What does freedom in Christ mean? If I am free, then why is it not okay to do whatever I feel like doing? If freedom doesn’t mean that I can do whatever I want, then what is it for?
Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
This passage answers our questions by saying: Freedom doesn’t mean living according to the flesh and the countless paths it might take you down. It means submitting to a good God and throwing all empty promises behind. Freedom doesn’t leave us defenseless and wandering for our own sense of purpose. Freedom gives us a place where we can throw our worries behind and plant our feet safely. Freedom is not carelessness. Freedom changes our place of submission. Freedom does not mean that your life is summed up by a dictator, but given by a Savior. Christ died so that we could live under a life-giving law made to protect us and give Him all the glory.
If I am free, why do I feel weighed down?
In Galatians 5 verses 2- 6, Paul explains why the church of Galatia needed to give up their hang ups. “…if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision not uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”
The Galatians were convinced that you couldn’t inherit eternal life unless you were circumcised, and Jesus suddenly shows up on the scene and changes everything. Jesus changes the requirements from laws and sacrifice to accepting a gift? Yes. The Old Covenant had taught that their life was all on them. God has always been the same good God, and He graciously provided a way that didn’t leave those under the law hopeless, but He knew that they couldn’t keep the entire law on their own. He made another way. The Old Covenant said, “Follow these rules and when you mess up take care of it very carefully.” The New Covenant says, “You are mine. Accept my grace. Take it as a gift. Come follow me, and if you truly know me, you can’t help but be changed.”
I think we all have a bit of Old Covenant thinking in our midst. We stuff lists and lists of ways of life and things to accomplish in our heart and say, “When you finish, He’ll love you.” On the alternative, He loved you therefore He came to free you from all kinds of bondage. If we think that others have the foundation of their relationship with Christ on a petty requirement, we have fallen away from grace. He died so that we could live unafraid and unashamed. Accepting anything less is man-made religion that means nothing to Him, and ultimately means nothing to us. If you feel weighed down instead of taking heart in the gospel of Christ, perhaps you’ve carried an Old Covenant truth as your New Covenant way of life. Clinging to those ideas and promises leave us confused, because that carries the weight on us and not on Christ. If we make our lives about us and not about life from and because of Christ, if we accept empty religion, if we carry everything over from the Old Covenant, we accept a perversion of perfect, present grace.
If I’m not under the law, what does it look like to work under a standard of grace instead
Galatians 5:16-25 points to walking according to and with the Spirit, opposing the way of your flesh and defying the odds in the way you live your life. Paul instructs to stay pure in your heart and with your body, to fight back feelings of bitterness with forgiveness, to be united amongst one another, and to not rely on the things of this world to satisfy what only God can. At first glance, it seems surprising that after Paul rants about their obsession with the law, he gives more rules. But there’s something different here. It’s not just a list of do-nots. With the command, comes a promise: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is now law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Jesus isn’t about boring, petty requirements – He is about faith worked out in love, called fruit.
Work in Christ might be hard temporarily, but it’s not heavy permanently. It is not oppressive. John Piper says, “He offers his fellowship and help, and even makes the life of obedience a life of joy. The Christian life is a life of freedom because it is lived in the power of the Spirit.” Following the world leads to temporary pleasure and eternal destruction. Obedience in Christ may involve temptations and hard decisions that say no to the things that entangle us to the world. Saying no to the things of this world may not feel joyful, but produce long-lasting joy. When we obey Christ, we don’t become His by our own doing, but literally love Him back. To obey Christ might mean momentary confusion, hurt, or seclusion → but a life dedicated to obedience guarantees a life of love, community, adventure, and joy.
Life with Christ doesn’t exclude trouble, but it promises victory. If you are wrestling with God, or feel far from Him, I ask you the same question Paul asked the church of Galatia in chapter 5 verse 7. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?
If you are hindered from running on the mission of Christ, that didn’t come from Him. Anything that destructs and oppresses is not from the Father. Because…
For every hard no required of us, there lies a better, sweeter yes in Christ.
What is freedom? Freedom is running unhindered and being kept close to the heart of God. Living out commandments that were made for our care in mind with His glory at the center. We accept the grace that allows us to not be justified by what we do and show the world we love Him back when we say yes to His will. We loudly proclaim Galatians 6:17: