Monday, July 4, 2016

What Is True Freedom?

The Continental Congress voted to become an independent nation apart from Great Britain. On July 4, 1776 in a bold move, the United States of America declared its freedom from the British Empire and King George III with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The American Revolution actually began a year earlier in April of 1775 and at that time the colonists were merely British citizens rebelling in intense dissatisfaction against their leaders. But by declaring its independence, the U.S.A. became a nation unto itself no longer under British rule and fought to become the nation it declared itself to until September of 1783 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris ended the war and recognized internationally for all time the sovereignty of the United States.

In honor of the holiday we celebrate today, I looked at Scripture texts in the Bible that included the word freedom. The obvious one that leapt to mind was Galatians 5:1:  It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery. I saw a meme on social media the other day that said that our nature doesn’t change instantly so that we are good and perfect people the moment Christ enters our heart. We actually have to work at it and become the people we now have the freedom and ability to be because of Christ’s great sacrifice. Just as the colonists had to fight for many years to achieve the freedom they claimed, we are instructed to fight to achieve and maintain the freedom Christ won for us on the cross. Don’t get me wrong. From the moment we ask Jesus to be Lord of our lives and proclaim his sovereignty we are saved, washed clean and have full access to our Father in heaven through the righteousness of the Son. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12) That doesn’t mean we don’t have a whole lot of living into our new reality to do before we become more like Jesus than we are at that first moment. 

Galatians 5:13 tells us that we were called to be free. However we are not to use our freedom to indulge the flesh; rather to serve one another humbly in love. Many years ago, God made his good news known to me in a real and personal way. I, like Abraham, took God at his Word, believing in his gospel of grace and redemption, and God credited Christ’s righteousness to me, formally adopted me into his family forever.  In seeking his way and to serve him wholeheartedly, I am living proof of Psalm 119: 45 as surely I walk about in freedom—more freedom than I ever knew possible.

It seems like today’s news and social media is full of talk about our rights and responsibilities as citizens of this great country. How often we seem to leap over the fine line between our rights and their rights. (Insert any two groups or factions you like for ours and theirs.) It’s a constant fight to determine where individual rights begin and end when they seem to ram into and run over each other in opposition. Thankfully, in the book of Romans, God has given us a clear understanding of the rights and responsibilities of the true freedom we enjoy as citizens of his kingdom.

Romans 6:12-19 (MSG)
That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!—into God’s way of doing things. Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God.
So, since we’re out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we’re free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you’ve let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you’ve started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!
I’m using this freedom language because it’s easy to picture. You can readily recall, can’t you, how at one time the more you did just what you felt like doing—not caring about others, not caring about God—the worse your life became and the less freedom you had? And how much different is it now as you live in God’s freedom, your lives healed and expansive in holiness?

May you be blessed this 4th of July with true freedom—freedom won not with the blood of our forefathers but with the blood of our God and Savior. 

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