Good morning! Welcome to worship! We are in a sermon series through Paul’s letter to the Galatians. We’ve called it “Let Freedom Ring!” How do you define the word “freedom”? The Declaration of Independence calls it life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It can be defined as self-governance, autonomy, choice, free will, life without restriction. But in order to live free and stay free, we must know what we are free from and what we are free for!
So let’s open our Bibles to Galatians 5. Let’s read together. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again with a yoke of slavery!” Gal 5:1
We’ve spent the last few weeks examining how the Galatian Christians fell into the trap of Christian legalism. False teachers had infiltrated the infant church. They were teaching that to be a real Christian you had to be circumcised and obey all the Jewish laws and traditions. This heresy is called legalism or works righteousness and it always ends in bondage.
This morning, we look at the flipside of legalism. It’s called licentiousness or antinomianism which means “without law”. The heresy here is this. “If Jesus set me from for the demands of the law I can live however I want and God will still forgive me – right?” Wrong! Jesus didn’t die on the cross so we could continue to live in sin! He died to set us free from sin. Christian liberty is not a license to sin; it’s the freedom to no longer be enslaved by sin!
Jesus clearly said, “I have not come to abolish the law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter nor the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Mt 5:17-19
Christian liberty means that we have been set free from the law as a means of salvation. You don’t have to earn God’s love or favor. You don’t have to earn your way into heaven. Your standing before God is not based on what you do, but what God has done for you. It’s called GRACE - God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense - it’s a gift we receive by faith!
Imagine a prisoner on death row who gets an unexpected pardon. You are taken from your cell on death row, led out the front gate and set free. What will you do with your freedom? Will you live a new life or will go back to the same old mistakes and foolishness that put you on death row in the first place? You have a choice. How will you live out your freedom?
Paul writes, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature, rather, serve one another in love.” Gal 5:13
Some people define freedom as escape from responsibility, but that’s not possible. Without responsibility, freedom quickly deteriorates into lawlessness, anarchy, and slavery.
Agree or disagree? The moral decline in America today cannot be solved by making more laws. Laws are powerless to develop responsibility. In fact, the more laws that are put in place, the more irresponsible, immature, and undisciplined people become.
The reason is simple - laws cannot transform human hearts. What the law can do is reveal, condemn, and even stimulate sin. The law is God’s tool to diagnose sin and show us the depth of our depravity. When God shines the light of his holy law on my life, I see how sinful I really am. Let’s look at three connections between Christian freedom and God’s law.
The first purpose of the law is to be a light and a mirror that reveals and diagnoses how sick I really am. God’s law prepares the way for my repentance and God’s forgiving, cleansing, freeing power to flood through my life.
David prayed in Psalm 51… O God, have mercy on me. Cleanse me from my sin and the wickedness I have done. I know I have sinned against you and done what is evil in your sight. I stand condemned before you and you are right to judge me. I’ve been a sinner from my birth. My life has been plagued with lies and schemes and half-truths and I cannot save myself. Only you can help me. Only you can wash me and make me clean, whiter even than the snow. Take away my divided heart and give me a new heart, committed to you alone. Let me again know the power of your presence and fill me again with your Holy Spirit. Ps 51
Real freedom begins with repentance! Are you with me here?
The second purpose of the law is to restrain evil, to act as a fence to protect me from others and others from me. I’m ashamed to admit, sometimes it’s only the penalty of getting caught that motives me to do the right thing. How about you?
I remember times in my life when the Holy Spirit used the Word of God written on my heart as a fence between me and a great temptation. It’s scary to think how much ruin I might have caused if the Lord hadn’t loved me enough to establish boundaries for me in his Word. “Establish my footsteps in your Word, and do not let my sin have dominion over me.” Psalm 119:133
God’s law preserves our freedom.
The third purpose of the law is to show us how to live. It shows us the pathway to God’s blessing. It’s this third use of the law that often gets us into trouble. Either we try to force our understanding of freedom on somebody else. Is it ok to work on Sunday, drink beer, go to a movie or dance, get a tattoo? The truth is what’s right for one person, may not be right for another. It’s not our place to compel others to do what God has called us to do.
The other mistake we make with this third use of the law is to dismiss God’s law in order to give ourselves an excuse to do what we know is sinful. We don’t want to take on the responsibility and discipline of spiritual maturity. We don’t want to follow Jesus at the expense of being accepted by our friends.
Yet without personal responsibility and discipline there is no freedom. Freedom is a gift but living out that freedom has a cost. “I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might now sin against you.” Psalm 119:11 “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105
God’s law shows us the pathway to blessing. Psalm 1 has some good advice on how to live free and stay free. “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the council of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3
A classmate of mine from Bible School responded to my Facebook post about today’s message. She wrote “True freedom requires us to allow the Word of God to accomplish the will of God in our lives... too often we listen and believe the lies of the enemy without even realizing it! We buy into the lie that this is just the way it is and we are powerless to change! We let the opinions of others control us.”
Who are you listening to for the laws that govern your life? Who are you are trying to please? Is it resulting in freedom or in bondage? It may sound strange but the freedom we seek is found not in pleasing others, or even pleasing ourselves, but in pleasing God.
You can’t be a God pleaser and a people pleaser at the same time. Trying to please the “gang” so they will accept you will always lead to bondage. Seeking to satisfy your own sinful nature or the negative voices from your past always leads to bondage.
Jesus came to set us free from our fear of what other’s think or say about us. He came to set us free from our fear of not being accepted or not having enough. He came to set us free from our own fear of not being perfect or admitting our mistakes. He came to set us free from our fear of death itself. He came to set us free from every chain that binds us.
That freedom becomes operative in our lives when we place ourselves under the authority of God’s Word rather than the opinions, advice, the demands of the world around us. Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
Freedom, like happiness, is an inside job. It’s something God does in us. He alone has the power to set us free from our slavery to the fears within us and the control of those around us. He can move us from immaturity to maturity, from self-indulgence to self-discipline, from irresponsibility to responsibility. He is the power to help us live free and stay free.
Christian liberty is not a license for sin, but being set free from our bondage to sin. God’s Word has the power to change every “you have to” into “you don’t have to”. God’s Word can change every “I can’t” into “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Are you willing for God to shine the light of his Word into your most secret place, diagnose those places where you are still in bondage, and then set you free? Are you willing learn the spiritual disciplines that go with managing real freedom so you can live free/stay free?
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again with a yoke of slavery!” Gal 5:1
Next Sunday we will examine more fully the fruit that flows from being free in Christ!