Freedom

* Freedom found in obeying God

Adam and Eve got what they wanted: an intimate knowledge of both good and evil.  But they got it by doing evil, and the results were disastrous.  Sometimes we have the illusion that freedom is doing anything we want.  But God says that true freedom comes from obedience and knowing what not to do.  The restrictions he gives us are for our good, helping us avoid evil.  We have the freedom to walk in front of a speeding car, but we don’t need to be hit to realize it would be foolish to do.  Don’t listen to Satan’s temptations.  You don’t have to do evil to gain more experience and learn more about life (NLT)

Genesis 3:5 – “God knows that your eyes will be opened when you eat it.  You will become just like God, knowing everything, both good and evil.”

* Freedom often results from being trustworthy

Joseph had proven himself trustworthy as Pharaoh’s adviser.  Because of his good record, Pharaoh had little doubt that he would return to Egypt as promised after burying his father in Canaan.  Privileges and freedom often result when we have demonstrated our trustworthiness.  Since trust must be built gradually over time, take every opportunity to prove your reliability even in minor matters. (NLT)

Genesis 50:5 – He told them, “Tell Pharaoh that my father made me swear an oath.  He said to me, ‘I am about to die; take my body back to the land of Canaan, and bury me in our family’s burial cave.’  Now I need to go and bury my father.  After his burial is complete, I will return without delay.”

* Finding freedom from sin

Imagine the joy of a slave set free.  God took the children of Israel out of bitter slavery and gave then freedom and dignity.  We, too, are set free when we accept Christ’s payment that redeems us from sin’s slavery.  We no longer need to be bogged down in shame over our past sins; we can walk with dignity because God has forgiven us and forgotten then.  But just as the Israelites were still in danger of returning to a slave mentality, we need to beware of the temptation to return to our former sinful patterns. (NLT)

Leviticus 26:13 – I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you from the land of Egypt so you would no longer be slaves.  I have lifted the yoke of slavery from your neck so you can wak free with your heads held high.

* – Paul distinguishes between freedom to sin and freedom to serve.  Freedom or license to sin is no freedom at all, because it enslaves you to Satan, others, or your own sinful nature.  Christians, by contrast, should not be slaves to sin, because they are free to do right and to glorify God through loving service to others. (NLT)

Galatians 5:13 – For you have been called to live in freedom—not freedom to satisfy your sinful nature, but freedom to serve one another in love.

* Salvation is freedom from sin & death

God sets his people free and crushes his enemies.  Salvation is freedom from sin and death.  Those who refuse to turn to God will be crushed by sin and death.  They will be trapped by the sin they loved and destroyed by the death they feared.  How much better it will be for those who love God and fear the consequences of sin. (NLT)

Psalm 68:19-21 – Praise the Lord; praise God our savior!  For each day he carries us in his arms.  Our God is a God who saves!  The Sovereign Lord rescues us from death.

But God will smash the heads of his enemies, crushing the skulls of those who love their guilty ways.

* Why sin doesn’t offer freedom

At first, sin seems to offer freedom.  But the liberty to do anything we want gradually becomes a desire to do everything.  Then we become captive to sin, bound by its “yoke.”  Freedom from sins’ captivity comes only from God.  He gives us freedom, not to do anything we want, but to do what he knows is best for us.  Strange as it may seem, true freedom comes in obeying God—following his guidance so that we can receive his best. (NLT)

Lamentations 1:14 – “He wove my sins into ropes to hitch me to a yoke of captivity.  The Lord sapped my strength and gave me to my enemies; I am helpless in their hands.”

* Jesus’ truth sets us free

Jesus himself is the truth that sets us free.  He is the source of truth, the perfect standard of what is right.  He frees us from the consequences of sin, from self-deception, and from deception by Satan.  He shows us clearly the way to eternal life with God.  Thus, Jesus does not give us freedom to do what we want, but freedom to follow God.  As we seek to serve God, Jesus’ perfect truth frees us to be all that God meant us to be. (NLT)

John 8:32 – [Jesus said] “And you will know the truth, and the truth will  set you free.”

* – Christ died to set us free from sin and from a long list of laws and regulations.  Christ came to set us free—not free to do whatever we want because that would lead us back into slavery to our selfish desires.  Rather, thanks to Christ, we are now free and able to do what was impossible before—to live unselfishly.  Those who appeal to their freedom so that they can have their own way or indulge their own desires are falling back into sin.  But it is also wrong to put a burden of law-keeping on Christians.  We must stand against those who would enslave us with rules, methods, or special conditions for being saved or growing in Christ. (NLT)

Galatians 5:1 – So Christ has really set us free.  Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.

* Freedom given to us by Jesus’ death

Who was Barabbas?  Jewish men had names that identified them with their fathers.  Simon Peter, for example, is called Simon son of John.  Barabbas is never identified by his given name, and this name is not much help either—bar-abbas means “son of Abba” (or “son of daddy”),  He could have been anybody’s son—and that’s just eh point,  Barabbas, son of an unnamed father committed a crime.  Because Jesus died in his place, this man was set free.  We, too, are sinners and criminals who have broken God’s holy law.  Like Barabbas, we deserve to die.  But Jesus has died in our place, for our sins, and we have been set free.  We don’t have to be “very important people” to accept our freedom in Christ.  In fact, thanks to Jesus, God adopts us all as his own sons and daughters and gives us the right to call him our dear Father. (NLT)

Luke 23:18-19 – Then a mighty roar rose from the crowd, and with one voice they shouted, “Kill him, and release Barabbas to us!”  (Barabbas was in prison for murder and for taking part in an insurrection in Jerusalem against the government.)

* Finding the freedom to obey

As a sinner, separated from God, you see his law from below, as a ladder to be climbed to get to God.  Perhaps you have repeatedly tried to climb it, only to fall, to the ground every time you have advanced one or two rungs.  Or perhaps the sheer height of the ladder seems so overwhelming that you have never even started up.  In either case, what relief you should feel to see Jesus offering with open arms to lift you above the ladder of the law, to take you directly to God!  Once Jesus lifts you into God’s presence, you are free to obey—out of love, not necessity, and through God’s power, not your own.  You know that if you stumble, you will not fall back to the ground.  Instead, you will be caught and held in Christ’s loving arms. (NLT)

Romans 5:20 – God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were.  But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful kindness became more abundant.

* Don’t let your freedom cause weaker Christians to stumble

Both strong and weak Christians can cause their brothers and sisters to stumble.  The strong but insensitive Christian may flaunt his or her freedom and intentionally offend others consciences.  The scrupulous but weak Christian may try to fence others in with petty rules and regulations, thus causing dissension.  Paul wants his readers to be both strong in the faith and sensitive to others’ needs.  Because we are all strong in some areas and weak in others, we need to constantly monitor the effects of our behavior on others. (NLT)

Romans 14:13 – So don’t condemn each other anymore.  Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not put an obstacle in another Christian’s path.

* – Sometimes it’s hard to know when to defer to the weak believer.  Paul gives a simple rule of thumb to help in making the decision: We should be sensitive and gracious.  While some actions may not be wrong, they may not be in the best interest of others.  While we have freedom in Christ, we shouldn’t exercise our freedom at the cost of hurting a Christian brother or sister.  We are not to consider only ourselves; we must be sensitive to others.  (NLT)

1 Corinthians 10:23-24 – You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is helpful.  You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial.  Don’t think only of your own good.  Think of other Christians and what is best for them.

* What Christian freedom is all about

Christian freedom does not mean that anything goes.  It means that our salvation is not obtained by good deeds or legalistic rules; it is the free gift of God.  Christian freedom, then, is inseparably tied to Christian responsibility.  New believers are often very sensitive to what is right or wrong, what they should or shouldn’t do.  Some actions may be perfectly all right for us to do but may harm a Christian brother or sister who is still young in the faith and learning what the Christ life is all about.  We must be careful not to offend a sensitive or younger Christian or, by our example, cause him or her to sin.  When we love others, our freedom should be less important to us than strengthening the faith of a brother or sister in Christ.(NLT)

1 Corinthians 8:10-13 – You see, this is what can happen: Weak Christians who think it is wrong to eat this food will see you eating in the temple of an idol.  You know there’s nothing wrong with it, but they will be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been dedicated to the idol.  So because of your superior knowledge, a weak Christian, for whom Christ died, will be destroyed.  And you are sinning against Christ when y0u sin against other Christians by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong.  If what I eat is going to make another Christian sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to make another Christian stumble.

* – A person is a slave to whatever controls him or her.  Many believe that freedom means doing anything we want.  But not one is ever completely free in that sense.  If we refuse to follow God, we will follow our own sinful desires and become enslaved to what our body wants.  If we submit our life to Christ, he will free us from slavery to sin.  Christ frees us to serve him, a freedom that results in our ultimate good. (NLT)

2 Peter 2:19 – They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves to sin and corruption.  For you are a slave to whatever controls you.

* Abusing Christian freedom

Freedom is a mark of the Christian faith—freedom from sin and guilt, and freedom to use and enjoy anything that comes from God.  But Christians should not abuse this freedom and hurt themselves or others.  Drinking too much leads to alcoholism; gluttony leads to obesity.  Be careful that what God has allowed you to enjoy doesn’t grow into a bad habit that controls you. (NLT)

1 Corinthians 6:12-13 – You may say, “I am allowed to do anything.”  But I reply, “Not everything is good for you.”  And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.  You say, “Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food.”  This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them.  But our bodies were not made for sexual immorality.  They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies.

* – Paul’s letter to the Galatians boldly declares the freedom of the Christian.  Doubtless these early Christians in Galatia wanted to grow in the Christian life, but they were being misled by those who said this could be done only by keeping certain Jewish laws.

How strange it would be for a prisoner who had been set free to walk back into his or her cell and refuse to leave!  How sad for a believer to be freed from the bondage of sin, only to return to rigid conformity to a set of rules and regulations!

If you believe in Jesus Christ, you have been set free.  Instead of going back into some form of slavery, whether to legalism or to sin, use your freedom to live for Christ and serve him as he desires. (NLT)

Galatians 6:18 – My dear brothers and sisters, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Amen.

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