Charles Stanley - The Truth That Sets Us Free
Would you consider yourself a free person? More than likely you'd say, "Why sure I do. I don't have any shackles on my hands, on my feet. I'm not behind any bars. I'm a free person". Well, you may not have any of that, but you could still be very much in prison, very much in bondage. Many people are in bondage and don't even realize it. They don't quite understand why things are going the way they go, why they just can't seem to get it together, why they have turmoil on the inside, why things just don't seem to go their way. And no matter what they do, they don't have any real peace, any real joy. But there's anxiety and frustration, fears and all the rest. And yet, they say they're free. Wouldn't you like to be free of all of that? You see, because until you are free spiritually, you're not free.
The Bible says people walk in darkness. They're not free. The Bible says that people are blinded by sin. They're not free. When you're in darkness, that is, without Christ, you're not free. Oh, you think you are because the devil, he blinds people's eyes, Paul said, to the truth. So what I want to talk about in this message is this: I want to talk about how Jesus can set you free of the bondage that you're in. And you may reply, "But I'm not in any bondage". Listen carefully and let's see if that's really true or not. Because one of the reasons Jesus said He came is to set us free.
So if you'll turn to the fourth chapter of Luke and I want us to read about Jesus early in His ministry. And He went around to the synagogues preaching because that was sort of like church in those days. And that's where the groups were and the people were. So, the Scripture says beginning in verse fourteen, "And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread throughout all the surrounding district. And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all. And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him, and He opened the book and found the place where it was written, and this is what He read: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.'"
Jesus said, "I came to set people free". And then in John the eighth chapter, it's interesting what Jesus said here, and He's speaking to His disciples and those who were listening. And here's what He said, "'I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak those things as the Father taught me.' Then He said, 'And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.' And He spoke these things, and as He did, many came to believe in Him.'" Now, listen to what He said, "So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed in Him, 'If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.'"
Jesus said He came to set the captives free. We're not talking about people who were in slavery necessarily, though many of them were. We're talking about people who were in all kinds of bondage. And I want us to think about it for just a moment because as we do, more than likely, you may find yourself saying, "You know what, that sounds like me". So when we talk about things we need to be set free from, set free from what? Well, first of all, set free from error. There are many things that are being taught today that are error. They're false, they're not true. And there are people who are in bondage to it. For example, one of those things that people are teaching today which is absolutely untrue is that there's more than one way to get to heaven. And that is Jesus is one way, but there are many others. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by Me".
Now, if that's true, which it is, and Jesus said it was true, which it was. And someone comes along and tells you, "Oh no, there are many other ways. God isn't so narrow minded just to make it Jesus". Then either Jesus was a fraud and a liar or He told the truth. He said, I am the way, I am the truth, and He says I am the life; no man comes to the Father but by Me. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God". One of those errors is that there are many ways to get to heaven. And a lady was telling me not long ago. She said, "Listening to my pastor," she said, "he said there are two ways to get to heaven. Number one, by Jesus and secondly by good works". Which is the second error that I want to talk about that many people believe. In fact, a majority of people believe this error. And that is: if I do good works and God is pleased I'll get to heaven.
Now, it's easy for a person to think that because the truth is, all of us know somebody we can say, "Well, I know that I do better than they do". And you can always measure yourself by people and look pretty good. But, you see, if God chose to accept us on the basis of our good works, let me ask you this: how many works? Which works? How long the works? How often the works? You would absolutely never know where you are in your relationship to God, false teaching. We are not saved by works. He said, "By grace are we saved through faith, that not of yourselves, not of works, lest anyone should boast". And because God knows that people boast about what they do. He said, "No salvation in works but by Jesus".
A third error is this: that I am accepted in the eyes of God on the basis of my performance. When I perform well, God accepts me. If I don't do very good, God rejects me. Nothing could be further from the truth. Again, how would you ever know that you're accepted if it's on the basis of performance? Because all of us can do our very best at times, at other times we don't do our very best. All of us sin at times. And so, if my acceptance is based on my performance, I will never know whether God is pleased or unpleased or whether I'm accepted or unaccepted. So another one of those errors is this, and that is: after all, God is so good, one of these days, because He's a God of love, everybody's going to get to heaven. Everybody's going to get there some way.
And people will say, "Well, I don't know exactly how, but I'm just sure because He's a God of love that He's going to get us all there". What about rejection of Jesus? What about rejection of God? What about the rejection of the cross? What about ignoring spiritual things? And everybody's going to get there? I don't think so. In fact I know so. Absolutely not. And another one of those errors that people are caught up with, and it's bondage. All this is a form of bondage is that you can be saved today and lost tomorrow. That is, my salvation is based on my good works. Now, watch this, our salvation is based on one thing, the fact that Jesus Christ went to the cross, laid down His life voluntarily, took upon Himself all the sin of all humanity in one moment in time, died for our sin, only one who could because He's the only perfect person.
John the Baptist said, "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He died for our sin and salvation comes through the acceptance of Jesus Christ; as our personal Savior". Now, if I can be saved and be lost, here's what that means: then how do I get saved the second time? I must have to do something the second time. I either got to get better, believe again or whatever. You'll never know whether you're saved or not. You see, He says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life". What is eternal life? It is a quality of life, but it is also a length of time. It's forever and ever and ever. So if He gives me the gift of eternal life forever and ever and ever life, then if I can lose it, then His promise was inadequate, it wasn't true and the death of Jesus Christ was not sufficient on the cross, which absolutely obliterates God's whole redemptive plan. That is an error and many people are caught up in it.
And once in a while, I'll meet somebody who says, "Well, you know, I know I've been saved, but this happened in my life and that happened in my life. Well, how do I know I'm saved today"? I say, "Did you trust Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sin"? "Yes". "Well, are you saved"? "Well, I hope so". Listen, there's no hope-so salvation. We're talking about eternity. We're talking about for all eternity. God didn't give us a hope-so kind of salvation to live. He gave us a know-so based on what He did at the cross. So one form of bondage is error we've been taught. A second form of bondage, very clear in the Scripture, are evil deeds in our life. Think about it for a moment , if a person drinks, it is a form of bondage because, you see, after a while they can't stop. No alcoholic ever started out to be an alcoholic. No drug addict ever started out to be an addict. No person who is sexually addicted ever started out to be that. These are forms of bondage, but so is lying and stealing and cheating and all forms of dishonesty and laziness; slothfulness. All of these are forms of bondage that people get into.
Now, there's another form of bondage, and that's emotional bondage. And this is the kind that oftentimes does so much damage that people do not even realize. Well, what's one form of emotional bondage? One form of emotional bondage is fear. Jesus had a lot to say about trusting Him and fear not. Fear not, fear not, fear not. Fear is a form of bondage. There are people who wake up every morning and they think about driving down the expressway and they are fearful of what could happen to them. People have fear of old age. People have fear that they're not going to have enough late in life. People fear bad health. People fear of not having enough money. People fear about what's going to happen to their children. You could just go on and on and on of the things that people are afraid of.
Now, they say, "Well, that's not bondage". Well, stop being afraid. Try it. "Well, I am," but know you can't. In other words, God must deliver you from the spirit of fear. It is not of God. It is of Satan. He wants you to be afraid. Because, you see, as long as you fear things, you're not trusting God. And it's a form of bondage to be afraid. Then, of course, when I think about all the things emotionally that bind us, here's one of the worst: jealousy. Jealousy is a terrible form of bondage because here's what happens, let's say that there's somebody you're jealous of. You know the other person may not even know it? And here you are hurting and suffering and going through all kinds of emotional traumas. And the other person doesn't even know you exist. But you feel it because you have the wrong attitude toward them.
And so, when I think about bondage, I think about people who live in this bondage, guilt over past actions. Things that happened in the past. If you had to do it over again, you wouldn't do it. If you could not say it, you wouldn't say it. You look at situations and circumstances that you would change in a split second if you could, but you can't. And so, you live with the guilt and you live with the regret. And you live with deep, deep sorrow in your heart, but you still live with it. And you feel guilty. And so, you've brought it to God several times. Lord, I thank You for forgiving me, and I know You have. And then you add that three letter word: but. Because you can't lay it down. Listen, whatever's happened in your past, no matter what it is, and you are a child of God, and you've asked Him to forgive you, He has forgiven you.
Now, look, when you ask Him to forgive you, here's what He says, "If we confess our sins, He's faithful and just," which means He always will. Just means He has the right to do so. "He's faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness". Now, if He says He's cleansed me of it, here's what He says, "I will remember your sin against you no more. In the depths of the ocean, far is the east is from the west". There are people who live with regrets of the past and those regrets run deep. And they are intense, and they're emotional, and they're hurtful, and they're painful. And they can't get away from it.
If you are asking God over and over and over to forgive you for the same thing, you are in bondage to it. And secondly, you're in unbelief because you don't really believe He's forgiven you. "Oh yes I do," but it still keeps coming up. Then you've got to deal with it. Which leads me to another form of bondage, and that is the bondage of unforgiveness. It is a terrible form of bondage. If you just knew what they did to me. That's not the issue. But let me tell you what happened. I understand. You don't understand. I understand more than you think I do. You see, no one knows the kind of hurts and things that have gone in everybody's life. You have to be forgiving. Here's what the Bible says: He says we're to forgive one another even as God in Christ Jesus has forgiven us. Let me ask you a question: can you think of anything that you've done that God won't forgive you for according to the Scripture? You say, "Well, but I just can't forgive myself".
Now, that's a different story. Now, here's the next issue, what's the destructive power of these things? Well, the first thing is any form of bondage hinders your personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You cannot be what He wants you to be as long as you're tied up in something out of unbelief and in bondage. So, it affects your personal relationship with Him. You can't just ignore it and say, "Well, I have these things in my life and I'm sure He understands". Well, He does understand but, listen, God's understanding doesn't give me license to keep doing something that's not right. Nor into some kind of bondage that's crippling me.
So, first of all, you can't have the relationship with Him that you want to have. The second thing that's destructive about it is it hurts your personal testimony. Listen, if you have an unforgiving spirit I guarantee you, you can't keep it to yourself. You will tell somebody. And you can go through each one of these forms of bondage and there are many others. You'll tell somebody. They'll see it. Listen, if you're angry, you can't keep it to yourself. You're bitter toward somebody else, people see that. You have an unforgiving spirit, it's going to spill out. You name it. Those types of bondage, you can't keep it to yourself. It hurts your personal testimony. A gossip, it hurts your personal testimony. You see, watch this, the world has a right to expect you and me to live above it. The world has a right to expect us to have a different lifestyle, why? Because we say that we are followers of the Son of God. We're followers of Jesus Christ. They know better. Hurts your personal testimony. Not only that, it grieves the heart of God.
Now, if you're a parent, for example, and I'm sure some of your parents, many of you are parents and your children are sitting right here. And when you see your child do something that you know hurts them, it hurts you. When you see them heading in a direction that you know is going to be self-destructive; if you are any kind of parent at all, it hurts you deep down inside. It grieves your spirit. You stay up at night praying for them. You try to talk to them. You try to reason with them. And not only, for example, it's your children. It can be your husband or your wife or your friend or your person you're going to marry. Whatever it might be.
If you see something in their life that you know is destructive and it's hurtful and it's hurtful to them and it's hurtful to you, you're grieved in your spirit. You can't be happy seeing somebody on the road to self-destruction when you know it's true if you love them, you want to stop them. And when you talk to them and pour out your heart. And I would say to students, listen, if you are fortunate enough to have a godly parent, respect your parents and thank God for them every single day. Because most kids today are going to grow up in a home, there's not going to be any Bible, no mention of church and no mention of God, most. When you've got a godly parent, don't take it for granted.
Another thing that happens is this: it limits God's use of you. If you're in bondage to these things, listen, God is only going to use us to the extent that we walk obediently before Him. The only thing that'll keep you from reaching your full potential is you. Because, listen, God can change your circumstances. He can work miracles in your life. He can put you where you would never imagine you'd be. He can use you in ways that are absolutely beyond, totally beyond your understanding this morning if you'll follow Him, if you'll obey Him. But if you don't, it's a choice. And oftentimes people make the wrong choice. They get bound up with things that make no real difference in their life. God has the best for every single one of us, but we've got to be willing to deal with these things and handle them carefully.
Now, one last thing about what it does to you is what it does to your human body. You say, "Well, look, being jealous has nothing to do with my human body". Oh, yes it does. "Well, having an unforgiving spirit, that's between me and them, not my body". Oh, no it's not. I'm not even talking about drinking and drugs and smoking. I'm talking about emotions. Your emotions work on your body. Now, here comes the most important thing. So you say, "Okay, now I've heard all about these things, what am I going to do about it"? Several things, several things you need to remember. Not a whole lot. And I'm going to start them all with a "P" so you won't forget them. Whatever bondage, whatever evil deed, whatever you are facing that you're having to deal with, this is the way you deal with it.
First of all, you remember you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, God the Father. Personal relationship. That means that you've been forgiven of your sin. That He is your Savior, your Lord, and your Master. And that you are indwelt by His Holy Spirit, which means there's power within you. And you recognize that you are eternally secure. That is, you have to think about this, who you are as a believer. I have a personal relationship with God. The second thing is this: I have a position. What is that position? My position is that I'm no longer an enemy of God. I'm a child of God. That's my position. I have a personal relationship. I have a position: child of God. I have a possession. I have the Holy Spirit who will empower me in any and every circumstance of life.
Now, I want to read a passage because this is one that most people probably are not familiar with. But in 2 Peter I want you to listen to what he says. I want you to remember what you have. Your personal relationship, your position, you're a child of God. You have access to the throne of God. You're indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Listen to this, "Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him". That is, God has placed within every single one of us, listen, He's placed within every single one of us the capacity to do what? To face life with everything that we deal with in life, "everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him. For by these," all that God has given us, "He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them, you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that's in the world".
What is he saying? Here's what you have, watch this carefully, you have the nature of God within you. You were sealed, he says, by the Holy Spirit. When you were saved, sealed by the Holy Spirit. You can't be lost. The Spirit of God sealed you forever. And then remember who you are: your personhood. You're a child of God. You're not just something floating out here. You're a child of God. So when you think about your personal relationship with Him, you're saved. Your possessions, your position, your personhood. All of this. Now, here's where you say, "Well, how do I overcome these things"? When I'm facing them, I remember those simple words. This is who I am. This is what I have. This is my access to the throne, and therefore, I reject that in my life. I choose not to walk that path. I thank God for His forgiveness and I claim His victory over this in my life. And I have a right to claim it because of who I am, what I have, what my position is and God is going to keep His Word. He has given to us, inside of you; everything needed to live a godly life.
Now, you may not be a Christian. And you say, "What's all that got to do with me"? Well, not much of anything until you are willing to acknowledge your sinfulness and that your sin has separated you from God. And the one thing you need above everything else in your life right now, whatever your situation, whoever you may be, you need to ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sins. Based not on that you're going to do better. Based on the fact that when He went to the cross, He paid your sin debt in full. And the moment you ask Him to forgive you and that you receive Him as your personal Savior, Lord, and Master. You're surrendering your life to Him. And the moment you do that, you are forgiven. You are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. Your name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life. And now, given to you in that moment, He says, is all that you and I need in the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit to live that godly life.
You say, "Will I stumble and fall at times"? Sure you will. Well, what does He do? He forgives us and picks us up and keeps us moving. Because, you see, the Bible talks about growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a grow situation, but you got to start. You can't ever have enough money, prestige, popularity, position or things to take the place of Jesus Christ in your life. Listen, we ought to learn by looking around. Look at the people in our society that people look up to as heroes. They got all the money. They got all the cars, airplanes, you name it. And what else do they have? Total disaster when it comes to peace, happiness, joy, contentment. You know why they don't have it? Because they're locked up in the bondage of things they've created for themselves. You do not want that in your life. You ask the Lord Jesus Christ to come into your life. That's the beginning of a life that lasts for eternity.