Sermon: “Freedom in Christ”
Lectionary Series C; The Third Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday, June 30, 2019
Epistle Reading: Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
How do you define freedom?
This week our nation will celebrate once again that we are a free country. Ever since 1776, we have been celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July. With barbecues and fireworks, we will gather and rejoice in being the land of the free and the home of the brave. As we do so, we ought to take a moment to give thanks to God for those who so sacrificially gave their lives and their service to afford us the freedoms we do have in this country. Freedom is not free.
How do you define freedom?
When I left for college in Chicago all the way back in the last millennium (it was 1999), I am pretty sure my words could have echoed the line from Martin Luther King Junior’s famous speech where he said, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last!” Now in no way was that because I didn’t like my childhood. But as my parents said goodbye to me with tears in their eyes outside my dorm at Concordia River Forest (now Concordia Chicago), I was ready to be out on my own. In fact, I had been ready for quite some time. I often joked that I had had senioritis since I was a preschooler. And now that college was beginning, my days of freedom were now here.
How do you define freedom?
The dictionary defines freedom as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.”
This definition seems appropriate when we consider that we often view freedom as a license to do whatever we want to do. No boundaries, no restrictions, no rules. Now I get to call the shots and do whatever I want to do. And though that may sound awesome, is this the definition of freedom that we want to live by? Or is there a different definition of freedom for us as Christians to consider?
How do you define freedom?
Our text says: For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Galatians 5:1, 13-14).
In love, Christ calls us out of slavery and into freedom in order that we may love our neighbor as ourselves. This call to freedom in Christ is vastly different than the dictionary definition of freedom. This call to freedom is one of love. Where the dictionary definition would mirror the college student’s craving to do whatever they want without restraint, as Christians, we are called to freedom that binds us to Christ and love for our neighbor.
It may sound odd that freedom is being bound to Christ and to the neighbor. In fact, that may not sound like freedom at all. But consider the alternative for a moment.
If we are not bound to Christ and serving our neighbor, then what are we bound to? We are bound to the desires of the flesh. What are these? Well, they are broken up into four categories: The first group is a list of sexual sins: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality. The second group is a list that is a direct violation of the First Commandment (You shall have no other gods): Idolatry and sorcery. The third group deals with personal relationships with others: enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy. And the fourth group is indulgence in sensual pleasures: drunkenness and orgies.
The apostle Paul then offers a grave warning to those who do these things: “You will not inherit the kingdom of God.” This should be a wake up call to all of us, should we be steeped in any form of these sins which were just listed. Should we be enslaved to any of these sins, we need to repent.
And the word ‘enslave’ is intentional. To be caught up in any of these sins is like being chained on a leash like a slave where Satan is the one who is calling the shots. And the end result if we choose to follow the lusts of our flesh is to bind ourselves to the punishment of eternal damnation. “You will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
God is here speaking through the apostle Paul out of great love and concern for you and me and all people. To live a life of worldly freedom where we think we can do whatever we want without restraint has its consequences. We may think otherwise as we are indulging in whatever we want in this life with its endless buffet of sinfully, gluttonous choices, but it will only take us down in the end.
That is why God calls us to so much more. So much more than a life of guilt and regret and consciences that are weighed down by the sins we have committed. He calls us to freedom in Him. Freedom in Christ.
Freedom is being released from the slavery and bondage of sin and the penalty of death that goes with it. Freedom is having the leash that Satan has attached to us cut off. Freedom is no longer being burdened by sin and guilt and a burdened conscience.
This is the freedom Jesus gave to us as He bled and died our death on Calvary, when He said, “It is finished.” The sin, the guilt, and the death that went with it, is gone. Done for. We are free. Free from having to earn our salvation by works of the law. Free from having to pay the price of death because of our sins. Free to love Him with all of our heart, soul, and mind. Free to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are free.
He has called each us to this freedom in Himself in our baptism. In our baptism, Christ Jesus Himself, the Son of God, bound Himself to us. It was then and there that He gave us His Spirit willingly and freely, because He wanted to. Because He loves us. And from that point on, the Spirit of the Almighty God has been at work in and through us.
We are now conduits, channels of Christ’s love. As Jesus says in the book of John: I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).
God calls you and I to bear the fruit of Christ’s love. With Christ connected to us, we can’t help but be channels of His love toward others. It is the natural outpouring of one who is set free by Christ to love Him and serve others.
And what does that fruit look like? Well, as good as the strawberries, cherries, and watermelons of summer may be, these fruits of the Spirit are far better.
The fruits of the Spirit are broken up into three groups. The first group is of the inner life of one who is led by the Spirit: love, joy, and peace. The second group is the work of the Spirit’s dealing with others: patience, kindness, and goodness. And the third group is in regards to the attitude of one who has the Spirit of God at work in them: faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
But here comes the best part: against such things there is no law. There are no limits to how much fruit you produce when it comes to the fruits of the Spirit. No one ever said, “that was far too much patience or kindness you showed me.” And what’s more, there is no sin in doing them and no burden of a guilty conscience in doing them either. And why? Because these are the fruits of the Spirit of the living Christ who is alive and well within us.
This is the freedom in Christ that He has called us to by the Gospel and enlightened us with His gifts. He has called us to produce fruit. He has called us away from a selfish life of serving the flesh to a life of contrition and repentance. Because we are not our own, we have been bought with a price. The price of Christ’s life. After all, freedom is not free. And it certainly wasn’t for the Son of God who bought our freedom with His holy and precious blood, and His innocent suffering and death.
So, as we live in the blood-bought freedom of Christ, let us crucify the flesh with its passions and desires. Let us drown the Old Adam so that a new man will daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. As baptized believers, let us live by the Spirit and let us also walk by the Spirit.
And that’s how we ought to view it. Our life of freedom in Christ is like going on a walk with our Lord who joins with us to carry us to the cross and through the empty tomb. And all along the way, He is right there with us, leading us, guiding us, supporting us, and strengthening us so that we may love Him and serve others.
What would life look like if it were shaped only by Christ’s love? Love does what it does, not because it has to, but because it wants to. That is why God sent His Son. He was free to do with us whatever He wanted. In love, He chose to serve us. In love, we have the privilege of serving others.
So, how do you define freedom?
As Christians, our freedom is defined by Christ who freely bought it for us and bound Himself to us for all eternity. This freedom in Christ is truly something to celebrate. Make no mistake about it, when the Son sets us free, we are free indeed. Free to use our God-given freedom to serve one another in Christ’s love. In His name. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.