Tuesday, June 28, 2016

What is True Christian Liberty?

What comes to your mind when you hear the words “freedom” or “liberty”? It has been used a lot today in the news in connection to civil liberties. Often times, liberty is used as a synonym for a person rights, after all the Declaration of Independence and Constitution refer to man's inalienable rights of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The Pledge of Allegiance refers to "one nation under God...with liberty and justice for all. Every July 4th we celebrate “Independence Day in the United States, July 1st if you’re Canadian.

There stands in the New York harbor a statue that we call the Statue of Liberty, which is there as a symbol of freedom. They tell us that the torch is a symbol of enlightenment, which symbolically lights the way to freedom showing the path to Liberty. In Philadelphia there is the Liberty Bell which has an inscription from Leviticus 25:10: "proclaim liberty throughout all the land."

But what is true liberty? Once there was some graffiti painted on a wall that read, “Freedom is NO Authority!” But is that really freedom? Some feel that freedom or liberty is being able to do whatever you want! Even many Christians have the idea that we are free to do whatever we want, watch whatever we want, go wherever we want, but is that really what the Bible teaches? We want to see how the Bible defines this idea of Christian liberty. 

What is True Freedom?
The Bible tells us that, spiritually speaking, no one is free. In Romans 6, Paul explains that we are all slaves. We are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness. Those who are slaves to sin cannot free themselves from it, but once we are freed from the penalty and power of sin through the cross, we become a different kind of slave, and in that slavery we find complete peace and true freedom. 

The only true freedom comes to those who recognize that we are not our own! In our society today slavery is a negative thing that speaks of degradation, hardship, and inequality. But the biblical perspective is that true freedom is found in Christ! He said John 8:31-32, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” He goes onto to say, “Most assuredly I say unto you whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore I the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” There are 124 occurrences in the New Testament of the word doulos, which means “someone who belongs to another” or “bondslave with no ownership rights of his own.” A servant is one who works for wages, and who, by virtue of his work, is owed something from his master. The Christian, on the other hand, has nothing to offer the Lord in payment for his forgiveness, and he is totally owned by the Master who bought him with His shed blood on the cross (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Christians are purchased by that blood and are the possession of their Lord and Savior. The Christian can truly say, along with Paul, “Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). 

Why do so many Christian live as though they are still in bondage? 
Many times we rebel against our Master, refusing to obey Him and clinging to our old lives. We hold on to the sins that once bound us to Satan as our master. Every believer has two natures, the new nature that came as a result of Christ’s work in our lives and the old nature that we were born with. The old nature seeks to draw us to sin. But we are instructed to “put off” the old self with its deceit and corruption and “put on” the new self with its righteousness. Put off lying, and put on truthfulness. Put off stealing, and put on usefulness and work. Put off bitterness, rage, and anger, and put on kindness, compassion, and forgiveness (Eph. 4:22–32). We have been set free from the bondage of sin, but we often put the chains back on because part of us loves the old life. 

But how do we gain the victory and enter into true Christian liberty? It is through death! It is through recognizing that we died with Christ have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20) and that we have been born again as completely new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Christian life is one of death to self and rising to “walk in the newness of life” (Romans 6:4). 

What is Christian Liberty? 
This word liberty appears 11 times in the New Testament, and it affects our past, present and future! 
As we have seen, freedom in Christ is not cheap, it cost Him His life! He has purchased us with His own blood, securing for us our liberty! Christian liberty is freedom from the guilt of sin, freedom from the condemning wrath of God, and freedom from the curse of the moral law (Isa. 53:12, Gal. 3:13, 5:18, Heb. 1:3). 

Freedom in Christ also impacts all of the present and future liberties, such as freedom from the bondage to Satan (Acts 26:18, Col. 1:13). We are free from the dominion of sin (Rom. 6:14). We also enjoy free access to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:14-16) and now are free to serve Christ as His bondservants (Rom. 7:4, Heb. 9:14, 1 Cor. 6:19).

Christian liberty also includes freedom from the sting of death and victory over the grave (1 Cor. 15:54-57). Christ gave Himself on that cruel cross to deliver us from this present evil world (Gal. 1:4) and someday very soon we will be delivered from the very presence of sin (Rev. 21:27).

What Christian Liberty is Not 
We mentioned at the outset that there are those who feel that they can now do whatever they wish because they have liberty? But is true Christian liberty a license to sin or permission to do want we want? The answer is, No of course not! Paul warns us of this very thing in Romans 6:15-18, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” Peter also instructs us “as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God” (1 Peter 2:16). Jude spoke of those “who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).

On the positive side of things Paul reminds us that since we are not our own “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” and “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (1 Cor. 10:31, Col. 3:17). Every area of our lives is His, and ought to be lived out for Him!

We have been called to liberty but the danger is that we can use this liberty for a license to sin but we are reminded, “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another (Gal. 5:13-26).

If we are Spirit filled and Spirit led believers walking in the Spirit we will enjoy the liberty that comes through the Spirit for “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17). Romans 14 has much to say about Christian liberty, throughout the chapter Paul reminds us that the real purpose of Christian liberty is to live to the Lord and serve one another, never using our liberty in a way that would stumble another brother or sister in Christ!

So Christian liberty is not a matter of being free to do whatever I please, but is to live in such a way that whatever I do pleases the One to whom I belong to! Christian liberty will never lead me to please the flesh or cause me to stumble another Christian! 

Our lives ought to ring forth the true meaning of liberty and like the verse on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Leviticus 25:10, we are "proclaim liberty throughout all the land."

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