‘Be Your MASTER! Make your own decisions! Do your own thing! Don’t be the slave of another!’ Ever since Adam sinned in the garden of Eden men have wanted liberty to rule their own lives-and they will pay any price to get it! It is the besetting sin of the human race, the indirect cause of all personal sorrow and national unrest-the boy with long hair and the girl with a short skirt are simply saying to the world, ‘Our lives are our own, we’ll dress and behave as we please’.
There is no real evil in freedom itself-God made man in His likeness and wanted him to be a free person: but left to himself BO man possesses eirher the knowledge or ability to rule his own life, or to know what is best for his own good. Without God to direct or control their lives, men are like drifting ships on the sea of life, without chart or compass, or a safe harbour at the end-living daily under a sense of guilt, the power of sin, the influence of Satan, and the fear of death and of the future.
Christ, however, the second man and Lord from heaven, offers total and complete freedom to all who will avail themselves of it. By reason of His obedient life. His atoning death and present life. He is indeed the Saviour of the world and all who submit their lives to His will and control may enjoy:
1. Freedom from Sin’s Penalty. He is the world’s Redeemer. On the cross He paid sin’s ransom price in the shedding of His blood and thus procured redemption and forgiveness, Eph. 1. 7. He was ‘made sin’; He ‘bore sin’; He ‘suffered for sin’; He paid the ‘wages of sin’. His blood fully and completely atones for the soul. All who trust Him arc free from the guilt and penalty of their sins; they are not condemned; they are justified; they have peace with God. They have no fear of death, eternity, or the judgement of God.
2. Freedom from Sin’s Power. He who yields to the pleasures of sin eventually becomes its slave; evil thoughts and desires turn to evil actions. In rejecting God as Creator and Master, men are enmeshed in webs of their own making, reaping a bitter harvest in the fruit of sin as outlined in Romans 1. 21-32.
But to those who are in Christ the reign of sin has been replaced by the reign of grace: the old Adam nature was put to death at Calvary and (unless we yield to it) sin has no dominion over the believer. He that is dead is freed from sin. How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein? This does not mean that the believer is sinless, but it does mean that a believer may claim and enjoy freedom from habits and practices to which he at one time may have been in bondage.
3. Freedom from the Power of Satan. We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers in the heavenlies. But the Prince of this world was defeated at the cross and the believer has been delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of His Son, Col. 1. 13. Satan may attack and tempt the believer as he did Jesus, Paul, and Peter but when he is resisted he will flee. The believer is protected and preserved by the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and by the angels who serve Him.
4. Freedom from the Bondage of the Law and Self Works. Old Testament law as expressed primarily in the Ten Commandments, was given to the Hebrews as a test of their obedience and a condition on which they could enjoy God’s blessings. In itself the law was holy, just, good and spiritual, cf. Rom. 7. 12, 14, and revealed the holiness of God.
The problem that arose in New Testament times, however, was whether the Gentile (or Hebrew) Christians should keep the law as a rule of life to perfect or complete their salvation in Christ. The majority of professing Christians today similarly feel that to benefit by the death of Christ they must in some way strive to obey God’s commands, so they live in constant bondage to laws, commands, customs, vows, rules, ordinances and ceremonies imposed on them by others or by their own choosing. Their efforts, of course, always end in failure, and because they never become perfect, they pass through life in a constant state of fear and uncertainty, never quite sure if they are saved or lost.
The problem, however, was quite serious and it was discussed at length in the Council at Jerusalem, Acts 15, and in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. And the answer was negative. For several reasons:
The law merely exposes sin. There is nothing wrong with the law but it is weak because of sin in the flesh: its influence for good is resisted by another law – the law of sin and death which holds all people in bondage. The law reveals sin but it is powerless to remove it; it cannot make a man righteous or holy; it condemns all who disobey and thus increases guilt before God. By the law is the knowledge of sin. The strength of sin is the law.
Righteousness is found only in Christ, ‘The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ’, John 1. 17. In Old Testament times law reigned; in the present age grace reigns. ‘Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth’, Rom. 10. 4. ‘Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us’, Gal. 3. 13. A righteous standing before God cannot be earned by self effort but is a gift imputed to the person who accepts it in faith alone. It cannot be lost or improved by any good works that a believer may or may not do.
The believer lives under a new law. All who are in Christ are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit imparts to them a new nature, referred to as the ‘new man’, the ‘divine nature’ and ‘the law of the spirit of life’. This new nature or ‘law’ works out the will of God in the life and enables the believer to ‘bring forth fruit unto God’, Rom. 7. 4; 8. 3, and to display the fruit of the Spirit-love, joy, peace …, ‘against which’, says the apostle, '’there is no law’. Love by its very nature desires and does good because it wants to- not because it has to: love is the fulfilling of the law.
(d) Enjoys a new relationship with God. He is a son and an heir of God, Rom. 8. 15; Gal. 4. 4, 6-baptized by the Holy Spirit into union with the Father and the Son, Matt. 28. 19; Gal. 3. 27; 1 Cor. 12. 13. Eph. 2. 22. No longer living under the spirit of bondage, as a servant ruled by a schoolmaster, he cries ‘Abba! Father!’ living in freedom as a son and heir in the family of God.
Finally, and perhaps the most remarkable freedom we have in Christ is:
5. Freedom to Voluntarily Love and Serve.oes freedom from the restraints of the law allow me freedom to live as I like and make my own decisions in all the affairs of my life? This question is answered beautifully in the decision of the Hebrew slave in Exodus 21. 1-6.
For six years he had worked as a slave in obedience to his master’s commands. But in the seventh year he was offered his release from further bondage to his master. This offer of freedom, however, was quite optional and the slave did not have to go: should he so desire he could say, ‘I love my master … I will not go out free’. If this happened the master bored a hole through his ear and the ‘free’ slave now served his master for ever.
The slave was still a slave but the vital difference was that he was now a slave by his own free choice-a slavery that was based wholly on the principle of love to his master and continued as long as he lived.
In setting us free from the guilt and power of sin and putting us on trust, as it were, in our daily manner of life, God places us in a position in which we can now demonstrate our love to Him as a matter of personal choice and not of compulsion. In no way does liberty permit license to live as we like. Paul’s response to God’s grace was ‘Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?’- he became totally the bondslave of Jesus Christ, under the law to Christ.
Devotion and service to Christ based solely on my love for Him will involve
(a) The surrender of my body to God. ‘Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service’, Rom. 12. 1.
‘Ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s’, 1 Cor. 6. 20.
‘I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection’, 1 Cor. 9. 27.
‘Yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead’, Rom. 6. 13.
This will include my time, my possessions, my talents, my ambitions – everything that I am and have.
(b) The surrender of my rights for the sake of others. ‘AH things are lawful unto me … but I will not be brought under the power of any’, 1 Cor. 6. 12.
No Christian can live for himself-every action he does must be considered in its effect on others. As an apostle, Paul had many rights, but lest he stumble others or hinder the gospel he renounced his rights and lived wholly as a servant to all.
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