Freedom from Sin

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 1/3/2021

To everyone here this morning, and to everyone online, Happy New Year! How many times have you heard someone say, “Happy New Year!” this week? It’s in our nature to want to bless people, and wish good, upon others.

During Bible Times, it was customary in Greek culture to pronounce “grace” upon one another. “May the gods favor you. May life favor you. May fate favor you. Have a good one! Take care!” In Jewish culture it was customary to pronounce “peace” or “shalom”. “May you be at peace with God, at peace with men, at peace within yourself.”

I’d like us to start this decade (not just 2021), realizing that we have a powerful and compelling and substantive message (a “gospel”) (a declaration of “good news”) to proclaim. For the duration of these winter months, we’re beginning a new series we’re calling SOUL FREEDOM, which is based on the Apostle Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia.

Notice the savvy way Paul greets these churches in Galatians 1:2b-3, “. . . To the churches of Galatia. Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.” He hijacks the typically “hollow” greetings (so customary in his day), combines them, and declares “May the grace/favor _of_ God the Father. . . May the peace/shalom _of_ our Lord Jesus Christ be upon you!”

If 2020 has taught us anything, its that we need the distinct kind of grace and peace that can only be found in God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. Paul is emphatically stating, “Thank you for your grace, for your peace, for your blessing. But we have a God-sized favor, a God-sized peace, a God-sized blessing, a God-sized rescue and salvation, a God-sized offer of true and lasting freedom. . .”

Let’s begin this new year, this new decade, being reminded of our great salvation. Throughout Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia, he explores our vast freedom in Jesus Christ. This morning, we start with our first and most important freedom… God’s offer to us… our Soul’s “Freedom from Sin,” in Christ Jesus.

Let’s just get down to brass tacks for a moment. Just how free are you? How free am I? Find a blank sheet of paper, and make two columns. Above the left column write: “Freedom From…” Above the second write: “Freedom To Be…”

In Scripture, there are countless “strongholds” that take us captive, and make us slaves. A stronghold can be any person, place, or thing. For example, it’s impossible to go through this life without being profoundly wounded by others: A father. A mother. A sibling. A loved one. A neighbor. An enemy. We’ve been profoundly wounded by the many sins (words or actions—non words, non-actions) of a great many people. But the person whose sinned most against us is our own selves. We carry so much shame and guilt for our past sins. 

There are also places that hold us captive: The dinner table (struggles with family, marriage). The bedroom (struggles for intimacy, purity, and holiness). The family room, the easy chair (consuming media, Netflix, Prime, Instagram, WhatsApp). We go into the dark. We go into isolation, where were no longer accountable. Or places of temptation, where sin is celebrated. But the place we sin most is in our flesh, our very own bodies. In the Bible, Paul refers to his own flesh as a “body of death.” The power of our own flesh needs to be broken—a topic we will explore in this series.

There are also things that hold us captive: We are slaves to whatever controls us. Isn’t it amazing how controlled we are by our screens? By that little flashing notification light on our phones? That little “like” icon or “haha” emoji! After all these thousands of years, we are still held hostage by the seven deadly sins: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. Materialism. Alcoholism. Drugs. Gambling. The Bible says,

What are the people, places, and things you need “FREEDOM FROM. . .” James 1:14-15 says, “But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.” That’s the stronghold, the chain reaction, that needs to be disrupted and broken! Temptation leading to desire leading to sin leading unto death.

But we have an equally great, and powerful area of captivity and this represented by the second column. We don’t just need freedom “from” certain people, places, and things (chief among them being our own flesh). We need freedom “to be” all that God created us to be! Our greatest struggle isn’t just casting off sin, it’s putting on actual righteousness.

I have this fear that I will wear out mention of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in my preaching. First, there are the negative works of the flesh. Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things—as I warned you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

But what about this right column? Freedom “TO BE”? Galatians 5:22-23a, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” I’ve stopped hating but can I now choose love? Can I become truly joyful? Can I make peace where its been ruined? Can I exude patience here instead of frustration? Can I be kind even to my enemy? Can I continue doing good, and not grow weary doing good, in an evil world? Can I be faithful in a give-up culture? Can I be gentle in a harsh and cruel world? Can I have self-control in an instant-gratification, click, tap, swipe world?

Jesus said the whole law can be summarized by two commandments. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, body, and soul. Love your neighbor as yourself. Have you ever noticed how bound you are from “being” and “becoming” fully like Christ Jesus? We don’t shine our light, living larger and largely for Jesus. Our standard is not being or becoming good. Our standard is not being or becoming bad. There is a difference. God said, “Be holy as I am holy.”

Here is how the Apostle Paul frames up the gospel for us. Look at Galatians 1:1-5. In Galatians 1:1 he begins by introducing himself, “Paul, an apostle—not from men or by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead. . .” There is a LOT more to this verse than I’m going to cover today (check back next week). But essentially Paul is highlighting that he has sent directly from God to proclaim a message to all mankind. His message didn’t come “from men.” Nor was he appointed “by man” to preach. The Lord Jesus Christ, after he’d been raised from the dead by God the Father, appeared directly to Paul and called him to preach the gospel to the nations. We’ll get into this next week.

But here is the bottom line: Our problem isn’t what we think it is. Our problem isn’t what other people, pop culture, politicians, experts, non-experts, pundits, or anyone else surmises. Our problem at its core is sin, its moral rebellion. We sin against God, against others, against ourselves. More than this, we are held captive by sin. We are held captive (bound) from being and becoming fully like Christ, loving God (with all heart, mind, body, soul), loving people (as ourselves), exuding the fruit of the Spirit.

If you disagree, you aren’t disagreeing with me (I’m just a minister of the word), you aren’t disagreeing with just Paul (He’s an APOSTLE, directly called by Jesus Himself to preach). No, you are disagreeing with God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ whom God raised from the dead.

Galatians 1:3-4, “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. 5 To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Check it out! Despite all our sin we can now find favor and grace with God. Despite all our sin we can find peace with God, and men, and within ourselves!

FROM WHERE? FROM WHO? It’s not from man, or by man. It’s not from us, or by us. It’s “from God the Father and Our Lord Jesus Christ”! True freedom (our solution, our salvation) comes from beyond ourselves, not from within ourselves!

HOW DOES FREEDOM COME? Our Lord Jesus Christ “gave himself for our sins.” We couldn’t just make our sins go away. The only way a holy and just God can make our sins go away, while being true to his own justice and truth, is to make someone pay the true cost of death for those sins. Our gospel declares that we don’t have to pay the penalty for our sins. Later in Galatians 3:13 Paul writes, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, because it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’” The cross was the tree upon which Jesus took God’s holy wrath in our place.

Notice how Paul characterizes our salvation in Galatians 1:4! It’s a rescue job! “Jesus gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age…” This is such clear and compelling language. We were dead in our sins. We were helpless, we were powerless. But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. This is why God gets the glory for ever and ever!

Now notice the last phrase in Galatians 1:4. So important. This is all “according to the will of our God and Father.” Our salvation isn’t a Good Cop/Bad Cop scenario.( i.e. The Father is the mean, evil, wrathful, vengeful, hell-bent destroyer God. i.e. The Son Jesus is the loving, kind, forgiving, redeeming, suffering servant Savior.) No, the Father and Son (The Lord Our God, the Lord) are ONE. This wasn’t a solo job! This was a Father-Son-Holy Spirit job!

In 1 Timothy 2:4-7 Apostle Paul writes about our God and Savior, “. . .who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, a testimony at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a herald, an apostle (I am telling the truth; I am not lying), and a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.”

Images of Salvation: Communion (body/blood) / Baptism (water rescue)…

Scripture Verses

Galatians 1:1-5; James 1:14-15; Galatians 5:19-23a; Galatians 3:13; 1 Timothy 2:4-7

Worship Playlist

He Shall Reign Forevermore by Chris Tomlin

Your Name by Paul Baloche

Better by Pat Barrett

Follow You Anywhere by Passion

Study Questions

1. What have Christians been rescued from and why did it cost Jesus his life?

2. Why would the Galatian churches or Lakesiders need God’s grace and peace?

3. Read Colossians 1:13-14. What does it mean to leave the kingdom of darkness and enter the kingdom of Jesus, God’s Son?

4. How would you describe life for someone captive in the dark kingdom?

5. What is your response to your rescuer? What is your responsibility to those who remain captives in the dark?

Apply It!