Monday, 9 May 2016

Cry Freedom

Freedom is the watchword of the day.
The slave girl was set free from an evil spirit, Paul and Silas were miraculously set free from prison, and the jailor was set free from his bondage to sin suffering and death by asking to be baptised.
Salvation isn’t a word much used outside of church nowadays so what does it mean to say “I am saved”?
One meaning is to be set free from our addictions, our fears, and our self-centredness.
Another clue is in our English word salvation. The root of the word is “salve”. A salve is an ointment that soothes and heals, so salvation carries the notion of being made well, being healed, and being made whole again.
We are healed from all that divides us. The division between ourselves and God is healed – we are one as the reading from John spells out today, the division between ourselves and  others is healed for we are all children of God, and all our internal divisions are healed.
Being set free can be being freed from a physical bondage like Paul and Silas , or more pertinently being set free from spiritual bondage like the slave girl or the jailor.
So salvation is personal wholeness and freedom. Is that not what everybody craves nowadays? That is what we offer and yet we are so bad at communicating that fact people would never think to look at the church for such things – they look everywhere else first – from Mindfulness to Buddhism, to self-help, to the acquisition of “things” to drugs, anything but in that boring out of date building called a church.  
We are absolutely terrible at articulating what we are about.
But Paul and the apostles and the witness of the early church is that the key to salvation and all the benefits that brings is found in the name of Jesus Christ alone. That is where you will find freedom and wholeness.
It was in the name of Jesus Christ that the slave girl was set free, and when the jailor asked “What must I do to be saved?” Paul says “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household”.
There is a past, present and future aspect to salvation. You are set free from all your sins by being forgiven and set free from all fear of judgement; In the present you are positively set free to live the life God wants for you in freedom and security, and the future aspect is that you can look forward to a glorious future – eternal life in the new Jerusalem, where heaven and earth become one.   
Salvation is fantastic news with great benefits. It is “Good news” which is what “Gospel” means.
It is worth having and in Revelation it tells us who this is for. And in verse 17 of Revelation 22 it tells us. It is for everyone that wants it – for the spiritually thirsty.
“The Spirit and the Bride say “come”, and let the one who hears say “come” (inviting others). And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.”
And along the way we are transformed -  we have to shed one way or another the evil in our hearts. Just as Paul drove out the evil spirit from the slave girl, coming to the saving Grace of Jesus entails him driving out all evil from our lives.
The offer is free, but there is a kind of “cost” if you want to put it like that. We have to get rid of all the dirt in our lives, for God is a Holy and righteous God and cannot bear such evil in His presence.
Those who accept this free offer have the right to the tree of life and we enter the New Jerusalem by the front gates, but that passage continues in verse 15,
Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood”
Everyone is welcome but you have to change and be transformed and ditch evil things as part of that invitation. And it is the Spirit that helps us in that task.
Spelled out in our reading from John 17. 20-23 is that the nature of our freedom, our healing, our salvation is being spiritually joined to God in Christ.
There is so much there regarding our mutual indwelling – I in them and you in me – the healing of division that I’ve already mentioned.
If we were to continue in our evil ways that would reflect on the character of God. We would be saying this is what God is like.
If someone were to say they were saved – at one with God -  and then proceeded to cheat on their wife, or undermine a friend, or worshipped money, or lied to people, we would be saying “This is what God is like”. Those who have ears to hear....
Salvation my friends is being set Free and being healed, made whole again. We drink freely from the fresh water of life without cost.
It is guaranteed, underwritten by the promises of God made through Jesus Christ.
“Jesus who testifies to these things says “Surely I am coming soon” Amen come Lord Jesus. The Grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all. Amen.”

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