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Galatians #14 . Chapter 5:1
Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Gal 5:1, HCSB)
These two sentences are extremely powerful. I want to pause and unpack them a little bit. Paul says that Christ has liberated us. One natural question is – how has he done that? Colossians 2:13-18 gives us a clue:
And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; He triumphed over them by Him.
Therefore, don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is the Messiah. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on ascetic practices and the worship of angels, claiming access to a visionary realm and inflated without cause by his unspiritual mind. (Col 2:13-18, HCSB)
Through the cross, Jesus Christ has liberated us. His death fulfilled the law, and erased our debt and obligation to it. His death triumphed over, and disarmed, the demonic powers that were free to torment us for our failure to keep the law.
Paul says we are liberated to be free. Two more useful questions are, “What are we free from? What are we freed to?”
I’m so glad you asked. What follows all applies to me as much as to you, but I am going to write it as “you” so that you can appreciate the full impact of your freedom. As you consider your freedom, remember this is freedom that you have only in Christ. You didn’t get it. You didn’t earn it. You don’t get to keep it apart from Christ. But in Christ, you are indeed free. Let me explain what I mean by in Christ. You are in Christ when you keep on trusting him. I use the expression keep on trusting quite deliberately. It is a daily (sometimes hourly) habit of continuing to believe who Jesus is, what he has done for us, how he feels about us, and continuing to rest upon it. This is not a one shot deal. This is not a situation where you just say, “Well I got baptized, so I’m good now.” Or “Well, I got saved five years ago, so I’m good now.” This is a process of continually putting our trust in Jesus, day by day. That is what it means to be “in Jesus” and all these things are ours, only in Jesus. I’m not saying that you have to work hard and live the Christian life on your own strength in order to be in Jesus. But I am saying that to be in Jesus, you need to continually rest in Him with trust in what his Word says, and in what he has done for us.
So, in Christ Jesus, you are free.
You are free from the obligations of the Jewish ceremonial law, as Paul has made very clear throughout this letter.
You are free from subservience to the little regulations that religious people sometimes put on you. Things like: The way you dress. What you eat. The way you express worship. Dancing. The manner in which you pray. The music you listen to. Acting externally religious or pious. You don’t have to keep a formula to be right with God. You don’t have to follow man-made rules. Paul wrote to the Colossians:
If you died with the Messiah to the elemental forces of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations: “Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch”? All these regulations refer to what is destroyed by being used up; they are commands and doctrines of men. Although these have a reputation of wisdom by promoting ascetic practices, humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence. (Col 2:20-23, HCSB
But wait, there’s more.
You are free from the eternal consequences of the fact that you have broken God’s moral law. That’s right, your sins no longer determine your status with God. No, they do not. If Jesus lives in you, he will want to express his life through you in a way that honors God’s moral law. But your failures at times do not determine your status with God. You are free from being defined by your failures and sins.
You are free from trying to make yourself good. Don’t you argue with me, yes you are. In Jesus Christ, God has already made you good. You are free from having to do that.
You are free from shame.
You are free from shame.
In Jesus, there is nothing wrong with who you are. You are not judged based upon your sins, or your failures, or your flaws. You are judged on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus.
You are free from the way others view you. You are even free from the way you view yourself. Now, you can accept the way God views you – which is through the “lens” of Jesus. It’s a little bit like this. When you are in Christ, God looks for you, and finds you there, in Jesus Christ. And what he sees you there, what he sees is Jesus. So he looks at you, and sees the righteousness of Jesus, the love of Jesus, the strength of Jesus, the honor of Jesus. If you are in him, you have the life of Jesus in you. God isn’t deceived when he sees all that, because it is there.
You are free to have joy without guilt. You are free to love yourself, because you are in Christ, and he is in you. You are free to follow the leading of Holy Spirit without beating yourself up for your failures. You are free to wallow with happiness in the fact that you are loved at the deepest core of your being. You are free to live as the person that God made you to be, and not according to the expectations of others.
You are free from trying to get God to bless you. Receive the blessings he chooses to give with joy, and trust him to bless because he is good, not because you are.
You are free from trying to get it right all the time. Let Jesus get it right through you, by continuing on, in Him.
You are free from figuring it out, managing it, controlling it. What is “it?” you ask? Only everything.
Really? Is all this true, without reservation?
Paul will go on and talk about walking according to the Holy Spirit – what we might call, “Christian Living.” We’ll see how all that works when we get to that point. But before we move on and talk about Christian living, we have to make sure that we understand this freedom we have in Jesus. You are free. Don’t submit again to slavery. Stand firm.
The word “yoke” in the New Testament usually implies a sense of servitude or slavery. Jesus invited us to take his yoke, and Paul, later considered himself a servant or slave of Jesus. But Jesus said “slavery” to Him was easy, and the burden is light. Other New Testament passages use the word “yoke” with negative connotations about hard service. The Greek version of the Old Testament, also frequently uses the same word this way. So we have two paths: we can be bound to Jesus, but his yoke is easy and light; or, we can be bound in slavery to having to measure up. Listen to how Jesus invites us:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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 11:28-30, ESV2011)
Paul says, stand firm in the free and easy, restful yoke of Jesus. How do we do that? First, I think it is important to recognize that our battle is not against flesh and blood. The verses I just shared from Colossians show us that Jesus has disarmed the demonic powers. So, having been disarmed, their strategy now is to lie to you. They will come to you say, “I know Tom said you were free from shame, but he doesn’t know who you really are inside. You know that you deserve to live in shame.” This will sound like you, talking to yourself, but it is a lie from the pit of hell. Stand firm. Don’t submit to that slavery any more.
They will come and say, “It’s all good to say that you are free from trying to make yourself good, but after all, the bible tells you to follow certain standards of behavior.” In a few weeks we will get into all the stuff about Christian Living and Christian Behavior. Jesus wants to live his life through you, so of course, your behavior should look more and more like Jesus. But you don’t accomplish that by your efforts. You accomplish it by embracing who you are in Jesus, and continuing to trust him. Actually, Jesus accomplishes the “Christian living” through you. All you have to do is trust him, and let him do what he wants to in and through you.
To fight these lies, we should cling to the truth. Jesus said,
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32, HCSB)
If we continue in his word – this is part of what it means to be in Jesus Christ. We continue to trust him, and trust his word. His Word tells us the truth, and the truth sets us free. Practically speaking, that means that one very important way to stand firm in our freedom is to know the Bible, and continue to know it even better. Read it. If you aren’t a reader, there are plenty of great CD’s and MP3’s you can get so that you can listen to the Bible. Talk about it with your Christian friends. Grab a devotional that points back to the bible. Stand firm by staying in touch with what the Holy Spirit says through the bible.
It’s also helpful to have allies. Other believers who are continuing on in Jesus can encourage you as you do the same. Listening to these messages, praying together, talking about your struggles and joys – all these help you stand firm.
Sometimes, one of the best ways to stand firm in our freedom is to thank God for it, regularly. Often times, truth really seeps into the soul through the power of thankfulness. If you don’t thank someone for a gift, either you don’t like that person, or you don’t like the gift, or you don’t really believe it has been given you. Thanking God for all this freedom is one way of really grabbing hold of it.
In Jesus, you truly are free. Stand firm in it. Rejoice in it.