BY JESSICA SHERRILL, GRACE ATTENDER
This past weekend, Barry wrapped up a series on freedom, focusing on Romans 8, overflowing with hope, and the analogy of one cute rabbit. The emphasis was on four freedoms that God promises us, freedom from sin, fear of death, shame, and self-sufficiency. A four-week series, with four freedoms, bursting at the seams with truths for you to take with you on your journey in this life, and experience to fruition in the next.
Freedom #1 - Freedom from sin
Know this, there is a war being waged on your heart. God wants a relationship with YOU, with me, with all of us in community. He wants to set you free and launch you into the shalom He intended from the birth of creation. He wants to give you His peace. The enemy, just as hungry, is ready to devour you for himself, no matter the cost. Sin can be sneaky, looking to trip us up - a stumble here, a stumble there, binding us up, and imprisoning us. Sin is the ultimate death (Prov. 5:22, Heb. 12:1, Gen. 4:7, Gal. 3:22, James 1:15).
So how is this freedom possible? It sounds impossible; we feel defeated before we ever begin. Yet, another snare the enemy uses to keep us down and not fight for the God who loves us. However, as children of God, we are no longer obligated to obey our sinful nature, but we must choose to walk out the door that God opened and rely on the Holy Spirit (vs. 12-13). We cannot do this alone. Surrender your life to Jesus. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your sin to you, the footholds and the strongholds. Ask the Father to help you.
Freedom #2 - Freedom from the fear of death
Seems a little daunting, doesn’t it? After all, we know that the physical death is inescapable. Yet, we are bombarded daily with anti-aging serums and Hollywood elites who seem to have found the fountain of youth with plastic surgery. We have filters for selfies and photoshop editing. We aren’t quite sure what to say when someone is affected by death; as if we ignore it completely, it goes away.
It is not only humans that are in a state of decay and death, but all of creation is groaning (v. 20). Our sin brings harm to ourselves, others, and poisons the nature of creation. Since the Garden of Eden, humanity’s rebellion has corrupted the world: separation from God; pain of mind, body, and spirit; isolation from one another; hatred by dehumanization and alienation; decay of physical creation; and, injustice in the forms of poverty, disease, hunger, etc.
Yet, while creation groans, it does so with expectation, a longing to be healed (v.22). There is pain replaced by joy. There is hope. That expectation of healing is also true for you and me. In verse 18, Paul tells us that the present sufferings are not worth being compared to the glory that will be revealed in us. Scripture also tells us that a new creation will be made and that the former things will not be remembered (Isaiah 65:17); and there will be no more death, sorrow, crying or pain and our tears will be wiped away (Revelation 21:4). What hope we have, as this life is not the end!
Freedom #3 –Freedom from shame
If we’re honest, some of us have a hard time believing the love of God. We doubt it. We have a running inner dialogue of ‘How could He love a sinner like me?’ ‘I will never figure this out.’ ‘I’m not good enough.’ ‘I’m worthless.’ ‘I don’t measure up to other Christians; He loves everyone but me.’ We take the disgrace we feel about our own brokenness and try to proclaim these as truths on behalf of God. But this isn’t God, this is the enemy whispering in our ear, using shame as a tool to keep us weighted down, locked in sin patterns. In fact, God’s love for us is the foundation for all truth. Scripture tells us that God has been with us every breath of our life, every mistake, every fear, every doubt...He is our Father, and He would do anything in His love for us.
We are unified in the doubt of God’s love for us with those who came before us. In verse 35, Paul addresses the practical fears of Roman times and reiterates that no, none of these things can separate us from the love of God. Moreover, he lists the metaphysical in verse 38 to drive the point home. As Barry explained, papyrus was expensive, a simple no would have sufficed, and he could have moved on to something else, but Paul knew that his audience questioned the love of God. And the love of God mattered more. The love of God matters still, today.
Freedom #4 – Freedom from self-sufficiency
Life gets heavy. Trials test your faith. Your pain and suffering seems relentless. You’re at the end of your rope with life experiences that don’t make sense. You feel alone or are alone. You just do not know how you can go on. Remember this we have a helper! We are, in fact, not alone. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, those of us adopted into God’s family have the Holy Spirit living in them. That same powerful Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us! To know that when your heart aches so badly that you cannot put it into words, the Holy Spirit prays for us. God knows. He is not distant. He is near. He works together for the good of those who love Him (v. 28).
Being in God’s family does not mean that we will be immune to falling short, the dagger of pain, and the experience of sin caused by you or others. Being in His family means, we are to be more like Jesus, that we can live free from the burdens, the fear, and striving to do it alone. God does not cause the brokenness; He longs to restore you and bring healing.
So now, for the cute rabbit part…Barry gave a great analogy and back-story of his rabbit Humphrey. Humphrey was a long way from what is now his home. He was disheveled, with clumps of fur missing. He was snippy and mistrusting, unsure of his future. After making his way home, he was loved and healed, healthy. He ventures out of his cage, and flops out, completely comfortable in his surroundings and the love of his ‘parents.’ We are not that different really. Some of us are lost, maybe a long way from the Father. Some of us have taken a detour, the wrong path, searching. We may not be the best version of ourselves, diseased with sin, living in fear and shame. But know this, our Father is pursuing us in love, wanting us to live free from the burden of sin and shame, the fear of death, reassuring us that we do not have to do this alone. He is present, groaning alongside us to bring us healing. He wants us, as His children, to walk out of the imprisonment of our sin and ‘flop out’ in His love. He wants to free us. He wants to bring us home.