Summer's here, Brad is back... let's have a service! As church families and friends entered the sanctuary the decibel level kept climbing until at its peak Brad gave us a boisterous welcome, bringing our attention to the opening of today's service.
Announcements were numerous as we slide the downslope of summer toward autumn.
1) September 11 will be our 2nd annual Fall Fest. Volunteers are needed a variety of tasks including ushers, the arts and crafts table, scavenger hunt and more.... And we also need pies, too, for the pie tasting competition, a bit hit last year that promises to be a ongoing tradition.
2) The Twig 5K Run is next weekend. All who are able please join us as we give water to the runners and mountain climber carabiners that say, "Get Connecting to God's Hope." We're gathering at 8:00 a.m. at Twig Town Hall.
3) Building committee news: We're moving forward on obtaining a buildable plan, having signed a contract with Morton Builders.
4) October 8 is the annual women's tea/luncheon
5) October 22 will be conducting a bazaar at the Twig Town Hall... details to come.
After a time of worship and the offering, Brad read Romans 6 in preparation for today's message.
Free At Last
Pastor Brad began his sermon be relating a story about a man with whom he had shared his faith while at North Park University. They exchanged stories, and the man shared about his use of drugs, his deep personal debt and how he was entrenched in a group of friends who were pretty doped up all the time. The fellow was in an unfulfilling minimum wage job and saw nothing exciting in his future.
Brad thought this was a perfect candidate for the Good News of salvation in Jesus. At the end of their conversation Brad asked if he'd like to meet again so they could talk more. The young man said, "No, I prefer my freedom." The response was revealing. Despite all this fellows enslavements, he thought he was free and that becoming a Christian would be bondage. The story was an eye-opener for Brad and a perfect setup for today's message.
We've been listening to a series of sermons on Paul's letter to the Romans this summer. In Romans 1-5 Paul demonstrates the need for the Good News of the Gospel, and explain how to be justified, that is, to be right with God. In this chapter, he moves to a discussion of how to be sanctified.
Paul makes the point that outside of Christ we are all slaves of sin. When sin is a way of life we are slaves of sin, slaves to self-will. Slaves of sin and slaves of self-deception as well. They believe they are free. The only real freedom is through Jesus who broke the power of sin and death. As Jesus said in John 8:36, "If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed."
That people cannot see that they are slaves should not be a surprise to us. As Paul wrote in II Cornithians 4:4, the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see. Once we're saved, delivered from the deceptive power of the evil one, God's first act is to open our eyes to see.
When Christ frees us, three things happen.
1) Our perception of sin changes. It is no longer fun, and we're aware that what we thought was freedom is not freedom at all.
2) Our desires change. The patterns of sin lose their appeal.
Scripture calls it having a new heart. The new heart has a new disposition. Brad illustrated the point by noting how the animals at the State Fair are all dressed up looking their finest, in ribbons and bows. But when its over, the pigs will return to their slop, and the seep will avoid the mud, daintily avoiding the muck when it is in their path. So it is, that Christians follow the disposition of their hearts.
This is not to suggest temptation is gone, but there is a new awareness, a new sensitivity to God's voice which speaks to the conscience.
3) You are responsible to preserve your freedom. Trust, obey, follow.
There is only one Master in all the world whose enslavement liberates. God is doing a great work here. Let's walk out free.
After the message and a closing hymn we celebrated the Lord's Supper.