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I Was Free Born

On Wednesday of this week, July 4th, we celebrate Independence Day.  On that day in 1776, fifty-six men signed the document we know as the Declaration of Independence.  Although the focus of their protest was King George of England, there was a deeper, far more basic sentiment they were expressing than the political issues of their day.  They yearned for freedom; freedom to be, freedom to act, freedom to live according to the dictates of their own conscience.

Acts 22:22-28 (NIV)
22 The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!” 23 As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered Paul to be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and questioned in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. 25 As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?” 26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.” 27 The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” “Yes, I am,” he answered. 28 Then the commander said, “I had to pay a big price for my citizenship.” “But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied.

(KJV) 27 Then the chief captain came , and said unto him , Tell me , art thou a Roman ? He said , Yea . 28 And the chief captain answered , With a great sum obtained I this freedom . And Paul said , But I was free born.

Wanting Freedom

The stories are vastly different in one sense, but all the same in another.  They are stories of the struggle for the most precious commodity known to man—freedom.  Those who have sought freedom have risked the loss of every possession they had, including their lives.  They have suffered excruciating pain, endured unimaginable hardship and paid unbelievable prices for freedom.  They have been stowaways, swum icy rivers, run miles over rough terrain, walked on callused and bleeding feet, been herded into railroad cars, and hidden for days until the coast was clear.  Captured, chained and jailed, they escaped and ran again. 

Henry “Box” Brown was born enslaved in Louisa County, Virginia in 1815. When he was 15, he was sent to Richmond to work in a tobacco factory. His life was filled with unrewarded drudgery, although he had it better than most of his enslaved peers. The loss of freedom prevented him from living with his wife, Nancy, who was owned by a slave master on an adjacent plantation. She was pregnant with their fourth child when, in 1848, he heard the tragic news: Nancy and his children were to be sold to a plantation in North Carolina. He stood with tears in his eyes on the side of the street as he watched 350 slaves in chains walk by him, including his wife with their unborn child and three young children. He could only wish them a tearful last farewell— he was helpless to save them.

After months of mourning his loss, Henry resolved to escape from slavery. He was a man of faith and a member of the First African Baptist Church where he sang in the choir. He acknowledged that, through his faith in God, he was given the inspiration and courage to put together a creative plan of escape.

Helped by friends, Henry was shipped Adams Express Company on March 23, 1849, in a box 3 feet long by 2 feet 8 inches deep by 2 feet wide, and sent the box as “dry goods.” Henry Brown traveled in the box lined with baize, a coarse woollen cloth, carrying with him only one bottle of water and a few biscuits. There was a hole cut in the box for air, and it was nailed and tied with straps; in large words, “This side up” was written on the box. Brown traveled by a variety of wagons, railroads, steamboats, ferries, and finally, for added safety, a delivery wagon that brought the box to the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society before daybreak.

During the 27- hour journey, the box was turned upside down on several occasions and handled roughly. Henry wrote that he “was resolved to conquer or die, I felt my eyes swelling as if they would burst from their sockets; and the veins on my temples were dreadfully distended with pressure of blood upon my head.” At one point, Henry thought that he might die, but fortunately two men needed a place to sit down and, “so perceiving my box, standing on end, one of the men threw it down and the two sat upon it. I was thus relieved from a state of agony which may be more imagined than described.” The box with Brown inside was received by William Still, James Miller McKim, Professor C.D. Cleveland, and Lewis Thompson. Upon the box being opened, Brown said, “How do you do, Gentlemen?” then recited a psalm: “I waited patiently on the Lord and He heard my prayer.” He then began to sing the psalm to the delight of the four men present, and was christened Henry “Box” Brown.

But slavery is not the only condition from which people want freedom.  You heard the stories of people living under the heavy hand of dictators, tyrants, oppression and persecution.  We talk of the four freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear.  We can’t imagine not having these freedoms.  But millions of people in this world cannot say whatever they want, have to hide their religion, cannot provide for themselves and live in fear for their lives.  These are people who want freedom as much as any Israelite or American pre-Civil War slave, oppressed citizen of The People’s Republic of China or North Korea.

Who are these people?  They live among us.  We pass them every day on the streets.  They might be members of your family.  They want freedom from the cruel master of alcoholism.  They want freedom from crack cocaine, heroin, crystal meth and even prescription drugs.  They want freedom from abusive spouses, sexual addictions and perversions, gambling, destructive emotional relationships and satanic oppression.  They want freedom from doubt, anger, fear, depression, unbearable mental stress and toxic personalities.

In short, they want freedom from sin.  15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? Romans 6:15-16 (NIV)

If you want freedom today, I have a message of hope for you.  You’ve come to the right place.  The Bible says, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:36 (KJV).  We preach Christ and Him crucified.  Bartimaeus discovered that Jesus could set him free from darkness.  Jesus set Mary Magdalene free from prostitution.  He set Zacheus free from greed.  He set the woman with the issue of blood free from disease.  He set the demoniac from Gadara free from demon possession. 

If you want freedom, you can have it!  Don’t give up hope!  Right here in this congregation this morning are people set free from alcohol, drugs, nicotine, perversions, addictions, oppression and depression.  There are people here who have been locked up for crimes, but Jesus set them free.  You don’t have to resign yourself to the bondage and chains of sin forever.  Let me introduce you to the power of the blood, the Name and the Spirit of Jesus. 

Would you be free from the burden of sin?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you o’er evil the victory win?
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

Would you be free from your passion and pride?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Come for a cleansing to Calvary’s tide;
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

Would you be whiter, much whiter than snow?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Sin-stains are lost in its life-giving flow;
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

Would you do service for Jesus your King?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you live daily His praises to sing?
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

There is power, power, wonder-working power
In the blood of the Lamb;
There is power, power, wonder-working power
In the precious blood of the Lamb.

Getting Freedom

28 And the chief captain answered , With a great sum obtained I this freedom.

In the ancient Roman empire, the government had a mechanism whereby a person who was not born as a citizen could become naturalized with all the rights and privileges given to those born in the empire.  This procedure was available, but expensive.  The chief captain paid a lot of money for his freedom.  But the reason many people are not free is because they refuse to pay the high price that freedom demands.  It has always been expensive.

More than 25,000 American Revolutionaries died during active military service. About 8,000 of these deaths were in battle; the other 17,000 recorded deaths were from disease, including about 8,000–12,000 who died of starvation or disease brought on by deplorable conditions while prisoners of war, most in rotting British prison ships in New York. This tally of deaths from disease is undoubtedly too low, however; 2,500 Americans died while encamped at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777–78 alone. The number of Revolutionaries seriously wounded or disabled by the war has been estimated from 8,500 to 25,000. The total American military casualty figure was probably as high as 50,000.

But that was minor compared to the casualties of the Civil War.  Estimates are that 622,000 men died from war injuries and disease.   Some of the battles were bloody beyond belief:  The Wilderness, May 5-7: 17,666; Spotsylvania, May 10 and 12: 10,920; Cold Harbor, June 1-3: 12,000; and Petersburg, June 15-30, 16,569.  The price of freeing 4 million slaves in fifteen states was a huge but necessary and righteous expense.  The higher the stakes for freedom, the greater the expense to pay for it.

What is it going to cost you to get your freedom from sin?  This is the beautiful part.  Jesus said,  28 Come unto me , all ye that labour and are heavy laden , and I will give you rest . 29 Take my yoke upon you , and learn of me ; for I am meek and lowly in heart : and ye shall find rest unto your souls . 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light . Matthew 11:28-30 (KJV)

The reason Jesus could make the cost free for you is because He paid the full price for your redemption.  Let’s break it down:

  • Mockery of a trial:  He paid for your freedom by the loss of his human rights.
  • Purple robe:  He paid for your freedom by public humiliation.
  • Crown of thorns:  He paid for your freedom by the attack on his authority and his mind.
  • Lacerated back:  He paid for your freedom by receiving stripes on his back for your healing.
  • Smitten face:  He paid for your freedom by allowing disfigurement and insult.
  • Pierced hands:  He paid for your freedom by sacrificing his hands of power and authority.
  • Nails in feet:  He paid for your freedom by the surrender of the triumph of His feet.
  • Spear thrust in side:  He paid for your freedom by the blood and water that gushed from his side.

5 But he was wounded for our transgressions , he was bruised for our iniquities : the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed . 6 All we like sheep have gone astray ; we have turned every one to his own way ; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed , and he was afflicted , yet he opened not his mouth : he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter , and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb , so he openeth not his mouth . Isaiah 53:5-7 (KJV)

This is what Paul wrote about the Adam, the sinner, and the Second Adam, the savior:

Romans 5:17-21 (KJV)
17 For if by one man’s offence (Adam) death reigned by one ; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore as by the offence of one (Adam) judgment came upon all men to condemnation ; even so by the righteousness of one (Jesus)  the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience (Adam) many were made sinners , so by the obedience of one (Jesus) shall many be made righteous.  20 Moreover the law entered , that the offence might abound . But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: 21 That as sin hath reigned unto death (Adam), even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

Jesus Christ has inserted the key into the lock on the door of your prison today.  He has swung the door open wide.  All you need to do is get up, walk out and never look back! 

Keeping Freedom

Now we come to the message for the church; the message for the free.  Wanting freedom is natural.  Getting freedom is a triumph.  Keeping freedom is an unending struggle.  If we cannot keep our freedom, then getting it was an exercise in futility.  We end up wanting something we used to have without the energy or conviction to go out and get it again.

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling that thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” — John Stuart Mill

“Forewarned, forearmed, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” — Frederick Douglass, “The Nation’s Problem,” 1890.

My message to you today is that you cannot leave your freedom lying around unguarded, unprotected and unappreciated.  Why?  Because, there are enemies out to steal them away.  I call them former slave owners.  They don’t like it that they don’t have control over you anymore.   I am the watchman on the wall, telling you to guard your possessions.

16 And it came to pass at the end of seven days , that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying , 17 Son of man , I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel : therefore hear the word at my mouth , and give them warning from me. Ezekiel 3:16-17 (KJV)

There are enemies who are envious of your freedom.  They don’t like the fortress you’re in.  They don’t like your security, your provision, your privileges.  They are enemies who have disguised themselves as friends.  They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. 

First, there are enemies that want to capture you in personal traps.

Be careful of the enemy of loving the wrong person.

18 And when Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart , she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines , saying , Come up this once , for he hath shewed me all his heart . Then the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and brought money in their hand . 19 And she made him sleep upon her knees ; and she called for a man , and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head ; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him. Judges 16:18-19 (KJV)

Be careful of the enemy of craving wealth.

9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare , and into many foolish and hurtful lusts , which drown men in destruction and perdition . 10 For the love of money is the root of all evil : which while some coveted after , they have erred from the faith , and pierced themselves through with many sorrows . 1 Timothy 6:9-10 (KJV)

Be careful of the enemy of sexual enticement.

Be careful of the enemy of television. 

Be careful of the enemy of the Internet. 

Be careful of the enemy of popularity. 

Be careful of the enemy of fashion and style.

Be careful of the enemy of education. 

Be careful of the enemy of sports. 

Be careful of the enemy of friendships. 

Be careful of the enemy of leisure time.

Be careful of the enemy of creature comforts.

Be careful of the enemy of apathy and complacency.

Be careful of the enemy of laziness.

Second, there are enemies who want to destroy your character.

Beware of the enemy of dishonesty.

Beware of the enemy of doubt.

Beware of the enemy of rebellion.

Beware of the enemy of hatred and resentment.

Beware of the enemy of bitterness.

Beware of the enemy of compromise.

Beware of the enemy of no accountability.

Last, there are enemies who want to corrupt your doctrine.

The oneness of God matters.

Baptism in Jesus’ name is truth.

The Holy Ghost speaking in tongues is a scriptural doctrine.

The Bible is the Word of God.

Colossians 2:4-12 (KJV) 4 And this I say , lest any man should beguile you with enticing words . 5 For though I be absent in the flesh , yet am I with you in the spirit , joying and beholding your order , and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ . 6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord , so walk ye in him : 7 Rooted and built up in him , and stablished in the faith , as ye have been taught , abounding therein with thanksgiving . 8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit , after the tradition of men , after the rudiments of the world , and not after Christ . 9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily . 10 And ye are complete in him , which is the head of all principality and power : 11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands , in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ : 12 Buried with him in baptism , wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God , who hath raised him from the dead .

Holiness is a major truth taught in the Scriptures.

Jesus is coming again.

You need a pastor and the church to be saved.

Eternal vigilance.  My freedom was given to me by the grace of God, but my continuing in freedom will only be as I make it a priority in my life.  I was free born, but my freedom will be challenged every single day that I live. 

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (KJV) 7 I have fought a good fight , I have finished my course , I have kept the faith : 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness , which the Lord , the righteous judge , shall give me at that day : and not to me only , but unto all them also that love his appearing .

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