July is a month when, as a nation, we turn our thoughts to the freedom we enjoy. As a Christian, I cannot think of freedom without thinking of Jesus. Only through Jesus Christ can we experience true freedom.
What does freedom in Christ look like?
Christian freedom is one of many paradoxes of the Christian faith, because being liberated from sin and death means becoming a willing servant of Christ through relationship with Him. In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul explains how we enter this world as unwilling slaves to sin. When a person accepts Christ, he or she ceases to be enslaved by sin and death and is transformed, covered in the innocence and holiness of Jesus. But the transformation doesn’t end there:
“But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18).
Notice that liberation leads to obedience and voluntary service. Though this freedom is made available through our faith in Jesus, we become obedient, our behavior becoming a reflection of the One who made us free. You may notice that many Christians are not truly living with a sense of freedom. They feel burdened, oppressed, addicted and powerless. How does this happen?
Often, it is because we embrace the release from condemnation without becoming obedient to the teaching. Often we think of freedom as the unrestricted ability to do or be something. But what Christ offers is a freedom from something. And we are free. From condemnation. From death. From the power sin holds over us. But don’t miss that with that comes the directive in the Bible to “be holy,” to be set apart, to behave in a way that honors our God. Being a Christian doesn’t mean that there are no longer limitations or consequences for what we do. In fact, the decisions we make about what we watch on TV, what (or how much) we eat and drink, what can wear to the beach, or what we are smoking and drinking, for example, all impact whether or not we are experiencing the freedom Christ offers.
Accessing freedom is made possible through Jesus, but experiencing freedom is all about the decisions we make each day. “Everything is permissible,” was the motto of the Corinthian church. And Paul affirms that this is true, Christians are free to choose how they live. However, he explains that not everything is beneficial or constructive. Sometimes, in choosing a “freedom to” rather than a “freedom from” mindset, we continue in sin, prolonging our connection the very thing that Christ has freed us from. Some people view this Christian discipline of holy behavior as restrictive. But the truth is, freedom is hidden in the choices we make to be holy. When we model our lives after what God values and promotes, we truly begin to experience the freedom Christ made available to us. We experience abundance, joy, and peace. And what’s more, it also builds up and benefits others.
Thank God for Freedom
I am so thankful to live in a country where we can openly share the Gospel and have freedom of religion. And I am so thankful for the freedom I can experience because of Jesus! As the month of July comes to a close, continue to pray for our country and religious leaders. But let’s also pray for the Church to have the courage and commitment to truly experience the freedom Jesus offers to us.