The Box

Posted on 06/18/2006 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

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TRANSCRIPT:

Lord God, thank you for being here with us today. Thank you for giving each one of us life and breath, and the opportunity to have that deep, intimate fellowship with you that will fill the emptiness inside us.

Accept our praise today, heal broken hearts, make broken vessels into something brand new.

And it's in Jesus' name we pray.

Amen.


Please stand to your feet and click-touch the pulpit for a notecard, as we seek to bless God's heart with songs from our hearts.



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WHEN THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD

When the Spirit of the Lord moves in my heart
I will sing as David sang
When the Spirit of the Lord moves in my heart
I will sing as David sang

I will sing, I will sing, I will sing as David sang.
I will sing, I will sing, I will sing as David sang.

Clap...
Dance...
Pray...
Praise...



COME LET US WORSHIP AND BOW DOWN

Come let us worship and bow down
Let us kneel before the Lord our God, our maker
Come let us worship and bow down
Let us kneel before the Lord our God, our maker

For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture
And the sheep of his hand
And the sheep of his hand



JOYFUL JOYFUL WE ADORE THEE

Joyful, joyful, we adore thee
God of glory, Lord of love
Hearts unfold like flowers before thee
opening to the sun above
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness
drive the dark of doubt away
Giver of immortal gladness
fill us with the light of day

All thy works with joy surround thee
earth and heaven reflect thy rays
Stars and angels sing around thee
center of unbroken praise
Field and forest, vale and mountain
flowery meadow, flashing sea
Chanting bird and flowing fountain
call us to rejoice in thee

Thou art giving and forgiving
ever blessing, ever blest
Well-spring of the joy of living
ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our brother
all who live in love are thine
Teach us how to love each other
lift us to the joy divine

Mortals, join the mighty chorus
which the morning stars began
Love divine is reigning o'er us
binding all within its span
Ever singing, march we onward
victors in the midst of strife
Joyful music leads us sunward
in the triumph song of life!




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Amen and amen!

You may be seated.

The title of my message today is "The Box," and today's Scripture is found in John chapter 8, verse 36 which says, "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."

The Amplified version says, "If Son liberates you, you are really and unquestionably free."

So each time we read this passage, remember the word "indeed" means really, truly, unquestionably, and undeniably. "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!"


Amy was a young girl who faced the same things we all face as kids. Some have it worse, some have it much better, but deep down we can all identify with Amy.

Sometimes kids teased her and laughed at her, and called her names. She would try to look tough and act like it didn't bother her, but it did.

When she went home, the house was usually empty. Her mother had died when she was very young, and her father came home late in the evenings. As far as Amy was concerned, the later he came home, the better.

Amy's father yelled at her, and would sometimes hit her for no reason. But he was her father. Where else could she go?

One particular night, Amy's father came home drunk. For no reason at all, Amy's father started yelling and cursing at her.

After receiving a blow from the back of her father's hand that sent her sprawling on the floor, Amy ran to her room and slammed the door, locking it behind her.

Throwing herself accross her bed, Amy cried herself to sleep.

As she drifted fitfully from one dreamless state to another, she found herself in a large field with people all around.

She saw the kids who made fun of her, the teacher who didn't understand her, and her father, still yelling curses at her.

Led by her father, the angry mob began to move toward her. Turning around, she saw a fence, and the gate was open. She ran inside and shut the gate.

On the gate was a padlock, and on the padlock was a note which read, "When you first lock me, your combination is set. It must be three numbers, choose them well."

"This will be easy," she thought, "I'll just use three easy numbers and will get back out later."

"They'd better not be too easy, like 1-2-3, or the others will guess it. Let's see... I'll choose 9-4-0. There!"

With that, Amy awoke, feeling a numb yet comforting chill. Her father was passed out on the floor, and she stepped over him and ran out the door to catch the schoolbus.

That day, Amy received the same name-calling, the same teasing, and the same shoves from the same bully. But today, somehow, it did not bother her as much.

A few years later, Amy met Greg. Every time he was in the same room with her, her heart fluttered and she could think of nothing else. You can imagine her surprise when Greg asked her out.

Amy and Greg continued to see eachother for several months. Greg was Amy's everything, he was her life. She could not imagine living a single day without him.

Only those of us who have experienced can have the slightest idea of the day Amy caught Greg kissing another girl. Her universe came crashing in around her. She wanted to scream, and cry, and die.

Lying once again on her bed crying and screaming herself to sleep, Amy once more entered the empty land of dreamless sleep.

She saw herself, several years older than before, inside the fence where she had hidden herself as a little girl. She saw the padlock on the fence, vaguely remembering the combination... "9.... 0...." but her concentration was broken by a stabbing at her heart.

In front of her on the other side of the fence stood Greg, holding that other girl in his arms. Every time they would kiss, a bold of red lightning would strike at her heart.

In pain and anguish, Amy turned around and saw a large glass wall. "Maybe," Amy thought, "if I hide behind this wall, I can get away from the pain in my heart."

As she tried to open the glass door, she saw a sign which read, "To come inside, you must first choose a passcode. It must be five numbers."

Amy still had not remembered the three-number code to get out of the fence, but since she was in torment and needed a safe place to hide, she thought she had nothing to lose but her pain.

"4-0-2-8-5", she whispered, and the glass door opened wide, shutting behind her.

The alarm clock awakened Amy. She sat on the side of her bed, noticing that although she still felt the emptiness inside, the pain was numbed, and she knew she could make it through another day.

"Congratulations Amy," the doctor said with a smile, "you're going to have a baby boy!"

Before Andrew was born, Amy had not only picked out his name, but had envisioned his entire future. When she first held him in her arms, it felt as though she had been transported to heaven and was holding a little angel.

As the days, weeks, and months went by, Amy loved Andrew more and more. He was her everything, her pride and joy, her "Little Andy."

Only a mother who has ever lost a dear child can imagine the impact of the doctor's words, "Andrew has one month to live, two at the most."

After three weeks, Amy found herself in a room of people dressed in black, seeing her dear Little Andy lying in a coffin, awaiting his exile to the belly of the earth.

Back in her little apartment, Amy was too empty to cry any more. Her thoughts moved from one room to another, contemplating how she might end her life and be free from the pain.

That night, between sobs and desperate silence, Amy finally drifted off into dreamless sleep.

She had almost forgotten the fence which protected her as a little girl, and the glass wall which shielded her as a young lady. But there they were, faithful companions which had shielded her all these years.

She saw on their walls pain, sorrow, and grief. Amid these, she thought for a moment she saw glimpses of joy, true love, and peace.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a death-cloaked image which spoke her name.

"Amy," the figure said in a frightening yet aluring and somehow comforting voice, "You've suffered so much needless pain."

"Needless?" Amy worked up the courage to reply, "How could I have not had this pain?"

The being said nothing, but pointed behind Amy. Slowly she turned, and saw another wall through which she could hardly see.

Amy turned back around to ask the creature a question, but the messenger was gone. In its place were children, all Little Andy's age, bleeding and suffering, and being slowly pulled into the earth.

"Outside this wall," the voice said from somewhere unknown, "God, if there be one, can hurt you. He can let your father curse and beat you. He can make other people hate and mistreat you. He can cause your lovers to all cheat on you. And he can let all your little children die."

"The only place," the voice continued, "you will be safe from his pain, is inside this wall."

Being able to take no more, Amy ran to the door of the wall and read the sign: "Enter for protection and comfort. Choose a code which a million hurts could not guess, at least 8 numbers, two-digits each."

"24-18-95-72-91-12-57-14"

With that, the door creaked opened, and Amy carefully stepped inside. It was dark and cold, but it was silent. She could barely see through the wall her father, yelling and mocking piers, cheating lovers, and dying children.

And the image of an uncaring, spiteful God faded into all the other faces. Then Amy drifted into dark dreamlessness.

The years passed by. Amy sometimes hurt people she loved without knowing why. She still felt bitterness against God, if there even IS one, and truly believed his Bible was a hoax, his name was a myth, his Jesus was a story, and his followers were unintelligent, brainwashed fools.

And if we could revisit her place of refuge, we might rise above her prison cell where we can see beside her. In every direction are men, women, and children from every background, every race, and every religion, hiding within fences and walls.

Some are just now entering their first fence, while others are many layers deep.

If Amy were to find a light in her dark place of reclusion, she might see that many of the shadows she thought were pain are actually unspeakable joy, deep settled peace, and unconditional, unending love which would fill that aweful emptiness that just seems to grow with every passing day.

And if she were to truly see God as he is, knowing that it was he who kept her father from raping her that night when all she received was a slap; it was he who helped her sleep that night she would have killed herself; it was he who gave her those short, sweet, wonderful few years with Andrew, and it was he alone who could give her the peace, joy, love, and shelter she had desperately sought all these years.

Although Amy is behind only three walls, she has long forgotten the codes which could set her free. If she could see what is waiting for her on the outside, perhaps she would try to remember. But within your walls you have built up to protect you, are guards of fear and dread which spew lies to you any time the mention of stepping from behind them is breathed.

Something began to stir within Amy, a deep longing to be free, to see what is in the light, to experience the laughter of childhood, the love of youth, and the restless adventure of a life unshackled by hiding and unweighted by fear.

Walking to the door, she saw a sign which read, "To leave, you must remember your sixty-seven numbers, twelve digits each."

Through this dark door, she could make out other doors. But instead of seeing three barriers keeping her from freedom, she saw many walls and many doors she didn't even remember entering.

After beating the door and screaming in rage and despair, she slid to the floor, knowing that God had turned against her and it was her lot in life to have emptiness and pain.

Then a voice spoke in the darkness, a voice she thought she must have heard somewhere, perhaps in a beautiful dream. Each sound touching the very depths of her soul, the voice said,

"If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."
"If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."
"If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!"

"But how??" Amy asked in disbelief. "There is no way I can ever hope to remember how I got in here, and there is no way I can ever escape. This is my life. And death only mocks me. Besides, you don't care. You let me get here in the first place."

The voice spoke again, almost in a whisper, "I loved you so much that I sent my only son to die in your place. Amy, you were condemned to suffer and die, to give your blood as payment for your sins, and then spend eternity in hell. But I loved you so much that I sent my own dearly beloved son to take your place, because only his blood could pay the price and remove the walls that stand between you and me."

Amy remembered her Little Andrew, and could not imagine loving anyone enough to let him be tortured and die to pay the debt someone else should rightfully pay.

"I've hated you too long," Amy replied after a long silence. "I've cursed your name, I've run away from your calls to me, I've ridiculed those who follow you. And here I am in these endless walls, my own prison wherein I must die. And if you were honest, you'd admit you really want me dead."

"I know the thoughts I think about you," the voice replied, "Thoughts of good, not of evil; to give you a future and a hope."

Those words echoed around inside of Amy. "Hope." She had forgotten what hope felt like. "Is this really what God wants for me? Good and not evil? To give me a future, and to give me hope?"

"But what about my walls?" Amy asked aloud. "I've been here for years. I wouldn't know what to do without my barriers of protection. How could I live outside of my safe refuge?"

"The eternal God is your refuge," came the voice, "and you are underneath the everlasting arms."

"The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run into it and are safe."

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty."


"But how?" asked Amy, "How can I be free?"

"If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."

Amy felt a warmth in the depths of her heart she had never felt before.

Dropping to her knees, Amy begin to weep. "God, if you're real, if this love is real, if you really can set me free, protect me, and teach me how to walk in the open meadows where I am free to laugh and love, to cry and experience loss, and to feel love all the way to my deepest being, then I surrender to your hand. I'll do whatever you ask of me in exchange for my freedom."

"If you confess with your mouth Jesus is your Lord, and believe in your heart that I raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

Trembling, Amy could barely speak the words which were about to burst from within her. "Jesus, I accept you as the Lord of my life. I believe God raised you from the dead. Be my living companion, my friend, my protector. Help my unbelief. Set me free!"

Slowly the walls began to crumble. As though she were somehow bound to her prisons, Amy felt pain as they were destroyed; but with her eyes on a face which continued to grow brighter with every brick that fell, she continued to walk forward through the rubble.

"If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!"


Many of us here are like Amy. We come from many different backgrounds, and have many different life stories to tell. But one thing we have in common, we have surrounded ourselves with things meant to keep out the pain. We all have walls which keep us from experiencing full joy and peace, and which keep us distant from God.

But the Holy Spirit is here today, and he is waiting to set you free.

In real life, wherever you are right now, bow your head and pray with me now.

Say, "Jesus, I want to be free! I surrender my life to you. Be the Lord of my life. I will follow you out of my walls, and will walk with you in the sunshine and in the rain. Forgive me for my sins. Wash me clean. And I will follow you the rest of my life. Thank you Jesus! Amen."

I will ask the ministry team to please come stand at the front.

Whether you just accepted Jesus for the first time, or whether you are already a Christian but feel as though you have some walls that are coming between you and others, or between you and peace, or between you and joy, or between you and love, or between you and God, please come to this altar for prayer.

In a few minutes we'll have our time of fellowship next door, so please nobody leave. Come to the front and let's pray together.

"If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!"