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Description: Is it possible to be as free of worries, as free of what others think, as free of what I have to do next week as someone who died, yet still be alive?
The Freedom of Calvary
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
This day we’ve been asked by President Reagan to remember the men that died in the incident in the
Middle East. This being Memorial Day weekend we normally also think of them in connection with a
verse that we often quote. In a way we are satisfied to quote it and in some ways we’re
uncomfortable quoting it. It’s for that reason that I think it’s good to look at it in connection
with the men who died during the past week or so.
It’s John 15:13: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. ”
In one sense it’s right to quote it in regard to the men that died but really it’s taken out of
context. It’s just a statement to the effect that you can’t show greater love for anybody than
laying your life down for them. In fairness to those men, they certainly laid down their life.
Now it is a little difficult in that one of the chaplains had said, “they had their lives stolen
from them.” And so, in many ways they did not choose to lay down their life the way Jesus said, “I
lay down my life of my own accord. No one takes it from me”. In a sense, their life was taken from
them and perhaps if they had had their choice, they would have preferred not to give it.
So, there is a sense in which it differs there. Nevertheless loved ones, they have given their lives
and they are now dead. They did die in service of their country. Undoubtedly all of us here realize
that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. All that is required for the progress of evil is
that good men do nothing. If we did not have our ships there and our men there, undoubtedly it would
be a tinderbox that would blow us all sky high.
So there is a real sense in which those men died for us and have given their lives so that we could
do what we want these days. Many of us who are from Europe realize in America, we have great luxury.
We are separated from everybody by two oceans. It is hard for them to get at us. It’s a little
easier now with the large missiles, but it’s still difficult for them to get at us. Often we owe our
safety, our protection and the relative paradise in which we live here in this country, to men like
those who are guarding us at the very edges and fringes of our borders.
So it is important to think of those men and to thank God for them and to respect them for what they
did. In some real sense, they have shown love to us even though they don’t know us. It’s interesting
too to think of how things are with them now. None of us know exactly where they all are because we
don’t know where they are spiritually in their own lives. But you can certainly see that their lives
are just cut — like that. And suddenly you go from being in the position where you’re writing to
your wife about the house and about painting it this spring or about putting in a new furnace in the
winter — suddenly that doesn’t exist for you anymore. There’s no more house, there’s no more
furnace, there’s no more need to paint the siding this spring.
Of course, all the thoughts that they had the week before about sending money home to make sure it
goes into this insurance program and that insurance program, suddenly you’re gone. Your life is
gone. There’s no point in putting more money in the insurance program. Or if you were going to send
something home to put in the mutual fund – the mutual fund doesn’t exist for you anymore; you’re not
concerned about it. Two weeks ago you can imagine them thinking about the car and writing home to
tell the wife or the son what they should do about the automobile — whether they should trade it in
or whether they should repair and paint it. Suddenly, all that is gone.
If they were thinking two weeks ago about what they were going to do when they got out of the Navy
and what they were going to do after they’re retired – suddenly it’s all blown away. All the things
that concerned them about the stuff they owned or the stuff they were going to try to own, all the
plans for whether they were going to sell real estate after they retired from the Navy or what they
were going to do in order to make a little more money, suddenly it’s just all cut off.
Wherever they are, their mind is certainly freed from all of that. It’s as if the world of things
just doesn’t exist. No worries about the house, no concern about getting another car, no concern
about what they’re going to do after they retire. If they were young men, they were probably like
the rest of us men and women.
Two weeks ago, they were all concerned about things like promotion and where they were on the
ladder. Or they were concerned about what the other guys in the bunk opposite thought of them. They
were concerned about how they appeared to the others and what kind of reputation they had and
whether they were friends or whether they were popular or whether they were unpopular. You can
imagine some of them even before the missile actually hit the ship having some thoughts of, “What
does so and so think of me? Oh I wish I were like them”. And suddenly it’s all gone — like that.
No relationships to bother about, no concern about whether this person thinks well of you or doesn’t
think well of you, no concern about where you stand on the little ladder. There’s no concern about
whether somebody is better thought of than you. There’s no trouble about what somebody is saying
about you behind your back. Suddenly it’s all gone. It’s strange. Whatever they were hoping to do
that weekend; whether to get drunk and blot it all out or to play tennis or whether they were hoping
to go swimming or do something for a little bit of a lift and happiness — all that’s gone too.
Whatever things they were hoping to experience the next week to make a little happiness for
themselves, that’s all gone. In a strange way, they’re free, aren’t they? I know you’re thinking,
“Yes, but where are they?” If they didn’t know God then I agree with you that’s not a happy thought.
But in some ways, they’re strangely free, aren’t they? They are free from a lot of the things that
bother a lot of us because those are the things that we so often fill our lives with. Think of what
you’re thinking of today. So often it is, “Well, what am I going to do about the house?” or “What am
I going to do about the money I need next week?” or “What am I going to do about the car?”
So often it is “What does so and so think of me?” Or “Where do I fit in the scale of important
people?” So often it is, whatever we think we can do tomorrow to make a little happiness for
ourselves. Suddenly, death just takes care of all that. If you can put yourself in their shoes and
imagine what it’s like, it’s an interesting kind of vacuum they must be in, isn’t it?
In some ways, it’s free. In some ways, it’s freer. You can step back and start taking initiatives
that you want to take. Suddenly you are not reacting to this and reacting to that. You are not
responding to this need and responding to that need. You are not squeezed by this necessity and by
that necessity. Suddenly you’re free. You can step back from life. You can look at it and you can
start doing FREE — in a vacuum — what you really think you ought to do.
I don’t know how many of you are in a situation that many of us are in. After you pass through a few
years in life, it seems that you get so many entanglements so that in a strange way, you’re not
free. Some of us have said, “Everything you own, owns you.” Everything you own seems to occupy more
of your time to look after. It’s interesting isn’t it that life seems to go like that.
You brought nothing into the world and as a little child you were strangely free. You didn’t have an
insurance policy to bother you. You didn’t have a car to look after. Then you get up to that point
when you have cars and yards and lawn mowers and plumbing to go wrong and all the other things. Then
as you get old you have to sell the big house. You get back down and gradually you take nothing out
of this world.
It’s interesting that at those two extremes you are in a sense freer. In this little bit, we’re like
so many caretakers. I used to joke with my wife when we lived in a certain house. I would drive out
in the morning and see the happy old dogs all sitting at their doors. I would say to her, “You know
the dogs are the only ones that enjoy this real estate. All the rest of us just pay for it. But they
seem to sit there and enjoy it.” For so many of us, we’re driven and pressed by the things that
surround us and by their attachments.
You may smile and say, “Well, I’d rather have those attachments and be breathing than none of the
attachments and not be breathing.” It would be great to be free of the attachments and be breathing,
wouldn’t it? That would be great. If you could be free of the attachments and still be breathing.
That’s why that verse has so much meaning.
“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” That’s what Jesus
achieved for you. It may be unbelievable to you but He separated the strong possessive tendencies of
your personality that attach you to your possessions. He separated that from the possessions. He
separated those strong urges that at times tie knots in your stomach and make you concerned with
what people are thinking of you and with your reputation — whether they approve of you or criticize
you. He took those tendencies inside you — those strong urges to want people to think well of you
and He separated them from the people that you know.
Then He took from you that entire attitude inside you that tries to make itself happy by having
things turn out right. He took all those things and those attitudes into Himself and He destroyed
them in Himself for you. So that He actually died for you. He actually did for you what the Navy men
had to do themselves last week. He actually died for you. He did that dying for you so that you are
miraculously free from all the things that normally concern you in this life. He died so that
actually you could live free from worrying about your possessions.
You could, if you wanted to — you could. He has died for you to them (your possessions). He has
taken all those urgings and possessiveness that you have and destroyed them in Himself. You could
actually live free from those if you decided today to do it. There’s something inside you that says,
“No, no. If I don’t look after that house, if I don’t look after those mutual funds (multiply them,
take care of them, look after them and think about them all day and everyday), I’ll be lost when it
comes to retirement.” He took all that. He destroyed it in Himself and if you chose not to do that,
He would provide for you.
In other words, Jesus died for you. He took you into Himself and He destroyed all those things in
you that you’re normally preoccupied with. It’s possible for you to live free as those Navy men now
live. It’s possible for you to live free, by faith from this day forward. Jesus has died for you in
regard to those things. He has taken all the things inside you that make your life slavery and He
has destroyed them in Himself. You are able to live free from them now.
So in an amazing way, each one of us is able to live as free from our possessions, from our
reputations, from even the circumstances that we depend on for our happiness. Each one of us is able
to live as free from those things as those dear guys are now and you can do it today. Normally most
of us respond, “Yes, they’re free but I wouldn’t like that kind of freedom. Yet I would like to be
free from all the preoccupation I have with these things.”
“I recognize what you say — probably 85 percent of my time is taken up in looking after my
possessions and getting more possessions. Then 10 percent of it is taken up with what everybody
thinks of me and how I can get them to think better of me. Another 5 percent is taken up with how I
arrange my life this next week so that I’ll be happy. I must admit it would be nice to be free. I
am almost so enslaved that I don’t know what I’d do with my time if I hadn’t all those things to
look after. But I think it would be nice to be as free as those men are now.” Loved ones, that’s the
meaning of Calvary.
Jesus has taken you with all your attitudes that are dependent on this world into Himself and has
crucified them in Himself on Calvary. It’s possible for you to live as if you’re dead. If you say,
“Yes, but looking after those things, that’s the only way I am able to stay alive.” N0 — God will
take care of those things. God will provide for you. Your security does not depend on the things
that you have, on the money and the job and the house and the stocks and shares.
Your security depends on your dear Father who is now looking after those Navy men. Who do you think
is watching over them now? Wherever they are, who do you think is watching over them without the aid
of yards and lawn mowers and houses? There’s a conscious life beyond houses, beyond stocks and
shares, beyond money and bank accounts. It’s a life that is governed by a Father that loves His
There is a security in your reputation and in your sense of worth and value that is beyond what the
rest of us think of you. Those dear men still have value. Even though their friends, and wives and
children are nowhere near them to make them think they’re great fathers, they still have value.
That’s because there’s a Creator in this universe who is the one that finally settles the value of
each man and woman. That dear Creator has set your value. Your sense of worth and value comes from
His opinion of you.
So it’s possible to live in the strange world of freedom that comes from death. It’s possible to
live in it in this present life. Because Jesus has died for you — He has died the death for you. If
you believe that you have died with Him then you begin to enter into a life that is free from those
concerns. So as we remember the men that died, would you remember that this dear book says, “You
have died and your life is hid with Christ in God.” You enter into real life when you live like
that. Let us pray.
Dear Father, we thank You for the dear men that died and Lord we thank You solemnly for all men and
women that have died so that our liberty would be preserved and so that we’re able to be here today.
Then Lord God we thank you that death is not the end. There is a life beyond death. We thank You
that that is a life that is free from all the burdensome preoccupations that we have with our
possessions, with our reputations and even with our own happiness.
We thank You Lord that there is a life there that is freed from those things and that lives above
them. Father we bow before you and thank You that the only way into that liberty is death. In Jesus
we experienced that death. We thank You Father that in Jesus, You have separated us from these
things. You, our dear Father, are able to sustain our lives independent of our possessions,
independent of our circumstances and independent of our reputations.
Father, we would step into death this day. We thank you that Jesus has died to this world on our
behalf and that we have died with Him to this world. Father, we now affirm what you did for us and
to us in Jesus. We step into death today into the same freedom that our dear friends have entered
except that we have this tremendous privilege of continuing alive here on this earth to live in
liberty and in freedom from it. We will live in trust and dependence on you only.
We commit ourselves Father to living in the full liberty that Your Son Jesus has died to make
available to us. We do this in His name and for His glory. Amen.
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