July 4, 2010: How To Stay Free

Let us pray: Dear Savior, thank You for permitting us to live in a land where free speech and religious tolerance are enshrined in law. Thank You for permitting us to gather today without fear of persecution in Your house of prayer and praise. Always keep us vigilant when it comes to our earthly freedom and oppose tyranny at every turn. But keep us even more vigilant when it comes to retaining our spiritual freedom under Your cross. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO HAS COME TO SET US FREE!

TEXT: Galatians 5: 1, 13-25

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

Today is the 4th of July. Fireworks, flags everywhere, brass bands, parades, stirring speeches about our political freedoms are everywhere. It is also a day when we recall the sacrifice that our forebears endured in order to win us such freedom. Valley Forge, Bunker Hill, the Civil War all come to mind. It is fitting that red is one of the colors in our national flag. After all, it took the red blood of patriots to secure our national freedoms and quite frankly, it always will.

Our nation has set aside this singular day to mark our political freedom. But, no less than God Almighty has set aside 52 days of the year to focus us on something far more important and far more lasting—our spiritual freedom! And so today, with thoughts about freedom dancing in our heads, let us spend one of those days pondering exactly:

HOW TO STAY FREE

I

The opposite of freedom is slavery. It is having your life totally controlled by another and having your will broken by human evil. The greatest human evil manifests itself in the form of sin—both against God and against each other. It is degradation of the human spirit that our Creator originally put into us. It also changes us into something other, something against His will. Paul lists a few of the things that give evidence to such evil slavery of soul. “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. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Today in America, many, in fact I believe most people, would say that their political freedoms give them license to engage in these sins. “I’m free to do whatever I want” seems to be their battle cry. Isn’t it sad how humans constantly pervert human freedom and misuse it against any sense of honor and personal responsibility? But, such is the nature of mere human freedom. It can regulate conduct but not the inner will of humans. And make no mistake, the inner willpower of our populace has been corrupted by sin. It has become enslaved by sin. “Love your neighbor as yourself” has become a quaint slogan, but not something most people actually live by.

II

For any honest human being, this is our ageless problem.—We’re free, but we’re not. Our bodies may have few limitations upon them, but our conscience knows it is enslaved and corrupted by sin. So, what’s the answer? It is Jesus Christ. It is the perfect purity of soul that God’s Son won for us on the cross with His red blood. And it all stems from His grace, His undeserved love for us, bestowed upon each of us personally by the Holy Spirit via the gift of faith.

“So, I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law”—that is, under the jackbooted fear of eternal punishment. All this because God’s Son assumed your prison sentence, went to the prison of the grave in your place, and has now risen from that prison of death to give to you His everlasting freedom as a gift!

So, are you currently chaffing under some underlying guilt? Does a particular sin bother you? Do you still believe that God couldn’t possibly forgive you and that you must constantly try (and fail) to win His favor by your outward lifestyle? If that describes you, than you’re not really free, are you? And yet, such self-imposed slavery of conscience is living a delusion. For God’s Son really has set you free on that cross! Take His gift! It is yours without any cost to you!

III

As you begin to realize just how free you are before God, your soul will begin to warm and wonderful fruits, blessings, will begin to appear in your life. These blessings will crowd out the weeds of sin. They will uplift you. They will fill your heart with gladness. They will enable you to cope with this world of sham-freedoms which constantly try to seduce you to spiritual slavery. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Sin-enslaved people look at those fruits and try to use, abuse, and pervert them. However, the Christian celebrates them with thankfulness. We drink them in and bask in their goodness. The love Christ has for us along with our grateful hearts moves us to glory in those fruits. We cannot imagine a free existence without them because they make this evil world bearable, don’t they?

St. Paul ends by saying: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Just think about what that means! Living by the Spirit means living with grace as your guiding principle which controls everything about you. And since the Spirit is constantly guiding us closer to heaven, we need to focus more and more on God’s grace to stay in step with Him! One of those ways we do that is to grow in our spiritual freedom and rejoice over it just as we are doing today. God says that: “Righteousness exalts a nation.” Such rightness with God stems from daily repentance. Likewise, “righteousness exalts the Christian.” Yes, it is daily repentance from each of us, spiritual vigilance, which helps keep us spiritually free. That’s because Christ’s love for our hurting souls always stands guard against all intrusions of apathy. Today, we thank Him for caring about our freedom so very, very much and restoring it to each of us! Amen