Let Freedom Ring
January 9, 2017
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The New Year offers the promise of fresh beginnings. There is something about January 1 that gives us the motivation we need to start making changes or commitments we’ve abandoned the previous year. We tell ourselves this year is going to be different, and we feel confident and hopeful.
But sometime around mid-February or March, we lose focus. Perhaps it’s all those Valentine’s Day chocolates or Easter eggs! But we find ourselves making the same old choices and feeling discouraged or defeated. What we long for is freedom from bad habits and mindsets, and yet we come up empty.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, I want to encourage you today with a passage of Scripture from Galatians 5:1, which reads, “It 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.”
In this letter, the apostle Paul addresses a group of churches in ancient Galatia, a region in modern-day Turkey. Some legalists had crept into the church and tried to convince Christians that in order to receive salvation and eternal life, they must also observe certain Old Testament laws such as circumcision. Paul wants to set the record straight that God’s grace comes from faith in Christ alone as he wrote this epistle to the Galatians. He outlined two important truths—freedom from the law and freedom from sin. And these two points are equally significant for believers today:
1. Freedom from the law. Have you heard the expression “fallen from grace”? It is often used to describe what happens when a celebrity or politician has been caught in a scandal, but the expression actually originates from the Bible. In Galatians 5:1-12, Paul warns Christians not to attempt to be justified (to be made right with God) by the law. He says that whoever does so has “fallen from grace,” meaning they are not relying on the grace of God for salvation but the work of the law. “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love,” Paul writes in verse 6b.
The reason why the law cannot save a person is because it’s burdensome and heavy. It’s impossible to obey it all because there are 613 laws in the Old Testament. It’s kind of like the links in a chain—if one link is broken, you’re sunk. You are obligated to obey the entire law (v. 3). The religious law is restrictive and keeps you from running a good race (v. 7). Paul makes the point that those who wish to steal our freedom in Christ are persuasive and cancerous (v. 8-9).
2. Freedom from sin. In verses 19 through 21, Paul lists various sins. There are sexual sins, religious sins, and relational sins. The law points out these sins, but Jesus provides freedom from all sin. Paul writes in verse 13-15:
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
God’s grace—and our faith in Jesus Christ—is not a license to sin. Paul warns that the spirit and the flesh are in constant conflict with one another, and those who gratify their sinful nature will not inherit the kingdom of God (v. 21b). Instead, he beckons us to walk, live, and be led by the Spirit of God. That is where we find true freedom—the chance not only to start over but also to transform our minds and hearts for good.
If you would like to learn more about the freedom we have in Christ, please join us for weekend services at Shepherd Church. We would love to have you!