Bound to be free
John 8:31-36

What is it that you find yourself drawn to, what is it that demands your attention constantly, maybe when you think about it closely you will realise that maybe, just maybe, that is the thing or person that has inadvertently, subconsciously, become what you worship.  You may be the most solid and focussed Christian around, but because as we all sin and fall short of the glory of God, there is a strong probability that for you there is still something that takes your focus off of worshipping God, it might even be tied up in being proud of how solid and focussed you are in your faith, that is enough to do it.  That which you are focussed on binds you, it holds you captive, and it is difficult to break free from, what is that stronghold for you?

Martin Luther had a couple of things that drew his attention, that became strongholds for him, the main one being his inability to fathom that God could love him the sinful human being that he was.  He didn’t feel that he could ever do enough to earn forgiveness from God.  When he finally realised that it is by grace that we are saved, through faith in Jesus and there is indeed nothing that he could do to earn forgiveness, it was like he was set free.  Free from the bondage of that sin that had bound him up tight and made it almost impossible for him to function.

Then once he realised that what the Bible said and what he had been taught didn’t agree, he became a little fixated on setting the record straight.  He wanted everyone to know and understand that their good works wouldn’t bring about forgiveness, that they couldn’t pay to have their sins forgiven, and that they couldn’t buy forgiveness for the long departed relatives.  This was the beginning of a reformation.

This reformation began around five hundred years ago, so why does it have any meaning for us today?  It’s quite simple really; we still stumble and fall short of the glory of God ourselves.  We might have different things that demand or attract our attention, but attract our attention they do!

We saw a number of those things in the video loop that was playing as you entered the church this morning.  Things like our aspirations in life, stress that comes from that, or of living up to other’s expectations of us, discouragement, finances, fears, dreams, health issues, plans for the future, the past, the present, our worries in general.  All of those things demand our attention and we rely on our own ability and strength to sort them out.  They really do demand our attention, they bind us to them.

I’m sure you’ve all seen at some stage in your life the example of getting your hand stuck in a jar because you are making a fist around something that you really want or desire and then not being able to remove your hand from the jar.  The more we desire it, the more we are focussed on it the harder it is to let it go, to leave it behind, to detach ourselves from it.  But think about it, if you are firmly focussed, gripping onto something, bound by it, it demands most or all of your attention, it can actually stop you from functioning normally.  After all it’s a bit hard to open a door with a jar wedged onto your hand isn’t it.

Is this the case for you?  Is there something binding you up and holding you back from focussing on the one true God?  If there is something and I would hazard a guess to say that we all have something if not several things each, then it’s time for another reformation, a reformation for our own lives.  When Luther became fixated on getting his important message out to the people of God, it benefited thousands of people.  What difference might it make in your life or in the life of those around you if you were to let go of one or two of the things of this world that hold you captive?  What if you were to release those things and hand them over to God?  Would you be able to worship God more fully?  Would you be set free?  Free from sin, free from slavery, free to spend time in God’s word, or serving others, or worshipping God.

What would it look like if the focus shifted off of striving for wealth, beauty, knowledge, power, popularity, sex, and the list goes on?  How would your life be different?  To let these things go requires us to do something that we find extremely difficult, it requires us to surrender.  It’s a tough concept isn’t it, we human beings want to be in control, have done almost since the dawn of time.  We want to have the things of this world that we think will satisfy us, but to be truly satisfied, to hold to God’s teaching and really be his disciples we have to surrender, give our lives to God and shift our focus to him.

We are all slaves to sin, each and every one of us, no exceptions.  But we have faith in Jesus, we do hold to his teaching, or continue in his word, and as a result we do receive that freedom that Jesus spoke about in to the Jews in our gospel reading, “you will be free indeed.” 

All we have to do is release our grip on the things of this world that are distracting us, binding us and holding us back.  We can make that change with God’s help.  The change will take place, we will finally have hands empty ready to receive from God, his wonderful gift of salvation, ready to serve others in response to that gift and to freely receive his love for us.

We make it hard to receive it when we are clammed up so tight and shut that and we are so focussed on our issues that we forget to open ourselves up to him.  Come with open hands and longing hearts and receive the gift of salvation, the son has set you free and his given his body and blood to us for the forgiveness of sins, freely, come buy and eat, without money and without price, the son has made you free and you are free indeed.

Amen.