Message 7: At Liberty

Sept. 30, 2017 Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Session Transcript

Let’s bow our hearts before the Lord.

Oh Jesus, would You come in these next moments and set captives free by the power of the cross and the power of Your love and the power of Your grace? I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Well, we come today to a part of the passage we’re looking at in Titus 2 to a phrase that you may feel when you hear this that maybe you can check out for this session. Let me assure you that this is not a time to check out. I need this session, and you need this session.

Titus chapter 2, verse 1: “Teach what accords with sound doctrine.” And then he goes on to say sound doctrine has implications for everyday life—for men, for women, for younger, for older—and here’s what that looks like when sound doctrine meets life.

Verse 2: “Older men . . .” Then this is what it should look like in older men.

Verse 3: “Older women, likewise, are to be reverent in behavior.”

Reverent in behavior—this is what flows out of the gospel. Then he gives two specific, practical applications.

Number one: “Older women should not be slanderers.” We’ve looked at that phrase. The tongue is impacted by the gospel. Women who are reverent in behavior don’t tear other people down with their words—either verbally, in print, online. We don’t slander. Well, sometimes we do, but when we do, we realize that’s not becoming of us as redeemed women of God. That’s not the way a reverent woman uses her tongue.

And then, not slanderers, and also, not slaves to much wine. Women who are reverent in behavior use their tongues in a way that honors God and builds up others. And women who are reverent in behavior are temperate in their lifestyle. This is what reverent in behavior looks like. It affects the way we talk and the way we walk. This is the outflow of sound doctrine in a woman’s life. It’s a certain kind of speech and a certain kind of behavior.

So I want us to spend these moments just exploring, meditating on, pondering, and letting it soak deep into our hearts this phrase: “Not slaves to much wine.” Some of your translations may say, “Not addicted to much wine.” Or one translation says, “Not enslaved to much wine.”

Now, on first reading it, it makes you wonder what in the world was going on with these women in the church in Crete. (laughter) Like, were they all just binging and having drinking parties? What were they doing? And why this emphasis to women and to older women in particular?

Well, let me just say every word of God is inspired, and that means we need to take heed of what it says and to assume that it says something that is important for each of us.

“Not slaves to much wine.” I think that speaks of:

  • first of excess, a spirit, a mindset of indulgence
  • the temptation to eat, drink, be merry
  • to live a life of ease
  • to pamper the flesh, to do whatever your flesh feels like doing

And as we get older, it’s easy to feel, “I’ve paid my dues. I’m going to do something that makes me feel good.”

So it speaks of excess. But I think this phrase also speaks of enslavement, of addiction. The word slave here means to bring into bondage, to be wholly given up to something or someone, to be enslaved, the condition of being held and controlled, in this case by wine, which becomes a master. So the person Paul is talking about here who is a slave to much wine is under the control of alcohol. And that means, if she’s a slave to alcohol, she is not free.

Now, let me say this wasn’t just an issue in Paul’s day. I don’t have to tell you that it’s an issue in our day.

I read on the other day this sentence:

Overworked, overwhelmed, and overscheduled women, juggling families, friends, and careers, are turning to stimulants, pain killers, and anti-anxiety meds to help launch them through endless to-do lists.

One psychologist said, “Women load their lives with so much that they get in over their heads and some turn to prescription pills to cope.”

And it’s not just among non-believers. I have a friend who is a mature believer who serves in full-time ministry who confided to me recently that she had begun to drink excessively in order to deal with pain and pressure.

There are women in this room today, women watching us online, who struggle with excess and enslavement to alcohol. It may be that you’re a closet drinker and nobody else knows. It may not be alcohol. It may be other addictive substances.

That excess, that enslavement is often the result of trying to escape, to alleviate emotional pain, relational pain, to find comfort, to find satisfaction. And in a sense, what we’re saying when we’re turning to these substitutes for God in our lives is, “God, You’re not enough for me, for this situation, for my pain.”

Let me say, if alcohol or an addictive substance abuse is an issue for you, the gospel, the good news calls you to live and walk in freedom, and God’s grace, that’s the point of this passage, will give you the power to experience that freedom.

Now, we’ve got a lot of women sitting here thinking, But I don’t have an issue with alcohol.

Well, let me say, I don’t think this passage doesn’t apply to you. There can be a host of things that we partake of in excess, to the point sometimes of becoming enslaved, addicted. And we need the gospel and the grace of God as much as our sisters who may be slaves to much wine.

It’s easy to get this kind of older brother pharisaical attitude, “I don’t deal with that. I can’t imagine having to be in a support group for that or a recovery group for that.” Well, you have your that, and I have my that—more than one.

I’ve been thinking as I’ve been working on this talk about some things that I sometimes use in excess, and at times am even enslaved or addicted to. I’ll just mention these because I don’t want to park on what may be different from yours, but I think for many of us, myself included, food is a huge enslaving master. It may be eating too much. It may be eating too little. It may be fixating on food, obsessing about food. There are days I wake up thinking about food. I think about food all day long. And now you’re thinking about food and can’t stop thinking about food. (laughter)

You’ve had it happen where there’s, like, a dessert tray, a cheese and cracker tray, and you can’t just—or I can’t just—enjoy in temperance some of this good gift from the Lord. It’s calling my name, saying, “You have to have the whole tray now because there will never be any food in the world tomorrow.” (laughter)

And we’re laughing, but some of us have had the experience of just being so frustrated with ourselves, and we say, “I’m not laughing about this. This is a serious task master in my life.”

For some of us who battle with that enslavement of food, the other slave is the scale. That can be a task master, a slave.

It may be something different for you. Maybe, for me at times, it’s been Words with Friends. It’s a good thing. It’s a fun thing. It’s a connecting thing. But it can become my master. I can be enslaved to it.

Social media—perpetually, continually, incessantly, endlessly—checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram feeds and whatever are the other social media options of your choice.

The opinions of others.

My work—I can be enslaved to that.

And let me just mention one that, “Honey, where’s my phone?” (laughter) My Smart Phone. I want to just say that this cute, tiny, little thing is often my master. There’s nothing wrong with this thing, or the other things that I’ve mentioned. But I think about how I can’t function without it. I use it for everything—you do, too—from news, weather and sports, to communication with friends, to even things like Bible study and research. But I find that I’m dependent on it 24/7 some days.

If truth be told, it’s difficult for me to get untethered from this, even for short periods of time. I get jittery if I’m separated from it. (laughter) I get stressed when I can’t find it. My husband sometimes picks it up—because I leave it everywhere. He sticks it in his pocket, and I’m, like, “Where is it?” Am I right, Honey?

I reach for it reflexively, constantly. Often it’s the first thing I turn to in the morning—let me just say, most mornings. It’s the last thing I look at at night, and many times throughout the day.

Now, I use my phone for a lot of good things, mostly, maybe all good things, but the question is: Has it become my master, or is it my servant?

And, you see, these things are symptoms of deeper heart issues. It’s not the phone that’s the problem. It’s not food. Food is a good gift. The Scripture tells us that. It’s my heart, which, as John Calvin said, “Is an idol factory.”

So, dependence and attachment and excess, they speak of idolatry.

Let me read just a portion of a journal entry I wrote some time ago called—I titled it, “Of gods and iPhones.” I was meditating on this Scripture in Exodus, chapter 20, verse 2: “I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me.” And here’s what I wrote in my journal:

Has my phone become a god in my life, a drug? Do I own it, or does it own me?

And then I reflected on this:

God alone is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, but at some level, my phone seems to have those same characteristics in my life. It knows most everything I want to know, just ask Seri. It’s always with me—omnipresent. And it can do a whole lot of things that I want or need to get done—omnipotent. Have I become more dependent on my phone than on God? Truth be told, I reach for my phone and refer to it more frequently throughout the day than I consciously reach out to the Lord and call on Him. By most any definition, I am addicted, enslaved to my phone.

Now, we can be enslaved by sinful things, or we can be enslaved by good things, or neutral things, things that are intended to serve us, but we end up serving them. And this is the universal condition of every human being apart from Christ.

Paul tells us in Titus chapter 3, beginning in verse 2,

For we ourselves were once slaves [same word], enslaved to various passions and pleasures. [We weren’t free.] But when the goodness and lovingkindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us.

He set us free!

Exodus chapter 20, the passage I was meditating on: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. [And that’s why] You shall have no other gods [no other masters] before me” (vv. 2–3).

What is Paul saying here in Titus when he says, “Don’t be slaves to much wine?” He said, “You used to be slaves to various passions and pleasures, but you’ve been set free by the goodness, the lovingkindness, the grace of Christ, so don’t live as a slave any longer. You don’t have to.”

He says it this way in Romans chapter 6, “Do you not know that . . . you are slaves of the one whom you obey, whether of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you were once slaves of sin . . . But thanks be to God that you who were once slaves of sin, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (vv. 17–18, 22).

And we know that that exists in some different ways:

  • Positionally, if we’re in Christ, we have been set free from sin. We’ve been justified.
  • Practically, through the Spirit of Christ, we’re being set free from our fleshly desires.

We’re being sanctified. And let me just remind us, this is a process, a life-long process. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Then we have that amazing hope Paul talks about in Titus chapter 3. One day when we are with Christ in His presence, we will be glorified and finally fully free from everything other than Christ that has ever enslaved us.

So between now and then, how can we be set free? How can we be being set free from slavery?

Well, we need to recognize two things:

First, we need to remember that we have a new Master.

Titus 3: “We were once slaved to various passions and pleasures” (v. 3). But how does Paul identify himself in Titus 1, verse 1? He says, “Paul, a servant [it’s the same word], a slave, a bondservant of God.” You were once slaves of sin, passions and pleasures, but Paul says, “That’s not who I am anymore. I am now a servant, a slave of God.”

He owns us. He bought us. We now live as His slaves, His servants. So we have a new Master.

And number two: He has given us each other.

And so, older women that Paul is talking to, “Don’t be slaves to much wine.” He’s saying, “Model this beautiful, amazing freedom in Christ, and then be available to encourage, to pray, to share out of your life, to share out of your failures, to share out of His grace, and to provide encouragement and accountability.”

And women of any age, younger or older, who are enslaved, addicted, look for a woman who is a slave of Christ. She’s living as a slave of Christ. Humble yourself. Get honest. Acknowledge your enslavement, and ask for prayer; ask for help.

Paul tells us in Ephesians chapter 5, “Don’t get drunk with wine.” It’s another way of saying what we’re reading in Titus 2: “Don’t be a slave to much wine.” Don’t be under its control. “Don’t get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, [it leads to excess, but what?] but be filled with the Holy Spirit,” under the control of the Spirit, slaves to Christ (Eph. 5:18).

He goes on and talks in that passage in Ephesians 5 about how that new slavery to Christ will overflow with worship, with gratitude, with submission, with reverence for Christ, which, by the way, is where we started in Titus 2: “Older women, be reverent in behavior.”

I interviewed a woman named Marsha, who was an alcoholic. She finally ended up in prison where she met Jesus, and here’s what she told me:

When God gets in your heart, He fills that big hole that you’ve been filling with the drugs and the alcohol. He replaces all of that, and those addictions are gone, and then there’s just this fullness of Him.

When God gets in your heart, He fills that big hole that you’ve been filling with—whatever—and then there’s just room for Him.

Older women, many of our younger sisters are desperately needing someone to help them deal with their addictions and their bondage, and if we’re slaves to wine or food or entertainment or whatever, they’re going to look at us and conclude: “God isn’t enough for her. I guess He’s not enough for me.” They may even end up following our example and find themselves in greater slavery.

But when they see us leaning into Christ, leaning into His grace, being slaves to Christ and being set free from those other masters, when they see that He is enough for us, they’ll have hope that He is enough for them, that they can be truly set free. And so we will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

I discovered this morning on my phone a stanza I wasn’t aware of to the hymn, “O, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing My Great Redeemer’s Praise.” Listen to what Charles Wesley said:

His love, my heart, has captive made,
His captive would I be.
For He was bound and scourged and died;
My captive soul to free.

And, oh Lord Jesus, how I thank You that You were bound. You took on all our sin upon Yourself so that we might be set free. So, Lord, we say, we are eager, we long to be Your lifelong, devoted, wholehearted captives, enslaved to nothing and no one but You, Lord Jesus. Make it true in our lives, in my life, I pray, in Jesus’ name, amen.