“I Will Build My Church: The Gates of Hell Cannot Prevail Against God’s Plan for His People”
A Sunday Sermon Series in the book of Acts (April-November 2020)
by Nathan Parker, Senior Pastor
September’s Theme: “Liberation: How Christ Breaks the Bonds of Sin and Sorrow”
Sept. 6 – “Sirs, What Must I do to be Saved?” Acts 16:11-40
Sept. 13 – “What You Worship as Unknown, This I Proclaim to You,” Acts 17:16-34
Sept. 20 – “Did You Receive the Holy Spirit?” Acts 18:22-19:7
Sept. 27 – “Confessing and Divulging Their Practices,” Acts 19:8-20
Freedom is a value that all of hold dear. And it’s not just Americans who feel this way, really. All humans have an innate yearning to be free. Subjugation, bondage, oppression are all crushing to our souls. But the path to freedom is much debated. How do we truly become free? Is it through voting the correct way? Can we become free by having enough money? Is freedom the byproduct of not having any obligations?
We are constantly told in our culture, “Take charge of your life! Be your own master! Regain control of your own life!” Even the ancient philosophers like Epictetus said things like, “No man is free who is not master of himself.” Another Roman stoic philosopher, Seneca, rightly observed that all of us are slaves to something. We are all mastered by something. But his proposed path to freedom was therefore self-mastery. "Being able to control your thoughts, your emotions, your actions - that is true liberty,” said the Stoics. Self-control is an important virtue, and it surely is related to freedom. But the Bible says self-control is not cultivated through discipline and effort. It is a fruit of the Spirit the He cultivates within us (Gal. 5:23).
This reality points us to a deeper truth - either we are slave to some created thing (even ourselves!), or we are a slave to the Creator. What is it that directs our decisions, affections, and behavior? What defines our identity? What brings us the joy, the meaning, and the satisfaction that we desperately seek? If we are mastered by anything else besides God, then we are a slave to a false master who will ultimately fail us. Our own deceitful heart and the desires it produces will only serve to destroy us if we attempt to live as masters of our own destiny, as if we are truly in charge of our lives.
It is only through understanding that the Sovereign God of Creation is Master of all do we then find true liberation and freedom. It is a completely counter-cultural statement that our Lord makes in Matthew 10:39, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” In becoming a slave to Christ, we become far more free than when we are enslaved by the idea of human autonomy. We find ourselves opening to the world around us, free to live and love without fear, condemnation, or shame.
In our texts for the month of September, we will see chains being broken - literally and figuratively. Those in prison will have their bonds broken, and those who suppose they are in control of their lives will be confronted with the truth of the Gospel - that God reigns over all, and that He has made a way for us to be truly free by laying our own lives down and becoming a slave to the One who enables us to “unbend on ourselves” and walk out of the darkness of sin and sorrow and into His marvelous light.
I pray that we all will understand how to give ourselves more fully to our Master, Jesus Christ, Lord of our hearts and Lord of our lives. In doing so, we will find ourselves more free than we could ever have dreamed.
Grace and peace,