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“Reformed Living = Slaves No More”

October 28, 2018

Reformation Sunday

John 8:31-36 (NLT)

“Reformed Living = Slaves No More”

Intro:  What do we think we know of slavery?  Let me share a story with you that was told in 2005.  And as I read bear in mind that even today, 13 years later, women and children are being sold into slavery all around us through sex trafficking rings even in our own county.

 

This is the story of Beatrice Fernando, sold into domestic servitude.

FEBRUARY 20, 2014 STORY       DOMESTIC SERVITUDE, WOMEN & GIRLS, MODERN SLAVE NARRATIVES

 

A divorcee at age 23, Sri Lankan, Beatrice Fernando, answered an ad from a local agency looking to employ housemaids. Desperate to support her three-year-old son on her own, Fernando agreed to travel and work as a maid in Lebanon. Unbeknownst to her, the employment agency was running a scheme to lure and trap young Sri Lankans into domestic servitude.

In 2005, Fernando gave her testimony to the International Relations Committee of the House of Representatives Sub-committee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations:  “I am at the airport in Columbo, Sri Lanka, saying good-bye to my three-year-old son. With his eyes filled with tears, he asks, ‘Can’t I come with you, Mom? When you make a lot of money will you buy me a car to play with?’ I take him in my arms, my heart breaking, and tell him, ‘If I have the money, I will buy you the world.’ My desperation to give him a better life has driven me to leave him with my parents, to go to Lebanon and be a maid.

“At the job agent’s office in Beirut, my passport is taken away. The agency staff makes me stand in line with a group of women in the same predicament as me. Lebanese men and women pace in front of us, examining our bodies as if we were vacuum cleaners. I am sold to a wealthy woman, who takes me home to her mansion up on the fourth floor of a condo building.”

 My chores seem unending. I wash the windows, walls and bathrooms. I shampoo carpets, polish floors and clean furniture. After 20 hours I am still not done. There’s no food on my plate for dinner, so I scavenge through the trash. I try to call the job agency, but the woman who now owns me has locked the telephone. I try to flee the apartment, but she has locked the door.

I can feel the burning on my cheeks as she slaps me. It is night and her kids have gone to sleep. Grasping me by the hair, she bangs my head into the wall and throws me to the floor. She kicks me and hits me with a broom. If I scream or fight back, she will kill me. So I bite my lips to bare the pain and then I pass out. This is my daily routine, the life of a slave.

But now I am standing on the balcony of her condo, four floors up. I am holding onto the railing, staring down at the ground far below. I feel my heart rising. I miss my family, and I know my son is waiting for me. There is no other way to get home. I grasp the railing, close my eyes and ask God for his forgiveness if I die now. This is no suicide attempt. I am desperate for freedom, not death. With the tiny hope that I might survive, I let go of the railing. I dive backwards into the night air. And I scream.”

Fernando survived the fall and recovered at a hospital. Today, she lives in Massachusetts and continues to spread the word about modern-day slavery. She is the founder of the Nivasa Foundation, an organization that provides financial assistance for the education of trafficked women’s children.

 

If you were a slave what would you do to regain your freedom?

 

Scripture Reading:  John 8:31-36 (from the NLT printed on your bulletin and on the screen)

31 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33 “But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?”

34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35 A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free

 

I’m not sure we understand slavery. But as you heard in the story I read, lives of slavery come with a great desire to be free.  Often, freedom comes with the risk of leaving, perhaps being killed if one is caught running, and facing a new life with new circumstances different from the way things were before enslavement.   But I think we would all agree that freedom is better than slavery, even if it means we have to live differently.

 

Verses 31 and 32 teach us a great deal about discipleship and how discipleship is the answer to slavery.  “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

I mean, freedom sounds good, right?  And if freedom can be found by following Jesus, well, why not?

 

Let’s break these two verses down.

 

First of all, discipleship begins with belief.  Jesus is speaking to those Jews who have come to believe that he is Son of God.  So if you believe that Jesus is the Son of God you have taken a certain step towards being his disciple.

 

Second, Jesus describes what else is necessary to be a disciple. One has to remain faithful to what they are taught.  Or another translation has that one must “remain in my word”.  Either way, it describes the need to hang close to what Jesus actually said, not what people said he said or interpreted what he said, but what he said.  So how does this happen in real life?

  • We constantly listen to the word of Jesus.  I would add that we constantly listen for the word of Jesus.  What is he saying in the current circumstance you are facing?  We tend to re-hear what we have read.  So how are you filling your mind with the word of Jesus?  Number one way is . . . READ IT!
  • As we read the Words of Jesus we become the learner.  A key part of discipleship is being a student - one who is open, eager and willing to learn.  Should we decide that we know enough and feel we can stop learning, we cut off our discipleship identity.
  • The next aspect of remaining in God’s word is that we work at getting all we can out of it.  It’s like squeezing an orange to get orange juice.  When you cut into the orange a little juice spills out. Yippy! Is it enough to drink?  Then you might give it a bit more of a squeeze and more juice comes out.  But don’t you want to get all you can out of that orange?  And so you squeeze it until it is mangled beyond recognition!  That’s how we are to approach the word of God.  You can read it and check it off your list for the day.  But a disciple will wring out of a passage all they can. Perhaps not in one sitting but will go back again and again not with an attitude of “I’ve already read that” but an attitude of “I wonder what more I can get from this!” I wonder what more God has to say to me here.
  • And finally, to remain faithful to the teachings of Jesus requires our obedience to what we learn.

 

There is a result from remaining in Christ’s teachings in the described manner.  We learn the truth and once we know the truth we find freedom.  Let’s break that down!

 

Discipleship is bedded in the knowledge of truth.  Not the world’s truth or Oprah’s truth or social medias truth, or political truth.  But the truth of what Jesus says.  In what Jesus says we hear what is important, what is vital for the living of life.  His answers are both simple and profound and the world overlooks them in search for something more spectacular.  Something more ear tickling.  Maybe you do too.  We can sum up Jesus’ two truths in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.  First, Love the Lord your God with all your heart . . .  And Go make disciples. 

 

Discipleship results in freedom! Imagine!  Freedom from things we repeatedly do that hurt us or others.  Freedom from being in the center of our own universe.  Doesn't’ quite line up with what we hear in the world today.  But Jesus tells us that “The truth will make you free.”  Whose truth? His truth.  Let’s follow William Barclay’s outline of the freedom that comes through being a disciple of Jesus Christ.  And before we go on, let me say this.  If you say, “Well I believe in Jesus and I don’t have those freedoms!” Check to see if you are interacting with the word of Jesus first.

  • Discipleship brings us freedom from fear.  The one who is a disciple never again has to walk alone. He walks for ever in the company of Jesus, and in that company fear is gone
  • Discipleship brings freedom from self. Many a person fully recognizes that their greatest handicap is their own self.  And they may in despair cry out: “I cannot change myself I have tried, but it is impossible.” But the power and presence of Jesus can re-create a person until they are altogether new.
  • Discipleship brings freedom from other people.  There are many whose lives are dominated by the fear of what other people may think and say. . . . The disciple is the one who has ceased to care what people say, because they think only of what God says.
  • Discipleship brings freedom from sin.  Many a person has come to the stage that they sin, not because they want to, but because they cannot help it.  Their sins have so mastered them that try as they will, they cannot break away from them.  Discipleship breaks the chains which bind us to them and enables us to be the persons we know we ought to be.

 

The Jews that Jesus is talking about are rejecting the notion of their being slaves, they aren’t living in direct subservience to anyone (although the Romans are really the bosses in their life).  So Jesus really lays it out for them by saying plainly - “Hey, if you have a habit of sin in your life, you are enslaved.”  Let me read how Barclay puts it, (read 23-24)

 

We have some options given to us here.  We have the option of freedom and the option of enslavement.  Which are you leaning towards today? How’s your discipleship?  How’s your listening to Jesus’ words?

 

Concl:  Who do you know who is enslaved?  Enslaved by not knowing the freedom that is found in Jesus Christ.  What would you want them to know and experience?  How will you tell them? They need to know about freedom.  They need to be rescued by grace.  They need to know and be assured that there is life on the other side of their enslavement - you found it, you can share it.  Invite them to experience it.  Invite them into discipleship. Invite them to meet Jesus.  You know the way.  Don’t leave them as slaves to sin.  And if you are not compelled in any way to do this, would you seek Jesus out and ask him what He’d like you to do?