Well here we are in a brand new year!  2019!  The New Year is always so exciting right?  I mean for so many of us this is a time of hope, and optimism about what could be in the brand new year, which I think is awesome.  This is a time for those New Year’s Resolutions and just a chance to almost hit reset and get a fresh start on so many things for us in so many aspects of our lives.  For many of us (and I will include myself in this one) those resolutions include better physical health and a commitment to fitness in 2019.  I have even see people promising to run or walk 2019 miles in 2019…that is a big one but a great goal.  If your goal is physical fitness and finding better healthy this year, I am rooting for you to find it all year long not just in January!  We all know how full the local gyms can be with people in January of each year, and how empty they can be by Easter, so I’m cheering for you, get in there and stick with it!  We make all kinds of promises for a better us in the New Year and I think that is awesome, many of us woke up on January 1st and started reading the Bible, and we are going to read the whole thing this year…which is a fantastic goal!  I wonder how many people started January 1st by opening their Bibles and hanging a left, going to page one and reading…

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. NIV

I think that is awesome!  The New Year does bring new hope, and a new level of excitement.  Personally my goals are very intentional this year.  I am trying to get healthy physically, again…no injuries this time.  I am wanting to stay off social media A LOT more than I do.  I want more family, more God, more time, more health and intentionality with my emotions and less screen time, less belly, and definitely less distractions from what really matters.  So as we start this journey into the year 2019 I want you to know that we are rooting for you, and we hope this will be the best year it can be for you and your family.

So with the start of the New Year, we are starting a brand new series that I could not be more excited about because we are going to be diving into some really important concepts that can literally lead you to freedom and victory in your spiritual life, which we have been learning ties directly into your practical life right?  All of it ties together.  So you can have freedom and victory in your life as you begin to live out the words of Scripture and put into play the concepts that we will be diving into over the next few weeks and months.  This is such a big deal to us here at MRC, that this becomes more than just some Sunday morning fuzzy ideas, but that it moves into who you are.  I mean, freedom and victory sounds nice doesn’t it?  Well it should be our reality as Christians.  This isn’t something a Pastor sells to fill seats in the church and get us to do the church thing.  This is what we should be experiencing as followers of Jesus!  Check this out, I’m not making this up, here are just a few examples right out of our Scriptures about this freedom and victory we should be walking in.

As Christians we should be experiencing freedom!

John 8:36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  NIV 

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. NIV

We should be living victorious lives as believers in Jesus!

1 John 5:4 For every child of God defeats this evil world by trusting Christ to give the victory. 5 And the ones who win this battle against the world are the ones who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. NLT

And so as we invite Jesus into our lives and surrender our will to His, allowing the Holy Spirit to lead our lives, this SHOULD be our experience as Christians…but for so many of us, I don’t think we would describe our lives as free and victorious.  If we are being honest, life is hard and we continue to struggle.  It’s almost like there is something out there, taking from us, weakening us, keeping us “stuck” not allowing us to stand tall in the freedom that we SHOULD be experiencing in our lives now that Jesus is in it!  Well maybe that is where we need to start today.

We’ve entitled this series “What is your Kryptonite?” because we want to bring this to your attention.  We want you walking in the kind of freedom and victory that a disciple of Christ should be walking in, just as the Bible clearly lays out for us.  But there actually IS something out there that weakens and takes from us.  There is a reason that so many of us feel stuck spiritually.  There is a reason that as I read those inspiring scriptures a few moments ago, for so many of us it sounds nice but seems almost impossible to walk in that kind of freedom and we are going to spend a lot of time here in the first few months of 2019 investigating these things that weaken and take from us and then (and this is the fun part) we are going to look at the steps we need to take to break free from what we will call our spiritual “kryptonite.”

So what exactly is kryptonite?  Well kryptonite is the substance that weakens Superman.  So we just left the Bible, and reality and headed to the movies and comic book word…I know!  Stay with me!  I’m pretty sure we have all at least heard of Superman haven’t we?  You know the superhero who always saves the day right?  He is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive…it’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s Superman!”  Blue tights, red cape, the “S” on his chest…yeah that guy.  Well Superman was unstoppable, there was nothing you could do to defeat him, except use this one thing.  There was this thing that could weaken him.  That thing was kryptonite.  In the movies or comic books it looks like a green rock, that apparently came from his home planet that could drain him and keep him from being the person he was destined to be.   Kryptonite could keep Superman from walking in the freedom and victory and power that he should be walking in, and quite frankly that relates to you and I and our spiritual lives in a big time way.

While we humans may not be a superhero the likes of which we watch on the big screen, we too are to stand as who God created us to be.  We are to stand in freedom and victory and according to Scripture with the Holy Spirit living inside us we are to be all but unstoppable too.  Think I’m just trying to get you all fired up here in the New Year?  No, I’m just telling you facts.  Paul says it this way…

1 Corinthians 4:20 For the Kingdom of God is not just fancy talk; it is living by God’s power. NLT

So just like Superman we are to stand in who we were destined to be.  Just like Superman we are to be living with freedom, and victory.  While Superman has super power, we are to live with the kind of God power that Paul just told us about there.  And just like Superman we have to deal with this “thing” that takes, distracts, and weakens, us.  We have this “thing” that just doesn’t allow us to stand fully as the people God destined us to be.  We have our own spiritual kryptonite, and that spiritual kryptonite is sin.  I think if there was one difference between Superman’s kryptonite and our “spiritual kryptonite” it is that Superman is afraid of his weakness and tries his best to avoid or keep his distance from it, but for us humans our spiritual kryptonite is often very tempting and often pulling us in with fun and pleasure, so instead of avoiding it and keeping our distance, it often pulls us in…so we have to be really intentional and focused because sin isn’t a scary, glowing green rock from Krypton that we obviously want to avoid but it’s just as dangerous if not more.  And while it often hides itself in excitement and fun, making us feel good in the moment, make no mistake about it, in the end it’s dangerous, it’s deadly.  Scripture is clear, it leads to death.  Sin is the very thing that weakens us.  It is sin that destroys our closeness to God.  It is sin that doesn’t allow us to stand in our true identity, and if we aren’t careful it is sin that keeps us from being the people that God destined us to be, literally making someone who Jesus has set free a slave smothering out all that should be.

So sin is our spiritual kryptonite and it comes in all kinds of different shapes and sizes.  So what exactly is sin?  Well it is any thought or action that falls short of God’s will. Remember God is perfect, and anything we do that falls short of His perfection is sin.  So when we sin, we are falling short of God’s will for our lives and we need to remember something because people get a little uncomfortable these days with talks on holiness and sin…we need to remember that sin is something that we all deal with…each and everyone one of us.  This is why we need Jesus so badly in our lives!  We need Jesus because we all have a problem with our spiritual kryptonite.  I really don’t like bringing up sin without reminding you of something Paul said in Romans that should calm us down and keep all of us from judging others.

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  NIV

That is so important for you to remember, that we ALL have sinned, we ALL deal with this spiritual kryptonite.  You aren’t alone in dealing with sin, we ALL fall short of God’s glorious standard for our lives, which is why we are so grateful for Jesus.  So I know it is the first Sunday of the year and I’m throwing a lot at you but as we kick off this new series I really wanted to show you this spiritual kryptonite that we all deal with is sin.  I wanted you to understand this as we get started in this series.  I have been using this wording of victory and freedom when it comes to our lives very intentionally.  I wanted to reveal to you this idea of who we SHOULD be as Disciples of Christ…FREE, and VICTORIOUS!  I also wanted to reveal to you the reason so many of us struggle to find that freedom and victory…I didn’t want you going this whole series wondering what this spiritual kryptonite is!  Our spiritual kryptonite is sin.  I want you to see it, and know what it is because as we understand this, I believe it allows us to deal with it, which is what will happen all series long.  I also want to take you to Jesus’ words today in John 8.  As I started preparing this message I couldn’t get these words out of my head and frankly this language of freedom through Jesus comes from here, and also the idea of our spiritual kryptonite enslaving us comes right from here as well.  So here’s what Jesus says in the three verses we will really study today.

John 8:34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  NIV

So this is our study today and there is a lot to look at there in those three sentences.  First let me give you some context.  Jesus is teaching in the temple one day and the religious leaders and Pharisees drag a woman out in front of everyone who they caught committing adultery.  They want to kill her.  Ok, it’s such a beautiful moment let’s just read it…

John 8:3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said.   “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  NIV

It’s a very intense moment and now Jesus goes back to teaching and as he speaks he gives us this incredible statement about sin tying it to slavery, and how the Son (He is talking about Himself) sets us free, and whoever is free is truly free.  This is beautiful and I would really like to take these three sentences and dive into them a little deeper today!

  1. Sin (Our Spiritual Kryptonite) enslaves us. So I’m assuming that this sin and freedom talk is happening because just a few moments ago the church leaders of the time just dragged a woman into the temple to kill her. I doubt that has slipped anyone in the crowds memories a minute or two later.  I am thinking that it will take a little while to shake that one off am I right?  And Jesus makes a really intense statement about sin here.

John 8:34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.” NIV

I think this is so intense, and so important for us to see.  Jesus is revealing to you the danger of sin, knowing full well that we are sinful beings.  We aren’t like Superman running from a scary green rock, we are drawn and tempted to sin, which makes it so difficult and when we sin, what I see is we are disconnected or distanced from our actual family in Christ.  This slave to sin language is all through our Scriptures…

Romans 6:16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey-whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.  NIV

In Proverbs we see Solomon write this about sin…

Proverbs 5:22 An evil man is held captive by his own sins; they are ropes that catch and hold him.  NLT

I was even thinking about God’s warning to Cain all the way back in Genesis before he kills his brother Abel.  Some of you probably just read this as you do the ‘read your Bible in a year challenge’ in 2019.

Genesis 4:7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” ESV

I wanted you to see this warning about sin enslaving us…we have to watch out for our Spiritual Kryptonite.  Now it’s what Jesus says next that really is so awesome and so redemptive.

  1. Jesus sets us free from sin. This is what it’s all about.  This is why we celebrate and worship Jesus because He is the answer to free us from the bonds of slavery in sin.

John 8:36 “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  NIV

This is so awesome, and again this freedom language is found all through our Bibles.  I love Paul’s words here…

Romans 8:1 With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. 2 A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death. MSG

We sing this song, during worship sets right out of 2 Corinthians…

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. NIV

I could spend all day talking about and walking you through scripture about Jesus setting us free.  I know this talk of freedom and victory compared to slavery to sin is pretty intense but I want you to understand this imagery because this is literally how we live our lives.  We just spent an entire series talking about walking in the Spirit and how we choose to live for God or for ourselves.  That is our reality.  Are we inviting the Holy Spirit into our lives?  Because where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom!  If we continue to live for ourselves we will not experience life as God intended, a life that we can have with freedom, joy, strength, and victory.

For so many of us we hear the kind of life we should live and can have as followers of Jesus but it just isn’t our experience.  We read about it in Scripture and we want it, but if we are honest we are not living in the amazing and empowering freedom that we should be living in, and I think we need to understand that just like Superman, we are dealing with Spiritual Kryptonite that is designed to take, weaken, and distract so we don’t experience what we would say is the true freedom and victory that should be experienced in the life of a Christian.

You know as I was putting this talk together I was looking at different imagery of what sin is and this really was interesting.  Sin is described in the Bibles earliest days as “missing the mark.”  So sin is like an archer who misses the target. He draws back his bow and sends the arrow on its way—but instead of hitting the bull’s-eye, it veers off course and misses the mark. The arrow may only miss it a little bit or it may miss it a great deal—but the result is the same: The arrow doesn’t land where it is supposed to.  The same is true of sin. God’s will is like the center of that target—and when we sin, we fall short of His will, we miss the mark.  I really like this imagery and think we should personalize this.  We have been created by God intentionally to stand in our purpose and be the person He created us to be and when we fall enslaved to sin, we fall short…we miss the mark on all we could be.  Maybe that is a great way for you and I to understand why we keep hearing about this awesome life we should have but we just can’t seem to find, or experience.  We want it.  We like the idea of victory and freedom and strength, but we just keep missing the mark.  We need to be aware of our spiritual kryptonite which doesn’t allow us to stand as the people God created us to be and we need to invite Jesus into our lives because He frees us from the kryptonite, it’s Jesus who directs us back on course and keeps us from missing out on all that could be in our lives!  I love that imagery.  If God’s design for my life is the bullseye, it’s this spiritual kryptonite that keeps me from hitting the mark on who I should be in my life.

So the question of the day and of this series becomes this.  “What is your kryptonite?”  What is keeping your from hitting the mark?  What is keeping you from living the kind of life that Jesus came to provide?  This is what we are diving into, and what we are going to work through all the way up to Easter this year, and I can’t wait!

So to close things down today, I want to show you what a Christian’s normal should be.  We are going to end with reading 20 statements about what Christianity should look like for someone who Jesus has set free.  Neil T Anderson wrote these and calls them the “20 ‘Cans’ of Success,” but here at MRC we refer to this as a picture of normal Christianity.  So here we go…

Why should I say I can’t when the Bible says I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength? Philippians 4:13

Why should I worry about my needs when I know that God will take care of all my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus? Philippians 4:19

Why would I fear when the Bible says God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind? 2 Timothy 1:7

Why should I lack faith to live for Christ when God has given me a measure of faith? Romans 12:3

Why should I be weak when the Bible says that the Lord is the strength of my life and that I will display strength and take action because I know God? Psalms 27:4, Daniel 11:32

Why should I allow Satan control over my life when He that is in me is greater than he that is in this world? 1 John 4:4

Why should I accept defeat when the Bible says that God always leads me in victory? 2 Corinthians 2:14

Why should I lack wisdom when I know that Christ became wisdom to me form God and that God gives wisdom to me generously when I ask Him for it? 1 Corinthians 1:30, James 1:5

Why should I be depressed when I can recall to mind God’s loving-kindness, compassion, faithfulness and have hope? Lamentations 3:21-23

Why should I worry and be upset when I can cast all my anxieties on Christ who cares for me? 1 Peter 5:7

Why should I ever be in bondage knowing that there is freedom where the Spirit of the Lord is? 1 Corinthians 3:17, Galatians 5:1

Why should I feel condemned when the Bible says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus? Romans 8:1

Why should I feel alone when Jesus said He is with me always and He will never leave me nor forsake me? Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:5

Why should feel like I’m cursed or have bad luck when the Bible says that Christ rescued me from the curse of the law that I might receive His Holy Spirit by faith? Galatians 3:13-14

Why should I be unhappy when I, like Paul, can learn to be content whatever the circumstances? Philippians 4:11

Why should I feel worthless when Christ became sin for me so that I might become the righteousness of God? 2 Corinthians 5:21

Why should I feel helpless in the presence of others when I know that if God is for me, who can be against me? Romans 8:31

Why should I be confused when God is the author of peace and He gives me knowledge through His Spirit who lives in me? 1 Corinthians 2:12, 14:33

Why should I feel like a failure when I am more than a conqueror through Christ who loved me? Romans 8:37

Why should I let the pressure of life bother me when I can take courage knowing that Jesus has overcome the world and it’s problems? John 16:33

So this is what normal should be as a Christian.  Take time this week, think through this list, read the scripture behind each question, and know that if you are missing the mark on this, it’s ok…we all fall short.  Maybe it’s time to identify our spiritual kryptonite, and really allow Jesus to bring the kind of victory and freedom we all desire, so that our lives hit this mark of what normal Christianity can be.  So think this through, we all deal with sin.  No one wants to be a slave to this spiritual kryptonite.  Everyone wants freedom and victory and through Jesus we can have it.

So as we step into 2019 our question to you is this, “What is your spiritual kryptonite?”  Just like Superman we are destined to live an empowered and victorious life, and for so many we just don’t.  It’s a pretty intense way to start the New Year, I get it.  But we love you too much not to go after this kind of freedom, this kind of life that we all want.  So what enslaves you?  As you identify these things in your life that keep you from this true life in Christ just remember this…you don’t set you free.  Jesus does that.  You surrender your life and will to Christ and let Him do what only He can do in your life.  Only Jesus saves us from this Spiritual Kryptonite which is why this whole day centered on Jesus’ words in John 8:36

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”