Allen Jackson - Let Freedom Ring
It's an honor to be with you, again. Our title today is "Let Freedom Ring". Jesus said you would know the truth, and the truth would set you free. It is more than a verse of Scripture. It is a guideline for life. There is truth, there is objective truth that can be known, not a popular idea these days. The prevailing notion is that everybody has their own truth, and there is no objective truth that impacts all of us. It's deception.
There is a God, the Creator of heaven and earth; and through his Word and by his Spirit, he's revealed to us the truth that will bring freedom to our lives. It's good news. Jesus brings freedom always. Jesus will not diminish your life. He won't put an artificial ceiling upon your life. He won't take something away from you. You don't have anything he needs, and neither do I. The better we know Jesus, the more fully we yield to him, the more freedom we will live our lives with. It's a great idea. I pray the lesson is a blessing and a doorway for you. Grab your Bible and a notepad; but most of all, open your heart.
Let freedom ring in our hearts first. I was curious about that phrase. It was stuck in my head. I know it with a tune that comes from a Martina McBride song. I won't sing it. But I know it didn't begin there. So, I did just a little bit of work. It's not really clear where the phrase originated. Nobody really claims it, but I like history, and it was 1831 when Samuel Francis Smith wrote the words to the song, "America: My Country 'Tis of Thee". Remember that? He was a student at Andover Theological Seminary. It was first performed on July the 4th, 1831, in the Park Street Church in Boston. Can you imagine that, a song that honored our nation being sung in a church? Who'd have thought of that? The words are pretty familiar, I suspect. "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside"... That was halfhearted.
Come on, together. The last stanza of that song is not as familiar. "Our father's God to thee, author of liberty, to thee we sing. Long may our land be bright with freedom's holy light. Protect us by thy might, great God, our King". You see, our nation will know freedom and liberty. Our children and our grandchildren will know freedom and liberty only if the church is alive and healthy and vital. If the church is distracted, or weak, or anemic, or ineffective, or unconcerned, the freedoms and liberties that have defined our lives will continue to diminish. It's a tragic place to lose your freedom and not know it. Once upon a time, I trained horses. I really broke young horses before they went to professional trainers. And it was really a process of trying to convince them to yield their great strength to another authority.
They were stronger than I was, more powerful than I was. There was no way, in a physical contest, I was going to overmatch them. But if I could incrementally teach them to yield, before long, they'd be subjected to me, even though their strength was much greater. And I believe we can incrementally, bit by bit, week by week, one choice by one choice, surrender so much of our freedom and liberty that we don't realize the degree to which we have become tethered. In John chapter 8, it's the verse we began with. It's still on the top of your outlines. I haven't left your notes, yet. Go back and look at verse 31. "To the Jews who had believed in him, Jesus said, 'If you hold to my teaching, you're really my disciples. Then you'll know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'" They were offended by what Jesus said. "They answered him, 'We're Abraham's descendants. We've never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we'll be set free?'"
They were offended. Imagine that. The incarnate Son of God, the Messiah is standing there with them. And by this point, his miracles are a part of the reputation. He's not unknown. And he says, "You can know the truth, and you can be free". They're offended. They say, "We have the right pedigree. We belong to the right family. We worship in the right way. We belong to the right people group. Our family history is filled with heroes of our faith. How dare you say we're not free"? They had no imagination of the need they had. If you ask me for a line that's pretty descriptive of contemporary American evangelicalism, we have very small awareness of the need we have. We think that the wicked need to change. The ungodly need to be different. Whichever political person you don't like, you wish they would change. But we have a very small imagination that we need to be different.
I would submit to you that if we can change, God can change everything around us. But if we continue to look through our windows angry and judgmental and harsh, unaware of our own need to be free, we will forfeit the freedoms and liberties we have. It's a horrible thing to lose your freedom and not know it. It's a tragedy. The struggle for freedom is taking place throughout the earth today. It's not just in Tennessee or in the United States of America. We've seen it on the streets of Canada. We see it on our southern border with tens of thousands of people streaming towards our nation, because they imagine there's a degree of freedom here that they don't believe they can gain anyplace else.
In China, there's 1.4 billion people tonight that live under the tyranny of an authoritarian regime. They don't have the privilege of very much self-determination. And it's an awkward truth, because they've become such an important part of our lives and our economic development that we'd just rather not think about the suffering of the people. It's unpopular. There's a struggle on the earth for freedom. Let freedom ring. The church has an assignment, folks. It has to begin in our hearts. I talk regularly these days with pastors and church leaders and people on the ground, in Ukraine and the areas surrounding that. They are fighting for their freedom.
A couple of weeks ago, we had the pastor and his wife, where I'll never forget Larissa looked at the congregation, and she said, "Please understand. We're not just fighting for ourselves. We're fighting for you". Freedom is not cheap. It's not cheap. They looked at me, and they said, "You don't have to be concerned. The Ukrainian people will never again yield to an authoritarian dictator. We lived that way, and then we gained our freedom, and we will never again submit to that". At that time in our news cycle, they were saying Zelenskyy was trying to set himself up as a dictator, and they said, "It'll never happen. The people wouldn't tolerate it". It's why the grandmothers are standing with sticks in opposition to Russian tanks. They understand what's at stake, and they're determined to defend and protect the freedom that they have. The conflict for them is not a hobby, or just a distraction, or an interruption. They understand their future is in the balance. And if they lose, they'll serve an authoritarian regime and forfeit much of their future.
If you listen to them, they're not stressed about the same things that we are. Gena's brother-in-law had lost his home. It was destroyed in the conflict, and he said, "Oh, that's not that big a deal. We'll find a place to live when this is over". If their homes are destroyed, or their property is confiscated, or they send their families to Poland, while they themselves go do whatever's necessary to defend their homes or the street on which they live, they say, "It's inconvenient, but it's reasonable for us. We're standing for our freedom". I think we've lost sight of that. I think we imagine someone else should stand for our freedom. We think the churches will be more vital when the pastors are more anointed. Our schools will get better when the teachers do a better job, or the unions change, or there's a different political attitude.
I would submit to you that our nation is facing a far greater threat than Putin and the Russian armies, that there's something far more threatening patrolling our streets than Russian tanks. We're in the midst of a spiritual conflict. There are powerful forces at work trying to shape our future, and the church is the only institution, the only body that's capable of responding. That's you and me. But it begins in our hearts, at our tables, in our homes. This isn't about someone else. Powerful forces ignoring our own constitution, disrupting things like free speech, things that were essential in our life. Censorship and propaganda have become so commonplace, so routine, we seldom even question those expressions any longer. We've accepted them.
Paganism and hedonism are more celebrated in the public square than things like purity and holiness. You'd be put on the cover of a magazine if you express some form of paganistic hedonism, but you'll be mocked and ridiculed if you say you choose to lead a life of purity. And we have trouble finding our voice to help our children and young people sort it out. Our children are being assaulted. Abortion is destroying almost 3000 children a day, day after day, week after week, month after month. It's been happening for so many years that we're anesthetized to it. We hardly notice. We just shrug our shoulders. We act as if it's some sort of a social debate. It's the law of the land. It's a hedonistic, ungodly, wicked stain on our nation, and the church has to find our voice. But that's not the only assault on the kids.
In too many schools, our children are trained to embrace or accommodate immorality. They're being coached at it in very early ages. Gender confusion and fluidity is being encouraged in our school systems. We salve our consciences. We find things to talk about that make us feel like we're making a great difference. We'll sanctimoniously prattle on about the ozone layer or the horror of driving an SUV, while we don't pay attention to our children. And it's not just my children, the children in my home. It's the children. We have an assignment to the children. Our greed and our carnality have driven us to a place of national bankruptcy. It's inconvenient. We don't like to talk about it, but it's our truth.
The presidency of the United States of America, I earned a degree in history once upon a time, that office, for decades, has been venerated, celebrated. It was an office of respect, dignity, and power. But for several years, not just with the current administration, for several years, we have watched its decline until today it is something altogether different, both in our nation and the perception of it around the earth. To be completely candid with you, I believe the time when the United Sates of America stands as a global super power has run out, unless, unless God intervenes on our behalf. An election won't fix this. This isn't about political parties or political candidates. It's about moral decay. Empires have come and gone before. We would not be the first one nor the last to deteriorate and crumble. But I do believe God's people are key. See, the reality is that our faith has to be lived within the scenario of current events. We can't separate our faith and what's happening in the world around us; otherwise, we're having theoretical Bible studies. We're academic Christians.
And then Jesus said we were to be salt and light, and that means we're engaged in our culture. We're involved in the discussions. This isn't about candidates or parties. This isn't political. This is the world we live in. Our faith has to be alive and vital outside the walls of the church, and we've been asleep to this. We don't like the awkward conversations. We didn't want to lose a friendship or a business deal. We didn't want to talk about godliness and purity around our kitchen table because not everybody around our kitchen table wants to be godly and pure, and we don't want to bring that frustration into the family discussion. We have to be different. We have to change. We have to grow. There are consequences to impaired vision. If we don't allow the Spirit of God to help us recognize what he's inviting us towards, there's consequences that we won't enjoy.
In Luke chapter 19, it'll be on the screens and off your notes. Jesus is approaching Jerusalem from the east. And when you do that, you descend the Mount of Olives. It's higher. Jerusalem is built on a hill, but the Mount of Olives is higher than the city of Jerusalem. So, as you come down the hill, the city is open before you. You can see the rooftops of the city. And when Jesus was coming, Herod's temple was right there before him, one of the most magnificent structures in all the Roman empire. And in Luke 19, in verse 41, as he approached Jerusalem, and he saw the city, he wept over it. This is Jesus' triumphal entry. The crowds are celebrating. "Hosanna to the King"! The children are crying out. Palm branches in the street. And Jesus steps aside from the throng and the affirmation, and he begins to weep over the city. He said, "If you had only known on this day what would bring you peace, but now it's hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you, and encircle you, and hem you in on every side. They'll dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They'll not leave you one stone on another, because you didn't recognize the time of God's coming to you".
Jesus begins to weep over the city of Jerusalem. He's the greatest of all the Hebrew prophets, greater than Isaiah, or Jeremiah, or Daniel, or any of the others you might list. And within 40 years, his words that day from the Mount of Olives were fulfilled. In fact, if you stand on the Mount of Olives today, you can still see part of the earth that was piled up against the wall as a part of the Roman siege. The Romans came and encircled the city and destroyed it quite literally, tore the temple apart stone by stone. And that day, coming down the Mount of Olives, Jesus isn't looking at the magnificent temple that Herod has built. He's not looking at the splendor of the architecture or the finely cut stone. He sees something else. He sees the heart of the city. He sees the spiritual decay of the city. He sees the spiritual vulnerability of the city, and he begins to weep.
The magnificence of the temple, Antonia's fortress, built to protect the temple from anyone who would bring disruption. It's inadequate to protect it from the spiritual forces that are coming against it. In 70 AD, the Romans destroyed the temple. What Jesus saw was quite literally played out. He saw something other than the skyline. He saw more than the beautiful temple. He saw the invitation of God being rejected. Can we talk just a moment about our vision? I don't mean your physical eyes. I want to talk to you just a minute about what you see. When you look to the future, when you look at your future, a few weeks in front, a few months in front, maybe two or three years in, what do you see? COVID changed me. I didn't see COVID coming. I used to rather arrogantly say there isn't anything that would cause us to close the church. I said that to the staff team on the Thursday when we closed it on Friday.
I was wrong. But I've come to understand that my vision is very limited, unless I allow the Spirit of God to give me perspective. And the same is true for you. You may be brilliant. Your IQ may be spooky. Your success in business arenas, or academia, or relationally may be phenomenal; but if you don't have spiritual insight, your perspectives are dramatically limited. What do you see? Do you see new houses, new cars, travel? What is it you're looking at? What are you looking for? You see, we tend to see what we care about. Take a walk through the woods with a real true woodsman, they'll see more game and animals and critters in the woods than you'd see without them in a week. They're attuned, aware, they're familiar, they're at home, they see those things. Walk through the crowd like this with a new mom. She'll find all the babies. I walked past them all.
Business people see opportunities that other people don't see. What are you looking for? I know we're in church. It's Easter weekend. We're all gonna say Jesus. But really, what is it you're looking for? When vision captures your attention, what is it that captures your ambition, your dreams, the great efforts of your life? What are you sacrificing for? Pleasure, comfort, entertainment, accumulation, a pathway through the disruption, or perhaps the pursuit of godliness? Are you pressing towards yielding more fully to the Lord? We don't talk about that much. We talk about our conversion or our baptism, or a discipleship study we've done, or a Bible study we've done, or some program we've enrolled in. But are you consistently pressing in to yield more completely to the Lord? Do you want him to have more authority in your life, a greater place in your calendar, in your dreams, in your aspirations and what you do with your resources? What exactly is it we see? What is our vision?
You see, your awareness affords your choices. If you see what God is doing, if you have a heart, if you have a vision beyond what the people apart from God have, you can make an entirely different set of choices. In Hebrews chapter 11, it tells us about Moses, one of the greatest leaders in the Hebrew Bible. It's verse 24. "By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter". That reads rather easily, but it's a very dramatic choice he made. He could've lived under the protection of the palace of Pharaoh, Pharaoh's grandson, with all the privilege that brought and all the opportunities that would bring. But it said he refused that. It wasn't taken from him. He refused it. He said, "That's not for me. I won't do that. I'll go another way". He chose to be mistreated, along with the people of God, rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He chose mistreatment with the people of God.
Are you willing to be identified in the public square as God's people? Are we willing to be Jesus people? Are we willing to take his name back into the corridors of the hospitals and the classrooms and the courtrooms? How did we allow the name of Jesus to be pushed out? They told us if there was one person who was offended, we had to be silent. Unless there was total unanimity in whatever place we were in, a classroom, or on an athletic field for a prayer, if there wasn't total, complete unanimity, we couldn't mention the name of Jesus. And we said okay. And now we find ourselves in a time when they're taking moral perspectives and worldviews that stand in complete opposition to a Christian worldview, and they're saying, "You have to accept it; and if you don't, we'll make you be quiet again".
We yielded the field. We'll have to find the courage to go back. Amen is the word you're searching for. I can do both halves of this. Moses chose to be mistreated with the people of God. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as greater value than the treasures of Egypt. Egypt had some treasures: pyramids, the sphinx, great gold and silver, the most powerful socioeconomic, political entity of that generation. And he said disgrace for the sake of Christ. You need to circle that word, except it's not on your notes. Do you happen to remember which book in the Bible it is, where we find the story about Moses? It's in Exodus. You watched the livestream. It's the second book of the Bible. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Back in the second book of the Bible, we meet Moses. And it says that he chose disgrace for the sake of Christ, the Messiah.
Remember what books it is where we read about the Messiah? Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the gospels, the beginning of the New Testament. There's a lot of time that separates us from the Exodus generation to the Roman generation where Jesus stepped into time. And Moses looked from the brick pits of Egypt all the way through the ages and saw Christ and said, "I will stand with that agenda". What is it we see? You see, without the help of the Spirit of God, my wants, and my needs, and my desires will be so preeminent that I won't be able to consider the things of the kingdom of God.
And Moses is the greatest leader in the Bible until we get to Jesus. But in order to have that outcome, Moses had to make some very difficult decisions. I want to pray for you, today, that you'll have the courage and the boldness to make the decisions that bring God's best to you. Let's pray:
Father, I thank you that nothing's hidden from you. You said when we lack wisdom, we could ask. Give us the wisdom to choose you, so that the purposes of God can fill our lives. In Jesus' name, amen. God bless you.