October 9, 2016
Text: 2 Kings 5:1-3; 7-15
2 Timothy 2:8-15
The Word of God is not ChainedWhile sitting in chains in a Roman prison cell, the apostle Paul wrote a letter to his good friendTimothy. Despite his circumstances- Paul wrote words of encouragement- reminded him whatwas important: “remember Jesus Christ”- that though he was tortured, wrongly accused, shamed,crucified and died and was buried- Jesus Christ rose above everything people wrongly tried toput on him- rose from the dead- defeating sin, death and the power of the devil.It is that same Jesus that is living inside you Timothy. People can beat you, take away everythingyou have from you. They can throw you in jail and make you die a martyrs death for the gospel-but the word of God cannot be chained-it cannot be silenced or stopped. “It is the power of Godthat brings salvation to everyone who believes.”May I remind you also this morning- that when you are experiencing hardships anddiscouragement, remember Jesus and the power of the resurrection. The word of God is notchained- but is able to do more than we could ever hope or imagine. Pray.Janie and I were blessed to have Don Shunkwiler a good friend of ours and his wife Lisa staywith us over the weekend. They had been invited to Waldorf’s Homecoming to receive Waldorf’sDistinguished Alumni Service Award.Back up some 40 some years. Don and I became good friends while working together atRiverside Bible Camp. And after our time at Riverside, God called us in different directions. Donenlisted in the Navy and rose in rank to command three battleships in combat zones in thePersian Gulf and later worked at the Pentagon. He retired three years ago and is now the directorof Sugar Creek Bible Camp in Wisconsin.It was good to catch up and share the journeys God has taken us. Although God has called usdown different paths, it has been God’s word that has been a lamp unto our feet and a light untoour paths. No matter what we do in life, God’s word always leads us to the foot of the cross, tothe empty tomb, and the presence of our living God- and thankfully, even crossing the paths ofold friends once more.“The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing to thedivision of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of theheart.” To do that, it certainly is not chained- but sometimes we limit ourselves by dwelling oncircumstances instead of the promises of God’s word.
I have talked before how elephant trainers in India will chain a baby elephant to a stake. At firstit will fight the chains- but with no success and ultimately will resign to living the life of acaptive. Even when the elephant grows up and could easily pull the stake out- it doesn’t tryanymore.The same can hold true with our faith. Even we may know with our minds that Christ has set usfree from the power of our past sins, sometimes we live as if we haven’t been. We need tobelieve God’s word. We need to believe Him with a heart of faith. Ironically, it is often theeveryday trials that we let hold us more tightly in its grip than the major trials- because when weare up against the wall with no strength of our own-with nowhere to turn but to Jesus- that iswhen we surrender our control and are set free from all that would hold us captive.We have the freedom to gather in God’s name, to worship and hear God’s word and yet, in spiteof that, the established church here in the United States as a whole is becoming weaker and moretimid in it’s stand for the truth and is dwindling in numbers. But in countries where Christiansnot only are persecuted but willingly die for their faith- the church is growing stronger in it’switness and numbers. Spiritual freedom begins when we know and believe God’s word and obeythe promptings of the Holy Spirit.One day, God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land.But Moses tried to make excuses saying that he wasn’t good at speaking. How many times haveyou and I made excuses to God- tried to rationalize our way out of not doing what God is askingus to do- But if God has called you to do something- who are we to question him? It is not ourown strength that will do it after all- it is God’s. A hammer in it’s self is only capable of lying onthe table. But placed in the hands of a strong, skilled carpenter, it can be used to build manythings.In the Old Testament Lesson this morning, it talks of a young girl who had been carried far awayin a raid from her home in Israel to Syria where she was made a slave to the wife of Naaman, ahigh ranking general in the Syrian army. Think about it- a young girl taken from family andfriends to a foreign land and forced to be a slave. Most people would become depressed andwithout hope- but when the opportunity arose to tell her captives about God’s power to heal- shedid not hesitate. She may have been a slave physically, but she knew and understood and trustedGod’s word to be unchained.And another thing-why would they listen to a slave girl, let alone take her advice- and yet that iswhat they did. As a result, Naaman was healed of leprosy and professed the God of Israel to bethe only true God- all because a young slave girl was not afraid to speak up.Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor in Germany during WWII was imprisoned for his stand againstevil personified by Hitler and Nazism and was hanged mere hours before the end of the war. Butlike Paul, prison could not stop him from being a witness while in prison. To the frustration ofthe authorities,- guards who had contact with him became Christians because of his witness- andthe only way he could be stopped was to put him in isolation. People can put us in chains, evenkill us, but the word of God cannot be chained.
In the gospel this morning, ten lepers approached Jesus, crying out- “Jesus, master- have mercyon us.” They were outcasts- and isolated from family and friends. Everywhere they went, theyhad to warn people of their presence so that people could avoid contact with them. Even thoughthey were not in iron chains, their life as a leper kept them in bondage. Then one day, they metJesus- the very word of God made flesh. They no doubt had heard of Him and His ability to heal,and with nothing to lose but leprosy itself, they cried out to Jesus to have mercy.“Go show yourselves to the high priest” Jesus told them. Why would Jesus tell them to do that?Because even if they were healed, without the high priest giving them a clean bill of health,society would not recognize them as being healed. A clean bill of health would mean they couldhave their life back and live once more like everyone else. To their credit- they went- and ontheir way they realized they were healed. All ten were healed that day- but only one returned tothank Jesus- only one responded with praise and worship.Our greatest witness to the power of the gospel is when it is shared from a thankful heart- simplyshared in our own words in our own style.Charles Spurgeon, a nineteenth century preacher from England compared the power of thegospel to a lion and said we spend too much time defending the gospel when all we have to do islet the lion out and he will take care of himself.Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, God said: “For as the rain and the snow come down fromheaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed tothe sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall notreturn to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing forwhich I sent it.”So when the world turns a deaf ear to our arguments- simply proclaim the gospel unashamedlyand it will do it’s own work of convicting and healing and saving and transforming lives. Whenthe world tries to limit or stop us from speaking- when we are persecuted for our faith- rememberJesus Christ- raised from the dead- for the word of God is not chained.In the beginning, all creation came into being by the simple, yet all powerful word of God. Wehave been washed clean by the blood of the blood of Jesus, the incarnate word of God. Ourhearts and conscience have been washed clean by the word of God.Go show yourself to God our high priest. He will give you a clean bill of health- not becauseanything we have done, but by the grace and mercy of God. Believe Him- live in that freedom.And having been healed, may we return to Jesus and give him thanks and praise every day. Andin our thankfulness, may we let the lion loose that is the word of God to do it’s job. In Jesusname, Amen.