Tuesday, October 18, 2016

What Is Freedom in Christ?

What is freedom? The common answer is, the ability to do whatever we want. The problem with that is, we do not always want the right things. The things God commands are what is good (Romans 7:12-14; Psalms 19:7-10; 119:33-40). But we are sinners who do not do what is right (Romans 3:23; Jeremiah 17:9; Isaiah 64:6). And sin, by its very nature, is enslaving (Romans 6:16-18; John 8:34; Hebrews 2:14,15). It looks good in the beginning. But in the end, it is a chain which binds us.

This is obvious in the case of certain sins, such as alcoholism, drug abuse, pornography, and gambling. But it is also true of other sins. Take, for example, anger or greed. They start out as minor, and we think we are in control of them, but gradually they come to control us. That is why one thing God has to set us free from is ourselves. And that requires giving up our selfish desires for His (Matthew 16:24-26; Romans 12:1,2; 6:12-16). Also, God wants us to dwell in community (Romans 12:4,5; 1 Corinthians 12:12,13; Hebrews 10:24,25). And that requires us to be willing to put others before ourselves (Philippians 2:3,4; Galatians 5:13,14; Romans 13:8-10). In this sense, spiritual liberty is like political liberty. It is only possible if we take responsibility for our behavior and are willing to voluntarily limit our actions to make it work. It simply is not possible to create a world where we can heedlessly follow our own selfish desires.

But the solution is not for us to decide to obey the rules. For we are still sinners and cannot do that which is right on our own (Romans 8:8; 7:18; John 15:5). Also, we face the penalty for our past sins (Galatians 3:10-12; Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:11-15). This then leads to a new sort of bondage (Galatians 5:1; Matthew 23:4; Romans 7:4-6). But Christ paid the whole price for our sin (1 Peter 2:24,25; Colossians 2:13,14; 2 Corinthians 5:21) and offers salvation based on faith in Him (Galatians 2:15,16; Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4;4,5). This results in our being set free from both types of bondage (Galatians 4:4-7; Romans 8:15-17; John 8:35-36). We therefore serve God, not in order to earn something from Him, but out of love for a salvation already obtained (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; Titus 2:11-14). And we do it in the power He supplies (2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Peter 1:3; Colossians 1:29). That does not mean it will always be easy. Growth in Christ is a process that happens through time and effort (Philippians 3:12-16; 1 Timothy 4:7,8; Hebrews 12:1,2). But it is done with a new attitude, not of slavery, but of freedom in Christ. And this is rooted in the confidence that we belong to Christ and that He will finish what He has begun (Romans 8:29,30; Philippians 1:6; 1 John 5:11-13).  

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