Grace For The Journey
We learned in yesterday’s blog that the believer in Christ is a freed man! We began to talk about what that means from the teaching of Galatians chapter 5. We continue in today’s blog to learn just what does that being free in Christ means? How should that affect our lives? I invite you to have your Bible open as we go through God’s Word.
It is important that we first understand . . .
Man’s Viewpoint of Freedom
In the Book of Galatians, Paul is concerned about the wrong influence of man’s perspective about freedom. To the world (those operating without the divine absolutes of Scripture) “freedom” means “the right to be who you please; the right to do as you please, how you please, when you please, and where you please. It means doing your own thing, being your own boss, and looking after number one first.” The Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary says it means “exemption from necessity in choice and action.”
From man’s perspective, freedom is . . .
The right to any choice so long as it is your own personal choice.
But the Bible teaches that such a definition or viewpoint is not freedom . . .
It is instead license and an excuse to throw off the moral restraints
of God in pursuit of selfish goals (Romans 1:18f; John 3:19-21).
This always results eventually in the exploitation of others, moral degeneracy, and lawlessness. Sadly, this is becoming more and more evident in our “do your own thing” society.
This kind of freedom, or license as it really is, is also SLAVERY OR BONDAGE.
The Bible says in 2 Peter 2:17-19, “These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they profess them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by who a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.”
Our Call: God’s Viewpoint of Freedom
Negatively: What Freedom is Not.
Paul is concerned that we have God’s perspective, the viewpoint of Scripture regarding true freedom. Christian freedom is never the freedom to sin or do as you please.
The Bible says in Galatians 5:13, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
The Galatians, like many today, tended to go in one of two extremes:
(1) Some were reverting to the Law as a means of spirituality or righteousness.
This only served to bring them back under bondage to both the power of the flesh and indwelling sin. Thus, to these Paul wrote 5:2-12.
Such a position always nullifies the deliverance that is ours in Jesus Christ
because it places our faith in the wrong objects – self and the Law.
This is what it means to fall from grace: to fall from God’s grace provision against the flesh. It doesn’t mean they had lost their salvation. It means they had forfeited their deliverance through the power of Christ. As someone has said, “Legalism will produce some satisfaction, but it will be a joyless satisfaction and a satisfaction stemming from generally neurotic, self-promoting motives to meet selfish needs.”
(2) Others, hearing about their freedom in Christ, thought they could now do as they pleased.
But such a philosophy always results in non-loving, selfish exploitation that ignores the needs of others and acts in ways that are harmful to the body of Christ and God’s purpose for the church.
So, to these the Apostle wrote Galatians 5:13-14. The word “serve” in the Greek is a present active imperative verb which means, “to perform the duties of a slave or servant. The word “opportunity” originally meant “a starting point” or “a base of operations,” then “an opportunity, an occasion, incentive.” .” It is important for us to note that most of the One Another injunctions in one way or another demonstrate the heart of a servant.
Here is God is teaching us:
Our liberty in Christ and the abundant grace that is ours in Him
must never be used as an excuse to do as we please
and in the process hurt others or ignore our calling and
obligations to God and men (cf. Romans 5-6; Titus 2:11-14).
Freedom in Christ is not merely freedom from the presence and struggle with the flesh or indwelling sin. Biblical freedom means the provision of the Spirit as God’s means of victory (5:16-17). So our salvation and freedom in Christ is never to be considered as freedom from servanthood or from service and loving responsibilities to others (Romans 14-15).
Here lies a great Christian paradox.
It is interesting that Paul, having warned these Christians against becoming slaves again to the Law and the flesh, now urges them to become servants, slaves to one another (5:13) which includes, of course, being bond-slaves to God (1 Corinthians 6:19; Romans 12:1).
This paradox is tremendously instructive:
- Slavery to one another and to God is nothing at all like slavery to the flesh or to the Law.
- Slavery to flesh and the Law result in death, misery, and frustration. It causes us to be consumed, torn apart by one another.
- Slavery to sin is involuntary and never neutral. It is degenerative and destructive both to self and to others.
- Slavery to the Law is voluntary. It is man choosing to save himself. As such it is foolish, burdensome, but also completely helpless to change our lives on the inside where it really counts.
- On the other hand, slavery to God and one another always results in true freedom and maximum blessing.
- Slavery to God and to one another is voluntary.
- Slavery to God and to one another is a product of love and the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, it becomes a source of glory to God, and joy, peace, and blessing to self and to others.
Positively: What True Freedom Is
Freedom is not the right to do as one pleases, but
the power and capacity both to will and to do as one ought.
True freedom is never freedom from responsibility, but responsibility not only for choice, but right choices.
Freedom is an inner contentment with
who we are in Christ and
with what we have in Christ.
It means the willingness and ability to allow God to be in control of your life. It means single-mindedness which turns the control of one’s life over to Christ which in turn frees us to follow the Lord. It means the liberty for self-responsibility to both God and man under the grace of God.
A train is a good illustration because it is only effective when it is on the tracks for which it was designed. Tracks don’t inhibit a train, but enable it to run freely as long as it is running under the power of the steam or fuel of its engines.
But let’s understand, from God’s point of view . . .
that freedom is particularly concerned with human relationships
which flow from a right relationship with God through faith
in Jesus Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
This is a key point throughout the fifth chapter of Galatians. Five times the apostle uses “one another” in relation to our freedom – once in verse 13, twice in verse 15, and twice in verse 26. Central to each reference is the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
This is a vital and key point in our study. No matter what mankind tries to do to improve the world or society, society eventually deteriorates. Why? Because man is enslaved to sin; man is primarily sinful and selfish. Rather than truly desiring to serve others, he basically desires to serve himself, to meet his own felt needs and, as a result, he ends up exploiting others as Paul warns us in Galatians 5:15 and 26.
This is evident in our social programs. The programs fail to work effectively because man is unable to work them effectively. God knows that if we were going to be able to serve one another in love we need strength from a source other than ourselves and we would need to deal with the inner man honestly through confession and the power of the indwelling Spirit of God.
Mark 8:33-35 shows that true freedom flows out of total commitment to Jesus Christ.
In losing our lives in devotion to Him and His purposes, and in turning control of our lives over to Him, we find true freedom – the freedom to be what we were designed to be and thus experience true joy.
Using our freedom to indulge ourselves never satisfies the inner core longings of the heart. Instead it destroys the soul’s capacity to relate to others, and leads either to the neglect of others or their exploitation. Thus, we are to voluntarily, out of love, serve one another as bondslaves of the Lord.
Being a servant of Christ involves us in service to others because being in Christ we are part of His body and members of one another.
We will look further into this liberty that Christ bring in our next blog.
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”