Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Themes: Freedom, St. Thomas, Unpardonable Sin, 7th Sunday After Pentecost
Volume 8 No. 488 July 4, 2018
 
IV. Special Supplement: Freedom (Independence Day)

The Truth Will Make You Free

by Rev. Alex Stevenson

Gospel: John 8:31-36

You can be free! I know when you're in the midst of slavery, freedom seems like an impossible dream. But I am here to tell you that the means of your liberation is at hand. You don't have to be slaves anymore. You can be freed from your oppression. Do you want to be made free?

What's the matter? You look confused. Perhaps you think you're already free? I guess it's like a person who has dwelt in darkness all their lives. They don't know they are in darkness and they can't understand the promise of light.

You might think, "But we are Americans and we are free. We declared independence from Britain on July 4th 1776. For 239 years we have been free from taxation without representation. For over two centuries we have been free to worship as we choose and believe as we choose and speak our minds and assemble peacefully as we feel led. What do you mean 'the means of your freedom is at hand?' We are free! That is what we have been celebrating all this weekend!"

Well, that is exactly what the people said to Jesus in our lesson today. They were celebrating the Exodus. God had led the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. And the children of Israel had been free from that slavery for over 1300 years. They were remembering how God led the children of Israel through the desert and to the Promised Land. They were celebrating the manna that God gave from heaven and the water from the rock. They were camping out in booths and having BBQ and setting off fireworks. Actually they were lighting torches to symbolize the pillar of fire. Fireworks had not been invented yet. But they were feasting on roasted meat, just kosher meat.

In the mist of this celebration of their liberation, Jesus said, "you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." You can understand their confusion. Hadn't God already set them free? How then could this truth set them free - again?

Ironically the children of Israel had been a conquered people for most of the previous 700 years, but Jesus explained it to them. He was not talking about freedom from the Egyptians or the Persians or the Greeks or the Romans or the British. Ooops! I am getting a little ahead of myself again. He was talking about freedom from sin.

Jesus said, "Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin." He went on to use a parable to explain himself. A slave has no permanent place in the household. A slave can be sold or sent away at any time. But if the heir, the son, sets the slave free then the slave is truly free. Of course the point is that Jesus came as the Truth of God in the flesh to set them free if they will only believe.

The problem then and now is that people don't really know that they are slaves. We Americans, like the potential disciples back then, actually think we are free. We have the freedom to live as we please: freedom of speech, freedom and religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press… We also have the freedom to abandon our responsibilities to our children and family. We have the freedom to have premarital and extramarital relations. We are free to use drugs or engage in other potentially addictive or dangerous behavior. We are free to ignore the needy and think only of ourselves. We are free to consume as much of the energy and material wealth as we are capable of and then to throw away anything we don't like.

Is that freedom? A lot of Americans think it is. But in really it is slavery. It is enslavement to sin. It is imprisonment in ones own desires and selfishness.

Now you can see why it's so hard to tell people that they can be free. But Jesus came so that people could be free from those things. So they could be free to know God and have a loving relationship with their Heavenly Father. They could be free to know and truly love their neighbor. They could be free to do wonderful things in their life to give of themselves to transform other people's lives.

You can be free! The means of your liberation is at hand. That means of liberation is the Truth of God. And Jesus Christ is that Truth in the flesh. He is here today to set you free!

Declare your independence from sin and death. Put your John Hancock on a personal constitution of love for God and neighbor. Cast of the chains of oppression of sin of selfishness. Pledge your allegiance to Jesus Christ and you can truly and finally be free! That is not a decision that someone else can make for you, you have to make this declaration of freedom for yourself.

It is my hope that most of you have already pledged your allegiance to Christ. He died to make you truly free. He gave his body to be broken and his blood to be shed so you can know liberty! If you have been set free and live free. Leave behind the things that once enslaved you. Go forth to glorify God in your life and to bring that truth to others so they can be liberated.

Start at the altar today. Come for prayer and communion. This bread and this grape juice symbolize the sacrifice that sets you free. It embodies the Truth of God. And the Truth will make you free!

A Fourth of July Wake-up Call

by Shane Idleman

Regaining Lost Ground

"We have forgotten God, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own." (Abraham Lincoln).

Over the last few decades, Americans have seen the destruction of the institution of marriage between a man and a woman, the removal of God's Word in several areas, and the aborting of millions of babies. Ironically, many of the men and women who died for our freedoms did not die for what we are becoming today. They understood sacrifice—duty to Country was duty to God. Many gave their lives in order that we would be "one nation under God," not above God.

A Fifth Division graveyard sign in Iwo Jima, Japan, states it well: "When you go home, tell them for us and say, ‘For your tomorrows we gave our today.'" What a travesty when we fail to honor those who gave their lives for the freedoms we now enjoy. This Fourth of July, let's remember those who gave their lives and those who continue to defend our freedoms.

In the words of Father O'Brien who served in World War II: "It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who gives us the freedom to demonstrate." O'Brien continues: "It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag."

Let's be very clear on this: "A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both." (Dwight D. Eisenhower). Historically and biblically, we know that God judged those nations who continually tolerated sin; wrong choices had devastating consequences. Arnold Toynbee, who completed A Study of History in 1961, said: "Of the 22 civilizations that have appeared in history, 19 of them collapsed when they reached the moral state America is in today." And that was a quote from the 1960s.

Historians realize that a republican democracy, like ours in America, cannot last forever. Eventually, there is a collapse due to moral decay and financial irresponsibility—liberty often leads to abundance; abundance to complacency; complacency to apathy; apathy to a loss of freedom. Based on this, where are we today? Unfortunately, countless people are confusing God's patience with His approval. "Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever." (Thomas Jefferson).

America has been desensitized one generation at a time, one court decision at a time, one compromise at a time, and we are drowning in a cesspool of relativism. "The wicked freely parade and prance about while evil is praised throughout the land" (Psalm 12:8).

There are times to encourage, motivate, and uplift, but there are also times to confront, challenge, and contend for what is right—that time is now! We are experiencing the rapid deterioration of a nation right before our eyes. This is not the time for passivity, but for prayer.

We've heard these questions before, and we will hear them again: If not now, when? If not here, where? If not us, who? God said that He looked for a man from among the leaders who would build a wall and stand in the gap before Him on behalf of the land that He might not destroy it, but He found no one (Ezekiel 22:30). This was true in Ezekiel's day, and it's true today. We are sinking one step at a time, but God is still looking for good men and women to do what is right.

For those who say, "I don't want to get involved," we must remember that we're already involved—by saying nothing we say something. Our government is a government of the people, by the people, for the people. This means that a believer should be involved in running for office, voting, and/or monitoring those in office to assure that they perform their duties. The welfare of society often falls in the hands of the Christian community.

For those who believe we should remain passive and silent, I challenge you to read the writings of the Old Testament prophets.

"...I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity."

- 1 Timothy 2:1,2 "A Nation Under God or a Nation Going Under?"
Kay Arthur, PRECEPTS FOR LIFE

Does anyone care what the true meaning of an oath is and the responsibilities that come with that oath? It's self-evident that not much attention was placed on the importance of that oath in the past especially the oath of those appointed to public service. "They Did Say 'So Help Me God'" Ramon and Nena Arias, The Future of America

We read and hear a lot about liberty. "The Blessings of Liberty" Dr. Glenn Mollette, Pathway Of Light

I call upon my American friends tonight, to be gracious to me as I handle some of their most precious words. Taking the last stanza of this moving poem I would like to draw your attention and all our attention to the last eight lines of the 'Star Spangled Banner.' "An Old Anacreontic Song For Some New Poet Prophets" Rev. Victor Robert Farrell, 66 WEEKS

Source: OneVoice

How to Celebrate Christian Independence

by Rev. Alex Stevenson

Scripture: Galatians 5:13-26

This is the 4th of July weekend and people are celebrating. But how are they celebrating? Some are cooking out. Some go swimming in the lake or at the beach. Others camp or hike or fish or hunt. Some set off fire works. Some get drunk and party. Hopefully not while they are boating or hunting or playing with fireworks.

Basically they just doing whatever they want to! The way we celebrate our liberty is important. It shows what we believe we are set free for. For most people freedom is all about doing what ever you want to.

If you try to tell them they should or shouldn't do something, what do they say? "It's a free country. I can do whatever I want. It's none of your business what I do. I can ignore my neighbor as long as I don't hurt anyone." For most people that is what liberty is.

But for the Christians liberty is something different! Paul said,

"For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another."(vs. 13)

 First of all freedom is not supposed to be for self indulgence. That doesn't mean you can't have fun or have a holiday, but it defines the form that fun takes. He further defines that freedom as slavery! But can a slave be free?

This is a different kind of slavery than what we usually think of. It is not a servitude that is forced. It's a form of service that is chosen. Through love we choose to serve one another.

So we are set free from self indulgence, and set free to love. This is freedom from the tyranny of the flesh: "fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these." And we are set free for the liberty of the Spirit: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." We are freed from the oppression of sin and emancipated to serve in love through the Spirit!

Now we say we believe the Bible. You know some people say they believe the Bible, but they don't follow what it says. If we truly believe it, then we will believe that real freedom is not about self indulgence but service in love. And if we really believe that, then it will effect the way we celebrate freedom! So how should Christians celebrate freedom?

First of all we should worship. Glorifying and worshipping God should be our first priority. We should wake up each morning and say, "I am free to praise and worship God all day." Of course freedom of religion was one the basic rights established early on in our country's history. We are free to worship as we choose.

The way most people practice their freedom of religion, it is really freedom "from" religion. We need to recognize that worshiping and serving God really sets us free. Attending worship should be a part of our celebration of freedom. I think I am in the minority though. Most people seem to stay away from church near the 4th.

Another way we should celebrate freedom is through sacrifice and service. This is again one of those truths that seems counter intuitive. The idea that we are set free to be slaves seems a contradiction. But that is only because we see it from the world's perspective. They think freedom is for self indulgence. But in truth self indulgence is slavery to selfish desires.

Liberty in the Spirit however is achieved by thinking of others. Just look at the fruits of the Spirit mentioned in this passage: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Many of them like love, kindness, generosity, gentleness have to do with how we treat others. They are the opposite of self indulgence.

The world's spirit of self indulgence is the real tyrant. That spirit will drive people deeper and deeper into shallow pursuits and addictions. It takes life away without giving nothing back. But the liberty of the Spirit is realized in giving of ourselves for others, sacrificing our self indulgence for the needs of others. That service, or as Paul describes it "through love … slaves to one another," is what sets us free. If you want a truly free spirit, then give of yourself out of Love.

Another way we should celebrate Christian freedom is by seeking justice. "What does the Lord require of you. Do justice. Love kindness. And walk humbly with your God."(Micah 6:8) Doing justice is really achieved on two levels. The first is the personal level. It means acting justly and righteously. It means honoring God in our own hearts and minds. It means loving God and loving our neighbor and keeping the commandments.

But it is also is achieved on an interpersonal level. It means standing up against injustices in our society. It may even mean opposing, peacefully, policies and practices of our own government. I know it's Ironic that Christians should celebrate Independence Day by protesting our own government, but that is what we are set free for! We are set free to act on our conscience.

Again here the world sees seeking personal and corporate justice as a tyranny. But in truth it is true freedom. Set your conscience free to love others and honor God by seeking justice for all. Take a stand for what you in your love for your neighbor believe is right. You might find yourself opposed to other Christians but that too is an opportunity for us all to be set free to know God's will better.

Celebrate your freedom this Independence Day weekend! But realize that your understanding of what freedom is differs from the world's view. They believe they were set free for self indulgence. But the Bible tells us that self indulgence is really slavery. True liberty is found in loving service to God and our neighbor.

Celebrate your liberty. Worship God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Serve others out of the freedom and in love give of yourself. Seek justice in your own heart and in the world.

After all you were set free not for self indulgence. You were set free to know and serve God. You were set free to know and practice the fruits of the Holy Spirit: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Celebrate your liberty in Christ!

http://www.lectionarysermons.0catch.com/independ.htm#celebrate

The Curse Of Independence

by Ralph Bouma

MAN'S WILL DISSOLVED IN GOD'S WILL

"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
PHI 2:13.

1. our natural state, independence is our biggest curse. The Lord told Eve, "Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee," GEN 3:16. The curse for rebellion was confusion and contention. The /desire/ of the woman, means a desire to overrun and overrule, but since her husband will rule over her, there is a curse of contention placed upon the human race as the reward for rebellion. You will only see an end to contention and confusion when we return in the Spirit of Christ under the authority of God's Word.

The children of Israel were sent into Babylon for their rebellion. "Babel" means confusion. To be delivered from the King of Babylon is to be brought back into submission to the Spirit of Christ, "which worketh in you…to will," and to deliver us from the servitude of the world and that independent spirit. Independence is the curse placed upon the human race in Paradise, in that the woman wants to be independent, yet she is placed under authority. Contention and confusion are the rewards of rebellion.

Solomon spoke of the blessedness of Christ's bride when her independent spirit is broken and her will is dissolved in the will of Christ. SON 2:5 says, "Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love." He is saying: "Restrain me; prevent me from my independent spirit; cause me to surrender; arrest me." She was lovesick for her beloved. She had no desire to be free from him. She had no desire for independence. She appreciated her dependence upon him. She says in SON 2:6-7, "His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me. I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please." The spirit of Christ is in His bride. It is a spirit of dependence. The will of Christ's bride is broken and all of her independence dissolved in the will of God, which is true submission.

Isaiah wrote of the blessing the bride experiences in depending upon her beloved. ISA 41:13 says, "For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee." We no longer depend upon creature strength or wisdom, or upon our knowledge of right and wrong, but we become dependent upon the Lord, leaning upon our Beloved.

The Lord Jesus spoke of how Peter's independent attitude would be broken as God worked in him "to will...of his good pleasure." He said in JOH 21:18, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not."

The word 'gird' is taken from the Greek word 'zonnumi' (dzone'-noo-mi), which means "a yoke, a coupling, figuratively servitude (a law of obligation), also literally the balances of the scales." In its context, "thou girdest thyself" means you balance the scales, you decide what is right and wrong, and your strong will and independent character will dictate your life, but when you get old, another will place a yoke upon you. You will be handcuffed as you are taken captive by the Lord. As you are apprehended, as you are arrested, you will have your will dissolved in the will of God. You will be led, carried, and directed by the Lord. You will not serve your independent will any longer. Amen.

Christ is the eternal Rock,
On which His church is built;
The Shepherd of His little flock;
The Lamb that took our guilt;
Our Counsellor, our Guide,
Our Brother, and our Friend;
The Bridegroom of His chosen bride,
Who loves her to the end.

He is the Son to free;
The Bishop He to bless;
The full Propitiation He;
The Lord our Righteousness;
His body's glorious Head;
Our Advocate that pleads;
Our Priest that prayed, atoned, and bled,
And ever intercedes.

Let all obedient souls
Their grateful tribute bring,
Submit to Jesus' righteous rules,
And bow before the King.
Our Prophet, Christ, expounds
His and our Father's will;
This good Physician cures our wounds
With tenderness and skill.

Gadsby selection, 1838

The Great Cost of Freedom: Remembering Those Who Gave Their Lives

By Debbie McDaniel, Crosswalk.com Writer

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."
John 15:13

Freedom is never free. It's a precious gift. And often, it comes at a very great cost. Through the years of our nation's history, countless brave men and women have given their lives in order to protect our country and to allow us to live free today.

But often, we may forget. It's easy to take for granted what we've always had. And most of us alive today have always enjoyed wonderful freedom in our lives, and in our nation.

Yet somewhere along the way, many others have paid and sacrificed dearly for the liberties we enjoy so freely today.

Originally known as Decoration Day after the Civil War in 1868, Memorial Day was established as a national holiday in 1971, a time for pausing to remember all of those who have died while serving in the American armed forces.

This is a day to be thankful.

To remember.

For all those who have protected our nation, for the men and women in uniform, together, we say “Thank You.”

There's great power and strength in the loyalty of your service, because of these things:

  • - There's power in unity and standing strong together.
  • - There's power in fighting on behalf of our nation, and for those who cannot fight for themselves.
  • - There's power in rising up in courage, pursuing victory for what is right.
  • - There's power in knowing that God Himself fights on our behalf.
  • - There's power in prayer and in the One who sets us truly free.

May we never forget the cost of it all, the great price that was paid for our freedom, and the courage that our nation was founded on as "One Nation Under God." Thank you to those who paved the way for our liberty, to those who have fought hard, and were willing to pay such a great price.

May He help us to always stand strong for what we know is true. May He help us to walk in love. May He help us to live brave. For all those who wear the uniform today and for those who have gone before, we pause to pray...and give thanks...and to remember.

The Lord bless you greatly for your service and sacrifice.

And may God bless America!

Intersecting Faith & Life:

Dear God, thank you for brave souls who have given their lives, so that we can live free. Today, we remember, and are incredibly grateful for their courage and love. Please bless all those who serve today and their families, all those who have suffered great loss, or have made tremendous sacrifices on behalf of our nation. Cover them in your great care and protection. Thank you most of all for the gift of our Savior, who gave His life to offer ultimate freedom for all. Help us to live deeply changed and affected by the love and sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. Thank for setting us free! In Jesus' Name, Amen

Further Reading:

Psalm 23:1-6
Psalm 91:1-2
Romans 5:8

source: Crosswalk the Devotional

20 Verses and Quotes on Freedom

by Debbie McDaniel, Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer

This is a week to be grateful.

This is a week to say thank you. To those who have gone before us. To those who protect and serve our nation today. And most importantly, to our Savior, who paid the ultimate price, so that we can live free. Forever. Freedom is a precious gift. Thank God for it today...

Here are 20 Great Verses and Quotes on Freedom, to Remind Us, It Is Not Free:

1. John 8:32

"And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." -John 8:32

2. John 8:36

"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." -John 8:36

3. Galatians 5:1

"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm…" -Galatians 5:1

4. 1 Peter 2:16

"Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God." -1 Peter 2:16

5. 2 Corinthians 3:17

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." -2 Corinthians 3:17

6. Galatians 5:13

"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another."
-Galatians 5:13

7. Isaiah 61:1

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound."
-Isaiah 61:1

8. Romans 8:1

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
-Romans 8:1

9. John 10:10

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."
-John 10:10

10. Romans 6:22

"But now you are free from the power of sin. You have become a servant for God. Your life is set apart for God-like living. The end is life that lasts forever."
-Romans 6:22

11. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline."
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

12. Dwight D. Eisenhower

"Only our individual faith in freedom can keep us free."
-Dwight D. Eisenhower

13. Thomas Jefferson

"Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation and freedom in all just pursuits."
-Thomas Jefferson

14. Nelson Mandela

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."
-Nelson Mandela

15. Ronald Reagan

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same."
-Ronald Reagan

16. John Quincy Adams

"Posterity — you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it."
-John Quincy Adams

17. Thomas Jefferson

"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
-Thomas Jefferson

18. Abraham Lincoln

"Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves."
-Abraham Lincoln

19. Billy Graham

"The framers of our Constitution meant we were to have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion."
-Billy Graham

20. Corrie ten Boom

"Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness."
-Corrie ten Boom

A Prayer for Freedom

Dear God,

We thank you for the freedom you have given to us, and for the price that was paid by Jesus so that we could live free. We remember today. The cost of it all. Help us to walk in the ways that you lead. We desire to follow your voice, to press in close and hear your heart for our nation.

In Jesus' name,
Amen.

Source: 20 Verses & Quotes on Freedom (to Remind Us it Isn't Free) by Debbie McDaniel.
Copyright © 2018, Crosswalk.com. All rights reserved.

Malankara World Journals with the Theme: Independence Day (Freedom)

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