Freedom in Christ

October 4, 2019

Some people make me nervous when they quote scripture. It is because what they seem to mean by the verse doesn’t seem to be what the verse appears to mean in context. For example, consider Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17)

What some seem to mean is that their impulses so are so Spirit guided, they don’t need to worry about what scripture says. Now I’m not opposed to feelings and impulses. When I have impulses to give, serve, or speak a good word for Jesus, I’m endeavoring to act on those impulses. I do believe in God’s providence to put opportunities in our way. But feelings are not a test for truth. Hopefully our feelings flow from our acceptance of truth and are tested by truth.

So, what does Paul mean by freedom? It is helpful to look at other places where he explains his concept of freedom.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1, ESV)

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Galatians 5:13, ESV)

For Paul, freedom in Christ is freedom from the bondage to law which condemns us when law is used as a means to salvation. We can’t be saved by our perfect law keeping (by merit), because we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Our freedom in Christ is also the freedom not to sin. We have forgiveness of our sins by the atoning death of Christ, so our past burdens are removed. We have spiritual help in the present to aid us in the battle against temptation and to grow in Christian graces. Paul warns Christians of the two paths in life that we still face: “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace…. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:6, 13, ESV)

Freedom in Christ is not freedom to do as you please and ignore scripture. Scripture, after all, is the Spirit’s inspired message. It is freedom from perfect law keeping and merit when we accept God’s grace in the atoning death of Christ. It is freedom from the bondage to sin, when we find and use the spiritual resources that God has richly provided for our victory. The journey in Christian living has taught me that this is true Christian freedom. The freedom to be the human being God intended me to be for there is found love, peace, and hope.

— Russ Holden

Endowed by Their Creator

July 4, 2016

July 4th, Independence Day, celebrates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The document did more than declare that the thirteen colonies were now states independent from Great Britain. The declaration announced some important principles which have touched all of our lives.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The desire for freedom and an understanding of inalienable rights led to the Bill of Rights in order to secure the approval of the U.S. Constitution. Citizens wanted their rights spelled out.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. — The Bill of Rights, Amendment I

By basing rights on something higher than the state, this country became a place of freedom and opportunity. It has not always lived up to those ideals, but those ideals have led to self-correction and have held up to us what we should be. It is still a place to which many long to come.

As we approach this important national holiday, it is a good time for us as Christians to pray. First, we should pray because we have been commanded to pray:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1–2, ESV)

Second, we should pray because we have been greatly blessed. We have enjoyed freedom and prosperity. We have been able to practice our faith without interference from the state. Our freedom of religion is more than just the freedom to worship, but it is also the freedom to evangelize. We enjoy the freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly.

Third, we should pray because no people can stand unless they are moral. The lesson of history is that moral decay is dangerous. Pray for revival. “Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1b, ESV).

Free at Last, Free at Last

April 25, 2014

We live in the land of the free. The Bill of Rights guarantees to us certain liberties. We have freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to peaceful assembly. Our freedoms have made our country “the land of opportunity.”

Yet it’s a paradox. Freedom occurs in the context of rules and responsibilities. Freedom in our country doesn’t mean I can do just anything I please. An easy way to reflect on this is to consider the rules of the road. I have great freedom to travel by automobile. The rules of the road are in some sense restrictive, but viewed from another angle they are liberating. Imagine if no one obeyed the rules of the road. It would be anarchy. Suppose that no one stopped at stop lights or stop signs or driving on the right or left side of the road were a matter of whim. The flow of traffic would be impeded. “Freedom” from these rules would actually give us less true freedom.

Consider the words of Jesus – “and the truth will set you free.” It is easy for these words to be ripped out of their context. I’ve seen them engraved on buildings in universities, where the idea was probably that learning and the pursuit of truth is liberating. I’ve heard it used in pop psychology kinds of settings: “If I just tell my irritating roommate that I’m fed up and I’m going to move out, admitting this truth makes me feel free.”

But notice what Jesus actually said: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32, ESV). The freedom that Jesus is promising occurs in the context of obedience to his teachings.

I can imagine someone complaining, “I don’t like being told what to do.” Yet another one of those interesting paradoxes emerges. “Doing our own thing” often leads to self-destructive and addictive behaviors. We enslave ourselves.

When Jesus promises freedom, it is the freedom to be human as God intended us to be. Jesus seeks to transform us as we slough off the old person of sin. And strangely in God’s intent, there is true freedom, although human hearts frequently rebel against it.

In the words of the old spiritual, freedom is having a King and meeting Him someday.

Some of these mornings, bright and fair
I thank God I’m free at last
Goin’ meet King Jesus in the air
I thank God I’m free at last

Free at last, free at last
I thank God I’m free at last