I just listened to the VBS kids sing a song entitled “I Am Free.” It’s about the feeling a person has when the miracle of God’s grace liberates him/her from the burdens and bondage of a life of sin. It’s hard to imagine that these little kids have experienced much of this, but they sure sounded like they knew what it is to feel suddenly liberated: “Through you, my heart screams ‘I am free!‘” In the song’s refrain the kids sang, “I am free to run, I am free to dance, I am free to live for you.” I think that’s the way we should all live as Christians, don’t you?
But unfortunately, most of our Christian experience is a matter of dos and don’ts, expectations and commitments, schedules and meetings. We have been liberated from one kind of bondage to become shackled by another. Only in occasional magic moments do we experience the reckless abandon of faith the kids were singing about.
In our sermon series “Dynamic Christian Living in 2014,” we will continue this Sunday with a focus on Freedom. What does it mean for an individual believer? For a body of believers in a church? How can it be preserved against the forces that seem to be drawing us back into slavery? We’ll use Paul’s Letter to the Galatians as our guide. You may want to read this short book in the Bible as preparation.
The Church at Galatia had been established by Paul a few years earlier, through the conversion of a number of people who had previously been pagan Gentiles. As the church developed, some Jewish believers began to teach them that, in order to grow as Christians, they had to follow the Jewish laws of the Old Testament. Paul warned them that this would lead them into a new kind of spiritual slavery, surprisingly similar to the kind of bondage they had experienced under pagan gods before their conversion. In the process of writing about this, Paul shared some important insights about Christian liberty that are just as relevant in our day.
Here are some of the more striking things from Chapter 5 of his Letter:
Verse 1 – For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Verses 8 – 11 – Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods. Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits? How can you want to be enslaved to them again? You are observing special days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid that my work for you may have been wasted.
Verses 13 – 16 – For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.
In Sunday’s sermon I’ll tell you why I think Freedom is an especially important facet of Christian living in 2014 and on into the future. If you get a healthy grasp of this today, you’ll be ready for the surprises that are just around the corner.
— Pastor George Van Alstine