On Independence Day, our thoughts turned to freedom. We celebrated our freedom from tyranny of another country that oppressed, abused, and neglected the needs of its citizens. Nearly 250 years ago, our forefathers had enough, and they decided to rebel against those in charge. We see today that some are laboring to do away with the very government that fought to protect the freedoms they enjoy. They do not appreciate the sacrifices made by so many so they could live in a country with the most freedom anywhere in the world.
However, despite all the liberties we enjoy in America, many are still in servitude because they are still creatures of sin. If only they had a way to be free of the scourge of sin. Thank God, many do have that opportunity! Freedom is even found within the language of the church. Jesus himself said, in John 8:32, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Galatians Five defines Christian freedom in two forms: The first form suggests that we are free from something. The second, that we are free for something.
Christian freedom is freedom from the burden of sin and described this way: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Gal. 5:1). We note that we were “called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Gal. 5:13). Our ability to choose to do what we desire may be a form of freedom, but isn’t that also just another form of bondage?
Jesus said to the Jews, “everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (Jn. 8:34), and Paul describes us in our pre-conversion state as, “slaves to various passions and pleasures.” (Tit. 3:3). We hear the debate over the right to free speech, but what some people mean by free speech is the right to scream anything they wish without consideration for others. Meanwhile, how dare anyone else say something about them! They want to dish it out but cannot handle even light criticism. Galatians 5:15 states, “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” Freedom for some means the slavery of others!
We know, “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal. 5:19 – 21). The only freedom that we really have when it comes to any form of evil is to experience its consequences.
Christian freedom is quite different. Far from having liberty to indulge our sinful desires, Christians are said to “have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). That is to say, we are empowered to totally reject our old nature to rule over us. In vivid imagery Paul borrows from the manner of Jesus’ death, he states that we have “crucified” the old man, nailing him to the cross (Rom. 6:6).
In astounding contrast, the freedom to love others produces two particular freedoms: (1) The freedom to serve one another, and (2) the freedom to share in one another’s struggles. As Paul wrote, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’.” (Gal. 5:14). How can this be a form of freedom? Let us allow Jesus to supply us with an answer. “I have not come to be served, but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28). Jesus freely came to set the captives free by paying their debt for them. In the case of Christ, complete selflessness lead to freedom.
It is when we are there to encourage someone who is struggling that the Lord is pleased with our use of freedom. It is when we are there to lift up someone who has fallen that Christ is glorified by our freedom. It is when we teach someone who is spiritually immature and uninformed that God is praised by our freedom. It is when we give hope to those who are hopeless that the Spirit shines through our freedom. It is when we demonstrate love to those who feel unlovable that we are revealed to be the free Body of Christ.
There are so many walking this earth unaware or unconcerned that they are not truly free. Unless we respond to God’s call to redemption, our bondage will lead to an even greater bondage. The longer we wallow in the mud, the more satisfied we are to be pigs. What can wash away our sins, giving us true freedom from the pigpen of sin and selfishness? Nothing but the blood of Jesus! – Weldon Blaine Hebert