At some point every Christian needs to realise that they are free in Christ but what does that mean in this post I will try to answer that question to some extent.
Firstly, freedom in Christ is being free to be the person God wants you to be that means becoming more like Jesus. This means that we can live as people who have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, using the language of redemption shows that Christ has freed us from slavery to sin. The concept of redemption runs through the pages of the whole Bible and is therefore fundamental to our understanding of Christian freedom. The Exodus event shows this in a very graphic way as God liberates the Israelites from bondage in Egypt and brings them out to form as his own special people.
Secondly, we need to note thaat Christian freedom is very different from the secular concept of freedom, many people today when they speak of freedom today speak of it as being able to do exactly what I want to do. The modern concept of freedom does not want to be restricted by anything whereas as we have seen above the Christian concept of freedom is very different from this. to understand this more fully we need to look at some of the key Scriptures that speak of freedom in Christ.
We need firstly to look at a key passage in John’s Gospel where Jesus speaks clearly about finding fredom through him.
“31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.“
The New International Version. (2011). (Jn 8:31–36).
In this passage we see clearly that Jesus makes a very clear and bold claim that if we hold to his teaching he will set us free. It is interesting to note that Jesus linked fredom to the teaching that he gave. We must grasp the fact that we will only be truly free when we submit ourselves to God and His word.. The Jews claim that they can trust in their descent from Abraham but Jesus holds that this is not good enough. We to must be careful that we do not rely on anything other than the finished work of Christ for us. Religious rituals and practices can never make up for a living relationship with the Lord Jesus. The Apostle Paul warned against this at great length in his letter to the Church in Galatia.We need to turn to that book and gather some of what it has to say for us.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.“
The New International Version. (2011). (Ga 5:1). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
“13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
The New International Version. (2011). (Ga 5:13–18). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Paul lays out very clearly in the previous chapters of Galatians that salvatian is found only in the finished work of Christ but in these verses he calls us to walk in the freedom this salvation brings. He affirms that we need to walk in the Spirit so that we will manifest the fruit of the Spirit. Paul shows us that a life of freedom in Christ should also be a life of loving service to others. We are to be aware of the Spirit’s leading and this means cultivating an awareness of the Spirit’s presence and reality.
Paul spells this out very clearly in another letter when he says,
“17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.“
The New International Version. (2011). (2 Co 3:17–18). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
We do not really need to make much comment on these verses but once again the Apostle highlights that where the Spirit is there is freedom. Also, he stresses that we will be transformed by this freedom more and more into the image of Christ.
So far I have laid the foundation for walking in fredom now I want to look at some specific passages that will help us to do so.
Firstly let us look at Romans 12,
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”.
The New International Version. (2011). (Ro 12:1–2). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
This passage among other things calls us to be “transformed by the renewal of your mind” this transformation comes about the more we align our thinking with that of Scripture. This is why it is so vital that we get to grip with what the Bible says, it is on the pages of the Bible that we find direction, guidance and comfort. It is through the pages of Scripture that we can learn who we are in Christ. The Bible is also the compass for our journey through life and shows us clearly what God’s standards are. The Holy Spirit can and will help us in our understanding of Scripture but when he speaks he never will change the plain meaning of the text. When we are equipped with a transformed mind we can discern God’s will for us clearly, this does not always make life easy but it always provides us with the certainty that we are walking in God’s ways and not our own.
The subject of forgiveness is also vital in finding freedom in Christ, firstly we need to know that we are forgiven by God through the finished work of Christ but then we are called to forgive others. There are many Scriptures on this subject but I will look briefly at just one, Col 3:12-14 says,
“12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Paul here appeals to us to show kindness and love to others based on what God has done for us, we are addressed as “God’s Chosen people and dearly loved”, this should make us stop and think about the importance of what is to follow. Various virtues which are important in the Christian life are summarised here but when it comes to forgiveness we are called to forgive on the basis of what God has already done for us. We can not claim to be walking in the light of being forgiven if we hold onto bitterness and unforgiveness. We do need to be able to let go of past hurts and extend forgiveness to those who have hurt us. Sometimes we make excuses for harbouring unforgiveness, one common excuse is that we have lost contact with the person but we can still tell God that we forgive this person and pray that we would know God’s blessing in their lives..
There is much more that could be said about finding and keeping our freedom in Christ and these are only just a few examples of what the Bible teaches on this important subject but let us be sure of this we need to live out our Christian freedom from day to day. in the above I have tried to reflect something of what Martin Luther meant when he said “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all,subject to all” ( The Freedom of the Christian by Martin Luther). If we take this seriously we will serve others from a place of fredom not of servitude, delighting in the fact that we have been seet free to serve God and others. May the Lord help each one of us to live in the knowledge that we are free in Him.