July 04, 2011

Freedom!

"Free at last!  Free at last!  Thanks God almighty, we are free at last!"  Martin Luther King Jr.   August 28, 1963.

Today, we celebrate the birth of our country and the freedom that it brings.  It's wonderful to be free isn't it!  Can you imagine a life devoid of the freedoms you now have.  Can you imagine if something happened to our country and we all of a sudden found our selves in sort sort of slavery?  It has happened to other countries.  It happened to certain people of this land long ago.  It happens everyday in this broken world.

But there is a freedom that you and I have which can never be taken away regardless of our circumstances.  It's our freedom in Christ.  Truly GOOD NEWS!

But, I wonder if you know what the Bible truly means by Freedom in Christ.  I didn't really pay attention for a long time.  I simply read through the Bible, and every time, I saw the term "freedom", I assigned the thought to it - "freedom from sin".  We are indeed free from sin, but that isn't usually what is meant when freedom in Christ is used unless it specifically says "freedom from sin", or something close to that.

So today I will start a three day series on what it means to be Free in Christ.  I will look at four representative verses.  Galatians 5:1, Ephesians 3:12, and then Psalm 119:45 and James 1:25.  Today I will begin with the last two on that list.

The psalmist writes:


"I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts." Psalm 119:45

And then James writes later in the New Testament:

"But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do." James 1:25

The beautiful thing about the messages of the Bible, is that it (the Bible) is consistent.  It doesn't contradict itself or counteract it's own teaching.  It is 100 percent reliable.

It's interesting to note that the longest and most profound Psalm in Scripture is totally and completely about a proper response to the Word of God and it's instruction.  The specific section of Psalm 119 that our verse is found in is a specific section called Waw (pronounced "vauv").  The incredible truth in this section is that the freedom in which the writer finds himself is a freedom that comes from knowing the Word of God.  He doesn't have to live in fear of doing something wrong or behaving in a way displeasing to God, because He has the Word hidden in his heart and he has diligently looked into the Word of God to understand it's guiding principles.
You might think this would change in the New Testament, that true freedom would no longer be tied to knowing anything, that it is simply freedom.  But James tells us the exact same thing.


"But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do." James 1:25

The incredible truth is brought forth again even more clearly than before.  Those who live in freedom are those who live in the confidence of knowing the Word of God.  They have looked at it intently and they are living their life according to the guidance it gives them for Holy living.

Here's the lesson for today.  True freedom is found in living in Christ.  That is not the same thing as living freely in Christ.  Their are two mistakes that well meaning Christians make here, but both are grounded in irresponsibility and ignorance.  The Bible uses harsher language than that, so please bear with me for a sec.

The first mistake is people who think that knowing the gospel message that "God gives me grace and I am forgiven " and the fulfillment of the law is love," is the entirety of the Word of God for them.  Because of that, they fail to "look intently into the perfect law that gives freedom".  They live lives doing whatever they want (sometimes in God's name) without searching out God's more holisitic and complete guidance for every situation in life.  The symptoms of such life look like this:  broken relationships with other believers, disrespect to parents, improper sexual and dating relationships, celebration of worldly pleasures and ideologies, improper speech and joking, etc.  This is a life, not of freedom in Christ, but ignorance and irresponsibility.  They do not know the counsel of God, and thus they do not know the freedom of a clear concious in regards to His holy Word and sanctifying work.

The second kind of mistake is people who think they know the Word of God and heap burdens of performance on themselves and others.  The standards they use are not the measures of God's Word, but their own denominational, personal, and cultural values - to determine what "holy" should look like.  This is not the freedom in Christ.  This is performance, and it does not reflect a knowledge of the Word, but a self righteousness of knowledge.  Paul called these individuals "puffed up" and "having an unhealthy propensity for arguments" and thinking of themselves more highly than they should."
The symptoms of this group are the same, but they manifest a little differently due to the nature of the self righteousness.  They are broken relationships (due to ultimatums that they have deliniated). improper speech and behavior (based on pride and wrongly dividng the Word of God), celebration of worldly ideologies (due to their pride of self imposed cultural and personal standards), etc.

Look at your life today.  Do you live in the Freedom in Christ that comes from having looked intently into His Word, and letting it transform your life?  Are you free to walk about without a heavy conscience because you know you are pleasing Him without the afront to Him of self-righteousness.
Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.  If we live by God's Word, we are free from the burden of having to perform.  Christ's yoke is light.  It takes effort to be like Christ, but it is oh so satisfying and simple.  Let us live like free-born Image Bearers today, with a clear conscience and a clean heart.

With you for His Glory

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