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I am starting a new series this morning called “Keeping it Real.”  I want to talk about key life issues, perhaps about ones we don’t often think or talk about.  This morning’s reality check is simply this:  Life is short.

A distraught patient phoned her doctor’s office. Was it true, the woman wanted to know, that the medication the doctor had prescribed was to be taken for the rest of her life? She was told that it was.  There was a moment of silence before the woman continued, “I’m wondering then, just how serious my condition is. This prescription is marked “No Refills!” http://www.preaching.com/sermon-illustrations/11633969/

George Bernard Shaw astutely observed, “The statistics on death are quite impressive. One out of one people die.” http://www.fcfonline.org/content/1/sermons/091105M.pdf

Every one of us is terminal.  We ought to live like we were dying because we are.  Cheerful news this morning, huh?  Aren’t you thrilled you came?

Please stand and listen to what the Psalmist says about life’s brevity in Psalm 39:

Psalm 39:4-7 4 “Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. 5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. Selah 6 Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. 7 “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.”

James 4:14

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

Silent Prayer

Because life is short, I want to encourage you over the next several weeks to live free.

I believe the biggest trap Satan uses to try to make you a slave is sin.

Many people define freedom as the ability to do whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you want.  Now you and I know that approach can never be equated with freedom.  If I want something you have and I take it, I am not expressing freedom, but rather I am imposing on your freedoms.  I don’t have the right to take that which doesn’t belong to me.  I am not free to do that.

Some may think, whether they are 21 or not, they have the freedom to drink whatever they want and as much of it as they want as long as they are paying for it.  The faulty thinking there is that the person engaging in that kind of behavior often eventually becomes a slave to the drink.  When you can’t report for work the next day because your head hurts or when you can’t be available to perform the duties your family needs you to because you can’t think straight what you did as an expression of your freedom the night before has compromised your ability to life freely the next day. And tragically every day, people in our world lose their lives because of someone else’s so-called “right” to have a good time.

Some people think that freedom means they can say whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want whether verbally or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  And it doesn’t have to be true or related to justice in any way.  While free speech is a constitutional right, reckless words don’t protect your freedom or maintain your freedom because people who live with that mindset wind up hurting people and destroying their relationships which takes away the freedom they have to interact with certain people as restraining orders and other injunctions are made against them.  Remember, we are keeping it real this morning.

You want to know why God hates sin?  He hates it because it destroys your freedom.  Jesus came to set captives free (Luke 4:18), and God hates that sin in your life works against that very purpose.  If you think the right to sin is the expression of personal freedom you are incorrect and need to think about it differently.  Sin doesn’t demonstrate freedom.  It destroys it!  Ask the person who is reaping the consequences of driving drunk.  Ask the person who has gone after what they wanted even though it wasn’t theirs and got caught.  Ask the person with a sexually transmitted disease how free they feel after finding out what they have done to their bodies.  Ask the person who has lost their family for a three month fling.

Expressing your freedom within God’s boundaries is the only possible recipe for a happy life in this short life.  Violate those boundaries and the consequences that are often life-long will feel like an eternity.

Turn to Galatians 5.  Galatians 5:13 and 17-21 13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.  17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. 19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 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.

Indulging the sinful nature isn’t an expression of freedom as many think, but of foolishness because sin takes our freedom away.  Maybe you can hear it more clearly as you identity with the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 7:15-20 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
He was saying that the power of sin was so strong that it at times even convinced him to do things he didn’t even want to do.  When you are made to do what you don’t want to do, you have become a slave.

Christians love to quote John 8:36:  “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  But to truly understand it you have to look at it in context.  From what has Christ set us free?  Back up and listen to verses 34 and 35: 34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.”

Sons and daughters of God don’t forfeit your permanent place in the family of God for five minutes of pleasure!  Don’t lose your room in the mansion in heaven for the acquisition of temporary things.  Don’t be mastered by sin!

Every time we choose sin we are basically saying, “Satan could you please handcuff me and make it a little tighter this time?  Oh, and while you’re at it, why not chain my ankles too?  I like being restricted.  I like being drug around by addiction.  I like being a slave to the desires of the flesh.”  I mean, seriously! Have you ever heard the expression, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go and keep you longer than you want to stay?”  It is true, and it can start with just one carefree expression of “freedom.”  Listen, everything that is legal isn’t good for you, and everything that is legal definitely isn’t holy.

Pastor, author and world-renown speaker, Max Lucado tells the story of his temptation with alcohol.  Born into a family of alcoholics, Lucado had always guarded against alcohol addiction in his own life.  If DNA was a predetermining factor, he knew he was a target.

For more than 20 years drinking wasn’t an issue.  In 2001, however, he lowered his guard a bit and had one beer at a barbecue.  It wasn’t long before he started drinking with dinner out and then drinking just to drink.

One afternoon on his way to speak at a Christian men’s retreat, he began plotting where he could buy a beer and not be seen by anyone he knew.  He drove to an out-of-the-way convenience store, parked, and waited until all of the patrons had left the store.  He went in and bought the beer, tucked it to his side and hurried to his car.  He said he felt a sense of conviction because the night before he had had a long talk with his daughter about never doing anything she would have to try to cover up or lie about.

Lucado didn’t drink the beer that night.  He threw it in the trash, asked God for forgiveness and help and told the elders of his church what he had done.  Their response was, “Pastor, Satan is determined to get you for this right now, so we are determining to cover you with prayer.”  The only way to deal with sin is to expose it because after a while you will find yourself doing all kinds of deceitful things to try to keep it hidden.  If you are engaged in something now, a behavior, an activity, that you are trying to keep hidden for fear of what others would think because you have taken your stand as a Christian, God is telling you today is the day to expose it and get rid of it.  Anything you have to cover up will eventually cover you up.
It is so much easier to deal with sin by never opening the door to temptation than it is to try to rid yourself of sin after you have welcomed it into your heart and mind.  Before you choose to do something “just because you can,” ask yourself, “If I engaged in this activity casually or on a regular basis, where would it lead me?” or better yet “Where COULD it lead me if it became my master?”  If it could lead to holiness and more freedom it’s a path God would celebrate.  If it could lead to compromise and consequences it is a detour the devil hopes you’ll take.

This is how Susannah Wesley defined sin:  “Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, and takes off the relish of spiritual things-that to you is sin.”  Gulp.  I happen to believe she is right.

If you are in Christ and are seeking to serve Him, He has delivered you from the eternal consequences of sin, but you aren’t delivered from the presence of sin in your life without some cooperation on your part.  Every time you are presented with a temptation you have two options.  You can choose that which will lead to bondage or that which will lead to even greater freedom in Christ.  Christ sets you free, but you have to want to stay free.  You have to want to walk in that freedom.

If we are going to be truly free in Christ, we must come to the place where we realize we are so free that we can say “no” to sin.  We can live a different life.  God also will empower us by the Holy Spirit in us to be done with sin.  How is it possible?  It’s possible because God can transform your life.  Do we really believe change, real change, lasting change, life-long change is possible?

Picture a slave who receives the word that the Emancipation Proclamation has been issued and he no longer has to live incarcerated as the servant of another.  He even gets the paper to prove it, but yet he says to his master, “I know I am free, but this life is all I know, so I’ll continue working for you.”  The problem with the slave isn’t his status.  He is free.  The problem is his mindset.  He doesn’t believe he can become anything different.

I like how the late David Wilkerson puts it:

When Lincoln emancipated the slaves, the “issue” of slavery died. Not the slave master – not the slave.  (But the issue of slavery itself died.) The slave could walk away free, saying to himself: Slavery is a dead issue.

Now the slave could slip back into the field and pick a few more rows of cotton – perhaps through fear or instinct – but that, in no way, made him a slave again. He was free, but he had to exercise his freedom. The proclamation couldn’t force compliance, and neither could the slave master force him to return. It was a matter of the will of the slave.

What that means is simply this: Since the matter of your slavery to sin is a dead issue, seeing that Christ has already declared you emancipated, you are now free to live as a new person in Christ by thinking of yourself as unchained.   (www.worldchallenge.org/en/node/1359)

But it is a matter of your will.  Do you want to function as a slave even though you are free or do you want to walk in freedom?  Some of you here this morning don’t believe you can get rid of your anger, your bitterness, your filthy talk, your drug or alcohol addiction, your sex addiction, your need to have the finest things in life to the point your life is a lie and your finances are in shambles.  Some of you don’t think you can change.  That’s part of the bondage of sin.  Satan wants you to stay put so he twists things in your mind to make you believe you will always be what you have always been.  Don’t fall for it!  It’s a lie; every part of it.  It’s such a mental game!  What we think about sin will determine whether or not we will participate in it.  Believing precedes becoming.  It’s that simple.  If you have been washed in the blood, you are already free.  Believe it and start living like a free person.

It is hypocrisy and lunacy to believe that God can forgive you but He can’t free you.  Listen, Jesus’ blood paid not only for your pardon but for your emancipation!  Remember, He is LORD!  That means He has all power and can break any stronghold in your life.   “He breaks the power of canceled sin.  He sets the prisoner free.  His blood can make the foulest clean.  His blood availed for me.”

There is always a way out.  Look at your neighbor and tell them, “There is always a way out.”  We are to be dead to sin.  We aren’t to ponder whether we should or we shouldn’t.  We shouldn’t.  We aren’t to discuss things over with the devil or even try to argue with him.  We are taught to rebuke Him in the name of Jesus and to tell him to get behind us.

For believers, there is always a way out.  1 Corinthians 10:13 says, No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. 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 stand up under it.”  God will make a way of escape for everyone who wants to escape temptation.

If you truly want to stop doing what you are doing, if you truly want emancipated from something that has a hold of you, if you truly hate sin to the point where you are willing to give up the piece of it that also holds any momentary pleasure, God can and will destroy any desire you have to pursue it. But listen, God isn’t obligated to intervene in the life of someone who still secretly wants to sin or enjoys the opportunity to think about it and experiment with it.  You want to flirt with sin?  You’re on your own.  You want freed from sin?  God is on your side!

You have to believe freedom from sin is possible and you have to desire it.  The Psalmist prayed to that end in Psalm 119:133 when he said, “Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.”  Now that’s a prayer God will answer!

The good news about asking for freedom from sin is that Jesus can and will deliver it. Rev. 1:5 says He has freed us from sin by His blood, and anytime Satan tries to handcuff us to sin, confession is the key to releasing those restraints.  Jesus’ blood is at work every time we confess our sins.  For “if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9) Verse 7 of the same chapter says the “blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin.”  The way to be free from the bondage of sin is to be bound to the blood of Jesus.

If, however, you are asking for forgiveness of sin for the same sin over and over and over and over for three months, six months, a year, you have to evaluate if you really love God or if you just love the convenience of confession.  J  Keeping it real, folks. If that is the case, it is time to admit that Sin is your Master and God is your mistress.  I’m not saying it’s not a struggle at times to say “no” to sin, but in your heart and your mind, your desire must be to please God alone.

A little girl got saved and became a member of a church.  In the newcomer class the teacher asked her, “Were you a sinner?”  “Yes,” she said.  “Are you still a sinner?” the group leader asked.  “Yes,” said the little girl.  “Then what real changes have taken place?” the teacher answered.  “The best way I can explain it,” said the little girl, “is that I used to be a sinner running after sin.  Now I am a sinner running away from it.” (Hotsermons.com/sermon-illustrations/sermpn-illustrations-sin.html)  How badly do you want to be free from sin this morning?

We need to get to the point where we hate sin.  We need to think it is disgusting.  We need to think it is gross.  We need to be abhorred by it.  How many of you here today are thinking, “Guess what I’m going to do today?  I’m going to do all of the things I hate that totally disgust me, and I’m looking for to doing them.”  Our problem isn’t that sin is truly that much fun as we know it is only short-lived.  Our problem is that we don’t have the right perspective about it.  We don’t hate it like we should.

We ought to absolutely hate sin because of the way it destroys people and families and communities.

We ought to absolutely hate sin because of the way it disrupts our relationship with God.  In fact, there is a disconnect in our lives when we cherish sin in our lifestyles when it comes to God answering our prayers.  (Psalm 66:18)

In his book Why Prayers are Unanswered, John Lavender retells a story about Norman Vincent Peale.  When Peale was a boy, he found a big, black cigar, slipped into an alley, and lit up. It didn’t taste good, but it made him feel very grown up. . . until he saw his father coming. Quickly he put the cigar behind his back and tried to be casual. Desperate to divert his father’s attention, Norman pointed to a billboard advertising the circus.  “Can I go, Dad? Please, let’s go when it comes to town.” His father’s reply taught Norman a lesson he never forgot. “Son, he answered quietly but firmly, “never make a petition while at the same time trying to hide a smoldering disobedience.”

Sin keeps our petitions from being answered by God.

We ought to hate sin because when we are sinning we aren’t displaying the glory of God.

We ought to hate sin because a lifestyle of sin is a worldly life that is supposed to be the “old way of life” for believers.

We ought to hate sin because it cost Jesus His life.

I have been saying throughout this message that we have to change the way we think about sin if we are going to be free from it.  Where your mind is on the sin issue will determine what you will act upon.  Here is where the rubber meets the road.  Romans 8:5-9 5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.

What do you believe about sin?  Jesus said in the same passage about being free from sin, “You will know the TRUTH and the truth will set you free.”  This morning I have tried my best to tell the truth about sin.  Satan wants you to believe that since it’s your life you should live it the way you choose.  That’s true.  You have free will.  What he also wants you to believe is that the “fun” or “adventure” of sin outweighs its consequences.  That is a lie.  Sin is a slave master.  It will take more and more of your freedom away and will begin to be in charge in your life, leading you to compromises and losses you never thought possible.

What is it that is tying you down, holding you back, requiring effort and energy for you to try to cover it up?  Are you ready to be done with sin today and walk in the full freedom that comes with walking in the light with God?  Life is too short to be a slave to sin; to let it call the shots and have dominion over you.  Live free through the blood of Jesus.  Live free through thinking correctly about sin.  Live free by choosing the abundant life Jesus offers.

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