On Sunday 15 April 2018, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider conducted a divine service in Toronto, Canada.
With all church activities currently suspended until further notice, the broadcast was made available on 06 May 2020 at 7 pm for all members to share in the blessing.
Opening Hymn: Shine, Jesus, shine (EH 302)
Bible word: “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8: 36
My dear brothers and sisters, let’s come to the Bible word, Jesus told the believers, He said that many Jews believed in Him when they listened to Him and then He told them that He could free them. We have a modern understanding of freedom or liberty. Being free is a state of somebody who is not in prison. That is the first understanding, the first meaning, you are free, that means you are not in prison. Freedom is also the right you have that you can do and you can say whatever you want to do and you want to say without anyone stopping you. That’s our understanding of freedom, and that’s ok, but that is a modern understanding of freedom.
In the time of Jesus, it was a little bit different and Jesus explained what was His concept of freedom. He compares the state of a slave and the state of a free child. The slave is not free because he lives under the domination of his owner, he has to do the will of his owner, he has to work for his owner, and he gets no salary. That’s the condition of a slave. He has to obey his master, to work for him and he gets no salary. In comparison, the free child, he has also to do the will of his father. He has to obey his father but, in the end of the story, he gets the heritage. That’s the difference for Jesus, that’s the way He explains freedom. There is the slave, he is under the domination of the master, he has to work for him to do his will, but he gets nothing. On the other side, are the free children. They have to do the will of the father, but they are heirs and they will get the heritage.
Then Jesus said, “Ok, I can make you free”, and the Jews were upset. They said “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been in bondage to anyone. We are free!” They were upset, “how can you say you will free us, we are free men?” It sounds strange for us because we know that they were under the domination of the Romans. It was the Roman occupation and they were not that free, they had to suffer under the Roman domination but nevertheless, they pretended, “we are free” and they were right. Because, despite the fact that the country was occupied and under the domination of the Roman army, they remained Jews and the Romans never could force them to leave their faith. The Jews kept their faith, their own law, and their traditions. They didn’t become Romans and that was what they meant here. “We are free, despite the enemy is here, despite the Roman army. We remain free, we keep our faith, we keep our law, we keep our traditions.” We quite often have a negative opinion about the Jews, but I must say, one can admire them. There are not that many people on earth who are that successful, despite whatever they experienced, they were steadfast in their faith, in their law, in their traditions. They knew that’s our identity, that’s us, we have to stay with that, whatever happens, we are Jews and we remain Jews. I must say, I admire them for that.
We can learn something from that, as they are Jews, we are Christians. Are we as strong as they were, maybe as they are today, and that we can say whatever happens even if we are under the domination of other spirits we are Christians and we remain Christians? Even if this world is dominated by the power of money, even if there are so many opinions, we remain Christians. For us, it’s our identity to go to church and whatever you do we are Christians. On a Sunday, we go to church, we want to worship our God. We need to pray together, that’s our faith, we have our law. We cannot just do what you do, we have our own law. We are Christians and we gave our offering and nobody can force us to give it up, that is our identity. Let us be free as Christians. We are Christians and we remain Christians. Even if the world is dominated by other spirits and other influences, let us show and prove that we are and remain Christians. That’s the first aspect of the freedom. We are free, we want to do what we have decided to do and we have decided we are Christians and we remain Christians whatever happens.
For sure Jesus meant something else and He had to explain to them. “Ok, but you are still a prisoner of sin.” That was difficult to understand for the Jews but we know that Adam and Eve, they obeyed the serpent. The serpent promised many things and they obeyed him and they got nothing. They were deceived, they got nothing. As a result of the wrong decision, they became slaves of the evil one. Because of the fall into sin, all man now is prisoner of the evil one. There is a gap between man and God and man can no longer have fellowship with God, he is prisoner of the evil one. Jesus said (in the gospel according to Luke) I am sent to proclaim liberty to those who are dominated, to those who are in prison. Jesus said, “I can free you, I can deliver you so that you are no longer a prisoner of the evil one and those who believe in Me because of My sacrifice, you can have fellowship with God, you can again have the possibility to come to God. You are no longer a prisoner.” That is what He meant when He said, “if I make you free, you are really free. You are no longer a prisoner of the evil one, you can again come to God, you are no longer bound by sin. Those who believe in Me I can provide them the strength and the help they need to say no to the evil one. To renounce sin. You are not forced to do evil, you can do good, it’s your decision and if you decide to do good, I will help you to do it.” That’s another aspect of this freedom. So those who believe in Jesus, who are baptized in Jesus Christ, they are freed from the domination, they are no longer a prisoner of the evil one, they can go out of this domination and come to God. That is the freedom Jesus can provide mankind.
But this freedom is also an ongoing process, the baptism is just the beginning of this liberation. This freedom is an ongoing process. It says that where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. That means that the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, helps us to become free in Jesus Christ, totally free; and that’s the process we want to follow. We want to become free as Jesus was free. We want to be free in Jesus Christ. And for the activity of the Holy Spirit; for the preaching of the gospel, for the Holy Communion and with the gift of the Holy Spirit we have received, we can become free like Jesus. What is this freedom?
First, Paul said to the Romans, “for Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit you can be freed from the law.” Oh, that’s an interesting thought, “you can be freed from the law.” The law consists in that you have to do this, you have to do that, and if you don’t you will be punished. That was the Jewish law, you have to do this, respect the commandments, and if you don’t respect them, you will be punished. The law of Moses. Jesus said, “if you have the Spirit of God, if you have My Spirit, if you keep My words you can be freed from this law.” How does this work? It’s quite easy because for the Holy Sealing the love of God was poured out in our heart and now we are no longer forced to obey God. That’s absolutely different, we love God and we want to have fellowship with Him and we have understood that the way to have fellowship with God is the way of obedience. So we have decided we will obey the commandments, we will be obedient to God because that’s the way to have fellowship with Him. So we decide out of love for God we will follow the way of Jesus Christ because we want to be with Him, we want to have eternal fellowship with Him; and suddenly it’s our decision, we are freed from the law, there is no more obligation, we were not forced to do that, we decided to do that. We want to go to God and that is the way to follow it and we will follow this way. That’s our decision, we take it freely, we are absolutely free and we decided we do what we want to do, we want to go to God and we want to go this way. There is no obligation, we are freed from the law. We have experienced that when we act according to the commandments, when we keep the commandments God abides with us and that is such a nice feeling and so we have decided, oh!, let’s be nice. We act according to the will of God and then God abides with us and that’s such a nice experience, such a nice feeling, it’s our decision. Let us be free in Jesus Christ, we have decided that’s our way. That’s the way we want to go, we are not forced to do it, we want to do it. We are free to do that.
Another aspect of this freedom, Jesus gave freely. He was free and He gave His life for free. He provides man all they need for free. He gave His life for us, we did nothing for that; He expected us to do nothing. He gave His life for everybody for free, He offers salvation for free. He gave freely. To be free in Jesus Christ means we too, we give freely to God. We accept to serve Him for free, we accept to follow Him for free. We do not accept Him because, “I have done this and this and this, I am so faithful, so obedient and am waiting for salary.” No, Paul said, we become slaves of Jesus Christ. Remember, the slave is the one who does the will, who works, and he gets no salary. We want to become free like Jesus, He gives freely for free and we want to become like Jesus and being freed by Jesus, we become slaves of Jesus. We accept to serve Him for free; without expecting something. Knowing that if we do that we are no longer slaves but we are children of God and we will get the heritage. But for the moment we act as slaves of Jesus Christ, as Paul said we are working for free. That’s also part of the freedom in Jesus Christ. We are no longer a prisoner of this world “I do this and God will do that, I give this and God will give that”. No, we do it for free as Jesus gives freely. Jesus was free in His love, nobody could tell Him who He has to love. He didn’t consider the origin of people, even the sin of people couldn’t hinder Him to love somebody. He was absolutely free in His love. He was able to love everybody. He wasn’t interested in the sins they did, He wasn’t interested in their behaviour, He wasn’t interested in where they came from. He just loved them. That is a wonderful aspect of the freedom, of the liberty of Jesus Christ. He was able to love everybody. This Spirit of love has been poured out in our hearts. Let us allow the Spirit to form us to become free in Jesus Christ, to become free as Jesus was. We want, it’s not easy, but we want to love everybody. We do not consider where they come from, we do not consider who they are, we do not consider the number of sins they do, we just want to love them and even if the whole society tells us you cannot love this one! We say, “No!” we are free, you cannot tell us who we have to love and who we shouldn’t love, we want to love them all as Jesus does. It’s an achievement, it’s not that easy, but with the help of Jesus Christ and the more we allow the Holy Spirit to work and to influence us, the more we can become free in Jesus Christ and we can love without any limits. “If I make you free, you are free indeed.” Brothers and sisters, let us become free as Jesus is free.
Out of love, Jesus accepted to become the slave of the disciples. Remember, He washed their feet. He did the work normally a slave did, and He the Master did it. Out of love for the disciples, He accepted to become a slave and to serve them. Out of love towards men, He accepted to be treated as a slave of sin. He was condemned and He died carrying all sin of all mankind and so He died as a slave of sin because He carried our sins to save us. Jesus became a slave to save us, He became a slave to serve us because He loves us. Let us become free like Jesus. Paul said you have been called for liberty but out of love serve one another. The liberty of the children of God does not consist of, “I can do whatever I want, I do not need the others, I am on my own, I’m free.” No, the liberty of Christ consists in being part of the body of Christ where every member serves all the others. Out of love, we become slaves of our neighbour, out of love we become servants of our neighbour. We are not on our own, just we and God, and God and we. We are part of the body of Christ; that is part of our liberty and we want to serve each other. There is no idea of domination. We do not want to be more important, more loved than our neighbour. We do not think that our concerns are more important than the others. We do not think that our ideas are better than those of others. We want to serve each other. We want to be humble and to help each other to be saved. We want all men to be saved and we do not ask them to become as we are; they don’t need to become Canadians to be saved, they can remain what they are. They don’t even need to become French to be saved, thank God! See you didn’t laugh when I said Canadians but… You understand what I mean, sometimes in our mind, we would like them to become as we are to be saved. That is still the idea of domination, we are the model. Not at all, Jesus Christ is the model, we are just servants. We want to help them to be saved, we want to help them to enter the kingdom of God, but we do not ask them, we do not want them to become like we are. To have the same life and the lifestyle as we have, to have the same thoughts and ideas and whatever you want, taste, as we have. We are servants for each other, we want to help each other but respect the other that he is not like we are. That’s the freedom in Jesus Christ, we are called to liberty but out of love serve each other.
When we do that we can become heirs of Jesus Christ and we can get the heritage. Then Jesus can make us really free, He can free us from the gravity of the human being. He can free us from all the constraints of human life. We can get the body of the resurrection and then this body has no more limits, it’s not limited by time, it’s not limited by all the earthly constraints. It’s just free, it can go wherever it wants, it’s free. The freedom of the body of the resurrection. We are freed from our weaknesses, all our human weaknesses, all our imperfections will be freed of that. If we follow Christ and if we become more and more free in Jesus Christ, Jesus can free us from everything and we can receive the body of the resurrection and enter His kingdom where there is no more pain, no more suffering, no more tears. It’s eternal bliss. At the end of the time, Jesus will free the whole creation. That’s what Paul says, “at the end of the time God will deliver the whole creation from the domination of sin and He will create a new creation where there is no more place, no more room for sin.” That is the end of the story, the total, the absolute freedom of God and Jesus Christ.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us keep just these few thoughts, Jesus makes us free. Those who believe in Him, who are baptized, are delivered from the domination of sin. They have the possibility to come to God, they are no more prisoners. They also have the possibility to renounce sin, they are not forced to sin; whenever they decide, “I renounce sin, I do not want to commit this sin.” Jesus will provide them with the strength they need to say “No” to the evil one. They are no longer prisoner. We want to become fully free in Jesus Christ and become like Him. We are not forced to obey, we are free and we decided freely we want to go the way of obedience because that’s the way that leads us to God, that’s where we want to go, that’s our decision. We are free to do that. We are able to serve the Lord as slaves, we do not ask for a salary, we do it out of love because Jesus did so much for us because Jesus wants to give us so much His heritage - we serve Him for free out of love. We want to become able to love freely without limits and because we are called for liberty we want to serve as Jesus served and help each other. We do not want to dominate our neighbour, we want to help him and we accept him as he is and remain faithful until the end. We will be absolutely free receiving the body of the resurrection and waiting for the new creation where even the creation will be free of the domination of sin. That is our future, that’s our task, that’s our way. It’s a wonderful one. Amen.