It was a great day in my life when I realized that God had released me from my internal struggles with sin, selfishness, pride, worry, fear etc. After a night of pouring out my heart to Him in sorrow and repentance for my rebellion against Him, the following morning I felt as light as a feather! It was almost like I could fly away!
Soon after that I discovered that I was also free from external bondage, rules “like don’t touch this, don’t taste this, don’t handle that!” (Colossians 2:21). Before it seemed that the Christian life was often all about what I could not do. Now, because of God’s grace at work in me I really felt no need for things that displeased Him, and did not really need anyone standing over me shaming me into doing His will. After this experience the focus was now on the good things I want to do and can do because of His life and power within me.
That is not to say that as a young Christian I did not need some guidance along the way, but my desires had definitely changed. I was truly “born again!” At the same time I noticed that some Christians were still being pressured from external forces, and were less joyful in their walk with Christ. It seemed to me like an “Old Covenant” mentality. Even though few were concerned about obeying the Law given by God through Moses in the Hebrew Bible, our Old Testament, some were bound by new laws imposed upon them by their church leaders. These church leaders most likely had the best of intentions. They knew the potential that movies and television had to corrupt our values. They also knew that bars and gambling houses could spell trouble for us as well.
The problem arises when good, practical advice is connected with the means of our salvation. Just like the early Christians were tempted to relate Old Testament laws of circumcision with their justification before God. Paul insisted that now we are justified freely by God’s grace through Christ’s death and resurrection. The faith He imparts enables us to trust in Him and receive His wonderful gift of eternal life! He also insisted that we should “stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 5:1). In our day that yoke of bondage could mean anything that hinders us from abundant living in Him. With the cloud of external oppression lifted, we can think more clearly to discern the will of God for our lives. We want to please and glorify Him, and He will lovingly lead us in that direction, to bring us joy and wellness.
Paul maintained His freedom in Christ by intensely pursuing Him and His purpose. Once he stated:
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NASU)
In another place he proclaimed:
“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:10-14 KJV)
So it appears that Paul was even more intense and passionate for knowing and attaining Christ than he was for observing the law as a Pharisee! Then he urged his fellow believers in Christ to likewise discipline themselves, pursuing spiritual life in Christ, rather than the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16, Romans 8:12-13).
In Gal 5:13-14 he warns us against misusing our freedom:
“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. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” NASU
In other words, we are to follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. Knowing our truly exalted status as the children of God, we too should have the humble attitude that was in Christ, who took the form of a servant and was obedient unto death. (Philippians 2:1-8)
There is a huge difference between serving and being obedient because we must, and because we choose to. There is a passage in Exodus 21:2-6 where the Hebrew bond slave was to be released after 6 years. But there was a provision made that a slave might decide to stay because he loves his master. A hole was then to be made in his ear to indicate his choice to stay with his master and serve him in love for life.
Paul and many other great men and women of God throughout the centuries saw themselves as willing slaves of the Lord Jesus Christ! They used their freedom to serve Christ and His people. Paul even saw himself as a prisoner of Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 3:1. Philemon 1, 9) He was less concerned with his personal freedom, and more concerned about His Masters pleasure. He reminded us that when Christ “ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives,” (Ephesians 4:8 NASB) We are those who have been delivered from slavery and now belong to Him. We are bought with a price, to be bond slaves of the most loving Master of all!
We are to bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), acknowledging Him as the supreme Lord over our lives and over this entire universe. He is to have the preeminence in all things! In this way we become free from every other power over us. We are not slaves of men, but our freedom in Him allows us to become the servants of all! We acknowledge the authority of His love, joy, peace, righteousness, victory, and reject all the powers of hatred, depression, injustice, and defeat that would bring us under!
In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us! (Romans 8:37). What sweet abandon! What delightful captivity! What a powerful victory! This is the nature of the Kingdom of God, and Kingdom Life. Those who move beyond mere liberty to pursuing this upward call are world changers! They possess the freedom to look outside themselves and see individual lives and communities transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit! Their deepest desire is to see His Kingdom come and His will being done in earth as in heaven!
The Good News of the Kingdom rule of God is the Full Gospel! It leaves no stone unturned in God’s plan to bring all things into subjection unto Him. It touches every area of human existence: our hearts, minds, souls, bodies, our families; and even the financial, social, and physical dimensions of life. Most likely there is one or more of these areas in which God wants to change you and use you as an agent of change. If you simply respond to Him, He will empower you to do your part.
You see, it is not simply about my freedom, your freedom. It is about the entire creation that is groaning in labor pains to see Jesus Christ fully revealed in His body, the church. For the creation itself will then be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God! (Romans 8:19-22).