As humans and as Christians we have an innate longing for a place of freedom in our lives; no one intentionally chooses bondage. Americans are celebrating Independence Day, or as my British friends call it: Treason Day, this week. Let’s take a moment as we focus on our nation’s freedom with fireworks and cookouts to look at three things we can do to help ensure that we are living in or moving toward a greater level of freedom in our spiritual lives. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 ESV
What was the purpose of Christ setting us free? For freedom. It seems almost like a “duh” to point this out, but Paul is surely pointing it out to the Galatians. Why did Paul feel it necessary to point out the obvious? Because after only a few years of living a Christ inspired life, the Galatian church was falling back into religious thinking. In essence, Paul was saying, “Jesus didn’t die for his church so it would need the restrictions of the Old Testament law. Instead, Jesus fulfilled all of the requirements of the law through his death so the church could be free.” In other words, recognize what’s been done for you.
Stop arguing over the necessity of religious ritual to prove your salvation. In the case of the Galatians, the church was wondering whether male Gentiles needed to be circumcised to prove their devotion to God. Paul said this thinking amounted to spiritual witchcraft (Galatians 3:1).
The most obvious reason for such a strong defense of freedom from Paul on the subject of circumcision was that only a male could participate. In Romans 2, Paul points out that through Jesus we are circumcised spiritually in our hearts. Men and women were now able to partake of the new covenant. It’s easy to look and think how foolish the Galatians must have been.
However, we still have the temptation to fall into religious tradition and to forget that it was for freedom that Christ set us free. Take a moment and ask the Lord if there is any area in your life that’s not lining up with true freedom.
Galatians 5:1, encourages us to “stand firm.” Paul here is instructing the believers to stand firm on the promise of freedom purchased by Jesus (a.k.a. not obtained by religious ritual). In other words, refuse anything but God’s truth. My Grandfather was a Methodist pastor, and most of my interaction with Hymnals comes from being at his church. One hymn that always grabbed my heart was ‘Standing on the Promises’.
“Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.”
Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, “Having done all to stand, stand…”. We stand on the promises of God by knowing the Word of God. It’s hard to stand on a promise that you’re not aware of. Know the promises of God regarding freedom, so you can refuse anything that binds.
Yes, revolt. Go right ahead and start a full blown revolution and invite others to join in on the fun. Paul’s last admonition in Galatians 5:1 is to not submit to slavery. Throw off the old way of thinking and allow the freedom of Jesus to reign supreme in your heart.
Harriet Tubman, a former slave, famously said, “Now I’ve been free, I know what a dreadful condition slavery is. I have seen hundreds of escaped slaves, but I never saw one who was willing to go back and be a slave.”
Now that we’ve tasted the freedom that comes from our relationship with Jesus we must revolt against the temptation to go back. You might ask ‘who in the world would be foolish enough to go back to bondage?’ but Israel constantly flirted with Egypt after the Lord had freed them from their Egyptian slave masters.
Don’t fall for the temptation to go back to Egypt. Recognize that the death of Jesus was enough to bring freedom. Refuse anything that doesn’t line up with the promises of God. And revolt against the temptation of returning to a slave mentality of using religious practices to earn freedom.
You are free in Jesus.