Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about freedom. Western society was founded on the principle of people being free, free to think and speak, free to earn and spend money, free to go wherever they want. Well, a lot of those freedoms have disappeared recently, haven’t they? I certainly can’t go where I want, I can’t spend my money in the same old ways and my ability to earn money has been drastically altered, I cannot speak to many of the people I used to, and I really don’t know what to think!
Our societal notions of freedom are certainly important, and hopefully are something we will get back to soon, but do they correspond to the Bible’s idea of freedom? Let’s take a look at Galatians 5:13 together:
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.
Paul has been telling his Galatian brothers and sisters that they are no longer slaves to the law. Since Christ’s death on the cross imparts his righteousness onto us, we are no longer forced to obey the law in order to obtain righteousness. His sacrifice was once, for all. So, now you are “no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are also a son, God has made you also an heir.” (Gal 4:7).
There are two pitfalls on either side of this path of freedom. On one side, we have the problem that the Galatians were battling, that Paul wrote to warn them about: a return to obeying the law to obtain righteousness; that is, legalism. Can a Christian get into heaven despite their sin? Of course! Because it is not our righteousness that grants us eternal life, it is Christ’s. As Paul puts it, “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” (Gal 5:4). When we turn to legalism to save us, we are rejecting Christ’s sacrifice and are no longer relying on his grace. This is not the freedom that Christ has bought for us.
On the other side of the path, the opposite response is to say “well, now I can do whatever I want” and to indulge in sin. After all, that is freedom, isn’t it? To be free to do whatever, whenever? I’m going to borrow Paul’s phrase and say: Certainly Not! This is the amazing thing about the freedom that Jesus offers us: it is freedom both from the law and from the sinful nature. We no longer have to earn our righteousness, but neither do we have to follow our desires. We are free to say no to our sinful nature. “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Gal 5:16).
I’d like to encourage you all now, as we sit at home, facing such restrictions on our freedom as we have never seen before, to really think about what it means to be free in Christ. No longer are we bound by the law, doomed to continually fall short of the glory of God, and so we are free. No longer are we bound by the flesh, doomed to follow one desire after another into sin, and so we are free. We walk the middle path, where the Holy Spirit enables us to serve one another in love. And when we do that, my friends, no disease, no government, no powers on this earth will ever take away our freedom.
Song: Free to Worship by Eddie James