Peninsula Community Church
Freedom Received and Freedom Given
May 27, 2016
Galatians 5:1,13 – For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 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.
This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day. For many, it is a day to barbecue and head to the beach. It is a time for families and friends to enjoy time together. It is also a time to relax and enjoy some down time. But the reality is that while it is a weekend to enjoy it is also a to pause to remember those who have given their lives so we could have the freedom we experience today. Unfortunately, too many have forgotten the purpose and value of Memorial Day.
On Memorial Day we are reminded that so many of our men and women in the armed forces have died fighting for our freedom. As we look down the halls of history we are reminded that our freedom as a nation was not cheap. In fact, it was priceless. Our freedom has come at the expense of the blood of young men and women who chose to give themselves to gain our freedom. Listen to these numbers. During the revolution war, 4500 people gave there life to acquire our initial freedom as a nation. The Civil War was the bloodiest campaign on American soil. 498,000 Northern soldiers were killed and 133,000 soldiers from the South died. That is a total of 631,000 men killed. In World War One, 116,000 American soldiers died and in World War Two that number increased to 407,000 American soldiers who died on our behalf. In the Korean conflict there were nearly 40,000 who gave their life for our freedom. The Korean conflict was followed by the Vietnam conflict where 58,000 died. Then most recently we have seen the Middle Eastern conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq which together have claimed more than 7000 lives. In total more than 1.2 million Americans have died to gain and keep the freedom we enjoy in this country. Let me put this into perspective. In our day, this would include every man, woman and child who live in Delaware, Somerset county, Dorchester county, Wicomico County, and Worcester County.
So today as Americans, Memorial Day is more than a picnic or family gathering, it is an opportunity to remember those brave soldiers who have sacrificed their lives defending our country and our freedom. Jesus understood this great feat when He stated that “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for friends” (John 15:13). These men and women who loved this country and loved the freedom we possess laid down their life for us. Our freedom through the years has run crimson red with the blood of those who gave themselves sacrificially. This does not even include those who were maimed and who suffered the mental diminishment that comes from battle. The fact is these men sacrificed so we could live free.
I am so glad to be an American and live in the freedom that is ours but there is another freedom that I would like to talk about today. We find this freedom referenced in our passage. It is here that we discover that as believers we have a great freedom provided for us. This freedom was paid by the blood of one man, Jesus Christ. Many gave themselves so we could have national freedom, but He gave Himself so we could have personal spiritual freedom.
Paul states that it was for freedom that Christ has set us free. If you want to know the will of God, it is here. God wants us to be free. It is His will. It is His desire that we live free from the power of sin and from the past which tends to bind us and control our future. He wants us to live free from the emotional bondage that dictates our present circumstances and future experiences. Pauls is saying you are free so live as freemen.
In preparing for this study, I was reminded about a conversation I had with a pastor who had faithfully served God behind the iron curtain. Right after the wall, in the Soviet Union, had fallen I had the privilege of getting to know this pastor. As I was talking to him about this new found freedom he made an interesting observation. He stated that the people of the Soviet Union had lived under the thumb of communism for so long they did not know how to live in freedom. He went on to say that they had to be taught in many cases what that meant. He even gave me an illustration to explain what he was trying to communicate. He stated that a baker in his town use to have the government tell him what time he was to open and close, because he was subsidized by the government. The problem is after the wall fell, he continued to close at odd times. He would have a line of people with plenty of bread left over and he would just close because he decided it was time to close. He was so used to being controlled by the government that he did not know how to live without their control. That is why the Scripture tells us that we have been given freedom so we must live as free men.
This brings me to a second idea presented in our text. In our freedom we cannot be yoked with slavery again. Paul gives us a clear and unqualified command here. Stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. He desires uncompromising, unrelenting and indomitable freedom. It is for this that He died. It is for this that He rose. You see the problem is that too often we so easily want to go back to what is comfortable and easy rather than what is right. The problem is that too often we fall back on the things that cause us to be yoked again to slavery. Freedom is not easy and it is not cheap. We must fight for it whatever the cost.
There is a second idea to be considered here. The problem is that too often we are set free but we become constrained by legalism. We are saved to freedom but we begin to live in bondage to the rules and regulations more than to the person of Christ. It is noteworthy that there are some who purport to be free but they still live under the thumb of legalism similar to the Russians who had been freed from Communism but still lived as if communism still reigend. Legalism is understood as the act and art of adding to what Christ has done for us. The fact is there is a tendency for all of us to have a bit of legalism in us. To understand this we must look at what controls us? Is it legalism or is it our freedom in Christ? Do we live as free men or do we live like Russian citizens?
One of the things Paul is communicating is that our freedom is always being tested and it is always under attack. The enemy does not want us to live in freedom, in fact it is the opposite, he wants us to be yoked and hindered in our walk. He does not have to stop us he just has to get us to compromise. We see this from a national prospective today. The enemy has lulled us into allowing our freedoms as a nation to be eroded one step at a time. We are on a slippery slope of sin and compromise. Step by step we have seen our freedom eroded and sin being elevated to a position of acceptability and as being natural.
We are also reminded that Jesus did not come to replace our chains with more chains. He came to set us free. We must remember that we do not lose our free will when we choose to follow Christ. We are urged to lay aside our wills in exchange for His. We do this not because He is a mean God that simply wants to control us, but because He knows what is best for us. When we choose to follow Jesus we are presented with a life full of freedom, but we must choose to live it. It’s up to us to refuse to become re-enslaved by the Law, by rules, and by sin. Jesus came to bring love and freedom. Let us not trade these precious gifts in for duty and slavery. As a nation, we have been given freedom as a precious gift. We must be so careful that we protect that freedom and do all we can to keep our freedom safe.
The third idea presented here is that we are not to use our freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. What is Paul saying? Paul is saying that while we are free in Christ we must never use our freedom in a way that allows the flesh to have authority over us. Notice what is happening in our nation today. We are using our freedom that was paid for by the blood of men and women who freely served to allow sin to reign. That is Paul’s warning here!
Who would have ever thought that we would be discussing or debating the issues that we are discussing today. Many of those who gave themselves for us are rolling over in their graves to know that the freedom they fought for is being abused. Who would have ever thought that we would be discussing the right of men to use the women’s restroom and vice versus just because one identifies as a man or a woman and not as God has created them. In our walk before the Lord, we must never use our freedom to allow the flesh to reign in us. Here is the problem that must be addressed. Our freedom never gives us permission to allow sin to reign in us or for us to do anything we want without boundaries. Your freedom is not license to sin. Freedom means taking responsibility and doing what is right. That is so lacking in our nation today.
Finally, in these passages Paul instructs us to love and serve others. We are to walk in freedom. Through love we are to serve others. There is a distinct link between the work of Christ in our life and the work of love that we are to give those around us. Too often we forget all that God has done for us. Too often we forget the freedom we have. In so doing we hold others to a higher accountability than we ourselves want to hold. Here is amazing fact, freedom allows me to love. Freedom makes love possible for me. Too often we attempt to walk in freedom but we put others in bondage because of our own condemnation and judgmental attitudes. Without spiritual freedom we are constrained by what makes us look good and not by the power of God. This applies to our church family, our personal family, and the community in which we live. Our service to others must be motivated by love.
So what do we do? First, we must realize that freedom not used is freedom abused. We are seeing our freedoms being eroded and I question whether or not it is because we have taken our freedom for granted. This applies to us as a citizen of the United States but it also applies to those who are passionate followers of Christ. We must never take our freedom for granted.
Secondly, we must realize that freedom abused is not freedom at all. We live as free men or we are not free at all. True freedom is not a right to allow us too see how much we can get away with but rather it is the opposite. True freedom gives us the strength and wisdom to follow after God’s heart and His will.
Thirdly, we must act with purpose. The question we must ask is do we settle or do we act with a purpose. Do we value our freedom? Do we do “the right things” for Jesus because you have to or because you want to. Ask yourself, why you are doing the “Christian things” that you do? Is it out of love or is it out of obligation? Love must always rule over obligation.
Fourth and finally, we need to celebrate our freedom by being a people that lives in appreciation of what we have been given. We must live with thankful hearts and gracious hearts. By having thankful and gracious hearts we will never take the freedom we have for granted. Nor will take those around is for granted either. Remember it is for freedom that we are free.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom