Freedom in Christ

(Galatians 5:1, 13-25)

This week we will celebrate the 231st birthday of the United States. And as we do I'm sure the debate of "One Nation Under God" will be fueled yet again. Now the truth is whether people like it or not we are a nation under God. As a matter of fact all nations of this world are under God, God created it all. Our challenge with this statement is to realize we are but one of many nations under God's authority, we're not the only one.

But the real challenge we face as a nation is not whether we're under God's authority, but rather as a nation under God are we following God. Can we make the statement one nation that follows God. And of course the answer is not always.

There are many reasons for this, but I suggest one of the main reasons we struggle to follow God is because we don't fully understand the gift of freedom and what it means to live free.

Many folks today seem to understand freedom to mean that they can do whatever they want. And what's happening as a result is the very freedom they declare for themselves takes away the freedom of someone else. When the early settlers came to this country in the name of freedom, they took land and enslaved others to work the land. The settlers may have been free, but what happened is their freedom actually caused others to no longer be free.

When we buy certain clothes or other items because we're free to do so, we are enabling child labor and slavery in other countries.

And there are countless examples that can be lifted up, such as being slaves to debt, addictions, habits, etc.

Freedom also doesn't mean we aren't responsible or accountable for our actions. A great example of this is Paris Hilton

It's important to understand freedom isn't an entitlement or right as many profess it to be, freedom is a gift, a gift from God, a gift to be treasured, shared and lifted up.

Paul in his letter to the Galatians explains freedom this way: freedom has two sides or two paths, we are free to sin or we are free to serve.

And freedom to sin and do whatever one wants is actually not freedom at all, it's being a slave to Satan and his evil ways. When we engage in this understanding of freedom were actually falling back into a life of selfishness, which is sin.

Followers of Christ should not, and don't have to be, slaves to sin but are free to do right and glorify God through loving service to others. Freedom in Christ actually means we're free to live in a way that once was impossible, that is unselfishly.

There's no greater freedom then living out the command to love one another. Think about it when we love and treat others as we wish to be treated, there is equality, everyone cares for one another, all needs are met, no one is enslaved. Sounds kind of like heaven to me, a heaven that can be lived now not after our death.

Christ sets us free from just giving into society's definition of freedom and giving into religious unbiblical based laws and regulations. But freedom in Christ still requires responsibility and accountability. We are ultimately accountable to God and we are responsible for our actions.

Persons freed by Jesus Christ are given the vocation and capacity to love one another. Paul explains it this way: Freedom is the basis of love, and love is the proper exercise of freedom.

The Holy Spirit dwells within Christians and when allowed produces the very love which has been commanded in verse 22. The love Paul speaks of is not some mechanical action, but an action that's dynamic and directed by God. So in reality God doesn't just say do this or do that, he makes possible the life he demands.

Now love isn't a characteristic or virtue of a Christian. Love is actually the sum and substance of what it means to be a Christian. In dying with Christ and in the subsequent new life, we discover that we are recipients of God's love, and faith simply means surrendering to this love.

The command in verse 14 to love one another is a command that doesn't do away with being responsible for following and sharing God's law. The command to love one another confirms God's law and provides correct interpretation of the law.

You might remember the baptism of Isaiah last week and how fussy he was until after he was baptized. He then smiled then he smiled as if the burdens of the world were lifted from him and he was free.. After laying hands on him he had a rather non-descript look on his face, but after he was anointed he smiled again. What a great illustration of how we might feel when we know the freedom we have in Christ, and live into that freedom.

And then Paul helps us out by giving us examples of what it means to live in a selfish and un-Christ-like way: "The acts of the sinful nature 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." And then he shares with us the Fruits of the Spirit, those characteristics of a person truly free in Christ and living a life of that same freedom: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. If the Fruits of the Spirit are characteristics of our life and if we focus attention on serving others we are truly free, we are truly free in Christ.

Read other messages by Pastor Wade