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What Does It Mean to Have Freedom in Christ?

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With the dismantling of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the subsequent lifting of the iron curtain, Eastern Europeans jubilantly celebrated the freedom they had long been denied.

However, some of the first “freedoms” to be exercised in these formerly communist countries were indulgence in pornography, prostitution, drug abuse and organized crime.

Some people, needless to say, have erroneous concepts of freedom.

Theologically, some feel a similar sense of freedom in not observing what they feel are “Old Covenant” practices. They feel free from the law. They feel that the burden of the law has been lifted, and they are no longer under bondage. They believe they are free from “Jewish ordinances” and that Christ did everything for them, setting them free from any practices except a nebulous obligation to “love” God and their fellowman.

False freedom prophesied

Scripture warns about false promises of freedom. One such warning comes from Peter: “For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.

“For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: 'A dog returns to his own vomit,' and, 'a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire'” (2 Peter 2:18-22 2 Peter 2:18-22 18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. 20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 But it is happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
American King James Version×
).

No one argues that Christ didn't come to bring freedom. Luke writes that Jesus traveled to Nazareth, “where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: 'The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD” (Luke 4:16-19 Luke 4:16-19 16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 17 And there was delivered to him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 18 The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
American King James Version×
, emphasis added throughout).

Jesus Christ brings true freedom

Christ came to free us from sin through His atoning sacrifice. Hebrews 2:14-15 Hebrews 2:14-15 14 For as much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
American King James Version×
tells us that Jesus “shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil-and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (New International Version).

The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23 Romans 6:23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
American King James Version×
). Christ paid the death penalty for us, freeing us from death row through His sacrifice. We have been set free, but, as Paul wrote, this freedom does not give us license or permission to continue to do the very things that brought on the death penalty (Romans 6:11-22 Romans 6:11-22 11 Likewise reckon you also yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield you your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin: but yield yourselves to God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace. 15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. 16 Know you not, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are to whom you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked, that you were the servants of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness. 19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as you have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity to iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness to holiness. 20 For when you were the servants of sin, you were free from righteousness. 21 What fruit had you then in those things whereof you are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end everlasting life.
American King James Version×
). Paul wrote in Galatians 5:13 Galatians 5:13For, brothers, you have been called to liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
American King James Version×
, “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13 Galatians 5:13For, brothers, you have been called to liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
American King James Version×
).

God's calling frees us from wrong spiritual concepts. Galatians 4:3-7 Galatians 4:3-7 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 4 But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Why you are no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
American King James Version×
says: “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, 'Abba, Father!' Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”

A Christian is called away from superstition, error, bondage, deception, guilt, depravity, ignorance and a destructive life, from being a captive of Satan and facing eternal death. He is called to liberty in Christ, receiving forgiveness of sins through His shed blood, now knowing freedom from guilt, an awareness of the truth of God and, as a free gift, the hope of eternal life.

The Scriptures do show, however, that real spiritual freedom has to include the following criteria, which are tied to Jesus' sacrifice for our sins. Let's briefly review these.

Freedom through God's truth

Christ engaged in a discussion with a group of people who were deluding themselves into thinking they were free. “As He spoke these words, many believed in Him. Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, 'If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.'

“They answered Him, 'We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, “You will be made free”?'” (verse 33).

Clearly, they were deceiving themselves, not admitting that even then their land was little more than an occupied territory under the subjugation of the mighty Roman Empire. All were well aware that they were a captive people.

In the next three verses Jesus replied, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”

According to Christ, a person can't be spiritually free unless he has the truth, which is God's Word (John 17:17 John 17:17Sanctify them through your truth: your word is truth.
American King James Version×
). Obviously, that person must understand that truth. Many have a Bible in their homes but either don't read it or can't comprehend it. Few have realized the freedom that comes from understanding God's Word.

Freedom through the Holy Spirit

The Scriptures point out that God's Spirit guides us to truth (John 16:13 John 16:13However, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.
American King James Version×
). It helps us to understand the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 2:10-14 1 Corinthians 2:10-14 10 But God has revealed them to us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
American King James Version×
). This spiritual understanding leads to freedom.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:17 2 Corinthians 3:17Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
American King James Version×
, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

We know that the Holy Spirit is a precious gift that God grants based on repentance, the acceptance of Christ, water baptism, a willingness to obey and the laying on of hands (Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×
; 5:32; 8:14-17).

Freedom through the law of God

Everyone craves freedom, but we quickly realize that freedom has its price. One person jokingly said, “Absolute freedom is being able to do what you please without considering anyone except your spouse and your kids, the company and the boss, neighbors and friends, the police and the government, the doctor and the church.”

In a human society, chaos results if we consider just our own interests. Laws are necessary to guarantee freedom. This is also true with the spiritual law of God. Psalm 119 is a beautiful tribute to the freedoms that come through obedience to God's law. Notice verses 44 and 45: “So shall I keep Your law continually, forever and ever. And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts.”

James calls God's law a “law of liberty,” or freedom, when he says that “he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25 James 1:25But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
American King James Version×
). He continues in the next chapter: “So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty” (verse 12).

Unfortunately, some claim religious freedom through Christ while denigrating His law and refusing to submit to it. Jesus Christ, as the perfect example of freedom, kept God's commands (John 15:10 John 15:10If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
American King James Version×
). True freedom cannot come apart from, but must come from harmony with, God's commandments. As Christ asks in Luke 6:46 Luke 6:46And why call you me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
American King James Version×
, “why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say?” Also: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17 Matthew 19:17And he said to him, Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments.
American King James Version×
).

Loving obedience to God's law is not an effort to attain salvation by works, but an honest, heartfelt response to want to serve and please the great God of the universe who gave His spiritual laws for our own well-being. It's not a matter of what's convenient, but of what pleases God. It is an irony that, as we gain freedom through Christ, we become His slaves, as stated in 1 Corinthians 7:22 1 Corinthians 7:22For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.
American King James Version×
: “For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord's freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ's slave.”

Ultimately, true freedom comes through the resurrection at Christ's return. As Paul explains in Romans 8:21 Romans 8:21Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
American King James Version×
, “the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”

God speed that day!

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