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Holding On To Freedom

Galatians 5:1-5:2

Holding On To Freedom

Galatians 5:1-2

Supreme Court Justice Horace Gray once informed a man who had appeared before him in a lower court and had escaped conviction on a technicality, "I know that you are guilty and you know it, and I wish you to remember that one day you will stand before a better and wiser Judge, and that there you will be dealt with according to justice and not according to law."

Some time later the same man was surprised while burgling a house in Antwerp, Belgium, the thief fled out the back door, clambered over a nine-foot wall, dropped down the other side, and found himself in the city jail (Oops: The Book of Blunders, 1980).

Having escaped bondage, the thief found himself drawn back into crime and back into bondage.

This week we celebrate freedom as a nation, at the very same time forces in the world are arrayed against us who would draw us into a bondage and oppression far greater than the one that we had escaped. The price of freedom, it is said, is eternal vigilance. It has also been said that America will be the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.

But of course we don’t gather here to celebrate a nation, no matter how great it may be, we gather to worship a Savior, a savior who has indeed set us free from the most terrible bondage possible the bondage of sin and its penalty, death.

But even as we proclaim and celebrate our freedom and the one who set us free, the enemy of our souls seeks to trap and enslave us once again. This morning I’d like to talk about our freedom and the importance of holding on to our freedom.

I’d like to look at three different aspects of our freedom in Christ that we need to keep a watch on, lest the terrorists strike us while we are asleep.

1. Freedom from Legalism

vv. 8-11 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

Throughout the NT when the Scripture speaks about being set free or about having freedom in Christ, it is most often this freedom from the law that is at issue. Paul’s concern is that these gentile believers would loose their freedom and return again to slavery. In the next Chapter Paul says

Galatians 5: 1It 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. 2Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.

Actually we have a comparison of three states here: The state of these gentile believers before their conversion, as pagans serving other gods; their state after conversion, trusting in Christ for salvation; and their state if they should choose to follow the teaching of the new teachers to follow the Law of Moses.

It’s important that you understand that the occasion of Paul’s letter to the Galatians is that a group of Jewish teachers, that we know as the Judaizers, have been telling these non-Jewish Christians that if they really want to be acceptable before God they need to follow the Old Testament teaching of the Law and basically that they must first become Jews to be good Christians.

Paul on the other hand is arguing that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the price for their sins and that the only way to be acceptable to God is to accept His sacrifice, to trust in what Jesus did. That is, we are saved by faith alone, we don’t earn it by following any set of rules, it is a gift of God in response to our trust in Jesus Christ.

This is the message that Paul preached when he was in Galatia, the message that the Galatians had received and trusted in. Paul makes it clear that they had left a life of Idolatry. In verse 8 he says "when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods."

But then they accepted the Gospel message and "knew God" or rather were "known by Him" this emphasizes the fact that ultimately their salvation was not by their choice to know God, but by God’s choice to reveal His truth to them.

Now the Judaizers have come along with their new message: you need to follow these rules if you want God to accept you. Amazingly Paul equates this bondage with the first bondage. He doesn’t even say that it’s bondage of a different kind. How can this be? After all wasn’t it God who gave the law to Moses? Imagine the looks on the faces of the Judaizers when this letter was read aloud in the church! "how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?"

How can the law of God be equated with pagan worship? When it is used for a purpose it was never intended for. The law was never intended to make men acceptable to God, Faith has always been what God really wanted from Man, the law was given as a stop gap measure until the promise was fulfilled in Christ, it was protective custody to spare God’s people from the harmful effects of sin. To use it to try to earn God’s favor is a misuse.

Satan has always specialized in the misuse of a good thing, and we see it even today. Perhaps the Lord has convicted you of a certain thing in your own life. We’ll say for the sake of argument that it’s tithing (giving 10% of your income to the Lord’s work). As you implement that in your life it’s a good thing, it reminds you to put God first in your life, and that all that you have belongs to Him. It’s a symbol of your devotion to Him and it helps advance His kingdom, HOWEVER if you begin to think that tithing makes you worthy of God’s blessing, or if you think it makes you more spiritual than those who aren’t convicted of that principle yet, then that’s become a bad thing, it’s become sin and you have traveled back into bondage.

Pastor and Author John Piper commented on this passage that "[the Judaizers] offered the law as a means of enjoying one’s pride in a morally acceptable way. And so their teaching was not as radical and humbling as Paul’s was. It was very appealing to people who wanted to be religious and moral but did not want to become putty in the hands of God.... It doesn’t take a genius to see that when Christ shapes and forms our inner life after his own image, our freedom from the law will hardly result in a lawless self-glorifying license. On the contrary, it is the power of Christ living and reigning and forming himself within us that frees us to delight in God’s will. We are freed from the burden of the law when we are given the power to fulfill it from within [John Piper, sermon: "Oh that Christ Might be Formed in You."]

Which brings us to the next freedom we need to guard…

2. Freedom From Sin

Galatians 5:13 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.

John 8:34 Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.

Just because the Lord has set us free from the law does not mean that we should then live any which way as a celebration of freedom. We’ve been set free to serve the Lord out of love and not obligation. Living in sin is its own bondage. Anyone who has sinned knows deep within that this is the case. Even what seems harmless and looks like liberty is actually chains.

Few college football coaches have made a point against drugs as effectively as Erk Russell of Georgia Southern College. He arranged for a couple of good ol’ country boys to burst into a routine team meeting and throw a writhing, hissing, six-foot-long rattlesnake onto a table in front of the squad. "Everyone screamed and scattered," Russell recalls. "I told them, ’When cocaine comes into a room, you’re not nearly as apt to leave as when that rattlesnake comes in. But they’ll both kill you!"

Sin is a harsh taskmaster. And when we yield to temptation we find ourselves being dragged deeper and deeper into the dungeon. One sin leads to another and the joy soon departs and is replaced by shame and hopelessness.

The apostle Paul voices that despair in his letter to the church at Rome

Romans 7:23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Indulging in sin isn’t freedom, it’s bondage, God’s got a better plan for you freedom, not the freedom to do wrong, but the freedom to do right. You see without what Christ has done, without the Holy Spirit living within us we are bound to sin, but with his strength and help we have the power, the freedom to say no to sin and to live a life that is not only more pleasing to God, but more pleasing to ourselves.

3. Freedom From Fear

Romans 8:14-15 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship, And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."

Fear can be just as much a prison as Legalism or Sin.
Janez Rus was a young shoemaker when he went into hiding at his sister’s farmhouse in June, 1945, fearing punishment of pro-Nazi wartime activity. Janez said he used to cry when he heard happy voices outside, but dared not show himself even at his mother’s funeral. He was found 32 years later after his sister bought a large supply of bread in the nearby village of Zalna. "If I had not been discovered, I would have remained in hiding. So I am happy that this happened," Rus told a reporter. Throughout those years he did nothing. He never left the house, and could only look down at the village in the valley. Today in the Word, October 17, 1993.
Janez story is a sad one because his bondage was self imposed and needless, so too is ours if we allow ourselves to be controlled by fear—fear of death, fear of the future, fear of failure.

Because Jesus has taken the sting out of death, death holds no terror for those who have trusted in Him.

As for your future, God’s word promises that He has a good plan for your life—plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future. You can trust your future with him, Jesus said that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without the Father’s knowledge, how much more than is He caring for you?

We needn’t fear failure because Christ has already won the victory:

1 Corinthians 15:56-58 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Our liberty in Christ is a precious gift, We need to be vigilant and courageous in guarding it, Freedom from Legalism, Freedom for Sin and Freedom from fear.
Peter Marshall, Before the U.S. Senate Lord Jesus, thou who art the way, the truth, and the life; hear us as we pray for the truth that shall make all free. Teach us that liberty is not only to be loved but also to be lived. Liberty is too precious a thing to be buried in books. It costs too much to be hoarded. Help us see that our liberty is not the right to do as we please, but the opportunity to be pleased to do what is right.

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