“Jesus Has Set Us Free”
Welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland. The world in which we live is becoming more and more uncertain every day. Division and injustice, battles and wars consume the news broadcasts and hit close to home. None of it is any good and things seem to be getting worse by the day. We ask questions; like, what can be done about it; and, how can we handle it; and, will it ever go away? You know, if we let it, these troublesome times can weigh heavily upon us and cause a great deal of anxiety. However, we don't have to let the waves of uncertainty sweep us away. As we put our trust in the Lord, we can be reassured of His continual presence and faithful love. And with that, we can be at peace. We don't have to be entangled by the problems which seem so close. Rather, we can experience the freedom that comes through Jesus Christ. In today's lesson from God's Word, we turn our attention to some really good news. It centers on God's love and Jesus’ sacrifice. The message reminds us that no matter how challenging things may be, in our personal lives or throughout the world, the Lord is by our side, and in that we can take great hope and comfort. For the next few minutes, we will look into these things in greater detail. I encourage you now to open your heart and your Bible as we study the lesson entitled, “Jesus Has Set Us Free.”
The times in which we are living are indeed uncertain. In fact, many things are taking place that cause a great deal of anxiety. Oh, the stress of the unknown and the situations that are out of our control lead us to do one of two things. Either we are living in fear and fighting for survival, or on the other hand, we are living in faith and drawing closer to the Lord. With those things in mind, I encourage you to hear these words from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, in chapter 43, beginning with verse 1. <“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”> In this passage of Scripture, God made four promises to the people. He said, basically, I will be with you, I'm not going anywhere, I will not abandon you, I remember the covenant I have made with your forefathers and I will be with you in all of the circumstances of life. And to illustrate that in a figurative way, He states, very simply, the waters will not overwhelm you. You may feel as if you are being covered up by the waters, or all of the problems, but yet I will intervene and they will not sweep you away. And then He uses two illustrations from the fire. You will not be burned. The fire will not consume you. In fact, your feet will not even get burned. You know, through these words, God is reminding the people that they may have to go through some fiery times in life; and yet, it will be OK. His presence will be there. They will not be burned up. They will not be consumed, but He will be in their midst. He will be with them as they go through these trying and uncertain times. Now, those promises were based upon four facts, and the four facts, very simply, are these: God said, I have created you; I have formed you; I have redeemed you; and, now I call you by name. When God makes those statements known, He is basically saying to them, I know you. And indeed, God knew these people and He knew them very well. He knew the circumstances of life they were dealing with and He would be with them in the midst of them. Yes, God knew these people very well. You know, Isaiah's words, here, were spoken to the people of Israel during a time when they were rebellious toward God. They're sinful disobedience had led them to living lives of selfishness and pride. And yet, these people were still loved by God. Even when it appears the people were abandoning Him, He did not abandon them. He had a special place in His heart. He knew the promise He had made to their ancestors, and that promise of never leaving them was still in place. Even though these words were written many years ago, there is an application that can be made for us today. You may be trying to navigate through some very uncertain times and walk through the fires of life. You might feel overwhelmed by the troubles that seem to come at you like a flood of water. And you're trying to keep your head above that water. You're trying, in the very best way possible, to not let your feet get burned or to be overcome by those fiery trials. You're looking for some answers as to how to do all of that. And yet you recognize that real and meaningful hope is not found in what this world has to offer. It's only insufficient, it's only temporary. And what is real and meaningful, however, is found in a relationship with God. When the prophet stated here, in the passage we just read, that God is with His people and He will not let the waters and the fires sweep over them; the same is true for us. God will not allow the waters and the fires and the problems of life consume us. And that is good news, isn't it; that, our loving Heavenly Father sees our situation and He provides. Now, understanding those very comforting words leads us to ask questions like these: How can we actually experience that reassurance and hope, how can we live without being afraid, and how can God redeem and set us free? It is true God loves us today, just as much as He loved those Israelites of old. And the greatest demonstration of that love was when He sent His one and only Son into this world to become our Savior. And when Jesus was born into this world, many people rejected Him. They did not believe that He was the Messiah. They didn't believe that He was the one and only Son of God. They did not believe that He was His Father's representation and He had come to bring solutions to them. However, there were some people who rejoiced in the arrival of Jesus. They welcomed Him. They saw in Jesus the solution to the problems in their life, and they could not wait. Several people fit that category, I want to highlight three of them for us. The first one was the father of John the Baptizer; his name was Zechariah. Listen to these words that Zechariah stated, in Luke chapter 1 beginning with verse 68. <“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come to His people and redeemed them.”> Well, Zechariah praised God for Jesus. He recognized that Jesus had come to redeem people, to set them free and to give them hope. And that was especially good news for those who were living in the first century. Oh, the people lived under Roman oppression, and that Roman oppression was oppressive, it was cruel. They even put together some laws and rules and regulations and imposed them on the Jewish people, yet they themselves did not keep them. And under that kind of oppressive reign or rule, the people became very frustrated. They were hurt. They were abused. Some even lost their lives. Yet, Zechariah came to realize Jesus had come to set them free from that. And indeed, Jesus did redeem and set people free. He ministered to and served a variety of people. He came to set people free from their hunger and their poverty. He did that by feeding them with just a few loaves of bread and some fish. He did that for multitudes of people. He cast demons out of people. He set them free from that demon possession. Jesus raised people from the dead. Yes, in many and various ways, Jesus redeemed or He set people free from that which held them back. In fact, Jesus even stated that He had come to give His life as a ransom for many, in Mark chapter 10 and verse 45. Oh, He came to offer a very full and abundant life, and many people welcomed and received that. You know, the word we notice here, in chapter 10 and verse 45 of Mark, is the word ransom, which is basically the same word Zechariah used in Luke chapter 1, the word redeem; and, those two words mean basically the same thing. They mean gaining something in exchange for a payment. Jesus came to set people free from the curse of sin, and He paid the price for doing that. The price required was His own life. His death on the cross set people free. And through that death, He was able to bring people out of the kingdom of darkness, the kingdom of Satan, and to transfer people in to the Kingdom of God. Another person that was greatly impacted by the ministry of Jesus was the apostle Paul. In one of the earliest letters written after Jesus' resurrection, Paul wrote these words, in Galatians chapter 3, verse 13. <Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”> That last statement comes from Deuteronomy chapter 21. And another version of that same passage, instead of writing “hung upon a pole” uses the words “lifted up.” But again, the idea is the same. They both refer to a crucifixion. When we think about a crucifixion, we know a little bit about it. A long pole is placed into the ground, a shorter piece of wood is placed at the top, and a person's arms or hands are nailed or wrapped around that smaller piece and then their feet are nailed in to the bottom piece, just above the ground. And the person was there, lifted up or hung up on that pole, so that other people who walked by could see that person being put to death. It was a visual sign to everyone stating this could happen to you if you messed up, if you committed some kind of capital offense. Well, that's what people saw, and that's what happened to Jesus Christ. He was crucified upon a cross. And according to the passage we just read, here, Jesus took our place when He was crucified. He removed the curse of sin that was on us, and He took that upon Himself. In other words, He became the curse of sin on our behalf. And with that, He set us free, or He redeemed us, from that sin. And that was the exchange that took place, not only for Jews but for non-Jews alike. And that is still available for people everywhere. It does not matter our nation, our background, our culture, our nationality, whatever it is, Jesus has set all people free through what He did upon the Cross of Calvary. Sometimes people do something for us without being asked. A person might buy a meal for us unexpectedly. Someone might give us a special gift or purchase something for us, which we would not purchase on our own. And one might even do those things for someone who does not deserve it. Well, such things are acts of kindness, which do not have to be repaid. In other words, the recipient owes nothing. And that is at the core of what Jesus did on the cross. He did something we did not deserve and which we certainly can never repay. He took our place so that we do not have to die in our sin, and He set us free. Paul also wrote these words, in 2nd Corinthians chapter 5, in verse 15: <And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.> Notice also verse 21: <God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.> Well, those verses summarize what Jesus did. Because of His love for you and for me, He took the punishment we deserved. He took our place. He died physically so we do not have to die spiritually. And that goes back to the exchange. He paid for something, our freedom, with His own life. Here's a third person for us to consider, the apostle Peter. He, too, was blessed by what Jesus’ death meant to him and to others. He too was set free and redeemed from his sin. And Peter really needed that. You know, Peter messed up. In fact, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times in one night. But after His resurrection from the dead, Jesus reinstated Peter. He gave him a second chance. He gave him hope. And He let Peter see what it looked like to have another opportunity; and, in fact, Peter became a great leader in the early church. As he was thinking about that, he wrote these words, which are found in 1st Peter chapter 1, beginning with verse 18: <For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.> Well, here is another example of the impact Jesus had on people. Peter realizes what Jesus did for him; that He died in his place. He became the perfect sacrifice, the perfect lamb to set people free. Oh, in Peter’s day, slaves could be released. They could be set free if someone paid a ransom, if someone paid a price for their freedom. The slaves did not have the necessary funds to do that on their own. Someone else had to do that. And that's the idea here in 1st Peter 1. Jesus Christ is the one who paid the sufficient price, with His own blood, with the life that He gave as the perfect sacrifice. Peter writes that he had no wealth, he had no riches of his own. But what He did have was his blood, and this is what was required in order for us to be set free. And with that ransom, with that price being paid, we are redeemed from our sin. When I think about these passages of Scripture, and these people like Zechariah and Paul and Peter, there are others we could mention as well, but they were ones who recognized what Jesus had come to do. He represented His Father. He was the Savior of the world. He redeemed us. He paid the price so we could be set free and be right with God. And when we receive that freedom it brings us into God's family, and there we receive all of the blessings and promises which our Father affords to those who are His children. And the Bible tells that wonderful story over and over again, about the plan God put into place so long ago. The Bible also reveals how we respond to God's love and Jesus’ sacrifice. We believe Jesus is the one and only Son of the Living God. We believe that He came as the Savior, that He lived, then He died upon the cross; but then, He rose victoriously from the grave. And we trust in that. We trust in what Jesus did on our behalf, instead of trusting in our own good deeds. We trust in Jesus, instead of trusting in our abilities and all of the good efforts we put forth. We recognize that our deeds don't amount to anything, because Jesus did more than enough of what was required. Paul states it like this, in Ephesians 2 and verse 8: <It is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.> No, we can never say to God we deserve His gift of salvation because of the good life we are living. For if that were true then Jesus’ death was unnecessary. By believing in Jesus as God's Son, we recognize He is the only One who can eliminate our sin problem. It is only through the blood of a perfect Savior, the perfect Lamb, the perfect Sacrifice, that we are redeemed. We are set free. There may be something going on in your life right now that is causing you a great deal of anxiety. You might be worried about a family member or a job situation. Some other matters might be weighing heavily upon you, maybe some health concerns or relational situations. And you really don't know what to do about it. You're struggling. You're looking for some answers. You're looking for some solutions in what this world has to offer. You might even feel as if you are about to be overcome or swept away by all of the problems of life. You might feel overwhelmed by the pain of this world; and that's real, and I understand that. But in the midst of all of those trying and difficult and fiery times, remember, God is with you. He created you, He formed you, He redeemed you through His Son, Jesus Christ, and He knows you by name. And you are special. You are important. You are valuable to God. And He will not allow you to be swept away by the waters of life, and He will not allow the fires of this world to consume you. You might remember those words; because Jesus lives we can face tomorrow, and because He lives all fear is gone. In these times of great uncertainty, I encourage you to know that God has set you free, through His Son, Jesus Christ. And no matter what is going on in the world around you, you can enjoy that freedom. You can enjoy the promises that God gives to you as one of His children. I pray that you have received that freedom.
I'm standing here in the middle of a dried up riverbed. It might be just a little bit hard to imagine, yet at one time, whenever the rains would come, a great deal of water would come rushing through this area. We can just envision how that might have been, back in the day. Well, as the water came through this area, it would take with it anything that was not firmly secured or anchored down. And we can just imagine how the trees and the various debris and things would just be swept away. When I think about that, I'm reminded of sometimes how we feel that we are swept away by all of the problems and the trials and the difficulties of life. It seems that we are overcome by those problems, and there is nothing to keep us firm and secure. Isaiah, the prophet, reminds us, in chapter 43, that God will protect us and we will not be swept away nor destroyed by the waters or the fires of life. That's encouraging to know, isn't it! And indeed, when our life is anchored in Jesus Christ, we're going to be OK. No matter what kinds of problems seem overwhelming or over our head, we know that we are protected, that God loves us, and He will provide. Yes, it is scary and uncertain when the problems of life seem overwhelming, but yet we can rest and we can have all kinds of faith in knowing that God will take care of us. And that is just another demonstration of how He loves us and provides for us, even in times of great uncertainty. I hope that you feel God's love in your life today.
Thank you for joining us for today's broadcast. I hope this message about God's love and Jesus’ salvation blessed you in a special way. It is good to know that no matter what is happening in the world around us, we can be at peace with the Lord and experience freedom in Christ. If you would like to view this message again, it can be found on our website. Go to keytothekingdom.com, and there you will find this lesson along with many others. Feel free to download them in a number of different formats. It is free to do so and there is no commitment associated with it. We also offer several other ways to keep up with this mass media ministry. We have a dedicated channel on Roku® television. A free phone app is available to download onto smart-phones. Additionally, a new one minute message is uploaded on to Facebook® every Sunday evening. And finally, please call the phone number on the screen or send us an email in order to contact us directly. These messages are designed to offer spiritual encouragement on a regular basis, and I hope they bless you in your spiritual walk with the Lord. Thank you again for being our guest today. I hope you will join us again next time, as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”