Stand Fast in Your Christian Freedom!
O Lord God, my dear Heavenly Father, You fill my life with Your blessings, not the least of which is freedom. I confess that I can so easily take this blessing for granted, because I enjoy such wonderful freedom simply as a citizen of this land. Help me, however, to understand and appreciate the fact that all true freedom begins with and rests upon the redemptive work of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who has delivered me from the bonds of Satan and enables me to use my freedom wisely in service to others. Only then can I truly be free! Amen.
In spite of good preaching, the solus of men at times remain chained by unbelief. Because of this, Elijah was near despair. The LORD informed Elijah, however, that there were 7,000 people whose hearts had been freed by the gospel and were faithful to Him. He then sent Elijah to anoint Elisha to be both his companion and his prophetic successor.
The answer to unbelief is not anger, but rather a persistent preaching of the truths regarding Jesus. It will not always be easy to follow Jesus, but let us strive to do so. Having been freed by the gospel, let us be faithful to our Lord following Him regardless of the costs involved!
Text: Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage…. For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery,fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
In Christ Jesus, who has freed us from slavery to sin in order that we might freely serve, dear fellow redeemed:
Freedom…freedom is one of our greatest blessings from God! It is a blessing we celebrated this last week on July 4th. In the Declaration of Independence we read: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty (or freedom) and the pursuit of Happiness.” Unfortunately, within our society today liberty, or freedom is often viewed as license—“I am free to do whatever I want to do irrespective of what other men may think or what God has said!” That often leads, unfortunately, to destructive and sinful behavior.
In this past Wednesday’s edition of The Free Press, Hobby Lobby purchased a full page advertisement. In it many quotations from our founding fathers were cited connecting freedom and its proper use with faith in God. For instance, John Adams, our second President stated: “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and our third President wrote: “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.” Given the current belief of many within our society that all mention of religion and religion-based morality should be removed from public discourse, these words should raise concerns in our minds. John Adams recognized that man is by nature immoral and without the constraints of the law will inevitably act according to his own sinful and selfish will, and society will be the worse for it! Thomas Jefferson stated that God is and remains the Judge of all individuals and nations. He will not remain silent forever in view of our individual and corporate abuse of the freedom with which He has blessed us. He will intervene eventually in our lives and affairs of our nation to exercise His just judgment.
Let us, therefore heed the warning of the apostle Paul, given long before our nation was established, but which remains pertinent even today: STAND FAST IN YOUR CHRISTIAN FREEDOM! Do not lose your freedom to the law; do not abuse your freedom with the flesh; and finally secure your freedom by walking in the Spirit!
Yes, do not lose your freedom to the law! This thought is mentioned only in the first verse of our text, but it is crucial to our overall understanding both of freedom and its proper use. Paul writes: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” There are two principles here that we must bear in mind. First, true freedom is ours only through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ! Second, true freedom can be properly exercised only when individuals are motivated by the gospel! Listen once again: True freedom is ours only through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, and true freedom can be properly exercised only when individuals are motivated by the gospel!
Let me explain. Contrary to the common belief today that human beings are by nature basically good, the Bible and human experience reveal that every human being without exception, by nature, is born in sin and subject to the slavery of Satan. The Bible says plainly, “That which is born of flesh is flesh”—“flesh” referring to our sinful nature (cf. Jn. 3:6a). Jesus states emphatically: “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin”—committing sin refers to the ongoing committing of sin with an impenitent attitude (cf. Jn. 8:34b). Unless freed from sin and from Satan, all human beings would fall under God’s judgment and be lost forever! God’s plan for our salvation, however, frees us from sin and Satan through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that the truths Jesus proclaimed will make us free (cf. Jn. 8:32)—free from sin and the guilt that accompanies it, for those sins have been washed away by the blood of Christ (cf. 1 Jn. 1:7; Rev. 1:5); free from the condemnation of the law and God’s ultimate judgment, because that judgment came to rest upon Jesus (cf. Rom. 8:33; 2 Cor. 5:19, 21); free from the demands of the law for righteousness, because the righteousness of Jesus Christ is God’s gift to all who place their trust in Jesus (cf. Rom. 4:5-8; 10:4).
Our freedom is sustained and can only properly be exercised when motivated by the gospel—the message of God’s love for you. The facts--that God loves you in Christ and that His love is unconditional, that you are by faith God’s son or daughter destined to inherit eternal life as a gift of His grace, that He promises to protect you and provide for you, that He will be your Shepherd and your Friend--all combine to move us to use our freedom wisely. As Paul tells the Corinthian Christians—“the love of Christ compels us…that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:14-15).
It is so easy, however, to lose sight of our sin problem and God’s gospel solution. It is so easy to begin thinking that as long as we are fairly good we can merit God’s favor and earn our salvation. It is so easy to begin to make the Christian life simply the fulfillment of a long list of demands, but that ultimately saps life of its joy and leaves us living life with uncertainty—the uncertainty of trusting in oneself rather than in Christ. Paul says: “Do not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” In other words, do not lose your freedom to the law! Rather, STAND FAST IN YOUR CHRISTIAN FREEDOM, which is such a precious gift from God!
As you do so, however, do not fall into a second very common trap. Paul urges us: Do not abuse your freedom with the flesh! He writes: “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh…. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
The greatest temptation with regard to freedom for our generation, or any generation for that matter, is to use that freedom to satisfy our flesh. Paul lists seventeen different sins falling into four different categories—sins of lust; sins of idolatry; sins of lovelessness; and sins of intemperance. As you listen to that list, do they not describe accurately the society in which we live and the temptations that we face? Because we are surrounded by these sins, it is easy to begin to think lightly of them and to participate in them without much thought or consideration. My dear friends, let us not abuse the precious gift of our freedom with such sinful living. Paul warns us: “If you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” Satan would like nothing better than to see us devour ourselves as we wildly misuse our freedom. It just makes his job that much easier to disturb, misdirect, and then devour our souls! Rather, Paul urges us: “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Therefore STAND FAST IN YOUR CHRISTIAN FREEDOM!
Secure your freedom by walking in the Spirit! Paul directs us: “Through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
My dear friends, for you and for me, as God’s beloved children, the law no longer compels us, but rather simply directs us to love—to seek the well-being of those around us. The Spirit enters our hearts by faith, dwells within our bodies as His temple (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19), and works within our hearts those precious fruits mentioned by Paul—love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are all virtues we need to exercise our freedom properly as we serve others, and as we seek to honor our God.
Exercising our freedom by walking in the Spirit is the nuts and bolts of daily living. How do you and I approach each day? Do we cultivate the attitude of the Psalmist…“this is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24), or do we grump our way through the day leaving behind us a trail of tears? Do we recognize the blessings that our family members and co-workers bring us, or do we choose to focus only on what we consider to be their shortcoming and failures to meet our expectations? Do we rejoice that God has given us vocations—callings within which to use our various gifts and talents to better ourselves, but also to bless others, or do we complain about everything we consider unfair on the job and view ourselves as the victims of other men’s plotting?
My dear friends—we have been richly blessed! We possess spiritual freedom from sin, Satan, death, and hell! Our ultimate future is secure for us in Christ! We possess political freedom and are able to live our lives with little reason to fear the violence and oppression experienced by so many others in our world! We have been given the truths of God’s word, which free our minds and hearts, so that our lives are open to the Spirit’s presence and guidance. I would urge you: STAND FAST IN YOUR CHRISTIAN FREEDOM! Do not lose your freedom to the law! Do not abuse your freedom with the flesh! Secure your freedom by walking in the Spirit! Then you will truly honor God! Then you may rest assured of His ongoing blessing!
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting