Thursday, July 29, 2010

Freedom in Christ

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." (Galatians 5:1)

Today I am going to discuss:

  1. Freedom and what it is
  2. The Freedom we have in Jesus Christ and
  3. What we should do with the aforementioned Freedom

The "Liberty Bell" is inscribed with a Bible verse- Leviticus 25:10-which reads "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." In his Gettysburg Address, Mr. Lincoln described the United States of America as "a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." In Chaplain School our NCOs favorite cadence was "Some say freedom is free-but I tend to disagree. I say freedom is won through the barrel of a gun." Servicemen and women in the United States Armed forces fight to defend freedom. For centuries American soldiers have been the defenders of freedom. It was American servicemen who fought for freedom against the British during the revolutionary war. We fought against the tyrannical Nazi regime and the regime of Emperor Hirohito in the Pacific. We also fought against Communism in Korea and Viet Nam. When I was mobilized to Iraq in 2003 my orders said I was mobilized to join in "Operation Enduring Freedom." We are now here participating in "Operation Iraqi Freedom."
According to the very names of these operations-it is freedom that we are fighting for.

Some people don't believe "Freedom" is a good thing. Martial artist Jackie Chan stated that he believed that the Chinese people need to be controlled. He said, "I'm not sure if it is good to have freedom or not," he said. "I'm really confused now. If you are too free, you are like the way Hong Kong is now. It's very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic." He added: "I'm gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we are not being controlled, we'll just do what we want." Another martial artist, Jet Li starred in a movie entitled "Hero." The theme of the movie was that a powerful government that oppressed the people and actually carried out atrocities was a necessary evil because it united the people-against their will-to become a more powerful nation.

Recently, an organization called "Freedom House" put together an annual report on Freedom around the world. Freedom House classified countries as "free," "partly free," and "not free" by a range of indicators that include fairness of elections, integrity of judges and independence of trade unions. In a report entitled "Freedom in the World 2010: Global Erosion of Freedom" they found hat liberty has declined in 40 countries but has gained in 16. Certain electorates actually voted in governments that have stripped them of their freedom and human rights. Examples include Russia-which is now no longer considered a "free country" and the Palestinian Authority-which elected the radical Islamic terrorist organization "Hamas" into power.

I learned to appreciate my freedom after I lived in Egypt when I was 19 years old. I have lived in a totalitarian police state when I lived in Syria. I have been followed by the Muhkhabart-the secret police and saw my Christian friends interrogated by secret police.

Our freedoms are fragile. Recently, freedom of speech and religion have been threatened by Islamic nations that have been offended by cartoon shows such as "South Park" and social networking websites such as "Facebook." To me it is very disturbing that both cable networks and these social networking sites have practiced censorship-why-because people were offended by what was said. They felt threatened by dialogue, debate and critical thought and were able to stifle free speech. Also, it is a disturbing trend were we find that it is permissible to mock and ridicule Christianity while at the same time questioning Islam is a crime.

Jesus said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32). Jesus also said, "I am the way, the truth and the life-no one comes to the Father but by me." I believe that the truth will hold its own. We need free speech so that people can think and question and discuss-so that the truth will be established. We must resist efforts of certain radicals –whether they be Atheists or Islamists-to stifle discussion and dialogue.

We have also see the trend-even in the United States were people are willing to sacrifice their freedoms in exchange for what they view as "security." However, once freedoms are lost-there is a terrible price in winning them back. Thomas Jefferson sated once that "the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

There is such a thing as religious tyranny. We see this in places like Saudi Arabia and Iran. Sometimes the Puritans are portrayed as being religious tyrants. We see this in the world "puritanical" which basically means religiously oppressive. Certain Christians and religious people can be judgmental and legalistic. But while this is a type of religiosity-it is not the "religion pure and undefiled" as spoken of by James the Brother of Jesus. This "religious spirit" is not of God. We know this because Paul the Apostle stated, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." (2 Corinthians 3:17).

What does it mean to be "Free"? What freedoms are we fighting for?

What is freedom? Freedom must mean to have the power of self-determination. Power means the ability to make people do what you want them to do-even if its against their will. I probably wouldn't pay taxes if I didn't have to. Freedom means the ability to freely choose your own life. This idea is found in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America. According to the Declaration of Independence human being are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is a profound truth-these liberties we have are not given to us by the Constitution nor are they derived from a Supreme Court-NO-these freedoms we have come from God.

(Sometimes people wonder if our ideas are really biblical or they are actually American concepts we read into the Bible. Once you read the Bible you see the ideas of the rights of the individual, justice and fair play and a government accountable to righteousness, the people and to God are not only biblical principles they are the principles upon which the United States of America was founded.)

It is important to have a proper understanding of Freedom. Certain people have sought for Freedom in sex and drugs and instead have found themselves in bondage.

God's commandments and his truth are not oppressive-they are liberating.

"Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed." (James 1:25)

Jesus Christ Offers us Freedom from Spiritual Bondage

We are all sinners and have committed sins in thought and deed. There are consequences to our sinful behavior. Jesus said whoever sins is a slave to sin.

"If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." (John 8:36)

It is hard for us to imagine what slavery is like. In a way that is a good thing. All we know about slavery is what we learn about slavery in America before the Civil War. In our perceptions we see African Americans working the fields and we also see horrific images of these slaves being treated in a very cruel manner. In ancient times slavery was seen as part of life. Of course, in ancient times-anyone could be a slave-it wasn't about race. While it seems very odd to us today-often slaves were very devoted to their masters and at times would give their lives to their masters. (This historical reality of slavery is portrayed in the series "Rome.") The philosophers Aristotle noted a slave mindset that many slaves had. He believed that certain people were suited only for slavery. The New Testament was written to a society where slavery was the norm. Paul emphasizes that Christ came for all men-slave and freeman. Paul also taught that Christ liberates us-he even sets the mind free! It was the principle of the value of every man and woman thought in the New Testament that eventually brought an end to the slave trade. (How Christians worked to put an end to the slave trade is seen in the movie "Amazing Grace" which is about the abolitionist Wilfred Wilberforce. However, the slave trade and "human trafficking" isn't yet history but is a modern evil.)

The ancient Israelites knew bondage when they were enslaved by the Egyptians and forced to-according to Scripture-to make bricks and to do all matter of work in the fields. Throughout their history they knew slavery again when they were enslaved by the Philistines and also to the Babylonians.

But what is it that Christ sets us free from?

"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:2)

Jesus liberates us from religious or legalistic bondage and also from our slavery to sin-and its consequence (which includes hellfire).

"But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life." (Romans 6:22)

What should we do with the Freedom we have in Jesus Christ?

"For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant." (1 Corinthians 7:22)

"For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more." (1 Corinthians 9:19)

"As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God." (1 Peter 2:16)

We use the freedom we have in Christ to help other people. Jesus said, "I, the Son of Man came not to be served-but to serve-and to give my life as a ransom for many."

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