You’re Not a Dog, So Break the Chains Andy Clapp September 12 Have you ever watched a dog that is chained? Have you ever noticed how hard he tries to go a little farther, but the chain always stops him at the same place, never letting him go farther and experience more? I notice this when people take their dogs on a walk. They leash them and sometimes use chains to keep the dog from going anywhere other than where the owner wants the dog to go. The dog really has no freedom outside a 3-foot radius. Unfortunately, in the church of the 21st century, many people are chained and remain in the same place. Rather than moving forward into what God wants to do in their lives, they remain in the same place where things are familiar, even if it is uncomfortable. It is as if they are on leashes that prevent them from experiencing more than what the dictator of their lives want them to experience. Today, we will look at a few people whose chains were broken, and we hope chains will be broken in this place today. Let’s just say you had to go to prison for some time. Four years were spent behind bars for various crimes you committed. Now, imagine the day you were released. What would you do? Where would you go? What feeling do you think you would have once you walked outside the prison and into the world again? We need to understand that feeling because Christ has set us free from the bondage we have been in all of our lives. He broke every chain this world has used to bind us; and after we inspect His Word today, we pray we all will feel the amazing joy of having freedom again. So what are the chains people are struggling with today? There are so many; but as we see in the New Testament, those chains already have been broken. Today, we want you to find the freedom Christ is offering you, the very freedom He died to give to you. Now, we have to step out in faith and believe God has more for our lives than what we are experiencing. Before we look at the specific chains, let’s see what the Scripture says to us about being free. You Are Set Free (Galatians 4—Galatians 5:1)We are heirs and not slaves anymore. Rather than embracing the freedom we find in Christ Jesus, we often allow ourselves to remain chained to the past and the things of this world. As we see in Scripture, we do not need to do that! We do not have to live that way. Look at verse 5:1 again. Paul said we should not be subject to a yoke of slavery again! The chains are broken! We have been set free through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. We are now a part of His family and are now heirs rather than slaves. Reference Romans 6:1-18In Romans 6:18, Paul implored the Romans to be slaves to righteousness rather than sin. When we enslave ourselves to righteousness, we find sin no longer exists in our lives unnoticed. Rather, sin disgusts us because we are longing for righteousness. Paul again pointed out in this passage that we are set free from sin, that it does not have to hold us in bondage anymore. So, let’s now look at some of the sins we see people chained to in our world and in our churches today. Let’s see how Jesus opened the door to freedom. If Christ could set people free then, He can set us free today. However, we must realize some followed Christ and were set free while others remained chained to the sins and unrighteousness to which they had grown accustomed, not realizing how fulfilling a walk with Christ could be. Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10:17-27)This chain was one the young man chose, thereby remaining restricted for the rest of his life. Jesus told him how to break the chain, but he was too consumed with all the wrong things to walk away and experience a new life that would be worth more than any amount of money he could attain. Jesus told him to give up his possessions and follow Him, but the rich young ruler was too chained to his material possessions and the temporal to see the eternal value of what Jesus was offering him. His money had become his idol, so he could not recognize Jesus wanted to be his Savior. We all struggle with this at various points in our lives. Ask yourself this question, and be honest with yourself: Do you control your possessions, or do your possessions control you? Are you spending more time trying to acquire more, or do you spend your time looking to give to others? Jesus told us how to break that chain. All we have to do is give it up and follow Him. We can choose the eternal over the temporary. Woman at the Well (John 4:5-30)She was chained to sexual sin. She could not escape who she had been; and then one day, she had an encounter with a Man she had never met but who knew everything she had ever done. Christ exposed her sexual sin but allowed her to see that what she was looking for was true love that only could be found in Him. She knew who she had been, and the whole town knew who she had been. Christ wanted her to experience a true love that would change her life rather than remaining chained to sexual sin that would leave her empty. Sexual sin is rampant in our culture today. The entertainment industry thrives on sex and promotes sexual sin in nearly everything it produces. Advertising and marketing agencies have bought into the idea that “Sex sells,” so commercials and advertisements contain innuendos. As the culture becomes more sexually driven, we see a rise in sexual immorality, which destroys lives and homes. The idea that sexual immorality is love is from Satan. Sexual immorality never can equal love; because God, who is the very definition of love, stands against sexual immorality. That chain, the chain of sexual immorality, which is an epidemic in our culture, already has been broken, though; through Jesus, we, too, can be set free from sexual sin just as the woman at the well was set free. Peter (John 21:15-17)He had denied Christ and had failed on other occasions. Peter was chained to the past, to the mistakes he had made only days earlier. He could not see beyond that moment when the rooster crowed until Christ commissioned him to be more than a mistake. Christ would not allow Peter to remain chained to the past; Jesus broke the chain and set him free to be a leader of the church. Christ knew Peter had made a mistake, but would not allow Peter to remain in that mistake or be defined by that mistake. Have you remained chained to your past? All of us can look back and see how things that have happened previously have held us in place for far too long. Forgiveness from God frees us to be a new man or woman in Him rather than living under the mistakes we made long ago. Christ died to set us free from those sins as He took each one of those mistakes to the cross. The price already has been paid for those sins. The shame of each sin He bore on the cross. Woman with a Hemorrhage (Luke 8:43-48)Twelve years is a great deal of suffering for anyone. The doctors had given up hope and told her nothing could be done. Jesus came to town, and she found out the doctors did not know exactly what they were talking about. She experienced healing when Jesus broke the chains of sickness in her life. This had to be tough as she thought life never would be normal again. She thought all she had to live for was death, which could come at any time. That all changed when she heard about this Man named Jesus. In hearing of who He was and the things He had done, she began to hope He could do the same for her. Sickness is a part of life, one we would rather not experience. The beauty is that the day of miracles has not ended. The Lord continues to heal individuals each day, and He uses those stories of healing to bring hope to millions around the world. The sickness we have does not have to define who we are—rather, God can be glorified through it all as He works in our lives and helps us overcome our infirmities. One of the greatest sicknesses we all have is sin sickness; but through the blood of Jesus, we can be cleansed and healed of that sickness, as well. No one is immune to sickness, but we are all open to see the Great Physician at any time and let Him go to work in our lives. Nicodemus (John 3:1-20)Nicodemus best illustrates the church person today. We say we are Christians; we may even act religious daily; and we attend church as good Christians. The problem is that we are motivated and shackled by religion rather than being led by faith as God has called us to be. We have changed only what we are doing instead of opening ourselves up to allow God to change who we are. Nicodemus, a Pharisee, was among a crowd that never could get beyond religion to experience true faith that comes from a walk with Jesus. Though He was right there in front of them, the Pharisees stayed chained to the law and missed out on what could have taken them to new heights. They held to the law, but look at their motivation. They did it to be seen by others as being holy and to be revered as religious leaders. Nicodemus was not content with staying in the same place. He knew there had to be more, so he went to see if what Christ had would break the chains religion had placed on his heart. Jesus gave Nicodemus the way to change his life. Jesus called him to step out in faith and accept Him as the Christ. The chains of religion have been broken, and there is life in faith in Jesus Christ if only we look to Him rather than remaining bound to the traditions of religion. A walk with Christ, an enduring intimate relationship with the Lord, has been replaced in our time with simple religion. Religion never changed anyone; it only changes what they do. Faith in Christ always changes people as it changes everything about who they are. If religion were enough, Nicodemus would not have needed to go to Jesus. InvitationAs the Word has shown you today, God has more for you and more for His church. Why remain chained to the things from which Christ died to set us free? Today, you have the chance to see those chains broken in your life, and you can start a new life. If you haven’t accepted Jesus as your personal Savior, this morning He longs to start a relationship with you. He wants to break the chains of your life and give you a freedom you never before have experienced. If you have accepted Christ but remain chained to something that is not of God, allow Christ to set you free today through rededication to Him. Christ wants you to experience faith, not religion. Christ wants each of us to experience true life that only can be found in Him. Today, chains will be broken. The question is: Are you willing to let Christ break your chains?