Peninsula Community Church
Stewardship of Our Freedom
July 6, 2014
Galatians 5:1-15 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery… (verse 6) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! 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.
This weekend as Americans we have been celebrating our nation’s independence. When we center our thoughts on our nation’s independence, we are reminded that a group of rag tag militia, on a mission, won this nation’s independence. They did so by battling a well organized, well funded, and well trained military. As we review the facts of history, we will find that the events that molded and shaped our nation in its inception were not accidental or mere acts of fate. It is my belief, these events were in fact evidence of the hand of God moving and directing those outcomes not so much to build a Christian nation but to build a people whose focus was God and His ways.
Regardless of what what modern society will tell you, this nation was built on a Judeo-Christian foundation. This does not mean that all were Christians, but rather that they lived their lives modeled on Biblical truth. Most worshipped God and celebrated His grace over their life and their efforts. They gave Him thanks and honored Him for what He had done. Listen to the words of just one of the signers of the constitution, Gouvernuer Morris. There must be religion. When that ligament is torn, society is disjointed and its members perish… [T]he most important of all lessons is the denunciation of ruin to every state that rejects the precepts of religion. Your good morals in the army give me sincere pleasure as it hath long been my fixed opinion that virtue and religion are the great sources of human happiness. More especially is it necessary in your profession firmly to rely upon the God of Battles for His guardianship and protection in the dreadful hour of trial. But of all these things you will and I hope in the merciful Lord.
But the freedom achieved for our nation did not come easy, it was bought by the blood of our forefathers who had a passion for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness apart from the constraints of a dictator/king or a government that imposed its will on its people at will. They fought hard to bring us freedom, and so, on July 4th, each year, we celebrate the freedom achieved by those who were passionate about the success of their new venture. It is of note that 50,000 people were either killed or severely wounded to provide our freedom as a nation. It is also of note that many suffered from a loss of their homes, their wealth, their family, and more. And yet they fought hard. They fought with vision and they fought for a purpose that was greater than themselves.
We are also reminded today that another freedom has been achieved for us. The God of Mercy sent His Son to fight for us. He came to fight an organized enemy bent on destroying mankind and the Kingdom of God. In this fight, He took on all sin. He took my sin and He took your sin upon himself. His goal was to give us spiritual freedom which came to us by mercy through grace by faith.
So how do we steward our freedom? To understand the stewardship of our freedom, we must first understand what freedom is and what it is not. Let me be clear and to the point here. True freedom is not experienced in one’s ability to do anything they want but true freedom comes as one submits to God and to His ways of living life. Let me illustrate this in a couple of ways. The first illustration is this. A train is free only so long as it stays on its tracks; a train that jumps the tracks is “free” of the rails but no longer free in the most important sense of the word. It’s a freed wreck that can’t go anywhere. “Free,” but no longer truly free.
A second illustration comes from the theologian, John Howard Yoder who wrote “True freedom is found not in insisting on one’s own rights, but in freely giving them up by being a servant to Jesus Christ first and the people of God second.”
Societal leaders will tell you that true freedom comes as we cast off all restraints, morals and absolutes. That is why there is a pervasive sexual overtone in our nation today. We find it in our commercials. We see in on our TV shows. We find it in the billboards around town. We find that drugs are now pervasive in our culture. We are witnessing a move toward the total legalization of all drugs. I am not sure if it is true, but I just read that Colorado is now investigating the idea of making Heroine legal. Society today says you are free to marry whomever you will and then divorce them at will. Leaders of society tell us do whatever you want. They purport that as freedom. True freedom in the mind of a secular society, and I should say a godless society is the casting off of all restraints.
The writer of Proverbs deals with this when he penned these words. Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law. (Proverbs 29:18). For years, I interpreted this that the church needed to have a prophetic vision of where it is going and what it is about, but as I was preparing this study for this morning, I realized that this passage offers us much more than this. When people do not have a vision for God’s ways or for His righteousness, they cast off restraint. They cast off “rules.” They cast off “boundaries.” Their focus is on designing a hedonistic culture without restraint, boundaries, or rules. But, when we throw off restraint, there are consequences.
Secondly, to steward our freedom, we must understand that we are free. Too often, even in freedom, we live as if we are still in bondage. In our passage today, Paul makes this declaration. “For freedom Christ has set us free.” This text gives us a clear and refreshing statement of Christ’s will for our lives. He wants us to live as free men. Where you go to school, where you work, and where you live is not as critical as understanding that we can and must stand fast in our freedom. When we walk in real freedom; while our job, our school, and our housing is critical; a positive understanding of freedom will change us and help us to achieve greater things.
As believers, we are liberated from sin and the power of sin. This happens to us in three ways. First, the work on the cross has been accomplished. We are free. But there is a “yet to come” aspect to our freedom. One day we will reach ultimate freedom when either Christ comes to redeem the world or we pass from this life to the next. But there is also this “in between” place. It is where we live life out every day. We look back and realize that we have been set free, but complete freedom will not be fully and totally witnessed until we are released from this world captivated by sin and immorality. This does not mean that we sin but that we need to walk circumspectly as those who are wise to recognize that we have a devourer that would love nothing more than to rob us of our freedom. And his task is easy at times because we live in this mortal body and in a culture that is motivated by the carnal nature.
Third, we must not confuse liberty with keeping the law. Freedom is a work of grace for us. Please do not misunderstand me, the law is important, but when we relegate our Christian experience to simply keeping the law, we misunderstand the purpose of the law. The fact is this can be a confusing part of Scripture. Jesus said that He did not come to destroy the law and yet we find that there are several times that Paul suggests that the law is inherently evil. But to understand this we must understand what the law is. The law instituted by Moses was two-fold. There was the ceremonial law and there was the moral law. The ceremonial law was in essence an illustrative view to how we worship and in essence how we reach God. The ceremonial law was in place to point to Christ while the moral law never changed. In fact, as we have mentioned before, Christ summed up the moral in two phrases. “Love God,” “Love people.”
The Galatians believed in error that they were morally and spiritually superior to everyone else because they continued to practice circumcision. The problem was that they often emphasized the act of circumcision over the act of salvation. Rather than Christ being the focus, the act of circumcision was the focus. You see the act of circumcision had no power for salvation or change, it was simply an outward sign of the promise of God.
Fourth, we must never take our freedom for granted or cheapen our freedom by falling back into destructive patterns and behaviors. We must never take our freedom for granted. In America many of our freedoms have been lost because we thought this would never happen in America. After all we are a free country. But, we must maintain our freedom as Americans and we must maintain our freedom as believers. We continue to push for continued freedom. In the last couple of weeks we have seen some glimmer of hope that all is not lost in our nation. We have seen the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court Ruling that was in favor of religious liberty. Here, locally, the Delaware Senate chose to table a bill that would have changed the face of end of life decisions here in Delaware. Because of the action taken by people like you the message is getting out there. But we must not take these decisions and think we have won the war. There are still forces at play.
We must also never take our spiritual freedom for granted, either. In our passage, Paul asks this question that brings it all into focus. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? Paul also reminds the Galatians that they must refuse to use their freedom as a license to sin or do wrong. He refers to this action as giving an opportunity to the flesh. We do this by feeding the flesh rather than the spirit. We allow unchecked thoughts into our minds that can form strongholds and put blinders on our life. Peter added this commentary. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover- up for evil, but living as servants of God (1 Peter 2:16).
The writer of Hebrews brings this home for us when he stated Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
We must guard our actions, our thoughts and those things that come against us so that we do not fall into the falls of sin and thus into slavery and bondage.
Go to http://www.pccministry.org for an audio version of this message.
Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom