Thursday, March 06, 2008
Simple Song of Freedom (Transcript)
In 1969 Bobby Darin wrote a song. The name of the song was “Simple Song of Freedom”, and the first line went like this, “Come and sing a simple song of freedom.”
The Simplicity That Is In Christ
Although this message has nothing to do with the subject of that song, I want to borrow the title, because of an important principle of Scripture, the simplicity that is in Christ.
We complicate things, sometimes. And we are confused by so much input, even about Jesus. Sometimes we even confuse ourselves, because we run to and fro looking for deep truth, when we haven't even latched on to the basic truths.
Let me ask you something before we get rolling on this Simple Song of Freedom. Do you ever criticize what we call “The Church Today”. You know, like, “Man the Church Today is sure messed up.” Or, “The Church Today is sure carnal. They've sure gone crazy with false doctrines, backsliding, worldliness, or whatever.”
Now I'm not saying there's not some truth to that, but I like to remind myself of two things, from time to time.
First I like to remind myself of the promise of Jesus, when He said, “...I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”
Or “will not prevail against it.” He's going to build the true church of the born-again ones, and nothing will stop that from happening. No child of God, chosen before the foundation of the world, will fail to come into the kingdom, and live forever with the King.
The second thing I like to remind myself, when I feel like complaining about the church, is how the the early churches were.
You know the problems the churches had in the second and third chapters of Revelation. Jesus spoke to those churches in Ephesus, and Smyrna, and Pergamum, and Thyatira, and Sardis, and Laodicea. And how about the Galatians, whom Paul called foolish, because even he was shocked how quickly they got off track on legalism.
And then there were the Corinthians. They were some church!
Paul spent more time straightening them out than any other church in the New Testament. They had problems, and when we say problems, we mean “sin”, but I'll just use “proglems” in this context.
They had problems with unity, lack of wisdom, not relying on the Spirit of God, carnality, not being servant-minded, flat out immorality, or at least allowing it openly in the church family, suing one another in court, idolatry, disrespecting Paul's authority as an apostle, order in the church, making a mockery of the Lord's Supper, misusing spiritual gifts, lacking in love, immaturity, and bad doctrine on the resurrection. And that's just in 1 Corinthians!
And even after all the correction Paul had done for the Corinthians, in Chapter 11 of 2 Corinthians, verse 3 and following, Paul writes,
“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.”
See, even after all that Paul had done for the Corinthians, and taught the Corinthians, and corrected in the Corinthians, he still considered them shaky.
And so I'm not giving this message to put down the church of today. Jesus is building His church. And I love the church, the Body of Christ. He is working in all of us to bring about His purposes. And I want to be an encourager, not a complainer.
I want to be Barnabas, son of encouragement today. I want to be the one who, when Paul got frustrated at John Mark, and kicked him off the ministry team, I want to be the one like Barnabas who took John Mark under his wing, and encouraged him, and was patient with him, and saw God's potential in him. And by the time the story was over, John Mark ended up a valuable assistant to Paul, who had rejected him, and John Mark wrote the gospel that we call the Gospel of Mark.
I want to encourage you today. And one of the best ways I can do that is to go back to that passage in 2 Corinthians, verse 3, “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”
Or as the King James puts it, “the simplicity which is in Christ.”
You see, the Christian life, with all its complications, is really simple in some ways. We organize, and specialize, and generalize, and complicate things in a hundred different ways, but there is a simplicity in Christ that we need to discipline ourselves to get back to.
The Discipline of Simplicity
We need to discipline ourselves to get back to the simplicity that is in Christ. This is a simple song of freedom. We're free from a complicated religious system like Israel was put under in the Old Covenant.
We have a simple relationship to God, through a simple covenant He has made with us, called the New Covenant.
Now, I'm not saying God is simple. We can exhaust a lifetime and just scratch the surface of the beautiful intricacies of our Lord. But our relationship to Him is meant to be a simple one.
And notice that Paul's concern for the Corinthians was that this simplicity would be complicated by false teaching, false gospels, and other complications of the world, the flesh and the devil.
And so I want to briefly mention three simplicities that are important to us, as believers, and as those who seek to share the simple gospel of Jesus Christ with others.
1. The Simplicity of The New Birth - Regeneration
This is perhaps the simplest of all, because when Jesus said, “You must be born again”, He referred to that work of the Holy Spirit with which we have nothing to do. The “wind blows wherever it wants”, and such is the Wind of the Holy Spirit, Who gives new life, the new birth, regenerates those Whom He will.
And until one is born again, he can't even SEE the Kingdom of God, let alone believe in its King.
Profound in its implications, and worthy of a lifetime of study, yet extremely simple at its core. And it elevates the Sovereign God as it declares, sola gratia, by grace alone, since no baby can “born” itself, and no person can “born again” themselves. It must be only by the grace of God.
2. The Simplicity of God's Righteousness – Justification
Scripture makes it clear that even our righteousnesses are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). In other words, before we are born again, even what we do that seems “good” is not good. It is tainted by the fallen nature of one born in sin. One who inherited a sin nature from Adam.
An Alien Righteousness
And since there is “none who does good” and none who “seeks after God” (Rom. 3), there is nothing we can do to for our own righteousness. We need a new righteousness. We need what is sometimes in Theology called an “alien righteousness”, one from outside ourselves.
But lo and behold, that is exactly what Jesus has provided for all those who believe in Him.
Remember Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes...”?
Well, the next verse, verse 17 tells why the gospel is the power of God for salvation:
“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'But the righteous man shall live by faith'.”
See, that's the “alien righteousness” we needed, the righteousness of God. If we could get rid of our so-called righteousness, which is really unrighteousness, and if we could somehow have God's righteousness as our own, as a gift, let's say, we would then be in pretty good shape. But how could we get it? How could we exchange our unrighteousness for God's righteousness?
The simple answer is the Cross of Christ.
Let's read it in two passages, one from Romans, and one from 2 Corinthians.
Romans 5:17,18, “For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.
See, just as we inherited the sin nature from Adam, through the death of Jesus on the Cross, we were justified, which means “declared righteous”.
Now before I read the passage from 2 Corinthians, we need a couple of definitions here. Not complicated ones, remember we're seeking the simplicity which is in Christ. So here are two simple definintions.
1 - "Justified" in this context means “declared righteous” by God.
2 - "Righteous", in this context, means “in right standing with God as though we had never had a sin nature and had never sinned.”
So by Jesus' death on the cross, and His shed blood, we are declared by God to be in right standing with Him, as though we had never had a sin nature, and had never sinned.
Now let's read 2 Corinthians, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
That explains the actual method of Christ on the Cross. He took our sins on Himself, even though He was sinless, and in paying the price for our sins, He opened the door for God to declare us righteous.
How do receive what He has accomplished? By faith alone, or as the Reformers put it, sola fide. By our simply believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, and what He did on that Cross, we are justified, declared righteous by God.
And so there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ (Rom. 8:1). We can come before the Awesome Creator as our Abba, Father, just as Jesus Himself can. We are now a friend to Jesus.
We are His beloved and He is our Beloved.
All because He has declared us righteous.
Now you may be tempted, as some have said, “Yes, but I'm not really righteous, that's just in God's eyes.” Please avoid that temptation. Don't dishonor the Lord by saying it's only in His eyes, as if His eyes didn't matter. "His eyes" is what matters most of all. Take God at His word. Don't water down the righteousness that God has given to you. If He's given you the gift of His righteousness, whose is it now? It's your's friend. Accept it. Don't brag on it like you earned it. But humbly accept it.
Which brings me then to...
3. The Simplicity of Walking By The Spirit
I've written and spoken much on this point, so I won't belabor it here. But if you are born again, you have the Spirit of God in you, and you have become one spirit with Him. (1 Cor 6:17, "But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him."
He has made you a new creation, and given you a new nature, which has become one spirit with the Lord Himself. When you sin now, you are going against your new nature. It's not natural for you to sin anymore. Romans 6:11 says that you are dead to sin but alive to God through Jesus Christ.
Now the simple thing for you to do is to commune with Jesus. He is in you now. Christ in you, the hope of glory. Draw near to Him, fellowship with Him, read his Word, talk to Him.
Throughout your day, be aware of His presence, talk to Him continually. As you learn His Word, take every thought captive to Him. As you think a thought, ask, “Is that what the Bible says? Is that what my Lord whom I love thinks?” And bring your thoughts into line with His.
Think on those things that are true and good. And talk to Him some more. I could say “pray without ceasing”, that's Scripture. But talk to Him, read and study His word.
And don't reduce your Christian life to laws and rules.
Make it a simple relationship to the one you love. We love Him because He first loved us. As you live that way, you will learn to more and more walk by His Spirit. And where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. And you will learn truth, and truth will set you free, and you can join in the choir of those who sing a simple song of freedom.
The simplicity which is in Christ.