Summary: A sermon given on July 4th weekend about the real freedoms that we experience as Christians.
This is the time of year when our national thoughts are of freedom.
Freedom is even in the language of the church. Jesus himself said, "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free."
'Freedom' is a word on everybody's lips today. There are many different forms of it, and many different people advocating it and canvassing it. There is the African nationalist who has gained 'Uhuru' for his country - freedom from colonial rule. There is the economist who believes in free trade, the lifting of tariffs. There is the capitalist who dislikes central controls because they hinder free enterprise and the communist who claims to set the common man free from capitalist exploitation. There are the famous four freedoms first enunciated by President Roosevelt in 1941, when he spoke of 'freedom of speech everywhere, freedom of worship everywhere, freedom from want everywhere and freedom from fear everywhere.
In our courts and congressional building today, the concepts of freedom of speech, freedom to bear arms, and the free exercise of religion are being hammered out, and redefined.
However, freedom, as defined by Scripture, has a much different meaning. When we talk about freedom as Christians, what do we mean?
Paul, in Galatians 5, defines our freedom in two forms. The first form is negative, and suggests that we are free from something. The second form is positive in nature, and suggests that we are free for something.
1. Christian freedom is freedom from -
a. Legalistic bondage
Context is the theological struggle over keeping the Mosaic Law. So Jews argued that Gentiles had to become Jews before they could become Christians.
What kinds of legalistic bondage do you tend to be enslaved by?
- Works oriented faith
What is remarkable is the new legalism that infects some churches on issues that don't even have the significance of circumcision.
- Dress codes
- Worship styles
What some Christians, and some who have not yet accepted Christ, need to hear more than anything else is "You don't have to live up to other people's legalistic expectations in order to earn God's favor and to be a Christian. Jesus' death on the cross did away with all of that. All you have to do is accept the gracious offer of forgiveness and freedom that he offers you."
Our Christian freedom from the law, which Paul here emphasizes, concerns our relationship to God. It means that God's acceptance of us depends not on our obedience to the law's demands, but on faith in Jesus Christ who bore the curse of the law when He died. It certainly does not mean that we are free to disregard or disobey the law. (Stott)
b. Slavery to sin
So we have been freed from the bondage of legalistic religion, which forces us to perform in certain ways, in order to earn God's favor. However, there is a caution here.
Trading legalistic bondage and its set of rules for slavery to sin is parallel to the choice given to former slaves after the Civil War. These slaves were given the choice to continue to sharecrop for their former master. Their pay for all of their work would be a place to live, and a small amount of money to feed and clothe themselves and their families. However, the cost for things were kept so high that though these people were free, they were kept in abject poverty. The former slaves may have felt good about their freedom, but they found themselves economically and socially controlled by another type of bondage.
Some say that our ability to choose to do evil is our freedom, but is it freedom? Isn't it another sort of bondage?
Theologian and author John Stott, in his book Only One Way, wrote of this text, "Indeed, such 'liberty', an unbridled licence, is not true liberty at all; it is another and more dreadful form of bondage, a slavery to the desires of our fallen nature. So Jesus said to the Jews: 'every one who commits sin is a slave to sin' (John 8:34), and Paul describes us in our pre-conversion state as "slaves to various passions and pleasures" (Titus 3:3).
"There are many such slaves in our society today. They proclaim their freedom with a loud voice. They speak of free love and a free life; but in reality they are slaves to their own appetites to which they give free rein, simply because they cannot control them."
Bondage to peer pressure - "I'm dressing like a unique individual." The puzzling thing is why are there so many unique individuals that look the same.
Addiction vs. bondage - Isn't addiction a polite way of saying that I am enslaved?
We argue for the right to free speech. But what some people mean by free speech is the right to blurt anything out without consideration for others. But how dare them say anything about us.