"Don't Touch That Dial!"#83-43
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on June 26, 2016
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2016 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Galatians 5:1
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed for you! Alleluia.
Today's message is going to be straightforward, truth telling, and prayerfully, freedom giving; but you may be tempted to change the dial before it's through. So I want to ask you upfront, will you promise me that you'll listen to the end? Don't touch that dial until you hear the fullness of the freedom that can only come in Jesus because it comes for you.
Okay, let's begin. Who said these words, "Give me liberty or give me death"? Yes, those are the words of Patrick Henry, one of the founding fathers of America. They speak of the dedication of America's leaders to give freedom to the citizens of the United States of America. Isn't that a positive view of life to speak freely, to report accurately, to worship authentically, to assemble humbly, and to enjoy the freedom to do, and say, and act rightly for us and for all, uncoerced.
"Give me Liberty or Give me death," that does express the hope of the human spirit. The problem is that we are often our own worst enemy to actually make it happen!
That's why our Scripture reading for today is so important to your life. If freedom is something for which your heart aches, if freedom is a deep yearning in your soul, there is only one place to finally resolve that quest. Real freedom can only come from God, receiving His freedom that comes from being His Son, or His daughter by grace through faith!
Our reading for today talks about a freedom beyond all others that Jesus Christ made possible for all. It's a freedom that one can live in now and forever; a freedom that can't be taken away by governments or enemies; a freedom that can be shared with others no matter who they are or where they have been. If you love freedom, as I do, doesn't this claim in Jesus Christ, from Christ, doesn't it challenge you? Doesn't it make you want to know more?
Don't change that dial. Listen in. St. Paul is going to try to describe for you this unique freedom that comes when you put your faith in Jesus Christ alone. He says it this way, "Jesus Christ set us free from the law."
Wait a minute. That sounds impossible. We're under law from the moment we're born. We can't even get out of the hospital without someone signing legal papers or registering our names. There are rules, and rules, and laws, and laws; they're everywhere.
But those kinds of rules aren't even the most important ones. There are moral laws, written deep in our hearts, laws that you and I know are right. And if we transgress those laws, we bring all kinds of problems and pain into our lives and into this world. The love-the-one-you're-with mentality, for instance, has wreaked havoc in our culture, in our world, in our lives.
Transgressing the moral laws for family, intimacy, friendships, has brought untold pain into our world. Venereal diseases, fatherless homes, poverty, brokenness, fear, loneliness, heartache, and then there's the guilt that comes deep down when we know that we are not just letting ourselves down, not just letting our loved ones down, but we're even letting God in heaven down. Free from the law? How is that possible when I feel like I'm bound everywhere I look and guilty as charged everywhere I turn?
Well, think of this scenario then. Let's put these things in as real terms as we can. Imagine yourself as a prisoner who has been condemned to death and you're guilty as charged; even though you want to make amends, to set things right, you have no power to do so. There you are, sitting on death row as it were, just waiting for your last day as if that's all there is to life; and suddenly, you are set free. You're walked outside the prison, no rap sheet, no parole officer waiting. No, set free, completely declared innocent. If you really yearned to be free again, yearn to make amends, how would you feel, standing outside those prison walls at that very moment, truly free, knowing that you didn't get what you deserved; knowing that you did nothing to accomplish it?
That's the picture that the Bible paints of just how God deals with people who are under the law. In fact, God already knows just who you are. He knows who I am. He tells us straight, you might fool your friends and neighbors, but you don't fool Me. The Bible says that we all can identify with this prisoner because we all are prisoners of our own sin. Jesus Himself says, "Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin!" And the Book of Ecclesiastes reminds us, "There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins." And the law of God points to the result of that kind of life! "The wages of sin, the Bible says, "is death." On our own terms alone before God's law, we are on death row, waiting for the just payment for the havoc we've created in our lives, in our world, in our hearts, in our minds. In fact, God's law demands perfection because that is what we were created to be. Because of our sin, we are powerless before the law's righteous demands.
If you love freedom, like I do, your heart is crying out right now "What can I do? What can we do?"
Don't touch that dial. There's more. Here's more straight talk from the Bible for this freedom. There is nothing we can do. We can't fight for God's gift of freedom as our ancestors did in the Revolutionary War. We can't organize a freedom march to change God's mind. We can't buy our freedom or win it in court. The bottom line is, there is no way we can liberate ourselves regardless of how hard we try, how we live, or what we do. If it is left up to us, all we can do is sit and wait for the righteous judgment that we deserve.
Listen. I'll be honest. If we had to stop here today, there would be no reason for this radio program. We would all just sit back and wait for our eternal punishment. But don't touch that dial. There's more, thankfully, there is much more.
In our text the Apostle Paul says, "Wait a minute, there is more to this." While it's true, on our own terms, with our own strength....there is no way out. There is nothing we can do. When we realize that there is nothing we can do, the Apostle Paul says, 'Listen to this. Christ has set you free! Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.'" When Jesus died on the cross, He paid for every sin that we have committed or ever will. Our sin drove those nails into His hands and thrust that spear into His side. His death was our death. His death was payment for our sins. And now, because of Him, we are standing outside that prison a free person, not because of anything we have done but because of what Jesus has done for us. The Bible says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8).
That kind of freedom literally took the life, death, and the resurrection of the Son of God to make it possible for you. You have been freed from the curse of the law, from the guilt of your sin, from the judgment of the God of heaven, in Jesus Christ alone. And that's not just a declaration of freedom, that's power to live life differently, now and forever.
To many today, that freedom means, "Free to do as I please." Too many think that Christ has set us free from sin so that we can be free to sin. No way. That's just another version of spiritual slavery and eternal death. You are free to live a graced life, striving for excellence to give God glory and to serve your neighbor in Him. When people live like that, things change; good things happen!
During the Spanish-American War, Clara Barton was overseeing the work of the Red Cross in Cuba. One day, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt came to her wanting to buy food for his sick and wounded Rough Riders. Clara refused to sell him any. Roosevelt was perplexed. His men needed the help and he was prepared to pay out of his own funds. When he asked someone why he could not buy the supplies, he was told, "Colonel, just ask for it!" A smile broke over Roosevelt's face. Now he understood. The provisions were not for sale. All he had to do was simply ask and they would be freely given. That's how we as sinners receive eternal life. Salvation is a gift. God's gift of forgiveness is free for the asking. There is nothing you and I can do that will earn it. What a joy to run into people who not only believe that, but they live in that.
Too many of you listening today think that the things of Jesus are just another set of religious rules and burdens that you need to carry. There were many people in Paul's day who thought that Jesus' teachings did that too; but that's exactly the opposite of the way of life by faith in Jesus alone.
Please don't see faith in Jesus and belonging to His church as just another religion with a set of rules and regulations for your life. Yes, we still need to strive to be faithful, and moral, ethical, encouraging, serving, caring people. Why, because of the Good News of Jesus, a salvation and power that overcame our sinful ineptitude before the law. Jesus fulfilled the righteous demands in our place. As Paul wrote, "For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that you and I in Him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21) Jesus kept all the demands of the law for us. He died under the curse of the law for us. With His death and resurrection, He made the great exchange. He took our sins on Himself and paid for them. In exchange, He gave us His righteousness as a gift. When God sees you and me in Jesus, He doesn't see our sins. He sees the righteousness of His Son that covers you by grace. Paul shouts, "In Jesus, because of Jesus, you are free. Why do you want to put yourself again under the yoke of trying to fulfill the law of God on your own? Christ has set you free! Live in that freedom!"
Don't touch that dial because there's even more Good News.
The real point of freedom in Christ is to live that new life in Him for others. Why, because you get to. You get to experience the joy of being saved by Christ and the wonder of sharing His love in your life to others. There's nothing like that in the whole world that compares.
Paul says, "We are free from sin," that doesn't mean free to sin. We are literally free, graced, forgiven sinners who can now strive to do what's right in loving and serving others in His Name, just as He loves us. No compulsion, no coercion, real freedom, real love, real power in Christ at our disposal. Can you imagine what that feels like?
I recently talked with a person who loves skydiving. He said when you jump from the plane and float through the sky, it is a sense of freedom that you can only experience by doing it. There is nothing holding you back. You float like a bird. I am sure that what he shares is true; however, without the parachute on his back to open, to restrict the speed of his fall, and bring him back to earth slowly, that freedom would turn into death. The parachute restricts the fall and guides the jumper to safety. In the same way the Law of God, the Ten Commandments, still acts as a protection for us to not freefall to our death. The law is there to protect us from the devil's temptations. He would love to have us enjoy the freefall and not worry about the consequences. St. Paul tells us that we are made right with God by grace through faith in Jesus. That frees us from the burden of sin, from a guilty conscience, from the fear of death. This means we are free from sin, now free to live life for all its worth trusting in God in all things.
If you don't know Jesus as your Savior today, I invite you to put your faith in Him, to trust Him, to follow Him, to obey Him. He loves you with an everlasting love. If you are a Christian, you already know what I mean. You know the joyful experience of knowing that you are saved. I think it might feel like this. In California, they always warned swimmers about riptides. If you get caught in one, it could be deadly. Now, imagine you are in the ocean caught by a riptide and you're going under for the last time and a lifeguard reaches out for you and saves your life. This isn't the time to say to the lifeguard, "If you would have just left me alone, I could have saved myself." Even though you know that there was no way that could happen. Instead, that's the time to do everything possible to thank that lifeguard for saving your life and to show your appreciation. For the rest of your life, when you tell this story, you will tell about how this lifeguard snatched you from the edge of death. He put his own life at risk to save you. But this is exactly what Jesus Christ has done for all of us when He pulled us free from the law; and then knowing that, that should give us the desire to reach out and help someone else who is in trouble; someone who is struggling to get free from the riptide of the law because of the bondage of our sin.
That's the reason for trying to live a Christ-like life. That's the freedom that Paul is talking about today. Christ has set us free for freedom. We are free to live in freedom. We are free to live like the one who has been saved, who has been set free. In gratitude we strive to live a life filled with thanksgiving for the One Who has set us free. We are free to love others as Christ has loved us. We are free to serve others as Christ serves us. We are free to forgive others as Christ forgives us. We are free to be filled with the Spirit Who brings us freedom, not bondage. We are free to live without condemnation for the past or fear for the future. The law now becomes our guide to know how God wants us to live, and our desire is to let the Holy Spirit guide our life within His boundaries. Even when we stumble and fall in disobedience, we come to our Savior with repentant hearts, and He reminds us to look to the cross and realize that in Him we are forgiven and we're able to continue to live for freedom.
The real essence of Christianity is real freedom which does not come from law, religious or even societal, that makes us dependent upon what we do, but it is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ Who saved you and me and set us free in Him. Jesus Himself promises, "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." Such a gift of freedom cries out, "Thanks to be to God who gives us this victory (this freedom) through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1Cor:15:57) May that freedom from sin, and death, and the devil, that freedom in and by faith in Jesus Christ; that's a freedom for life; it's lived in His power, His strength for others, may that be yours, I pray, now and forever. Amen.
Action in Ministry for June 26, 2016
Guest: Brad McCoy
ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour and this is Action in Ministry. Pastor, today's message touched once again upon that relationship that we have with our heavenly Father through faith in Jesus Christ. Let's continue in that vein.
SELTZ: Mark, I think about my own dad and my role as a father to my daughter. Ideally, you're right. It is a reflection of our relationship to Christ to others.
ANNOUNCER: We have a father we'd like you to meet today. His name is Brad McCoy. You may not know him but perhaps you've heard of his son, Colt McCoy. Colt is an NFL quarterback for the Washington Redskins. Football's been a huge part of the McCoy family but something else holds an even bigger place.
SELTZ: Yeah, the story of Brad and Colt McCoy is told in a video resource titled:Profiles Beyond the Spotlight: A Father, A Son, Football.
McCOY: Thanks, Mark, Greg. It's great to be here. We're very honored to be a part of this.
SELTZ: Brad, you were a football player yourself and you went on to successfully coach public school football. Your teams won Texas state championships twice. You've had the privilege of seeing the American dream for parents come true because your son is an NFL quarterback. So, tell us a little bit about your family and how football played a part in that.
McCOY: It's just been a blessed life. I was able to spend 28 years in coaching; as a coach, an athletic director, a head football coach; and got to spend all those days with my three sons, they all played. I can't think of another job that I could have had that I could have been so close to my kids.
ANNOUNCER: Now as you saw Colt's potential, what was your parenting philosophy with him?
McCOY: We saw Colt as an early...young man that had some ability, really wanted it really early, started asking questions about how he could be his best. Even as an adolescent, one of the things we talked to him about was if you really want to be your best, there are some things that you have to dedicate yourself to. A lot of them were mental and physical things. And then we talked about really things you're going to have to give up. I think that was one of the biggest things that Colt understood from an early age. If he wanted to be really good, then there are some things, mostly social, that he was going to have to give up; even how do I sleep, how do I eat, what's my workout schedule. So a lot of things he had to give up socially to be able to be the best.
SELTZ: Yeah, there're a lot of things to think about. You stressed the importance of leadership; explain that to us and how you coached your son to be a good leader.
McCOY: Great question because leadership in us; of course my family are believers and we believe that leadership is about service. The goal of any leader should be other people's success. Now that carries from our spiritual life to our life as parents and then we carry that right into sports. Colt and my other two boys, Chance and Case, found out really quick that if they could serve their teammates, if they could make everyone else around them really good, then it would serve them well as far as how they look as an athlete.
ANNOUNCER: I'm sure it's been a pleasure to see Colt's accomplishments both on and off the field. As a father, when you look at him, what do you see and what makes you most proud?
McCOY: Well, I think at this point, Colt just became a dad. He's had his daughter Sloane now for about 10 months so I think at this point the thing that makes me the proudest is seeing what he's turned into as a daddy. The love and care he has for his little girl and the sacrifices he would make for her. When you have a child, it just opens your eyes to other things that you've seen your whole life but you see them in a whole different view. So, just the man that he's becoming, the leader he's become, the husband, and now the father. As a dad, I look back...I love all his records. He still owns 30 or 40 records in Texas and in the nation. Those are all wonderful and I've seen a thousand touchdowns, but none of those compare to seeing your son love Jesus, seeing your son grow into a mature believer and lead his own family on a walk towards Christ. Those are the big things to me.
SELTZ: Wow, and those are the big things period. What a great testimony. Brad, thanks so much for joining us today. Please give our best to Colt too as well. Your story together is so inspiring and there's much more in the study and the video resources. But again, thank you for being here with us today.
McCOY: Thank you, Pastor Greg, appreciate it. And, Mark, thank you. It's great to visit with you guys again.
SELTZ: And that's our Action in Ministry segment today to bless, to empower, and to strengthen your life in Christ for others.
ANNOUNCER: To view or download this content at no cost, go to lutheranhour.org and click on Action in Ministry. For information on ordering a DVD copy, call 1-855-john316. That's 1-855-564-6316. Our email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for June 26, 2016
Topic: Scripture is the Inspired Word of God?
ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer. Today's question, "Why is it important to believe that Scripture is the inspired Word of God?"
SELTZ: Mark, that is a very important question, especially in our society today because authority, in general, is questioned in our world. And, people tend to think that questioning authority is the way to somehow get at the truth.
ANNOUNCER: But when you question the authority of the Bible, in many ways that's running from the truth, right?
SELTZ: It is. The Bible itself describes itself as the inspired Word of God. It is a clear, unique voice of truth in a world full of superfluous noise.
ANNOUNCER: Are we saying the Bible is authoritative because it is unique?
ANNOUNCER: But doesn't every religion have these certain writings that they consider to be sacred? Every religion thinks their book is right and speaks with authority.
SELTZ: In many ways that is true. Yes, most religions have sacred writings or texts. And many of those religions consider these writings to be true and from God. If we do talk about the Bible as uniquely inspired, we have to be ready to answer the question of why the Bible is different.
ANNOUNCER: But it's a tough situation. I think it sounds like we are saying as Christians, our book is better than anybody else's.
SELTZ: That is exactly why we don't approach this question as people might expect. It is actually impossible to prove the Bible is the Word of God to most people's satisfaction. It is ultimately a matter of faith; but the reason we ultimately believe the Bible is true is because it tells the truth about God in Jesus Christ.
ANNOUNCER: Okay, unique because of Jesus; so Jesus is really the starting point?
SELTZ: Yes. He is the starting point and the ending point concerning the authority of the Bible. In fact, the only way we can really know God is through Jesus; and knowing God in Christ there is no other way to have a saving relationship with God.
ANNOUNCER: And the Bible tells us about this Jesus.
SELTZ: Yes. It does. He is the main Character throughout the Bible. The Old Testament prophesies about Him and the New Testament tells us about His earthly ministry and His future coming to restore all of creation.
ANNOUNCER: But how do we know the Bible is telling us the truth?
SELTZ: The amazing reality about the Bible is that it is unique in its story about God. Every other religion and religious text teaches some form of works righteousness, some form of religious work that we must do to get right with God or the forces of nature, or the universe. The Bible is unique in that it teaches that God alone does what we cannot do. He saves us.
ANNOUNCER: So we trust the Bible to be true because it alone teaches us that we are saved by the action of God through Jesus' death and resurrection. Are there other reasons to trust the Bible?
SELTZ: Well, many more, but again, Jesus is the main reason. We could talk about how the Bible is a unique book in history and all those kinds of things, but ultimately we talk about Christ. He too sees the Bible as God's Word as well and once you believe and trust in God's Good News in Jesus, which is unique, you're going to find out that the Bible uses real historical events, places, that tell the story of God interacting with humankind. The places and the people of the Bible are real, historical places and people, because this is about real salvation.
ANNOUNCER: But wasn't the Bible written by people? And people make mistakes.
SELTZ: Yes, but even though the Bible was written by humans, the Holy Spirit inspired the prophets and apostles to write according to the unique will of God. Often these people were eyewitnesses to the mighty acts of God. So, yes, we view the Bible as both divine and human, but as always it is God working through humans to accomplish His will. Remember this, in Jesus, we see that done to perfection! Jesus is God at work for us as the God/Man. Similarly, God works through human authors to bring His Word to this world.
ANNOUNCER: So, you might say God works through people to bring His Word to people.
SELTZ: I like that! He inspired the prophets and apostles to write according to His will because His will needs to come to human beings in ways they can understand and receive!
ANNOUNCER: The Bible was written by the prophets and the apostles by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is the truth about God in Jesus Christ. We can trust the Scriptures as we trust in Christ for our salvation.
SELTZ: It is so unique. We get to trust this unique Word for our lives!
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Come Follow Me, the Savior Spake" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"God Has Spoken by His Prophets" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)