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Jamie Johnson
7 July 2013

Risking For Freedom in Christ

NOTE: This is a written version of the message I delivered to a group of residents at Kings Daughters Community Health & Rehabilitation Center on July 7, 2013.

My wife read to the family the book Harriet Tubman: Freedombound by Janet and Geoff Benge, authors of the Heroes of History series. As I listened to the story of Harriet Tubman's quest for freedom, I drew some parallels.

Harriet Tubman was a slave who risked everything for freedom. As a slave, she was brutally beaten at age 6, resulting in a dent to her skull. As a slave, she faced such brutality, as well as the threat of separation from her family. For slaves, families were often torn apart by being sold to different masters. Slaves were people treated like livestock.

Harriet decided she wanted freedom. She ran away, risking death, only to be hunted. She ended up leaving her family behind and placing trust where she had not placed it before. She hid from slave chasers on the road (even clinging to a tree within feet of them). With the help of others, she reached Pennsylvania and became a free woman. And she gave God the praise.

Whew! She was free! All done! Right? No. After that, God used her.

She wanted to go back to the South.... not to a life of slavery, but to help get her family and others to freedom. In one instance, she went disguised as an old woman carrying chickens to market, faking a limp. Her former master even saw her and did not recognize her! Freedom was so important to her that she was willing to risk it all! And it wasn't just her own freedom she cared about, but that of others. In another instance, she gave up her 3-meal ration while serving along side of the Union Army in South Carolina in order to reach the former southern slaves there. Out of her love, she was able to help many find freedom, including some of her family. In becoming a key figure in the Underground Railroad, Harriet saved 300 people in 19 trips. And she did not stop there. Harriet didn't just want an end to slavery. She wanted equality. Sometimes, as Christians, we check off that we are saved from the power of sin, but we forget about the other side of the coin. We are to want more than an end to sin. We are to want righteousness and if you are in Christ, He clothes us with His righteousness.

We entered this world as slaves -- slaves to sin. How can we have freedom from sin? By God's free gift of grace through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Placing faith in Him alone renders sin powerless and He clothes us with His righteousness. Then, in walking in the Spirit, we can experience true freedom in Christ.

What is freedom in Christ? Galatians 5:1-6, 13-26 (NASB) informs us:

"Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. ... For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger,disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another."

It's not about rules such as circumcision, but about a relationship with Jesus Christ and the freedom found in Him.

What are you risking, or willing to risk, for freedom in Christ?

Do you love Jesus? Even more than you family? Really? Am I really asking that? Yes, I am rhetorically because the Scriptures are clear about this. In Luke 14:26 (Amplified Bible), Jesus says, "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his [own] father and mother [[a]in the sense of indifference to or relative disregard for them in comparison with his attitude toward God] and [likewise] his wife and children and brothers and sisters-[yes] and even his own life also-he cannot be My disciple." In reading this in the full Biblical context, this does not mean we literally are to hate our families. The Bible is clear about loving our families (such as a husband loving his wife in Ephesians 5:25 or more generally loving one another as in Mark 22:39 and 1 John 4, and so on). Rather, what this verse means is to put Jesus first, to be willing to surrender all to Him, including family and loved ones, to not make them idols, but make Him your all. That is what is best for us and He won't relent until He has it all. The Christian life involves risk as it is growing to trust Him more and more until He is your all.
[a] Luke 14:26 G. Abbott-Smith, Manual Greek Lexicon.

Are you learning to trust Him more and trusting Him in new ways, placing your faith in Him in ways (and in areas) you have not before? Who has mastered the spiritual life and walks perfectly in the Spirit? None of us. We all have room to grow. We all have room to trust Him in new ways.

Are you willing to traverse through the darkness of this world as a light to others, daring to get near to them? John 1:5 (Amplified Bible) says "And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it]."

Are you in fellowship with others and willing to let them help you? Hebrews 10:25 (NASB) warns us about "not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." It's like a campfire. What happens if you separate all the burning logs as opposed to keeping them together? There is less heat and the fire weakens. Likewise it is with the one who forsakes assembling together or who decides church or corporate worship is no longer important.

In speaking of the church, Jesus says that the gates of hell will never prevail in Matthew 16:18. I heard a preacher say it this way: Do gates march or go on the offensive? No. They will not prevail in their defense. The church -- the body of believers -- will take the offensive against the gates of hell. That is what Harriet Tubman did in returning to the South and coming in close proximity of her old master. Are we willing to pursue those who are in the clutches of satan and share the Gospel? Only God can save them, but we can be used by Him if He so chooses.

Are you open to how God might use you? Don't think He can't. A female slave in the nineteenth century American South would be the least likely person to have hope to accomplish anything. Yet, Harriet Tubman did. Maybe you feel like you don't have anything to offer. Maybe you feel weak or sick or in some cases, immobile. Maybe you don't feel like you have a personality that takes risks (I am talking to myself here). However, all of us have something to risk, to hand over to Christ. What will you lay down at His feet so He can more effectively use you?

In Exodus 16:2-3, Moses (which was Harriet Tubman's nickname for delivering many to freedom) was leading the Israelites in the wilderness after delivering them from slavery in Egypt and the Israelites complained: "The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The sons of Israel said to them, 'Would that we had died by the Lord's hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger'" (NASB). This inspired the late Keith Green's song entitled "So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt," the first part having the following lyrics:

So you wanna go back to Egypt
Where it's warm and secure
Are you sorry you bought the one way ticket
When you thought you were sure?
You wanted to live in the land of promise
But now it's getting so hard

The Israelites complained since the Exodus from Egypt was hard, but it was the way to the Promised Land. Harriet Tubman's obtaining freedom did not come easily. It was hard, but she did not give up. She went back, but for the right reasons.

Are you wanting to go back? Is it to return to a life of comfort and slavery to sinful habits? Or is it to be part of the rescue mission for those who are still enslaved?

Like the examples of the Israelites and Harriet Tubman showing a hard trek to freedom, the Christian life can be a challenging journey. Reaching out to others and taking risks for the sake of Christ is hard. The good news is that while we work out of our salvation (See Philippians 2:12), we don't have to work for our salvation (See Ephesians 2:8-9) as Christ has accomplished the satisfying work perfectly on the cross. Obtaining freedom in Christ is free. He has done the work. We just have to believe.

Do you believe? If so, are you willing to risk the things of earth to work out of your Freedom in Christ and pursue others towards that end?


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