It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery
Is there a more attractive word to the human heart and mind than freedom? Politicians, advertisers, artists, and our military co-opt the concept of freedom to persuade, sell, inspire, or justify; but what exactly is freedom? Is it choice? Is it lack of constraint? Is it political, economic, or philosophical? In our culture I believe it is commonly reduced to, “I can do what I want to do”, without much regard for how God comes into the picture let alone how individual and society freedom interact. I don’t know if there is a more compelling, yet misunderstood word in the English language. And what exactly are we freed from or to?
Freedom is not just a cultural theme, but a gospel theme. This Sunday we begin our study of the book of Galatians and we have titled the series: “Free Indeed!” One theologian calls Paul’s epistle the ‘Magna Carta of Christian Liberty’. We will find that Christian freedom, or freedom in Christ, is often in direct opposition to cultural notions of freedom. This is hardly surprising as humans have a tremendous capacity for misunderstanding – and reveling in it! So often the “free” choices man makes, and rejoices in, are the very things that actually enslave. Paul writes in his letters to Christians in Ephesus and Colossae that all those not in Christ are enslaved to their sin – dead men walking (see Eph. 2:1; Col. 2:13). In contrast, the Christian is set free to a new life with a new perspective. Christian freedom is thus not the right and privilege to do as one pleases, but the freedom to live in a manner that glorifies God. We will see that true freedom is not inconsistent with limitation or law. Jesus said: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36)”, but also, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matt. 11:29-30).” This sounds like and unworkable paradox yielding a mere fake freedom. Yet for those whose faith is in the work of Christ, instead of their own, know the joy and liberty found in Christian freedom. It is a freedom not granted by any nation, or achieved by any human effort, but rather a gift of God’s grace by His own hand.
Charles Wesley expresses the experience of true Christian freedom well in his classic hymn And Can it Be:
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.
I trust you are excited to learn from Galatians, a short but passionate book. I know as you submit to its themes and teaching that you will glorify God in and for your salvation!
As we gather for Sunday worship, we want you to meet with God and be transformed by the Word. Prepare your heart by reading the passage and listening to the songs for Sunday.