Free Indeed

For those of us who live in America, we bask in a freedom unparalleled in other parts of the world. While we may not often think about our freedom because it is so much a part of our existence, as we all know our freedom isn’t free. It has come at a great cost of innumerable American lives over the past two plus centuries that America has existed to keep us a free nation, and for that we owe our military personnel–living and dead–a huge debt of gratitude.

Huge . . .

As Christians, there is another type of freedom even more precious than the freedom we enjoy living here in America, and that freedom is found in a living, breathing, and vital relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus stated in John 8:36, “So if the Son [Jesus Christ] sets you free, you will be free indeed.” And that freedom knows no geographical or political or any other type of physical boundaries. It is also a freedom accessible to every human being on the planet who chooses to believe in Jesus Christ as the one and only true Son of God (see I John 5) who offers salvation to all who believe in Him. As Jesus stated in John 3:16-20 states:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.

As I was sitting in the balcony of the church I attend this past Sunday morning singing along with the worship team who was singing on the stage below, there was (and usually is during worship singing) a “Presence” unlike in any other setting that is so inspiring, so magnificent, yet so humbling that it fills the auditorium and often I find tears rolling down my cheeks. For some reason, I find that to be a bit awkward (the tears, I mean) in a public setting, yet the power of the words and the music while worshiping the only true God there is can be overwhelming (in a very good sense). God is Holy, holy, holy and so often during the week we don’t give Him much thought as we rush around with our busy schedules checking items off of our “to do” list.

Holy, holy, holy . . .

God’s holiness, much like our freedom here in America, often goes unnoticed as we live out our days and weeks and months and years, except in seemingly appropriate settings, like church for example (e.g., worshiping God’s holiness) or holiday settings like Memorial Day and the 4th of July (e.g., celebrating our freedom as Americans). Yet both are an intricate part of who we are–all the time–as Christians here in America (of course, for those who consider themselves to be Christian as we do live in a pluralistic society). And, our ultimate freedom–freedom in Jesus Christ–goes far beyond any physical boundaries.

Since the 4th of July holiday here in America just passed a few days ago, now is a good time to be reminded about our freedom in Jesus Christ. One of the key passages in the New Testament regarding our freedom in Christ is Galatians 5. The Apostle Paul reminds us that our freedom in Christ is not a thing we should take for granted. Let’s read what he had to say to the believers in his time (and for our time, too):

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.

Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

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.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

(Note: A previous blog post, “Freedom in Christ,” on the same topic hits on what Paul was getting at when he addresses the issue of circumcision at the beginning of this passage. Legalism still had a crippling hold on them and it was alienating them from Jesus Christ.)

Just as the freedom we enjoy living in America comes at a great price as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, so our freedom in Jesus Christ comes at a great price, too. It was the price Jesus Christ paid when He died to set us free–free from the shackles that bind sin to us (as noted in the above passage in Galatians). Often it’s our misunderstanding of that freedom that keeps us chained to those very sins as we don’t want to let them go.

free-indeedJesus Christ didn’t set us free to keep on living the way we did before we knew Him. Not at all . . . . And that freedom noted in the passage above isn’t about making sure we cross every “T” and dot every “i” while walking a religious tightrope, either. I sometimes feel that way when I’m at church–like I have to look, dress, and talk a certain way to be accepted by many of the “others.” And that is just as confining as the “sin that so easily entangles us” (see Hebrews 12:1-2). It’s not about pleasing others, no matter who those “others” might be. It’s about pleasing Jesus, and that’s the bottom line. Let’s read that passage in Hebrews:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses [see previous chapter in Hebrews 11], let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus” . . . and not the crowd!!! And that’s not easy to do at times, either, as we all want to be accepted. However, as Galatians 5:1 reminds us:

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.

And that includes any “yoke of slavery” put on us by others to conform us to their ways. While our freedom in Christ is not a license to keep on sinning (as Galatians 5 clearly points out), it is the key to the freedom that we crave and that Jesus is so willing to give us if we turn to Him and “fix our eyes” on Him. Period. Just ask Him for His help and His wisdom, and He will give it to you. And that’s a promise, too (see James 1:2-8).

And remember that our freedom . . .

Is not found in the approval of others . . .

It is only found in Jesus Christ . . . .

~~And don’t ever forget that fact!~~

YouTube Video: “Shackles (I Just Want to Praise You)” by Mary Mary:

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