Freedom is such a wonderful thing, especially if you live within it in such a way that it fosters an ever-expanding experience of the implications of being free: the novelty of liberty should never wane, but should spark inside us a burning desire to discover what is just beyond the next horizon. Christ, of course, is the essential provision for obtaining (and successfully utilizing) freedom.
Prior to becoming a child of God, a man is in bondage as a fallen being driven by the whip of fleshly compulsions, the sting of tender ego, and the goading of tyrannical fears. But in Christ, he has been set free. Set free? Yes, set free.
First of all, he is set free from sin itself. No longer is he considered guilty and worthy of condemnation, but he is counted as forgiven and washed clean of all past offenses. Secondly, he is set free in the sense of no longer being bound to a destiny of death. Eternal destruction is diverted from him and he is granted an eternal hope in Jesus. But the cross of Christ does not merely save us from sin (and its consequence of death), although it certainly does that. It also sets us free from the Baal of “self” (a “Baal” being a slave-master “deity” worshiped in fear; an idol). Self naturally strives to retain its position as “center” of our will, but serves always as a snare ready to place a new yoke upon us.
Happily, when once we are made free, we are positioned to experience the fulfillment of His promises for us including such things as His presence, His protection, and His provision. Those promises, recounted for us in His Scriptures, become experience in every instance in which we choose to trust Him. That being said, the questions arises, “When once I am set free in Christ, how do I continue in an ongoing spirit of liberty?”
“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. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another” (Galatians 5:13-15 ESV).
According to this passage, we are admonished to love each other at least as much as we love ourselves. In application, this means to no longer consider our own welfare, interests and desires first, but to let the welfare, interests, and desires of others become our priority.
The dilemma that we face in trying to maintain the wise counsel of loving others, is that we cannot do so in any meaningful way in our own strength. Doing so by mere force of will binds us to a new master, that of the Law of Serving and Giving. And, because we cannot do this perfectly within our own hearts, we are eventually overcome by our own inability to love others selflessly all the time. We become slaves again, only now to “Legalism.”
And in addition to “Legalism”, we take on another master as well, one called “Pride.” Who of us, when trying to gauge his success, doesn’t contrast how well he does something with how badly someone else is doing it? And then Legalism and Pride inevitably take us hand-in-hand to their ugly offspring, “Hypocrisy.”
And finally, because our efforts degrade to doomed-attempts and erode away to nothing, we eventually meet Hypocrisy’s twin, “Condemnation.” We will never have done all we think we should have done, never said all we could have said, and not been all we might have been, so we therefore find ourselves under Condemnation’s unbearably heavy burden. Ugh! What a fate!
But is that to which we’ve truly been called? Is that all there is to being free? Happily, no. There is more to the story than that. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:16-18 ESV).
There is a third alternative. We are not bound to live any longer in the flesh, nor are we set free from the flesh only to become crushingly clamped to the Law. There is a supernatural resource granted to us in the Personhood of God Himself as His invisible presence moves within the deep confines our inner being.
In other words, once we have been set free, we can live in a daily routine of reliance upon the help of God Himself. As we, with His help, choose to believe His declarations in regard to our condition, the resource of hope that He gives us in Himself, and the ways in which we appropriate that hope, He enables us to walk with Him, equips us to do His work, and empowers us to overcome the mountains in our way.
In every way we can carry out His expectations of us, even if we do not meet every expectation of the people around us. In Him, I can give to others sacrificially, I can serve others effectively, I can tell others faithfully (of the hope of Jesus Christ), and I can help others fruitfully knowing that my trusting obedience to God will result in some treasure of eternal significance.
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24-25 ESV).
Thanks be to God that, starting today, you can live in true freedom: the ability to become what God intends you to be!
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 24 years, is the author of Led by Grace, The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)