You Are Set Free!
August 21, 2022
Sunday, August 21, 2022 - The Fellowship of Joy
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed..."
Luke 4:18, ESV
"Woman, you are set free from your ailment."
Sinner, you are set free!
Friend, you are set free!
You are free to be all that God designed you to be.
You are free to grow, become, explore, and reach your highest potential because you were destined to stand over nations and kingdoms with God's Word in your mouth and purpose in your heart.
Israel was about to go into captivity under the judgement of God and the ambition and conquest of Babylon. God was raising up a prophet named Jeremiah to warn the people, to interpret their times, to instruct them how to survive, and to predict their eventual liberation.
In Jeremiah 1, the prophet reflects upon the call of God in his life.
The man who would be God's instrument for proclaiming truth to the people would need to overcome his own personal bondage to his perceived limitations of youth in order to be fully used by God.
The fact is that he needed to be young because his message and ministry would be needed for a long time.
Now the word of the LORD came to me saying,
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."
Then I said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy."
But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a boy'; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you.
Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD."
Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, "Now I have put my words in your mouth.
See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant."
Do you want to delve deeper into Jeremiah? Here is an overview:
A Message from this Passage:
The Lord's Song to You
Listen, pray, and read the psalm.
In you, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me.
Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.
For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother's womb. My praise is continually of you.
Respond in song
Listen and read
You are free to discover the depth and meaning of worship in all its forms. You are furthermore, free and empowered to make a positive difference in the world and rebuild ancient ruins.
Isaiah has been preaching on fasting, on carelessness in worship, and lifestyle choices that are incongruent with the worship of God. Religion itself can become a yoke and it can become a yoke we place on others. God's intent is that by submitting to the divine will, we shall liberate ourselves and others. God wants to set people and nations free to become their best selves and communities.
If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.
If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs;
then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
Consider and dig in,
Sing with scripture and praise God.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits--
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
1The LORD works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Epistle Reading and Mini-Sermon
You are being set free from all that hinders you within you. You are being liberated from sin and impurity. Sometimes things become calcified in our lives and we become to careless about God and casual toward God. If God were like us, there would be no need for us to experience awe, wonder, reverence and worship.
But there would also be no reason for us to know, trust, love, or worship him.
God would just be another idea and our lives would just be a long string of chances and meaningless, unconnected events frozen in captivity to futility.
God is shaking things up in our lives.
You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest,
and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them.
(For they could not endure the order that was given, "If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death."
Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, "I tremble with fear.")
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,
and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,
and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven!
At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, "Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven."
This phrase, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of what is shaken--that is, created things--so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe;
for indeed our God is a consuming fire.
For our God is a consuming fire. - Hebrews 12:29
What consumables are stored in the attic of your life?
What is present in your heart and soul that has no value other than to be fuel for the fire of God passing through you?
What is taking up space in your thoughts, attentions, relationships, and routine that really needs to be burned away as the Spirit of God rages through your life?
What has captured you to your detriment and held you in slavery?
What are you willing to throw on His altar that He might burn it way?
Our God is a consuming fire and that is not always to our disadvantage.
The other side of judgment in our lives is that once we know God through Jesus Christ, we no longer want that “old stuff” stored up in our lives. We see it as hazardous waste, no longer worthy of the storage space it occupies. It is offensive and putrefying and we want it out of our lives.
There is a problem, however. While the residue of pride in our hearts whispers to us that we can handle that mess, God knows that we cannot. Jesus came to rid us of sin and only His power can burn it out of our lives. We repent, but God removes. We can turn away from sin, but only God can eliminate its hold on our lives.
It may look like we are “reforming” from the outside, but the LORD is transforming us from the inside. Part of that process is welcoming the divine fire within. Judgment begins in the house of God, and we are grateful for it because it is the old man of sin that is being judged and he already has a death sentence over his ugly head. He is no longer worth our effort because we have new life in Christ.
Let the fire burn. It is liberating and purifying. As a forest is often regenerated by fire, so will our lives be renewed by God as He burns away all that is unworthy and plants holy seeds of newness within us.
After the fire in the forest, all that remains is the seed of new life.
That is true freedom to become.
Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.
And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight.
When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment."
When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.
But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day."
But the Lord answered him and said, "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water?
And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?"
When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
Jesus is teaching in the synagogue.
That means that he has taken a text from the Torah. It was most likely the Torah portion for that day.
Perhaps it was a teaching about the meaning of the Sabbath.
Perhaps it was the restoration of Israel's institutions, including the Sabbath, after the Exile, how God calls prophets and nations to represent the divine Word on earth and proclaim liberty to the captives as did Jeremiah in his brighter moments.
Perhaps it was from Isaiah and touched to the contradiction of going through religious rituals while allowing people to languish in oppression, injustice, and slavery.
The psalms of joy had been sung. People had been reminded of the covenant. They took the reading seriously, with reverence and holy fear.
And then a woman showed up. For eighteen years, she had been oppressed, imprisoned in her body, most likely maligned by her neighbors, considered to be under a curse from God when, in fact, the curse was from an enemy of God, an accuser, an oppressor, and a liar.
Had she believed the lie that she was less of a person than others in the synagogue?
Had she accepted a status as an outcast or unworthy soul?
Something in Jesus' voice, Jesus' manner, Jesus' teaching, Jesus' smile caused her to come when he called and Jesus set her free!
Jesus saw her value and demonstrated that the awesome God of creation, who is a consuming fire of holiness, cares about those who are oppressed, forgotten, and languishing.
Stand up! You are free of your infirmity and all the indignation that goes with it. Free!
And the onlookers who were still held captive by their misguided understanding and empty religious piety were offended.
They did not understand that Jesus was not violating the Sabbath. He was fulfilling it! The Sabbath existed and exists to set people free.
From the very start it was so.
Sabbath is God's rest from our labors. It is release from our oppressors like those in Egypt and Babylon. Jesus mentions Satan here because Satan is a slave-master and oppressor.
The woman was free but Jesus' critics were still enslaved. She was whole, but they were spiritually crippled.
There were more than critics in the crowd. In fact, the critics were a small minority. The larger crowd was delighted to hear this word. They rejoicced. It resonated with them. It made sense.
The Kingdom of God was arriving in power and liberation.
And it still is!
You have been set free of sin and every weight that besets you. Stand up!
Live in the freedom of Christ,
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Spoken Word - T.D. Jakes