July 3 // What Does Freedom Mean?

Allen Jessee - 7/3/2022

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- [Allen] Well, hey everybody. Man, it's so good to see you this weekend. July 4th weekend, pretty incredible weekend. I know you guys got barbecues, and you're gonna be boating out at the lake today, and family time, so I just hope you have an incredible, fun weekend with your family. And I know this too, that today so many of you are all over the place. You know, you're on vacations, you're at the beach, you're at the Smokey's, you're at Dollywood, but I have gotten your emails or your texts, and you're watching online today. And I just wanna say welcome, hope you have an incredible vacation with your family. We all need breaks from time to time, right? And so I just encourage you that you'll enjoy that time, you'll come back refreshed and renewed, and I wanna see you back at church next Sunday, alright? So enjoy your week together. Hey, thanks for pastor Robbie that was here last week, just did an incredible job for us. And thanks for all your generosity, because of your generosity we were able to give just incredible gifts so that they can provide little Ivy a home. So that's just amazing, you guys are amazing, thank you so much for that. So today I wanna talk to you about this idea of freedom. I've been thinking a lot about freedom lately, right? I mean, on July 4th weekend, we definitely think about freedom. And as I begin to think about it, I think of the many freedoms that are ours to enjoy. Think about just as a follower of Jesus, our personal freedom, freedom from guilt and shame. That's incredible, isn't it? For us, freedom from fear, and worry, and anxiety. We really have the opportunity to be free from these things, even though we live in a culture where it just weighs on us over, and over, and over, but because of Jesus, he says we can actually be free from these things. Have you ever thought about being free to pursue a plan or a dream that you've had for so much of your life? That's an incredible freedom. How about being free to do what you're called to do? Man, that's a joy of my life. I love the freedom of sharing and being called by God to help us understand the scripture better. Free to spend time with those I love, especially on weekends like this, right? Nothing stops that except what I might call a tight schedule or something else that has been planned, but never resistance on their part. We love getting together as a family, and especially the freedom to worship the one who has rescued me from sin. He's available anytime, day or night, to listen, and he's anxious to know what's on my heart and what's on your heart. What does it mean to be free? Have you thought about this? I wanna think about this today, I want to help you understand the amazing gift of freedom. What does freedom mean? So let's dive into this just a little bit. I think freedom, if we think truly about freedom, it actually starts with not being imprisoned or enslaved. Now we don't think of freedom in those terms, do we? But around the world we think of that often, people think of being, you know, they don't have the freedoms we have, they're enslaved, they're imprisoned in some way. Chances are good that you've never been either, enslaved to someone who controls you or imprisoned and unable to walk freely the streets in your town and your community. Freedom means being able to think on your own, the opportunity to speak your mind and to be respected. Hey guys, freedom is a wonderful gift. Again, I doubt most of you have ever been confined or obstructed in your life. Here's what I want you to understand for most of us in America, the vast majority of us have lived our entire lives with freedom. And when we think about that, how many people in the world, I mean, a lot of our partners in the middle east and today in Ukraine, I think about the freedom that we have. And every time I get an update from pastor Vasiliy, and the network of pastors in Ukraine, and the freedoms that now they do not have. And then it causes me to understand that all of us truly need to appreciate our freedom. Please appreciate your freedom today. All that thinking about our unlimited freedom led me to sort of a deeper dive in the scripture, and I could come up with several examples of those who were confined or imprisoned for a certain period of their life, and then set free. And often their freedom came after a long time in confinement. So I wanna look at a couple of stories, one from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament. Let's go back, and my thoughts were around Genesis 41, where we find the continuing story of 17 year old boy, by the name of Joseph. This is an awesome story, right? A Jewish boy, raised in Canaan. Some of you may know a little bit about Joseph, his father was Jacob. He had a number of brothers, all of whom hated him, and actually we know they abused him, because I have not known serious abuse in my life, I sort of had to imagine a family that hated me. I mean, I had to put myself in a different circle than I have been raised, because I had a family that loved me. But put yourself in Joseph's shoes. He had a band of brothers that hated him, he was literally hated by his brothers. They were jealous of him, they were envious of his place in his father's heart. And once they found themselves alone with him, it was their chance to kill him. I mean, we're talking wicked brothers here. Think of the fear of a 17 year old boy surrounded by his older brothers, and he realizes they have murder in their hearts, serious abuse, right? The Bible says they threw him in a cistern thinking, we'll just abandon him, leave him here to die. And then another thought, no, let's actually kill him. I mean, this was the hatred they had, let's kill our brother. And then they realized they'd have to answer to their father for that. So they saw a caravan coming, filled with men they didn't know, and they decided, I'll tell you what we'll do, let's just get rid of him and we'll sell him. Anybody remember how much they got for their brother? 20 measly pieces of cheap silver for the life of their brother. Who knows the abuse that Joseph suffered in that caravan as they traveled all the way to Egypt? And when they arrived, he was put on a slave block and he was sold at highest bid. This is a teenager, he didn't know Egyptian language, he didn't know Egyptian culture, he didn't know one soul in Egypt. Well, along came the captain of Pharaoh's guard, a guy by the name of Potiphar, a tough man, but fair, and he bought Joseph like a common slave. And the scripture says that he made Joseph his house boy, he put him in charge of his home. And it was interesting, this Egyptian army official now has employed this young, teenage Jewish boy. And I wonder what those nights were like for Joseph, sleeping on the floor, hearing strange music, and also hearing a strange language that he could not communicate, being exposed to worship of other gods. I mean, we sit and we do our best to imagine, but Joseph, his whole world has changed. He proves himself to be a hard worker, faithful and diligent, but unknown to Joseph, Potiphar's wife was a seductive woman who looked at him with lust, and she began a journey. And what she did was she started her process of tempting him and pursuing him. And we don't know actually how long this temptation and pursuit went on for Joseph, how many days he was in this situation. But eventually there comes a day when Potiphar leaves the home, he's out in the field, he's gone, the servants are away, Joseph is there alone with her, and she makes her move. And Joseph is without any witness around, okay? Nobody's there. He was a red-blooded Jewish, young boy, a young adult that he understands he could have had sex with her, and no one would've ever known it. But not Joseph. The Bible says that he saturates that place with his absence. It's real interesting in scripture, there are no recorded sins in Joseph's life in the entire story, in the Bible, of Joseph. It doesn't mean he didn't sin, we know he wasn't perfect. He did sin, but there's no recorded evidence of sin in Joseph's life in his entire story. Others would be Joshua, Caleb, and Daniel, but there aren't many who had their story written out in scripture without some kind of sin that makes the pages of scripture. These four don't. And Joseph doesn't yield to this hellish temptation. Bible says he runs, she grabs his garment, and she yells rape. Now he didn't rape her of course, but Potiphar believed that he did. And so when Potiphar heard the accusation of his wife, he threw Joseph in an Egyptian dungeon, another form of abuse, right? I mean, he's been falsely accused. Not one time do you ever read of Joseph's bitterness or his resentment, not once, not even against the brothers who did all these horrible things to him. Joseph is now in prison and he's there for an undetermined amount of years. By the way, all told, he's in confinement 14 years from the day his brothers sold him to the caravan until he is finally free at last, but we're not there yet. Years go by, and he wins the heart of his fellow prisoners in this dungeon prison, eventually earning their trust and eventually earning the trust of the warden. He begins to interpret the prisoners' dreams that they were having. And eventually, two of his friends in prison are able to go free. And he says to them, don't forget me when you get out of this awful place, and if there's ever a chance that you could put a good word in for me, please do, so I can get outta here also. It's a miserable place. And what happens? They instantly forget about him in their newfound freedom. Genesis 41:1 says this, "When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream." Finally, Joseph hears a rattle at the gate of that prison, his name is called, he's brought before Pharaoh who has had this dream that his magicians cannot interpret. And wouldn't it be, just like Joseph's testimony, right, one of his old buddies in prison suddenly remembers, 'cause now he's in Pharaoh's court, hey, there was a guy that I remember in prison, a buddy of mine in prison, and he could always interpret our dreams exactly as they were. So Pharaoh sends for Joseph, and he brings Joseph to his court, and he explains Joseph that he's been having this double dream. Pharaoh says, Joseph, I've been having one dream about cattle and one dream about wheat, and I've gotta know what these dreams mean, and I have no idea. And Joseph said, well, the Lord has revealed to me the meaning of your dreams. And here's what he told Pharaoh in Genesis 41:29, "You'll have seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt. But after those seven years abundance, there'll be seven years of famine that will follow. And then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten and a famine will ravage the land." And here's the deal, man, Pharaoh was so impressed, he knew instantly that Joseph was right, he had clearly interpreted his dreams. And so Joseph is finally set free and he comes out of that prison dungeon in prison clothes, and all of a sudden he's put in charge of Pharaoh's courts, and he actually becomes the prime minister of Egypt, second in command. God's favor is on Joseph. His room now resides in the palace. Now just for a moment, especially if you've put yourself in Joseph's shoes, like I sort of asked you to do, if you've been abused by your family, and now you're in charge, he's put in charge of all the grain, and he knew his brothers would eventually, if they don't die first, need him to rescue them, because this grain's gonna feed the world in that day, everybody's gonna have to come and they're gonna have to find some grain, some sustenance through Joseph. Eventually, he meets his brothers, and here's the deal, now Joseph looks Egyptian, you know, he talks Egyptian, he dresses Egyptian. And when the brothers are before him, they don't recognize him, but he recognizes them. This is his moment to get even, to get back, to retaliate. I mean, this is what people do that have been treated like Joseph has been treated. Everybody would've said, well, it's okay, they deserved it, right? I mean, that's how our culture, without the grace of Jesus, that's how our temptations work. But not if you're Joseph and not if you've been free from a spirit of bitterness. The brothers, when they do discover his identity as the one they tried to kill, that they sold, they were terrified, the scripture says. I mean, they just know that he's gonna retaliate. But he didn't, and here's sort of the famous scripture of Joseph's life. He said, you intended me, boys, brothers, to harm me, but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. And here's what Joseph did, he provided those same brothers with the best land in Egypt. He moved his father and his brothers, and his entire family never knew retaliation from Joseph. It's an incredible story. So I share that story because maybe you're here today and you're watching on TV, or you're watching online, or you're in one of our physical locations, and you actually have suffered abuse at the hands of a family member, or a trusted friend, or a person in authority. And somehow they took advantage of you in some way, and today you're broken and scarred from that abuse. Many of you have been emailing me over the last few weeks, as you've seen all these stories come out in our culture today about abuse in the church. And I wanna help you understand something, let me just say, a church is to be a place of protection. And yet we see even where church leaders use their position of spiritual authority for their own sinful pleasures, and every time I read a story like that, it breaks my heart. I mean, it just destroys me. A church is a place where people are not taken advantage of, little girls and little boys are loved, and protected, and cared for in the church. But maybe you have been a victim of some kind of abuse at the hands of a family member, or leader, or some other person in your life, and I just want to tell you, my heart goes out to you, it truly does. And these are not idle words. This is what I would say. We have a group of individuals in our church who care very much about the abuse, some of them have gone through abuse themselves, and they, along with Jesus, can help you get back on your feet to find freedom from revenge, and hatred, and bitterness, and resentment. And we would love to help you as best we can, but you'll need to step up, and reach out, and let us know, and of course, we're not gonna publicize that, we would definitely keep that confidential because we want to help you, we want to encourage you to get back to a place of health and healing. And so it was with Joseph, and the scripture says, and he lived and he died, a remarkable man who somehow, by the grace of God, got past his abuse, his brokenness, and his bitterness, Joseph found freedom in his God. So I wanna finish up the message today talking about freedom, and I wanna transfer over to the New Testament, and I wanna look at another guy. And this guy we find from the early days of his life, he is a religious terrorist is how we would best describe him. This gentleman is a fellow who hates followers of Jesus Christ. He is driven by his own religion, and his own religion has taught him that these believers, and they called Christians in those days, they were believing in the Way, it was in the way of Christ. But he called them Christians, and he believed that Christians should be killed, should be eliminated, should be wiped off the planet, because the planet would be much better without Christians. This was in the mind of a guy by the name of Saul of Tarsus. That was his mission, every morning, every noon, and every night is what he gave his life to. It drove him till he finally had the documents that would allow him to make a hundred mile journey from Jerusalem, that was his home base of terror, over to Damascus, and there in Damascus, he would imprison those Christians or he would kill them because Damascus was a place where many Christians were in hiding. He would kill some, he would bring others back in chains and applaud they're being brought before the court and found guilty of following Jesus. Saul of Tarsus, he was a mean, mean guy. And he lived with that passion, that goal in mind of making life miserable for Christians. And here's what happened. The Bible says, and on his way to Damascus, Saul was struck by a light from heaven. It's incredible story, you remember the story? And this is what happens, he finds himself on the ground, alright? And his scripture says, he cried out, who are you, sir? Wheres that light from? And the Lord answers, he says, I'm Jesus, the one you're persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do. And here's the thing, this terrorist, this serial killer, he obeys Jesus immediately. You talk about a transformation, actually he's been stricken blind. And for a few days in his blindness, until he is brought into the presence of a man who God sent to him, the Lord tells him exactly what he has to do and exactly what he has in mind for Paul's life on the days ahead. So here's the deal, Saul of Tarsus becomes Paul the apostle, because of the grace of God, because of God's grace. Because he was able to be free at last from his killer instinct, free at last from his life of hatred and murderous pursuit of other believers. I don't know of a more profound conversion in all of scripture, and definitely in my life, and all the history that I've ever read about church history and people who are converted, than the conversion of the apostle Paul. An incredible, incredible act of the grace of Jesus Christ. And here's what I want you to know. You might think, well, oh my goodness, you know, this guy who's written most of the New Testament, once he gave his life to Jesus, I bet it was smooth sailing, I bet everything was just coming up roses for Paul. Well, not so, and Paul after serving faithfully for many, many years, Jesus Christ who rescued him from his hatred and his killer instinct lets us in on a little bit of the life that he had given to serve Christ. And this is what he says in 2 Corinthians 11, he says, "I've worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 5 times I receive from the Jews the 40 lashes minus 1, three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I've been constantly on the move, I've been in danger from rivers, from bandits, I've been in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and in danger from false believers." He is in danger, right? I mean, I read that, there's no place Paul wasn't in danger. "I have labored, and toiled, and have often gone without sleep. I have known hunger and thirst, and have often gone without food. I've been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches." I don't know what you're going through, but I'm gonna tell you something cheer up, you're probably not gonna have to go through what Paul went through, right? I mean, it was crazy what he did, once he found Jesus Christ, he was forever changed. And as passionate as Paul was to eliminate Christians, he became even more passionate to teach the gospel and share what he had found in his life. It was incredible, and we know today that when you look at all the scripture that God used this guy, right, to write most of the New Testament that we have. It's really neat, Paul writes a letter to the entire Galatian church, and the theme of that letter is freedom. Freedom from legalism, freedom from bitterness, freedom from hatred, and the Galatians, man, he loved them so much, and they had been saved by Jesus, and then all of a sudden they were going back into some of their old ways. And for Paul that was, you can't do that. God has saved you from all those things, now live in the freedom that Christ has given you. Now I realize as I speak to you, that you might say, I can't relate to that guy. I mean, you're not a killer, right? You're not a terrorist. But here's what I want you to understand, if you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior, you're no better off than he was. I mean, it's true, as a killer of Christians. Because here's what the Bible teaches, guys, there's no grades of sin, there's no degrees of sin. Because you're sinful and without Christ, you cannot ever know hope apart from faith in our savior. And believe me, the one who saved Saul of Tarsus, he is still alive and he's still saving the lost. He's still reaching out to people who are in sin and need forgiveness. Hey, I understand some of you, you guys, you've hung around Christians, you know, some of you attend church, some of you have your own Bible, and from time to time, you might read in it. And some of you even know the songs we sing. Maybe you know more Christians than non-Christians, but here's the truth I wanna share with you, if you've never bowed your heart to Jesus Christ, you're lost. It's just the truth. If you never surrendered your life to Jesus, even though you hang out with Christians, and you can sing a few Christian songs, and you think you're good enough to one day get there, you are lost, heaven is not your home. And it is my responsibility to tell you that in love, okay? I mean, I love you. I'm telling you that, not because I wanna beat you over the head with it, man, I'm telling you because I love you, I want the best for you. This is what the Bible says, "If you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with the heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith, and you're saved." So as I close today, as we celebrate our national freedom on July 4th weekend, what a great day it would be if you could know spiritual freedom, I mean, wouldn't that be awesome? What a great day it would be if those of you that are lost and you know that you're lost today, that you would just simply lay down your defenses, I mean, stop all this hypocrisy, just call it what it is, and acknowledge the fact that you are a lost sinner and you need Jesus as your savior. I am begging you to make that decision today. I just wanna say to all of you wherever you are, thank you so much for listening so well today. You guys are incredible. I always appreciate you stay with me, it's awesome. And now it's time for you to make a decision. So would you pray with me? Let's pray, God, I thank you for the freedom that we have, it's incredible, so many of us take it for granted. But God, help us today to appreciate our freedom. And for those of us that know Jesus Christ, the incredible freedom we have from guilt, and shame, and sin, that Jesus paid a debt for us that we will never pay. It is our debt, it was our sin that put Jesus Christ on the cross. And so Lord, by all means, for those of us as believers, may rejoice in the spiritual freedom that you've given us. And yet, God, I know, in a crowd the size that is listening today and watching today, wherever you are, there's some of you, you hang out with Christians, you're a little interested, but you would have to say, I'm lost, I'm a sinner, I've never trusted in Jesus. So right now's your time to make your decision, the greatest decision you'll ever make. I've seen thousands of people make this decision, I've never seen anybody come back to me and say, oh my gosh, Jesus, didn't hold up to his end of the bargain. Most people always, I can't believe I waited this long. If that's you today, then I want you to do what the Bible teaches, just believe in your heart, Jesus Christ died on a cross for your sin, he rose from the dead, and confess with your mouth. Just simply say, today Jesus, I believe in you, I ask you to forgive me, I ask you right now to come into my life. I surrender my life to you, Jesus. And hey, if you prayed that prayer right now online, on TV, let us know, you'll see my email, right? Help me to understand that, just click that little raised hand button online. If you're at one of our in person locations, please let us know, grab somebody on your way out. Let them know you made this decision today to trust Christ. And today, if you made that decision, you will experience a freedom that has come with a high price. And I pray that you would enjoy it, just like Saul who turned Paul for the rest of your days, living in the freedom of Jesus. Lord, just have your will and way, be with all of our activities today, give us a great time with our family. Thank you for the freedom we have. We ask it all in Jesus name, amen.

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