Due to inclement weather, the 9 a.m. service for Sunday, Jan. 20 has been cancelled. We will have one morning service at 10:45 a.m. as road conditions improve.

Free Indeed

by Matt McClay

Independence Day in the United States is the quintessential American holiday, laden with cookouts, concerts, family get-togethers, and, of course, fireworks. As a nation, we set aside July 4th to celebrate our national independence and give thanks for the political and economic freedom we enjoy in the United States. Looking back on the history of our nation, we’re quickly reminded that the freedoms we hold dear today came at a high price, as men and women over the years, have sacrificed their own lives to preserve the liberty of some and to expand the liberty of others who had yet to experience freedom.

As followers of Jesus, it also behooves us during this month to sympathize with our brothers and sisters in Christ across the world who live within political borders of oppressive governments. The Christian nonprofit agency, Voice of the Martyrs, has designated 49 countries around the world as “Restricted and Hostile,” signifying that within these countries exist “Government-sanctioned circumstances or anti-Christian laws leading to Christians being harassed, imprisoned, killed, or deprived of possessions or liberties because of their witness.” Would it surprise you to learn that in some of the countries in which persecution of Christians is rampant, the gospel is spreading at a miraculous rate? While our brothers and sisters in Christ, who live in restricted countries, may not experience the political freedom we enjoy in the United States, they have embraced the spiritual freedom offered through the gospel of Jesus.

In his account of Jesus’ life, the Apostle John recalls the words of Christ, writing, “So if the
Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36 ESV). What does it mean to be “Free indeed?” What kind of freedom, offered by Jesus, transcends political and cultural barriers? The Bible gives us three aspects through which we can experience and enjoy the true freedom that Jesus secured for those who believe on His name.

#1 – Freedom from the Law
“Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:23-24).

While we live in a free country, there are still laws in our land by which we must abide. If you think our national and local laws are difficult to follow, imagine how the Jewish people must have felt during Old Testament times. A detailed study of the book of Leviticus would reveal over 600 civil and ceremonial laws that were binding for the nation of Israel! If salvation depended on our ability to faultlessly satisfy the law, we would all be in trouble. The book of Galatians is a pointed reminder that, as believers in Jesus, we are no longer under the law but under grace. There is a freedom that comes from knowing that our salvation, rather than hinging on our performance or perfection, is completely dependent on Jesus. For those who have been justified by faith, when God looks at us, He doesn’t see our faults, flaws, and foibles, but rather, He sees Jesus’ perfection credited to our account by way of the cross.

#2 – Freedom from Sin and Death
“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).

Through Jesus, we have been set free from sin and death. Can you think of or imagine two more inescapable, ominous problems in life? “All have sinned” (Romans 3:23), and we long to be rid of the addictive and destructive effects of sin. Ultimately, the consequence of sin is death. Everyone, apart from salvation in Jesus, is suffering under a lifelong spiritual death, a future physical death, and an impending eternal death. The good news is this, because Jesus died in our place, we have been set free from sin and death. While sin still exists, it no longer must have mastery over believers in Jesus. Bonds of addiction can be broken and lives shattered by sin and shame can be restored. While we all have an appointment with physical death if Jesus tarries, we have been made alive both spiritually and eternally with Jesus. Life with Him begins today and lasts forever. The chains of sin have been broken and the sting of death has been removed. We are free to worship and serve God for the rest of our lives!

#3 – Freedom from Fear
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15).

As we celebrate our nation’s birthday, it’s no secret that many still live in fear. From residual concerns surrounding the pandemic and restrictions to economic obstacles associated with the recovery to political and societal upheaval, the cable news networks drone with bad news around the clock. Experiences in our personal lives also foment fear, as upcoming medical appointments, project deadlines, and big decisions instigate round after round of “what if?” scenarios that play out in the theater of our imaginations. We find ourselves imprisoned in a cell of fear and anxiety perhaps now more than ever. Is there a more relevant time than now for believers to be reminded that we are children of God? Through our adoption as sons and daughters of God, secured by Jesus’ saving work, we do not have to be in slavery to fear of the known or the unknown. Solomon said, in Ecclesiastes, “Fear God and keep His whole commandments, for this is the duty of mankind” (Ecclesiastes 12:13 ESV). With our Heavenly Father watching over us in love, we are free to fear nothing and no one other than God.

Living in Freedom…

So, as you fire up the grill, head out to the lake, or light the first firecracker of the Summer holiday season this month, give thanks to the Lord for the political and religious freedoms we enjoy here in America. But don’t let your thanksgiving stop there! Remember to thank God for the spiritual freedom Jesus secured for us on the cross. Those of us who have been set free by the Son of God can know a freedom that transcends the legal and political circumstances in which we find ourselves here on earth. Through Jesus, the bonds of sin can be broken, and we are free to live for Him and serve Him with joy in our hearts, regardless of what’s going on around us.

Do you long to experience this freedom in Christ? Consider these three points of action over the month of July:

#1 – Find the source of true freedom

Jesus was not ambiguous or opaque concerning where to find the transcendent freedom He offers. Freedom can be realized by anyone “Who the Son sets free.” We live in a culture where people are looking for freedom in all the wrong places. Escapism through self-help, entertainment, busyness, or self-medication may distract us from our situations, but it does not provide freedom. Try as we may, we simply cannot set ourselves free from sin, death, and fear. Only Jesus is strong enough and able to set us free, as the One who stood toe-to-toe with sin and death, turning them both into conquered foes.

#2 – Stand firm in the gospel

Jesus said of those whom He sets free, that we are “free indeed.” Let’s face it, there are times when, as believers in Jesus, we do not always feel free. While sin has ultimately been conquered by Christ, we battle with our flesh on a daily basis. While we know in our hearts there is no reason for us to live in fear, our heads continue to fret and worry about what’s in store for tomorrow. You’re not alone! The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatian Christians, whose Christian liberty was under assault, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). When habitual sin besets us as believers and when fear assails our hearts and minds, it’s time to return to the cross and assure our hearts of Jesus’ victory on the cross, and the freedom we have in Him.

#3 – Choose to serve God and His people

The sad reality is, even within our own nation there are many who abuse and take for granted the freedoms we hold dear. Could it be the same among believers? Since the birth of Christ’s church, Christians have been cautioned to take great care as to not use our Christian freedom as a license to live a life displeasing to God while running roughshod over other believers. Later in Paul’s letter to the Galatian Christians, he deals with this issue, writing, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). The beauty of our freedom in Christ is that we can choose to serve the One who ransomed our soul! We don’t serve for God’s love; we serve from God’s love. We don’t live for God’s acceptance; we live from God’s acceptance of us through Christ. Through Jesus, we have been set free and are free indeed!
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