Aren’t you glad and thankful to live in America? This is the land of the free! And yet in this current series of sermons, we have seen that true freedom only comes by way of Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
Jesus came to set us free from sin and sin’s consequence, which is death. Paul says that Jesus was “delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25). Only in Jesus do we find the ultimate freedom.
But most people in our culture remain shackled in sin because they have believed the great lie of Satan–that God is not providing everything needed to be fulfilled, happy people—that we need something apart from God and what God provides.
This is the lie Satan spoke to Eve in the Garden of Eden. And it’s the lie he continues to speak into our world today. It is an age-old lie.
In the Garden, everything started out great. There was perfect harmony between God and humans. Every human need was met by God and there was peace, joy, and contentment. The relationship between humankind and God can be summed up in two words: perfect love.
Paul knew the secret not of happiness, but of blessedness—and His name is Jesus.
But when Satan’s lie was believed and acted upon, sin entered the picture. Sin brought suffering to the whole of creation. Everything began to decay, erode, and die. The humans were driven out of the Garden. Child birth became painful. Work became hard. Relationships became difficult.
Our world today is *NOT* the Garden of Eden. It is a broken, cursed place. So, the question becomes: How do we navigate life in this broken down world? We put certain systems in place to make life better. We read self-help books and they, too, help a bit. Sure, there is something to be gained through discipline. But in the end, systems don’t really answer the question. They don’t supply us with life or purpose or significance.
When people are asked, What’s the top priority in your life? … the answer that comes back most often is, “Happiness. I just want to be happy.” But anyone who makes happiness the primary goal of life will end up an idolater. That person will shove God off the throne and replace Him with whatever he thinks will make him happy.
Jesus teaches us a better goal: that of blessedness. What is the blessed life?
Well, Paul describes it in Philippians 4:11-12, “I have learned in whatever situation, I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Hard to believe that those words were written from inside a prison cell. Paul has figured out the secret, not of happiness, but of blessedness—and His name is Jesus.
Oh, Paul knows pain. He’s been arrested, imprisoned, beaten, whipped, stoned, shipwrecked, in danger, starving, cold, and near death. Paul has suffered. But Paul has come to see that pain is the place where God begins to mature us.
Paul knew the importance of denying himself, picking up his cross, and joining Jesus on the journey to Golgotha. See, Jesus also dealt with pain—just like you and me. And Jesus can help us through the pain so that when we come out the other side, we are more like Him.
There are two choices we can make when faced with pain. This week, we will discuss the option that the vast majority of people choose—the way of man. Man’s way says, “I can do this. I can navigate life on my own. I can make life work.”
He either ignores the pain by adhering to a set of rules or he dulls the pain artificially through pills, money, sex, success, cars, shoes, dresses, or something else he/she believes will make him/her happy. How do we live in a broken down world? Well, we just make it work.
But God has something to say to those who believe they can navigate life without Him. Isaiah 50:11-12,
10 Who among you fears the Lord
and obeys the voice of his servant?
Let him who walks in darkness
and has no light
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on his God.
11 Behold, all you who kindle a fire,
who equip yourselves with burning torches!
Walk by the light of your fire,
and by the torches that you have kindled!
This you have from my hand:
you shall lie down in torment.
Walking in darkness is uncomfortable and sometimes scary. God says it requires trust and reliance in Him. But Israel didn’t trust in God. They said, “We’ll create our own fire, make our own torches, and navigate our way through the brokenness just fine, thank you.”
To which God says, “It’s going to end badly. In fact, you will end up being destroyed.”
The second option is, of course, to trust God—to rely upon Him for everything we need. Yes, we will suffer, just like Paul and Jesus suffered. But in following Jesus to the cross, we will find contentment, joy, and peace. This is the option we will examine in depth in two weeks.
Trust and reliance in our ways? Or trust and reliance in God’s ways? Which one do you choose?