Gal. We Have Our Freedom in Christ
“We Have Our Freedom in Christ”
Grace and peace to your from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Freedom!…that’s what this 4th of July weekend is all about. Our independence was earned for us just over 300 years ago and we sure have come a long way…or have we? This world clamors for freedom and this nation takes a lot of the attributes of our freedom for granted…freedom of speech, freedom of assembly…freedom to do what ever we want. Everybody wants to be “free,” no one wants anybody watching over their shoulder or restricting them in any way. Who here doesn’t feel as though someone of something is on our back and so we long for more freedom. Some of us might be feeling like we’re in a situation beyond our control…stuck in a dead-end job, lost in a fruitless relationship, or suffering under financial constraints. Freedom is yearned for, especially with our young. They also are demanding their independence…their need for their own space, and… more freedoms.
What is this freedom that we have here in this country of ours? Our forefathers bought our right to be able to choose what we want to do with our lives…where we will live and how we will live. They bought this freedom with their own blood. On the battlefields of the War for Independence, the Civil War, World War I, World War II…they died on those ramparts and on those sandy beaches for our right to “liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” They died so that we might live…in a place that offers us freedom. So that we are able to choose what is important to us, to designate our priorities, and to be able to speak freely and worship as our conscience leads us.
I think it’s very important for our youth to go out and see the rest of this world and how many of our neighbors on this planet live. I really think that it’s great that we are commissioning this group that is going to Juarez today. What a great experience for our youth. My wife and I were talking about freedom and she told me about when she went on a choir trip to Germany as a youth. They were given the opportunity to visit East Germany while the iron curtain was still up (sorry to date you honey). This was a learning experience for the whole choir. The interesting thing is that they were there on the 4th of July, the very same day that we celebrate our freedom earned in our country. They all got a glimpse of the way the communist block lived. She told me of the lines they saw for food and everyday goods that we take for granted. She described the sullen faces of people that were not starving, but seemed to be so depressed and just plain sad. This was the face of a lack of freedom. They couldn’t cross the line to the West; they were prisoners in their own country...
Today there is still this kind of oppression in the world. Certainly things have changed in East Germany, but there is still a definite lack of freedom that goes on in places like China and Russia. One of our seminary professors just got back from their mission work in Moscow and told us that the work there was hampered by the requirement to have everyone sign something saying they were members of the church. This had to be asked of a people that had, not too long ago, seen others get shot for attending the wrong meeting. For some people, gathering in the name of Jesus, like in today’s service, can lead to persecution, assault, imprisonment, torture, or even death.
But the freedom that Paul is talking about in Galatians is a different kind of freedom. The Christian is free in a different way. Many people of our day advertise outward freedom, but what Jesus Christ offers is inward freedom…freedom from self. Now isn’t that the kind of freedom we really want? Christ frees you from the law and the guilt that comes from our being convicted by the law. This is the “yoke of slavery” that Paul is talking about. The freedom from guilt that comes through forgiveness in Christ is what frees us from the crushing weight that presses down on us. This is caused, not by imagined wrongs, but by sins which we have in fact committed due to the wickedness within our hearts. We may try to forget our guilt. We may try to whitewash it. We may run in every direction, frantically looking for pastimes and distractions, so that we are too pre-occupied to pause and look at ourselves. But, eventually it comes through…we are caught in our own guilt. The accusing finger says, “It’s you Mr. Phony!” This is when we realize there is no escaping our sinfulness. This may happen to you at 1:00 in the morning, on your way to school, or over your morning coffee, but sooner or later you fall with all of the fallen before you.
This sin has the ability to enslave us. If we avoid it long enough and build a strong enough allusion around it, it can consume us. We enable ourselves to imagine we are free and don’t even realize we are subject to futility. We think we are free when we think we have control over a creation that is itself in prison and without freedom. We become rulers, free to roam around in our own concentration camp. We are in the “bondage to decay” that Paul describes in Romans… Sin is death and we become one of the walking dead if we buy into our own delusion!
What Paul is telling us in Galatians is not to do this but to “live by the Spirit” in our freedom. Our sinful nature gravitates to what is sinful and the Spirit leads us away from sin. As Christians we are called to eradicate all sin from our lives. Have you really been as diligent about this is you possibly can? This needs to be done in a resolute way, we need to purposefully examine our lives and see where we are caught in sin or are fooling ourselves. With the television shows we watch, the way we might drive, how we keep our books, what we say to one another… As your pastor, I will be rebuking you and exhorting you to make the right choices with the freedom that Christ has given you and I will be encouraging you to be “led by the Spirit.” Away from “sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery.” Away from “idolatry” of any kind…this includes money, material possessions, and the envy of these things. Through Paul, God calls us not to live in “hatred, discord, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, and factions.” These are all things that go on in churches all the time. But Paul tells us straight up, “that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God”!... This is a warning not to “live like this” in an unrepentant manor. But…our sinful nature helps us to fall into patterns and habits and Satan is roaming like a lion outside your door…
Now for the encouragement…Paul follows this warning by letting us know the resultant behavior of following the Spirit. He tells us that “those that belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” This is in the past tense. We have participated in the crucifixion! Through the crucifixion of Christ our sinful nature of the flesh has been crucified. This is the key for us. If we understand properly that the event on Calvary marked the doom of sin and take that as real, then we are in a real relationship with it and this means death to the flesh with its sinful fleshly desires! Like our forefathers in the Revolutionary War, Jesus has already bought this victory for us with His blood, and with that victory comes freedom from the law. Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Through faith in Christ, believers are “brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” This freedom is not a philosophical freedom of the political scientists but one of direct spiritual implications and they are eternal! It is a freedom from sin, death, and power of the devil. In Romans Paul writes, “Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” He has also freed us from the need to merit our own salvation before God…He has already done that. He has entered into the prison of our fallen world, he was subjected to the sentence for our sin, and He suffered capital punishment in our place.
So, we celebrate both our national independence day and our personal freedom in Christ. He has freed us for a life of discipleship, to be led by the Spirit and to “Love one another.” To paraphrase Luther, human freedom might change laws without changing people, but Christian freedom changes people without ever changing the law.
And now may that peace which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.