March 2017

Shackled by Our Own Free Will

“For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin” (Romans 7:14).

          “Sold” like a slave, shackled in chains, “under” the power of “sin.” In Exodus we learn about the Hebrews as slaves in Egypt. Their slavery and delivery is symbolic of mankind’s slavery to sin and Jesus Christ delivering us. In 1 Kings 21:20 the prophet Elijah answered the wicked Ahab, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord.” Daily mankind can and does by our own free will sell ourselves to do what is evil—other Gods, hate, slander, etc. O Lord, lead us not into the amplified evilness of Ahab and his wife, Jezebel (1Kings 18-21). O Lord, lead us not into any temptations of other Gods, hatred, slander, etc.

          When I find myself driving late at night I search the radio for programs that will keep me awake, engage my mind.  Talk shows and radio dramas seem to do the trick. I have often found the program “Unshackled—True life stories dramatized…” with the classic radio organ and sound effects. This program has engaging stories of people “shackled” with sin and then “unshackled” through Jesus Christ and His faithful people. Praise God for the program’s proclamation of Christ.

          These are engaging stories; nevertheless, it is sort of like Ahab and Jezebel in that my “shackles” were not as intense as those in the stories. To repeat my main thought is “Praise God for the program’s proclamation of Christ;” however, my side thoughts wavered from pride, I haven’t sinned like that,” to anguish “I do not have an exciting testimony, maybe I am not as emotionally engaged with my faith as those in the stories.” Brothers and sisters there is no place for pride “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). With this thought let us also consider “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails at one point has become accountable for all of it” (James 2:10). There is also no need for anguish.  God works uniquely in the lives of His people, and we are assured of His love through the Word and Sacraments.  We can hold up Saul, who became Paul, for a dramatic conversion. Or we hold up Samuel, a person always in surrounded by God’s people and His Word. Regardless where you and I are on this Paul-Samuel testimony scale we praise God that Jesus Christ was proclaimed to us and the Holy Spirit enlightened us so that we are unshackled.

          This Lenten Season, beginning Ash Wednesday (March 1st), the midweek sermon theme is “Shackled by Our Own Free Will.” As we live in the “flesh” we are “sold under sin.” Our free will cannot be trusted. We will consider mankinds fall into sin (Genesis 3) resulting in “the intention of man’s heart is evil” (Genesis 8). Humans are conceived and brought forth in the sin we are sold under (Psalm 51). This makes us “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2). Sin dwells with us (Romans 7) with the natural person not accepting God’s way (1 Corinthians 2). Finally on Maundy Thursday we receive Jesus Christ last will and testament as we approach His table with a “broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51). Christ provides His means of grace that unshackle us from our own free will.

The Lord be with you,

Pastor Sam Wiseman