Jentezen Franklin - How To Stay Free
I want you to open your Bibles with me to the book of Judges 16:3, "And Samson laid low till midnight; then he arose at midnight, took hold of the doors of the gate of the city," notice this, "and the two gateposts. And he pulled them up, bar and all, and he put them on his shoulders, and he carried them up to the top of the hill that faces Hebron". I wanna talk to you for a few moments this morning about gates, about gates. The Bible in Acts 4 talks about a miracle that happened at a gate called beautiful. There's something about gates that God loves. It's called beautiful because it's indicative of the way God views gates. God has a fondness for gates.
In Psalms 87:2, He said, "The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob". His favorite part of the temple. His favorite part was the gates. The gates have a special place in God's heart more than He loves the foundations of Zion or the church or the temple. His favorite part was the gate. There's a difference between a wall and a gate. A wall shuts people out, but a gate lets people in. And God says, "Because the gate has a hinge that swings both ways, people can enter and people can exit in my presence if they want to". I love that. In other words, the hinge is an illustration and the gate is an illustration of divine choice.
God likes the fact and has a fondness and loves the idea that someone can choose to worship Him, that someone can choose to come into His presence. That someone can choose to serve Him. He doesn't want a robot. He doesn't just created angels that do nothing day and night. They're programmed to worship. But He loves the fact that we can have a choice to serve Him and live for Him and honor Him, or not live for Him and honor Him. "Choose this day who you will serve," the Bible declares. And Joshua said in one place, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord". God loves the gates of choice.
When God created man from dust and He breathed breath into the nostrils of man, He put Adam and Eve in a garden, think about this. And He put the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in that garden. And He said, "Now, I don't want you to eat of that fruit". And if He didn't want them to eat of that fruit, why didn't He put barb wire fence around it? Why didn't He put it in a desert somewhere, why didn't He put it on the other end of the earth? Why did He put it in the garden where they were? Because He wanted them to choose if they would obey Him or not.
I love that about God, because God loves choice. God says, "I don't just want people worshipping me out of decree, out of legalism, out of fear of going to hell. But I love it when people love me and they choose to worship me". God says, "The angels are obligated to worship me, but I made you". And even when we've got problems, I choose to worship. I wanna declare today that I choose to be here. I'm not here 'cause I have to be here. I'm not here 'cause somebody makes me do it. But I choose to lift my hands. Not just when things are good, but when I'm going through trials and when I'm going through hard times. I buried people that I loved and I chose to worship God. I've had things happen that I don't understand and I can't explain and it looks like God should've done something, He should've intervened, but He didn't. And I still choose to honor and serve Him, even when I don't understand Him.
Oh, that brings joy to our Father. As a matter of fact, why don't we just make a choice and take a praise break and give God glory? You don't have to. You can sit there if you want to, but He deserves the praise and He deserves the glory. You couldn't even catch your next breath if He didn't give it to you. There's an amazing story in Numbers 35, God spoke to Moses and He said, "I want you to set up these cities that I want you to call cities of refuge". And here is the principle of the six cities of refuge. It's a place where people can rush through the gate of decision. It's a place where...
You see, in the Old Testament, it was eye for an eye, it was if you hurt someone in my family, I had legal right under the law of Moses to do the same to you. And there's even a story in the Old Testament and it tells about how, that if someone swinging an axe and the axe head accidentally went off and hit someone in the head around that there was something known as the blood avenger. And let's say that you killed, by accident, you killed someone and there was a blood avenger, you had right, as blood kin to follow that person and find that person and kill the person who killed your relative. And so, God told Moses to build six cities and strategically place them all over the nation of Israel.
So that if someone got in trouble, if someone was being pursued by a blood avenger, if someone had something in their past and judgment was coming to get 'em for something that they had done. If they could just run fast enough to get to the city of refuge, there were gates on the city of refuge. Can you imagine what that must have been like? Every night they would lay down, and they would wonder, "Is this the night when the blood avenger in my past is gonna catch up with me and cut my throat while I sleep"?
Can you imagine that if they couldn't find the person, they could go to one of his children and kill them? This was how the Old Testament was. The laws of the Old Covenant. And can you imagine the fear for the whole family? But if somehow, that man who had done something and was condemned to death and judgement was coming after him and seeking and hunting him, if he could run fast enough and get through the gates of the city of refuge, he could find a place of safety. It was there, if he entered into that place that he was protected. He was there in comfort, and protection, and safety.
You see, it reminds me of Psalms 91, "He that dwells in the secret place of the most high, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, 'He is my refuge and my strength.'" And when that man would run and maybe the blood avenger was close on his trail, coming fast, with the sword of justice that the moment that he made the decision to bust through those gates and enter in, the gates would close behind him, and the avenger of blood could only come so far. And he would stop at those gates and he would have to say, He's safe, he made it into the city of refuge.
I wanna preach today that when you come in to Christ, when you come in to Jesus, when you come in by His wounded side, when past and the condemnation and the judgement of what you've done in the past is trying to come and make you pay the price that you deserve to pay, God says, "Enter in to Christ. Enter in to Church. Enter in to the kingdom of God, and I can shut the gates and I can pronounce you clean and I can pronounce you protected. And I can announce you safe, and I can announce blessed. When you come in, hear the trampling of feet of the avenger of blood, and he cannot touch me. He cannot harm me. He cannot hold me to what I did when I was out there now that I'm in Christ. I am forgiven. I am protected. I am shielded. I am guarded".
What must it have felt like when he entered in. Not looking over his shoulder, not wondering if he was going to die and face judgement. But there is a powerful thing that happens when you give your life to Jesus. The sins of the past are held at bay. But there was one disadvantage to the city of refuge and it was this, it still had a gate. And that gate swung open both ways. And by the same gate of choice that a person made to enter into Christ, a person can exit by choice if they choose. If they chose to enter the city of refuge as a type of Christ, they could choose to go back to what they were running from.
How many times, I've watched people run into the city of refuge, run into the forgiving arms of Christ, run into the church? There's actually a story in 2 Samuel 3, about a man by the name of Abner. And the Bible said, "He died as a fool dies". Why? Because he did the very thing I was preaching. He killed a man's brother and the man's brother was a man named Joab. He was the commander of the armies of Israel. He was a killer and he was chasing this man named Abner, and Abner ran and as he was just about to kill him, he ran through the gate of the city of refuge. And Abner was free, and Joab sat outside the gate and he was so furious, but Joab said, "I'm just gonna wait here. I just gonna stay here".
If you read the story in 2 Samuel 3, it said, "He would go up to the gate and he would call ever so often". It's like your past calling you back. C'mon back. That's how the enemy does. "Oh, its not so bad. You can handle it. I know it almost killed you, I know it almost destroyed you, but come on back to it". The Bible said, "When a person enters into Christ and God sets you free from alcoholism, and all the things that Satan want to use to destroy you," you know what the Bible said? It said if you go back to it... This is the Bible. It said, "It's like a dog going back to its vomit". And can you see Joab, as he would come up to the gate and he would say, "C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, I miss you. We're having a party. C'mon, c'mon, c'mon".
You know what? One day, Abner, as long as he stayed in the city of refuge, he was safe. But something happened to him. The Bible said, "He had to stay there until the high priest died. And if the high priest died, he and his family could leave and nobody could touch him". Well, the Bible tells us that Jesus was our high priest at Calvary, but when you enter into that, here's the thing. "Abner," the Bible said, "One day listened to Joab". And as soon as he stepped through the gate and started going back to what God had delivered him from, the scripture said that Joab slew him and the summary of his life was he died as a fool dies.
What I'm preaching to you today is, you better stay in the house of God. You better stay in the presence of God. You better stay around people who love the city of God. You better make sure that you don't go back to what God has set you free from. You cannot offend me enough to make me leave this church. You cannot gossip about me enough. You cannot talk about me and make me feel bad. Nobody can offend me. I'll come right down here and I'll throw my hands up and I'll worship Him. I'm never going to leave God's house. I'm not leaving. I'm not backsliding. I'm not going back to the man I used to be. Hallelujah. I have made up my mind, I'm gonna live free. I have made up my mind, I'd rather have Jesus. I'd rather have His grace and His goodness because He takes good care of me.
How many of you know what I'm preaching about? Anything beyond your walk with God is beyond the borders of His protection, and I'm not gonna stay out there long. I'm coming back. The Bible said that, "The angels of the Lord encamp roundabout with protection to them who fear Him". Not everybody has angelic guardians. It's to those who fear Him. But when you begin to go back, when you begin to get involved in things... and what happens is people start running back and forth, back and forth. That's no life. There's no joy in that. Yes, God will always forgive you, but there's a greater place that you can get, where He can set you so free from some things you don't ever have to go back to it. You don't ever have to pick it up again, you don't ever have to be that man or that woman again.
If any man be in Christ, he's a new creation, the old things pass away. The old life passes away and behold all things become new. Don't go out of the city. There's no guaranteed protection beyond the border of His will. God loves gates, that's why the Bible said that, "He put a gate in front of hell". The Bible said in Mark 16, "The gates of hell". Hell has gates. "The gates of hell shall not prevail". What does that mean? That means that if you go to hell, God didn't send you there, you chose to go there. Nobody goes to hell because their sin is too bad that the blood of Jesus can't forgive. Your pride was too great that you would not humble yourself, and bow your knee, and confess Him as the Lord.
And the Bible said that, "Heaven has gates". "He carried me away to the holy city, new Jerusalem, and I saw twelve gates around that city". If you wanna go to heaven, you've got a choice. You are choosing. Choose today to go to heaven, or you're choosing to go to hell. And if you stay neutral, you have made your choice. There is no neutrality with Jesus Christ. You either serve Him, and you love Him, or you miss it. Hell has gates, Heaven has gates, and it's your decision which one you go to. And, by the way, it's not just you, but you're going to lead others with you to one of those two eternal destinations. His presence has gates.
Did you know that just because you come to church, you don't get into God's presence? The Bible said, "Enter into His courts with praise and enter His gates with Thanksgiving". In other words, He's hemmed off His real great presence from people who just come to church and sit. But boy, when you begin to worship Him, you say, "Well, I got so many sins in my life, I don't know if I'd feel like a hypocrite if I raised my hands".
Well, let me tell you, there's a man in the Bible in Mark 5 that had 6,000 demons. And all he did was fall at the feet of Jesus and started worshipping, and Jesus sent all the demons out of him. I don't care how messed up you are, if you'll throw a hand up and say, "Jesus, I worship you," He'll open up the gate to freedom. He'll open up the gate to a new life, and a new beginning. But I'll tell you, I know it's dark. I know this nation and what we've been seeing in every area of this nation, it feels like we're in the craziest time we've ever been, but I'm so glad my children are in a city of refuge, and that we're in the church. And He said, "The gates of hell will not prevail against my church".
I want some parent, I want some mom, some dad, some granddaddy who still believes there's power in the blood of Jesus. Even on your family, He can keep 'em on a college campus. He can keep 'em when everybody else is doing it, they don't have to do it. Come on, praise Him. The Lord is in this place, praise Him. And I'mma tell you, those of you in the church, you better stay in the church. You better quit dabbling with crazy stuff. You better quit running. You can't be going back and forth on stuff if the Bible's rock solid on it.
As a matter of fact, I've read something this week that blessed my socks off. You know what I read? I read about Coach Kennedy. Do y'all remember Coach Kennedy? He was a high school coach, and you know what? He would go out after every game that they won, and he would kneel down on the 50-yard line on his own time about his own. He didn't take a microphone, just get down on his knee, and bow his head, and give God the glory. And they, the woke Board of Education said, "You're fired". But the Supreme Court said, "They were wrong, you were right. And you have a right to bow your knee". And he said, "I'm gon' have bow the knee day across the nation".
I believe that there are young men and young women who are ready to say, "I bow my knee to the King of kings, and to the Lord of lords and I'm not confused". I'm never going back to the things God set me free. I want everybody in this room to say, "I'm never going back". Make it a bold declaration over every addiction. I'm never going back. Make it a bold declaration over the old you. I'm never going back. I made a decision, whatever it is that gives you entrance back into the world of sin, rip it up, rip up the gates and say, "I'm never going back".
If it's the music you're listening to, remove that gate. If it's websites, remove that gate. If it's deceit, sexual sin, peer pressure, crowds that you're running with, remove that gate and watch what God will do. You have to surrender, you have to take... This isn't a religion, this is a relationship with Jesus, and you have to take up your cross. But it's a joyful, powerful thing 'cause God begins to order your steps, and enter into Christ, and His goodness, and His forgiveness, and His grace.
Grace is the ability to climb out. Grace is the ability to climb out. When God came to Peter in prison, the Bible said that the prison door bust wide open, but then he had to get up. He stood up, and he walked out. I'm here preaching this morning, the prison house of addiction that has held you, grace has busted the door wide open. All you've gotta do get up, and walk out, and enter into the city of refuge, His name is Jesus.