Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. - 2Corinthians 3: 17-18 (NIV) To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “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 (NIV) Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. - Philippians 1: 27 (NLT) Tomorrow is the Fourth of July. A day that America sets aside to celebrate our independence from England, some 237 years ago. We hear politicians and pundits every day wax philosophically about our founding fathers and their grand design of this experiment known as America. One of the buzz words we always hear bandied about is freedom. Supposedly our enemies hate us because of our freedom. Wars have been fought over the concepts of freedom. It is a word that conjures up many different emotions from people. Battles won and lost. Soldiers who never came home. Baseball and apple pie. But what is real freedom beloved? What is it that we seek to be free from today? For the founding fathers they sought freedom from oppression, over-taxation, and religious persecution. With God however, the bar is always raised higher than we imagined. Today let us walk through three sets of Scriptures to find the only real freedom. The first set of Scriptures in the key verses is found in Paul's second letter to the Church at Corinth. It reveals that true freedom is found where the Spirit of the Lord is. Most people in the country today would say that they were free. Sure they might complain about this political party or that law and regulation but overall they would say that they were free. In fact, most would probably boast about their freedom. Yet statistics reveal that 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders. Another 20 million Americans have used illicit drugs on the past 30 days. Another 40,000 people per year commit suicide. When it comes to marriage, 45% end in divorce now. Those numbers don't sound very free to me. Some may say, "well that's other people" but the truth is that these things as well as other societal factors affect all of us. The truth is that while the world does a good job of talking about freedom it does a very poor job of providing it. We are not free from dangers, fears, and strongholds. Take a good look at the faces you even commute with to and from work and see the sheer burden they are carrying. No beloved, the freedom the world promises is fleeting at best and usually fits like iron shackles around our ankles. But God promises us here that where His spirit is - there is freedom. And where is His Spirit found? Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? - 1Corinthians 3: 16 (NLT) There is supposed to be freedom living directly inside every believer! The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells inside every Christian. How do we tap into this freedom? How come so many Christians walk in bondage instead of this freedom? As the Corinthians verses state, we are supposed to be transformed into the image of God - with ever increasing glory! With each passing day we are supposed to look more and more like Jesus! We are supposed to be going through a transformation and it is that transformation that leads us into the freedom we truly desire. Freedom from the worries of this world. Freedom from the sin that so easily traps us. Freedom from the enemy to our souls. Sounds easy enough! Sign me up! Well, there are responsibilities on our end too. That brings us to the second set of key verses today from the Gospel of John. Everyone knows the portion of these verses that says you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free but not often do we stop to consider the qualifier. How do we get there and what other truths are related to this promise we need to hold onto so desperately. First of all we need to understand context. Jesus has just finished preaching and now He is talking to those who claimed to have believed Him. I say claim because the first thing He says is if you hold to my teaching - then you really are my disciples. I saw a sermon recently from John Piper who correctly points out that the inference cannot be clearer. If there are some who really are His disciples then there are others who are not. What we need to grasp here is that He is again, speaking to those who claimed to have believed Him yet some are not really His disciples. Words are not enough beloved. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. - Matthew 7: 21 (NIV) Saying Lord Lord is not enough. Christianity is not a passive verb. There is no freedom in pretending to be a disciple of Jesus. What is the great secret Jesus reveals here? We must hold to His teachings. The freedom is found in His Word. If you find yourself in church but not in His Word, you need to check your freedom. True disciples means true Christians according to the word Pastor Piper brought and true Christians are not found in words but rather in the Word. Too many Christians walk around in bondage because they do not read His Word where freedom is found. Sometimes we confuse our citizenship. That brings us to the last key verse for today from Paul's letter to the Church at Philippi. Above all beloved - we are to live as citizens of heaven. The Bible describes us sojourners and pilgrims in this world. Another translation says we are temporary residents! The problem with our freedom in Christ is that we are not found in His Word and the reason why is because we forget to whom we belong! Too many Christians live as permanent residents in a world we are only supposed to be walking through. Like Lot, we pitched our tent toward Sodom and the next thing we knew we were living in it. Sure we go to church on Sunday and play the game but the reality is that we need to pack up our tent, move out of the world, and pick up our Bible and get back to the freedom Christ died to appropriate for us. We cannot straddle fence beloved between the world and the Kingdom. Only one will win. The devil doesn't mind dancing because he always leads. The good news for us this Fourth of July is we do live in the freest country in the world. The bad news however is that freedom is still bondage. It is an illusion we fall for way too often. Jesus Christ died for our sins to reconcile us with the Father. With that inheritance comes many blessings. Not the cars and houses hucksters try to peddle to you on Sunday morning religious shows but real blessings. God provides us with transcendent peace that will blow our mortal minds away. He provides us with a promise of healing and victory. He provides us with comfort when we are hurting, rest when we are weary and freedom from everything this world tries to bind us with. That freedom is available for all who truly believe. It is found in His Word only, which will continue to grow the Spirit of the Lord inside of us, transforming us daily into His image. Where the Spirit of the Lord is - there is always freedom. Real freedom. The only real freedom. Rev. Anthony.