Summary: Stand Firm In Your Freedom 1) You have been freed from sin. 2) You have been freed for service.
“O Canada! Our home and native land…” Did you sing our country’s national anthem last week on Canada Day? My favorite line in the national anthem is how we ask: “God, keep our land glorious and free.” Freedom. It’s what every nation wants but freedom is not “free” is it? Every year our nation spends millions of dollars running border patrols to ensure that no enemy can get into our country and take our freedom from us. If it’s important to us Canadians to stand firm in our freedom, it should be even more important for us Christians to stand firm in the freedom Jesus won for us. Today the Apostle Paul reminds us that we Christians have two kinds of freedom: we have freedom from sin, and freedom for service. Let’s find out how to stand firm in both freedoms.
The Christians in the churches of Galatia in present-day Turkey were in danger of losing their freedom to false teachers who insisted that trusting in Jesus was not enough to get into heaven. They taught that you also had to keep Old Testament ceremonial law like being circumcised and resting on the Sabbath. Paul responded like this: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all… 4 You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:1, 2, 4).
How would you feel if you prepared drinks, a salad, Grade A prime rib, and homemade ice cream for friends who were coming over for dinner only to have them show up and say, “Thanks for the effort but we brought our own food: leftover hotdogs from the school picnic.” What?!? Who would do something like that? It sounds outlandish yet many people are acting this way when it comes to spiritual matters. They either totally reject what Jesus has done for them to open heaven or they don’t think it’s quite enough. But how can we say that what Jesus did isn’t enough? He paid the ultimate price: his blood to free us from our sins. To reject that is to say we’d rather live under the burden of having to keep God’s laws to earn our own way to heaven. That’s like rejecting a free concert ticket because you would rather spend your hard-earned cash to buy your own. It just doesn’t make any sense. And here’s the kicker, no matter how hard we try, we can’t keep God’s laws as he wants them kept. Instead of salvation we’d only earn damnation for our paltry efforts. It’s no wonder Paul was upset that the Galatian Christians had been tricked into thinking that Jesus hadn’t done enough to win their salvation. He has. So stand firm in your freedom from sin.
Paul, however, understood how many would misinterpret this freedom from sin and think that it is a freedom to sin. And so Paul went on to tell his Galatian listeners, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature… 19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:13, 19-21).
Paul does not want us to use our freedom as a springboard, or literally, a base camp from which we dive into sin with reckless abandon. In fact those who do so without remorse will not go to heaven because they are saying that they would rather live in sin than with their Savior. And God will finally say to them, “Fine, thy will be done.”
Although Jesus’ forgiveness doesn’t make us free to sin it does give us a freedom of another kind: freedom to serve one another. Actually what Paul said is that it gives us the freedom to be slaves to one another. Does this sound like a freedom you want any part of? Perhaps not at first but just think, if everyone in this world considered themselves a willing slave to others, it would be a much better place. Customer service agents, for example, would no longer view you as a nuisance to be dispatched so they can collect a pay check but see you as people they are delighted to serve. Your siblings wouldn’t think you a pest to have around during summer vacation. Your husband would never groan or roll his eyes when you said you wanted to sit down and talk. Now here’s the best part. God remade you to act this way towards others. This is the work of the Holy Spirit explains Paul. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22, 23a).