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THE PROMISE OF TRUE LIBERATION.
John 8:31-47

4th August 2002

On my "Sunday Night Live With Gordon Moyes" radio program a friend from Brisbane regularly reviews new films. One recent release is called Hardball. It is about an ex-convict, a neighborhood filled with gangs and gunfire, and nine hundred fatherless kids interested in baseball. It is a true story of a Chicago insurance broker Bob Muzikowski. But Hollywood managed to ruin it.

In this true story of Muzikowski's life, Keanu Reeves, currently in Sydney for its release, plays Muzikowski as a foul-mouthed gambler who reluctantly agrees to coach an inner-city baseball team to pay off gambling debts. The film has a good, moral message. But ironically, Muzikowski's true-life story is far better. As a child, Muzikowski played city league baseball. At university, he began experimenting with drugs and abusing alcohol - habits that would worsen following graduation. In 1983, a Christian friend named B.J.Weber invited Muzikowski to attend the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. "Sure, why not?" he responded.

Driving to Washington, Muzikowski stopped at a bar for a few drinks. A fight erupted. Muzikowski jumped in and at one point attempted to swing from a chandelier. Police charged him with assault and destruction of property - for yanking down the chandelier. He never made it to the Prayer Breakfast. Muzikowski's friend B.J.Weber bailed him out of jail - and then led him to new life in Christ. He began attending AA meetings, got married, and moved to Chicago. He was a totally changed man. He had been changed, not because he gave himself to a bunch of kids, but because he was changed by Jesus Christ, he gave himself to a bunch of kids. Colson.

On his way to work one day Muzikowski saw a derelict baseball field, full of trash. "The kids in this neighborhood could use a real Little League to play in," he thought. Muzikowski teamed up with a friend to create the Near North Little League. Initial practice sessions "were pretty wild," as coaches dealt with 250 boys long on enthusiasm, short on fundamentals. Each game began with a prayer. Swearing was forbidden. "While I had no illusions that I would change the world, I had no doubt that God wanted me to play baseball with these kids. My faith had taught me that being a Christian means truly believing what Jesus said about loving my neighbour." The next year, four hundred kids joined the League. Everything was going well until the gang showed up. The Hollywood script completely omitted Muzikowski's Christian faith; the bar-brawling coach is saved, not through Jesus, but a handful of cute kids. 

Muzikowski is suing Paramount for defamation of character. Meanwhile, Hardball has brought reporters to the edge of the real-life ball field, wondering why a wealthy white businessman lives among the poor, coaching other people's kids. Muzikowski's answer: "Jesus didn't say, 'When you've paid someone to do it unto the least of these.' What He said was, 'When you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto Me.'" If you see the film Hardball, remember it is a story of how truth of Jesus Christ can change even a problem man and liberate him from alcoholism, drug abuse and purposelessness, and use him for good to help hundreds of underprivileged kids in the heart of a great city. That is the reason why we preach the Gospel was we minister in the heart of a great city.

One of the greatest things that anyone can find about Jesus Christ is that He is a liberator. He comes and frees us from those things that dominate life. There are two kinds of bondage. One is the restriction and confinement that is imposed from without. It may be imprisonment, or political bondage by a totalitarian regime where people are oppressed for their political or social attitudes. It may be economic bondage. Eleven hundred families are counselled each month through our Credit Line and our financial counsellors because they are caught in the grip of credit and debt. Their possessions, home, car, everything they have may be taken from them. They are in bondage to debt.

It may be bondage to compulsive habits. Each week we have groups of alcoholics and gamblers who say, "this is compulsive. I cannot help myself. I have lost my home, my family, my respect, my job, because of this compulsion. I am imprisoned by a glass, a bottle or a poker machine." Every single day a score of alcoholics and drug addicts meet over lunch in Wesley Restaurant and admit that without the power from God, they could not continue free from their external bondage. 

The other kind of bondage is imposed from within. Many are caught by fear. They cannot get into an elevator, or a small room, or ride an escalator or go among crowds of people. Fear dominates their lives. From within also comes the fear of death. Where is freedom from these inner fears? How can you be released from the inner bondage? John 8:31ff Jesus spoke to a group who thought they had no bondage at all. They claimed that they had been born free and stayed free. 

They were respectable, religious people of fine families. Yet, Jesus knew they were in bondage. There are also many in our community, in the middle of our cities, who have respectable homes, good jobs, high education and they are also caught in terrible bondage. They need the liberty only Jesus can offer. Jesus saw that the people of His day were bound. They were in the bondage of slavery to Roman terrorism. They were in bondage to an old legal system; they were under the bondage of the old Mosaic Law; they were under the bondage of sin; and under the bondage of the fear of death.

1. THE FREEDOM OF TRUTH
When we lived once on a highway it was convenient for derelict men to call on us, wanting money to buy drink. They would never say, "Excuse me, Reverend, would you give me a couple of dollars to buy a bottle of beer?" What they would say was, "Excuse me, Reverend, my poor old mother has died in Wollongong. Could you give me a couple of dollars for a train fare?" Sometimes I would reply, "Johnny, I remember you. You passed through here four months ago. Your mother died that same day up in Mildura. Wasn't she up in Brisbane when she died another time?" When a person lies, he is always caught out. 

But truth liberates. There are different kinds of freedom, but only one ultimately satisfies. That freedom is based upon truth. Truth sets you free. To know that truth you must believe in Jesus. Those who do not believe in Him do not have the ultimate freedom. It is for those who believe in Him and obey His teaching. There is only true freedom when you commit your life to Him as a disciple and grow in that commitment. 

Many times Jesus claimed to be the Truth. John wrote, "The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived amongst us." 1:14 Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." John 14:6 "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:31-32 That is the consequence. It starts conditionally. It has commitment, but also a consequence. This truth sets you free. 

2. THE SLAVERY OF SIN
The Pharisees to whom Jesus was speaking claimed that they were free, but they conveniently overlooked some dark passages of their history and their present political situation. "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?" The French philosopher Rousseau started his book, "The Social Contract" "Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains." Not just the chains of imprisonment and political bondage, but the inner bondage that binds people. The greatest form of bondage comes when all restraint is thrown away. 

Our express trains are only free to run at 120 kilometres an hour if they are restrained by the rails. If they leave the rails they come to a stand-still. That kind of freedom away from the tracks leads to destruction. People are like that. When they get off the rails, away from the straight and narrow, and kick over the restraints given to them by their parents, the State, or the church, and say, "I want to be free", that freedom leads to destruction. I saw that once in New Zealand when I went up the Wanganui River and visited a hippy community. A group of University students and a professor had taken over an old Maori pa (village) to live in freedom.

This student commune held that everything was free - free relationships, free love, free sexual intercourse - male with female, male with male, female with female, everything was without limits. There were no regulations, no rules, and no laws for anything. But the water was polluted and the people were sick; everyone had one form or other of venereal disease because all hygiene rules had been abandoned. The man leading the commune, Professor James K Baxter, announced some rules. "The only way we can live with freedom is to have some rules". The commune collapsed.

The greatest bondage of all is for those who try to throw off all restraints. There is an illusion about freedom. "We have never been slaves to anybody", said the Pharisees. But they had been slaves in Egypt and later in Babylon. They spent hundreds of years in slavery. At that very moment they were slaves of the Romans. There are those today who think they are free but are selling themselves to old forms of slavery of alcoholism, drugs, greed, and sexual permissiveness. They say: "We don't need restraints; we don't need laws; we don't need those old moral taboos; we are free, we are mature, we are nobody's slaves." But they find terrible bondage as the price of freedom to sin. Such freedom is a delusion. 

Every time you sin, there is delusion, which says, "You can get away with it. It doesn't matter. You are free." But that kind of freedom is bondage. "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." It is the truth about Jesus, who is the Truth, that alone can give freedom. All else is fool's gold: the delusion of no value. Yet sin deceives people into thinking they are totally free.

3. THE LIBERATION OF JESUS
Although there is freedom in truth and bondage in sin, note that complete liberation is only in Jesus Christ: "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." v34-36 Do you notice what Jesus gives? Freedom! A place within the family! A new home, a new society, a new honour, a place with Him - true liberation! That is the liberty that Jesus Christ offers.

Jesus offers freedom from sin, freedom from fear, freedom from death - but on condition: "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." v31-2 You must become a disciple who knows His word. By surrendering to Him you are liberated from the old bondage and released to a new freedom. You are liberated by submission, and freed through surrender. This is how a hymn-writer put it years ago:
"Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free;
Force me to render up my sword, 
And I shall conqueror be."

There is complete liberation through faith in Jesus Christ. Have you discovered that liberation through Jesus Christ? The world may not acknowledge the source of your liberation and may even be amazed at the change in your life, but you know. He is the source of your newfound freedom. All you must do is own Him as your Saviour from sin, and obey Him as Lord of your life, which is to find perfect freedom. That is His great promise of true liberation.

Wesley Mission, Sydney.