Riches are no Substitute for God

“The truth shall set you free.” John 8:31

No Self-indulgent living

The Jews Jesus addressed in John 8 did not see it as such, but freedom, that God-given privilege of each human being, was not given that men might indulge in self-centered living. Men were created to serve and love God.

Colossians 1:16 states the reason for God’s creation of man—

16 For by him [that is, “Christ”] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. [emphasis mine]

Because man is created by God and for him, man cannot live rightly for a lesser purpose. Man cannot stoop to live for his own happiness when he was created to glorify and enjoy God forever.

Isobel Kuhn once related, “Mrs. McFarlane, principal of our language school in Yangchow and a dear warrior saint, had taught me [a] metaphor.” She said, “Keep your treasures on the open palm of your hand. If you hold something tight clenched in your fist, God may have to hurt you in order to open your fingers and take it from you. But if it is offered on the open palm of your hand, you will hardly know when it is gone.” (see Kuhn below)

Happiness cannot be our primary goal.

All earthly possessions are given to us by God. We are stewards of those gifts and out of them we give to God our tithes and offerings. As stewards, we are not to hoard things as if they are the ground of our happiness.


An early print of Scrooge as “the Miser.”

Happiness as a primary motive for living is an appetite which is never satisfied. For instance, John D. Rockefeller was once asked, “How much money is enough?” He replied, “Just a little bit more.”


A print of a family in a debtor’s prison for spending beyond their income.

No matter how much a person acquires and amasses of this world’s goods, it always takes “just a little bit more” to make him happy, if this is his primary motive for living. Nathaniel Hawthorne has correctly pointed out “happiness in this world, if it comes at all, comes incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads [you] on a wild goose chase, and is never attained.” As we live underneath Christ’s Lordship, we discover what true freedom is. It is never freedom from God. It is freedom through service to God.


One website has prayers for all kinds of prosperity.

The false god of our age is “prosperity.”

If things satisfied, wouldn’t Americans be the most satisfied people on Earth? We have more stuff than any generation before ours. The overflow we deposit in rented public storage units. The stock market is up substantially, but we want it to go higher with no bursting bubble this time. Then what? What will we do with more? Will tomorrow’s more satisfy when today’s more hasn’t? (see Thomas below)

God’s truth sets us free. Hoarded possessions enslave us whether we have many or few. 

I once taught a college Bible course at an college extension center in Georgia. I noticed whenever I taught the janitor would clean just outside the door. Obviously he was listening.

During a break he approached me and asked a question. He inquired, “Doesn’t the Bible teach that rich people will not go to heaven?”

I suspected what he was getting at. Poor people will go to heaven. I gave him an answer he didn’t want to hear. “I have found that whether we have many or few possessions, holding on to them too tightly, will exclude us from receiving Christ as our Lord and Savior.” He never cleaned in the hall where I was teaching again.

Hoarded possessions enslave us whether we have many or few. 


Kuhn, Isobel. (2012). In the Arena. Accessed 10 December 2018 from

Thomas, Cal. (2015). A prescription for decline — worshiping the false gods of prosperity and money. Accessed 10 December 2018 from

© 2019 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved


Freedom is Doing God’s Will

We have covered four underpinnings of Biblical freedom as Jesus taught it.

I. Freedom is not total autonomy. “…hold to my teaching…” John 8:31

II. Freedom requires virtue as its guiding principle. “You shall know the truth…” John 8:32

III. Freedom requires obedience to Divine authority structures. “You are…my disciples…” John 8:32

IV. Freedom is liberation from sin. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

Now in the last few posts let’s look at the fifth underpinning of our freedom.

V. Freedom is doing the will of God.

“The truth shall set you free.” John 8:31

Freedom in Christ

Mere “human happiness” is no substitute for fulfilling God’s intended purpose for our lives.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins with these most-frequently memorized of its words-

Q.1 What is the chief end of man?

A.1 The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. (see WSC below)

In the early nineteenth century a person was considered illiterate if he had not memorized the entire Westminster Shorter Catechism. In fact, one would find it impossible to matriculate at most state-operated colleges in the South without having previously memorized it.

However, we in the modern world no longer memorize Catechisms. We are beyond that. At least, we think we are. What we have lost in the modern world is an adequate motive for living. Catechisms in the past supplied our forefathers with a Biblical motive for living.

In the modern world we prefer our own “scripture” to God’s. We have reduced all of life to the one phrase of the Declaration of Independence (called “American Scripture” by one author recently): the individual’s right “to the pursuit of happiness.”


Nathaniel Hawthorne says this about happiness—

Happiness in this world, when it comes, comes incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us a wild-goose chase, and is never attained. Follow some other object, and very possibly we may find that we have caught happiness without dreaming of it.
(See Hawthorne below)

How do we achieve happiness in this life if we cannot set it as our goal?

A Scottish lady, in her diary, relates how she was seized with a fever which threatened her life, ‘during the course of [the fever],’ she says, ‘the first question of the Assembly’s Catechism was brought to my mind

“What is the chief end of man?” as if some one had asked it.

When I considered the answer to it—“To glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever”—

I was struck with shame and confusion. I found I had never sought to glorify God in my life, nor had I any idea of what was meant by enjoying Him for ever. Death and judgment were set before me; my past sins came to my remembrance; I saw no way to escape the punishment due unto them, nor had I the least glimmering hope of obtaining the pardon of them through the righteousness of another.’

From this unhappy state she was shortly after delivered, by believing on the Lord Jesus as the only Savior of the guilty. (see Whitecross below) 

Christ on Cross

Like this lady, we have found freedom from guilt and shame in becoming a believer in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Doing Jesus’s will as his disciple is liberating.


Hawthorne, Nathaniel. (1875). Passages from the American Notebooks. Boston, MA: J. R. Osgood and Company, p. 191.

Whitecross, John. (1968 reprint Banner of Truth Trust). Retrieved 3 December 2018 from

WSC. Retrieved 3 December 2018 from

© 2019 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Ending Slavery to Sin through Christ

John 8:34 Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.


Dickens’s portrait of Marley in A Christmas Carol. He was bound by his greed. Haddon Spurgeon says this about the phrase “whoever commits sin.”

“Depend upon it, acts of sin breed habits of sin; and habits are the chains which slaves wear. How many there are who are bound to their lusts with many [shackles]! Once, they seemed to enjoy the sin, and to hold it in subjection; but now it has bound them, and they cannot escape from it.” (see Spurgeon below).


If you doubt the veracity of Spurgeon’s claim, listen to Eugene O’Neill.

Be always drunken. Nothing else matters: that is the only question. If you would not feel the horrible burden of time weighing on your shoulders and crushing you to the earth, be drunken continually. Drunken with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you will. But be drunken.  (see O’Neill below). 

All of  the substances that we use cannot deliver us from the guilt of sin.

Slavery to sin

All who live apart from a personal relationship with God through Christ are the slaves to sin. Ephesians 2:1-10 describes man’s natural state and the intervention of God to bring life to those who are spiritually dead. 

Image from

1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the [a]course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Sin predisposes people to turn away from [the] God who offers reconciliation by grace, and toward something that can allow them to pursue life autonomously, as a law unto themselves (see Guinness, p. 36, below). Only God can deliver man from slavery to sin.

Liberal theologians posit that society’s problems result from sin in its social structures. This is not the case, however. Sin in society is a result of sin within individuals’ hearts.

Dealing With People That Have a Wicked and Evil Heart

Jeremiah 7:9-10 describes the problem we have.

9 The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately [incurably] wicked; who can know it?
10 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.

This is why the ultimate solution cannot be governmental programs such as education, guaranteed income, or wealth redistribution schemes. The solution must touch the individual’s heart. This is why we desperately need a revival of religion that begins in the hearts of individuals and spreads to the entire society and its structures through regenerate individuals.

Christ alone can deliver us from sin’s slavery.


Jesus said, “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed!”


Guinness, Os. (1992). No God but God. Chicago, IL Moody Press

O’Neill, Eugene. (1956). Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Accessed January 12, 2019 from

Spurgeon, C. H. (1883). Exposition of John 8:28-59 from Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume 44: 1898. Accessed January 13, 2019 from

© 2019 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

See Sin for What it Is!

To break sin’s hold on us, we must first see it for what it actually is. 

Sin is cosmic rebellion against God,” R. C. Sproul reminds us.

What I meant by that statement was that even the slightest sin that a creature commits against his Creator does violence to the Creator’s holiness, His glory, and His righteousness. Every sin, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is an act of rebellion against the sovereign God who reigns and rules over us and as such is an act of treason against the cosmic King (see Sproul below).

I Peter 5:8 says, “Your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Satan uses sin as his means to hold people in bondage. Though defeated by Christ at the cross, he still has not been vanquished from the battlefield.

Satan expelled.jpg

Sin not only harms us, but it also does harm to God. In what sense does it harm God? Obviously, it does not harm his person. 

Fisher’s Catechism

If a person wants to be my friend for life, all he has to do is give me a good book. A church member once gave me two books he had purchased at a $1.00 book table at a bazaar. One title has influenced me more than other more expensive books I’ve bought over the years. It is Fisher’s Catechism, an exposition of the Westminster Shorter Catechism (see Fisher below). 

Q. 1:7. How varied is the glory of God?
A. Twofold: (1) his essential glory and (2) his declarative glory.

God’s essential glory is what he is in his being. As Fisher concludes—

Q. 1:8. What is God’s essential glory?
A. It is what he is absolutely in himself.

Q. 1:9. What is his declarative glory?
A. His showing, or making known his glory, to, in, and by his creatures.

I want to make this important distinction between two aspects of God’s glory clear. What God is in himself cannot be affected by us as his creatures. We cannot add to or detract from God’s essential glory.

What we say and do in relation to God on this earth can both increase and diminish his declarative glory. By our worship, testimony, and proclamation, we can increase God’s declarative glory. This is our great aim in the Church! 


Sadly, when we sin, we diminish the declarative glory of God. This is especially true if others see us sin. All see the effects of sin on us even if the act was in private. Sin is not just a personal choice. It actually is an affront against God. His law is a declaration of his character. When we deviate from his standard, we diminish the declarative glory of  God here in our world. 

Confessing Sin to God

In order for us to be forgiven, John sets forth our procedure in I John 1:9 

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Harry Ironside said this about proper confession of sin—

In the Old Testament a person was to come to God with an offering and “So it shall be when a person is guilty in one of these, that he shall confess the sin he has committed” [AMP Leviticus 5:5]. This implies definiteness in confession. I’m afraid many of us never really get to God in confession because we are so indefinite. Someone may pray and say, “If You have seen any sin, anything wrong in me, forgive me.” Hold on a minute! Is there any sin; do you know of anything wrong? The proper way to make confession is to come to God acknowledging the [specific] wrong I have done. [See Harry Ironside below] 

In other words, we need to see sin for what it is and confess it as God has labeled it. Then, God will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 


Fisher, James. (1753, 1760). The Assembly’s Shorter Catechism Explained By Way of Question and Answer. Accessed 24 November 2018 from

Harry Ironside. Commentary on I John accessed 17 November 2018 from

© 2019 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved