Published 1/27/2009

Paul's Epistle...
"Freedom" (Part 2)

Last week in this space we discussed the freedom that Christ gives freedom from the penalties of sin. We also discussed how so many in the world have a mistaken idea about what freedom is all about. They want no rules, no restraints. But we talked about the apparent paradox that more you live by God's rules, the freer you are.

So just what is the nature of this "freedom" that God gives. Just how free are we? If we've been freed from the penalties of sin, does that mean we're free to sin whenever we want?

That's not a new question. The Apostle Paul had to deal with it in Romans 6: "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" His answer came immediately: "Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" He said Christians should walk with "newness of life." We are no longer "slaves of sin." Rather, we have "been freed from sin." (Romans 6:1-7, excerpts.)

Actually, the Greek word that Paul used for "freed" means "to justify," because the whole point of this justification is to be freed from our old master sin. And that, indeed, results in a "newness of life." But walking appropriately in that freedom in a way that would please Christ is a daily choice.

You know, I don't always feel free. Back in school, I didn't feel free at all. Homework, reports, tests all on deadlines. Slavery! When I worked for others I had to report to work on time, regardless of how I felt. Even now, though self-employed, I have to spend several days each week preparing my broadcast. I'm free not to, of course. But then I'd no longer be employed because I would have broken the rule that I must get my work done. What I'm technically free to do, I'm really not. If I were to break the rules, I'd suffer the consequences.

Our freedom in Christ is much like that. You are free to break the rules, but you will suffer the consequences.

So how do we know the limits? How do we learn these rules? Psalm 119:45 says, "I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts" (NIV). So when we know God's word and life by it we feel a kind of freedom that only God can give.

Ephesians 3:12, speaking of Christ, says, "In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence." We have freedom to pray and be heard.

Galatians 5:13 reminds us, "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love." Our freedom is not freedom to sin.

And 1st Corinthians 8:9 warns us, "Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak." Unbelievers enjoy nothing more than to find professing Christians doing something that is, shall we say, "unChristian." They love to say the church is nothing but a bunch of hypocrites. Please don't give them that opportunity, even if what you may be doing technically falls under the license of Christian freedom.

Recently, in a single week, Shelia and I attended visitations for two different friends who had passed away. But that reminded me of another kind of freedom Christians have. We are free from the fear of death. 1st Corinthians 15:55 (quoting the Old Testament) says, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory." For the Christian, death is no longer something to fear, for to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. (2nd Cor. 5:8).

There is one more important aspect of this freedom that Christians have and that is freedom from our past. When we accept Christ, God has a way of cleaning up the mess we've made of our lives. It's the freedom of "release" from the sins of the past. It's a freedom from the guilt that may have plagued us.

In the world today, things such as abortion and divorce are so common. But God offers forgiveness. And that forgiveness brings freedom from the shackles of past sin. Perhaps there's someone you've wronged in some way. God can forgive and that forgiveness brings freedom. And with His forgiveness, nothing in your past can keep you in bondage.

Charles Wesley's cherished hymn, "Oh For A Thousand Tongues," put it this way:

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free.
His blood can make the foulest clean.
His blood availed for me.

God grants freedom from old habits. Freedom from loss we've suffered. Freedom from anger. Freedom from hopelessness. Freedom from lifestyle mistakes of the past.

After last week's column appeared, one reader wrote, "I am amazed at how He continues to set me free as I grow in Him, and realize the freedom I have in Him... It grieves me when I see the bondage that some people I dearly love are in, including Christians. Certainly sound doctrine leads to wisdom and understanding and freedom, and lies from Satan keep even Christians in bondage. I am so thankful for the freedom from sin and fear and guilt that Christ has given me and continues to lead me in. What a blessing is ours in Christ and He does it all!" Amen!!!

As we heard earlier, "If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:36). I pray you have experienced and are living in that freedom that only Christ can give. If not, today would be a great day to be set free.

- Paul

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