GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO SETS US ETERNALLY FREE!
TEXT: Galatians 5: 1, 13-25
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
Freedom! Don’t you just love to hear that word? And isn’t it even better to live it?! On Friday we got a look into the heart of freedom. In case you haven’t heard, England voted on the famous “Brexit” referendum over whether to stay within the European Union or to leave. They voted for freedom. They voted to leave and that earthquake and its aftershocks will continue to be felt around the globe for many months and even many years. The English took their country back from the globalists who care only about personal power and making money. They took their country back from multi-national corporations and the faceless bureaucracy in Brussels. They decided they wanted to be England again instead of a nameless blob on a map. And the oligarchy of moneyed/political interests that seems to run this planet is shaken. It’s almost like “Star Wars” where the rebels beat back the empire. Some say this was “Magna Carta 2” in their country’s history. Anyway you cut it, the majority wanted to stand on their own two feet and take responsibility for their fate come what may. That took great courage. This week we lived out a great moment in history.
Of course, the greatest moment in all history is what the Christian Church celebrates and we talk about each week. That being: God’s Son coming into time and space and giving up His life to save His people. That great day of resurrection from the dead and all it entailed marked our eternal freedom from sin, death, and Satan’s power. And now we’re going to talk about it from the vantage point of our text.
Listen with new ears as St. Paul writes to the young, fledgling believers in Galatia: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery. You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.” Not knowing the Triune God, not knowing the Christ is your Savior, not having the certainty that heaven is your ultimate home—those are the fruits of our slavery to sin. Slaves act and think differently than free people. Slaves don’t have a will of their own. They cannot say what’s really on their mind. Slaves are entirely controlled by their masters in all aspects of life—which crushes their spirit—and then they die without hope and without help. Of course, any smart masters try to convince them otherwise. They feed them pious platitudes about how good they’ve got it, that everyone is being taken care of, that the master is a benevolent big brother. But in the end, slaves have no choice, they must obey, or else! Such is the great lie that Satan uses to inflict upon and control the masses of every generation. He wants us to think and act as mere survivors in a harsh world with no higher thoughts and no yearning for a better future—a future of freedom. But here, Paul says: “Christ has set us free!” Christ vaporized Satan’s power on the cross. He took the sting of eternal death away through His resurrection for us! So, now we can stand up like the sons of God we are and turn our faces to Him in joy instead of grief and shame!
Lest we use our new-found freedom in a negative way, Paul now says this: “But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire (Law of God) is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” That truism applies to individual people and to nations of people. Freedom is a fragile thing. You can use it to uplift everyone or to tear apart and balkanize each other. We saw an example of this just this week in our national House of Representatives where some congresspeople didn’t like the outcome of certain legislation and staged an unruly sit-in to divide the nation instead of bring it together. I dare say, we’ve seen a lot of that lately in our country, haven’t we? And I know you’ve witnessed it in your own family, too….
As Christians who are free to be God’s children, we need to be reminded how to avoid such cruel and cynical dissension. “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law (a sense of obligation that robs of us joy).” Think of it this way: if there was a law that said “You must pick up every piece of trash the older neighbor lady drops or you’ll be fined” you’d do it, but after 500 times you’d become angry about it. That’s slavery. But if you saw her struggling with her trash bags and inadvertently leaving some strewn about, in love you’d just pick it up and dispose with a sense of pride and caring.—That’s freedom. This is the attitude that Christians now have as a result of Christ setting them free when it comes to following God’s commandments.
And now come the specifics: “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery (the worst of the internet and the after midnight clubbing atmosphere); 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.” That sounds a lot to me like a snapshot of modern America. Is it any wonder most Americans consider themselves slaves to the status quo of modern life? When you forget Christ and turn your back on God’s gift of spiritual freedom—slavery is the only alternative….
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit (by His power and love) let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
Christians are free. We’re the freest people on this earth. We’re free to not give in to our base impulses, but to strive for a higher, more noble purpose in life. We’re free, not to look down our noses at others and cluck over their problems by congratulating ourselves that “We’re so much better than they are”; instead we’re free to help them whenever we can in a spirit of humility.—The old: “There but by the grace of God go I.” Right now each of you is free because Jesus Christ burst the chains of sin and death encircling your heart. Resolve never to turn back down that old road to perdition again! His freedom gives you that power… So, use it! Amen