loss of life in African countries continues as one group seeks to dominate another.

Just last week a church was attacked and people were put to the machete.

The ability to earn a living is hampered in Muslim countries like Pakistan.

The majority rules and they greatly hinder anyone who is not a Muslim from finding a decent job.

When we look at those kinds of events, we may sometimes wonder if God has any concern at all for us.

However, we cannot look at the situation for others to determine our own condition.

God will rectify those things in His time the same way He did with the early church when Paul so vehemently opposed it.

We can look at the thoughts presented earlier about how the Lord called us out of the darkness into His light.

In that place, we will see what He thinks of us; what He thinks of you.

This is a concept that many struggle with, but God loves you. He loves me.

We may not feel that love the same way we do for our spouse or close friend, but God loves you.

He can do nothing else, because

God is love.
1Jo 4:8

So.

What does God think of you?

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
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.
Rev 21:2-3

He thinks of you as a bride as she begins the walk down the aisle to meet her bridegroom.

You are beautiful.

You are loved.

Let that thought carry you through the week.

God loves me.