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Real Freedom

Galatians 5

Lesson Audio

Many Christians underestimate the impact that Adam and Eve have on our understanding of the Bible. Their behavior teaches the Christian that there is a third answer to the question: “Just what is the nature of man?”

Man is good

A Christian can tell you right away that this is not the case. If it were, there would be no need for repentance. But that’s not the way some in the world see it. For example, the great myth of the “Noble Savage” quickly unravels. Thoreau, Gaugin and others have given us the picture that the noble savage, unspoiled by the horrors of western civilization (like Jesus), is in his native state one whose character is marked by a pure, unshackled goodness. Gaugin in particular moved to Tahiti to live among such people. He returned to France a few years later, after discovering that Tahitians share all the vices that civilized man cherishes. Original innocence, isn’t.

The idea is not new; one of the continuing efforts of Christendom is the monastic movement, or its cool counterpart, the commune. Simply, you enter into this heaven on earth by voluntarily committing to obey the rules. The failure comes when you need to kick someone out of the commune. Where can they go? Back to those naturally good people you’re trying to avoid by living in the commune?

The usual answer is, “Come the revolution…” All we need to do is overthrow the government, take over and then peace and freedom will blossom. Of course, in taking over, you become the government, which…

Man is evil

If the noble savage has no need to repent, this view will tell you that repentance is of no use. People are going to fail again. Indeed, “There but for the grace of God go I” fits nicely here. This view holds that you are the product of your heredity and environment completely. Therefore a strong hand is needed.

Heaven on earth can be achieved in this view. The “right” people take power and rule with an iron fist. Strict discipline and swift enforcement are the tools needed for the job.

The method has seen several implementations. Religions which base themselves on works (Mormonism, for example) use this method. One might also recall the Knights of Malta and other military orders of monks; indeed, much of the autocracy of old was based upon this thought.

One serious problem of this view is this: Who watches over and corrects the faults of those holding the bull whip?

Man is fallen

This view holds that God created us as very good – but our sinful nature has degraded us. In this view, repentance is not only useful – it’s essential. Failure is always with us, but we know that we are not designed to fail.

Heaven on earth? There is no such thing, but for our comfort and assistance we have the church. We are accountable to each other.

As we shall see, this view of human nature gives us a point of view regarding our freedom.

Nature of Freedom

Gal 5:1-15 NASB It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. (2) Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. (3) And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. (4) You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. (5) For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. (6) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. (7) You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? (8) This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. (9) A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. (10) I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is. (11) But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. (12) I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves. (13) For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (14) For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." (15) But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

Freedom in Christ

Paul makes three main points concerning freedom in Christ:

1. This freedom is obtained through Christ – the gift of God, not the gift of revolution.

2. This freedom will be assaulted – from many directions. It is contrary to the way of the world. Therefore we are to stand firm in that freedom.

3. It can be lost. You can fall from grace; the way mentioned here is by going back to the Jewish law. But there just might be other ways, as well.

The inner nature of freedom

Freedom proceeds from within. How often have you seen someone who is a prisoner of their past? Someone who is “locked up” by the behavior of their parents, perhaps? You can chant freedom to such a person over and again – but until freedom grows within, they are still prisoner. To them, the bonds of time are real; all they can see ahead is more bondage.

For the Christian, freedom is “faith working through love.” Take this step by step:

· To begin, there must be faith. Our past holds us captive when we feel that we cannot change the future. But faith steps in and tells us that God has the future in His hand.

· It must be a “working” faith. We see no change if we do no work. If you won’t commit to God, will you see faith at work?

· It is done “through love.” We cannot continue to work through agony and hatred. The free man works this way; the slave cannot.

You are free if…

Pardon the repetition, but the point bears it.

Suppose you capture an eagle, and tie it up with ropes. It is certainly not free, and if you were asked why you would simply point to the ropes. The ropes cause this lack of freedom. Now suppose that you take the eagle into a submarine, untie the ropes, stuff it into a torpedo tube and fire it out into the sea. Is the eagle free? Not really.

So we might conclude as follows:

· Just because you remove that which caused the loss of freedom does not mean you are free.

· We need thus to recognize the difference between “free” and “unrestrained.”

Suppose you inherit a large sum of money. You never need to work again; and you decide to give your desires free reign over your life. You will behave however your desires flow. Don’t you see that you are not free? Your desires are running you. “I can do anything I want” is thus not a declaration of freedom but of slavery.

Permit me, therefore, a change of definition. Freedom means that you have the unrestricted ability to do what God intended you to do. Eagles must fly; that’s what God designed them to do. They are free if they are flying. So if we are to know freedom, we must know what God intended for us. Paul now gives us a list.

The Lists

Gal 5:16-26 NASB But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. (17) For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. (18) But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. (19) Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, (20) idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, (21) envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (24) Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (25) If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (26) Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

By their fruits you will know them; here are the outward lists which tell us of the inward man.

Deeds of the flesh

Can we be brief here? Look at this list and see how many things are still with us today, even inside the church. Take a look at these:

· Immorality – The word is the one from which we get our word “pornography.” Also known as freedom of speech, or “I just read it for the articles.”

· Impurity – actually, unwillingness to cleanse oneself. It is the negative of the word from which we get our word, “catharsis.”

· Sensuality – the rule of bodily desires.

· Idolatry – the worship of something other than God. Modern candidates are money, science, influence and health clubs. Sometimes this includes hobbies as well.

· Sorcery – the word from which we get “pharmacy.” It seems that doing drugs is not as recent as we thought.

· Factions – the root word from which we get “heresy.” Who could commend the constant division of the church to satisfy someone’s ego?

Fruit of the Spirit

It’s a familiar list – and therefore all the more useful.

· Love is agape in the Greek.  This is the commanded, willed love.  It is the act not of passion but of determination.  This is not spur of the moment but planned love.

· Joy is chara from which we get our word "charismatic."  Barclay puts it this way:  "it is the joy whose foundation is God."

· Peace (eirene)  is that tranquility of the heart that comes from knowing God.  The Greeks used this word to mean the serenity which came from a well governed society.  By extension, it is our peace that comes from knowing that God rules our lives.

· Patience (makrothumia) means more than just resignation to the facts.  It might even better be translated "persistent waiting."  For that is what it really means;  the ability to wait upon God's time, not idly but also not fretting.

· Kindness  (chrestotes) can also be translated "goodness;"  when used of wine, it means "mellow."  This is the word that is used of Christ's yoke.  The basic idea is that of a goodness which is kind.

· Goodness (agathosune) is a rare word in Greek;  it can be defined as "virtue equipped at every point."  Goodness will clean the Temple;  kindness will forgive the woman taken in adultery.

· Fidelity (pistis) means simply trustworthiness.  Is your word your bond?  Does the Spirit convict you of promises made?

· Gentleness (praotes) is, by Dr. Barclay, almost untranslatable!  It is used in three senses:

o submissive to the will of God (see Matthew 5:5, 11:29, 21:5)

o being teachable - not to proud to learn (James 1:21)

o being considerate (I Cor. 4:21, II Cor. 10:1, Ephesians 4:2)

· Self-control (egkrateia) meaning self mastery.  It is used of the disciplined athlete; it is used specifically in mastery of sexual desire by Christians (I Cor. 7:9).  One major use in political writings of the time is the idea of an Emperor who never lets his private interests influence the government of his people.

Live in the Spirit

It may seem foolish to conclude by recommending the obvious, but may I point out three advantages of this lifestyle?

· Christ promised that His yoke is light. It is the lightness of being forgiven, and the joy of working alongside Him.

· You were designed to love God and enjoy Him forever – and you are never more free than when you are doing that.

· This life starts on the inside – where real change is made.

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