Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Freedom in Christ

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Part 12 of a series through Galatians

Text: Galatians 5:1-15

"It’s a free country!"

"Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: (a) freedom of conscience and religion; (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including the freedom of the press and other media of communication; (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and (d) freedom of association."—Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

F. D. Roosevelt’s four freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

"Live free or die."—the official motto of New Hampshire

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free" (v. 1a).
  • Freedom should be valued.
  • Freedom can be costly.
  • Freedom is often abused.
What is Christian freedom? Three facts about Christian freedom:
  1. I am free from the law’s curse. "Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (v. 1b). The law was given for a limited time (until Christ came) for a limited purpose (to reveal sin). We cannot be justified by obeying the law, no matter how hard we try. This is the law’s curse. When Paul wrote, "You have fallen away from grace" (v. 4), he was not saying that salvation can be lost. Rather, he was saying that the Galatians had moved from enjoying God’s grace to trying to earn God’s favor by observing the law. The gospel is offensive (v. 11) because it declares that we are incapable of earning justification.

  2. I am not free to excuse my sin. "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature" (v. 13a). We are free from the curse of the law, but we are not free from the morality of the law. Freedom in Christ is not a license to sin. Jude wrote about "godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Christ our only Sovereign and Lord" (Jude 4). Canada is a free country, but we are not free to do whatever we want. Abraham Lincoln said, “Freedom is not the right to do what we want, but what we ought.” To be free in Christ means to be free to live as God wants me to live.

  3. I am free to serve others. "Rather, serve one another in love" (v. 13b). Christian freedom is voluntary slavery. The Greek word for "serve" (douleuo) means "to be a slave." "He who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave" (1 Corinthians 7:22). "Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God" (Romans 6:22). Our freedom is not self-seeking; it is self-sacrificing. "The only things that counts is faith expressing itself through love" (v. 6). Love is defined by Christ. He "loved me and gave himself for me" (2:20). Love is inspired by the Spirit. "The fruit of the Spirit is love" (5:22). Love is expressed by serving others. "As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of God" (6:10). Paul gives two incentives to love: (1) Love is the essence of the law. "The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'" (v. 14; cf. Leviticus 19:18). The Greek word for "summed up" (pleroo) can either be translated "summarized" (Jesus summed up the law with two commands, Matthew 22:37-40) or "fulfilled" (Romans 13:8) The law can be boiled down to a one-word command: "Love." (2) Love is the eliminator of discord. "If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other" (v. 15).
How should we respond to the freedom we have in Christ?
  • Don’t say, “I can do whatever I want.”
  • Say, “I can do whatever you need.”
  • Don’t ask, “What must I do?”
  • Ask, “What can I do?”

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