Lucia's Blog: FREEDOM VERSUS RESPONSIBILITY
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

FREEDOM VERSUS RESPONSIBILITY

"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. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another." 
Galatians 5:13-15



Jesus came to a world imprisoned by the guilt and practice of sin and offered freedom. He still offers us freedom, but with the proviso that we not return to the service of the Enemy.  Freedom is a wonderful blessing for anyone. It is a blessing to experience our unique freedoms for two centuries:  the freedoms of speech, of the press, privacy, and the freedom to worship without government interference. The Lord’s freedom is much more significant, priceless, and eternal for those who are in Christ.  The price of our freedom is the blood of the Lamb.  Our souls are so precious and valuable to our God that He sacrificed His innocent Son.  I cannot fathom the depth of God's love for the souls of men!! 
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life"  (John 3:16). 

You see, when God saw our hopeless condition, He sent His Son to make us alive together with Him since we were dead in our sins. Our Father in heaven showed us His lovingkindness when He sent His beloved Son to die on a cross for our sins.  It was through His Son's death that He was able to grant pardon and freedom to us.  Our Lord Jesus Christ set us free from the bondage of sin, the yoke of slavery.  Jesus, our Lord, paid an extremely high price.  He laid down His life for you and me (Colossians 2:13-14).  


I.   OUR FREEDOM IN CHRIST:  (Galatians 5:13-15)

Our Lord Jesus is the sum, the essence, the end, and the support for both the Law of the Old Testament as well as the Law of Christ under the New Testament.  Paul wrote in Romans 10:4,
"For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."  

He contrasts the Law of Moses with the new Message of Christ.  It is through Christ that the Spirit of God brought freedom from:
  • The darkness and slavery of sin.
  • The freedom from prejudices and superstitions (as in the case of the Jews).
  • Freedom from the fear of death. 
  • Freedom through the Gospel of Christ through His Grace toward us.  It is through the Gospel that He makes us glorious, transforming us and changing us into His glorious image.  We can be like Christ!

II.   OUR FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY:   

In Galatians 5:13-15 we read,
"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. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another."  

Galatians 5:1, 13-15 speak of our freedom in Christ and the responsibility that comes with it. When Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians, there was no freedom for those who were under the Roman Empire, such as we have today.  In the first century, the most significant form of freedom was freedom from slavery.  Both men and women who were slaves had no rights or civil liberties.  A slave was to submit to his master(owner) who told him what he must do in every circumstance.

In Galatians 5:1, Paul was not talking about a political freedom but rather the freedom from the yoke of the Law of Moses.  He emphasized freedom from religious bondage.  Paul spoke of one being physically a slave while being spiritually free in Christ.
"21 Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God"  (1 Corinthians 7:21-24).

You see, in the days of Judaism (in the first century), the Jewish brethren were enslaving the Gentile brethren by demanding that they be circumcised, offer the right sacrifices, keep the correct holy days, and follow Jewish traditions.  They enslaved their followers, insisting that they follow the traditions and doctrines of men so that they could have an acceptable relationship with God.  Apparently, they ignored that Jesus condemned all such religious oppression.  God gave Jesus to free everyone who obeys Him.  He gave Jesus to free men from the old ways of sin so that he could serve Him.  He gave us freedom and responsibility.

So, how does one obtain freedom in Christ?

In John 8:31-36 Jesus said,
"So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, 'If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.' 33 They answered him, 'We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?'  34 Jesus answered them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.'"

Here Jesus is speaking to those Jews "who had believed Him."  To be a disciple of Jesus, one must abide in His Word with complete obedience.  Being a true disciple is not just a vocation or doctrine one believes but an action. It is a life lived in total surrender to His Lordship (Luke 6:46; Matt. 7:21-23).  A true disciple of Christ will refuse to be in bondage to the traditions and doctrines of men (Colossians 2:20-23).  He refuses to be in bondage to anyone except Christ (1 Cor. 7:22-23; 2 Peter 2:19).  He obeys only His Master (Matt. 6:24).

John 8:32 states, 
"And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'"

To know the Truth is to hear, believe, and obey it.  The Truth is useless if one does not put it into practice.  A mental affirmation of the Truth is not enough to set one free (James 2:24).  If one fails to apply the Truth to his daily living, he runs the risk of being lost.  The Truth has the power to give us freedom: freedom from the bondage of sin and guilt, the cares and worries of this life, and finally, freedom from the fear of death.

We have been given other exhortations to stand firm in:
  • Our faith (1 Cor. 16:13); 
  • Our spirit  (Phil 1:27);
  • The Lord (Phil. 4:1; 1 Thess. 3:8); 
  • Stand firm and hold to the traditions that were taught by the apostles (2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6).

The Galatians were being manipulated by Jewish Christians who insisted on imposing the Old Law system on them.  Paul declared that it was impossible for a Christian who was not a Jew to do the things that the Jews did in the past under the Law of Moses.  Sadly, the Galatian brethren were being pressured by a crafty Jewish force (Galatians 5:6-12; 12-16; Phil. 3:1-3).

Today, the Lord's church is still being threatened in many forms as it was in the days of the early church:  
  • Dispensationalism 
  • Premillennialism 
  • Sectarianism 
  • Liberalism
  • Humanism 
  • Modernism 
  • Socialism
  • Evolution 
  • Human philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Feminism and 
  • Many other destructive ideologies.  

Satan’s goal is to destroy our faith, especially the faith of our vulnerable young people (1 Timothy 6:20-21).  Another major problem the church faces is loyalty to men whose primary goal is to push false doctrines and man-made religions, foreign to the Word of God.  They willfully ignore 1 Peter 4:11 that says,
"Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything. God may be glorified through Jesus Christ." 

Division among us is another problem many churches have to face because everyone seems to be fighting.  They are so busy fighting among themselves that they are neglecting to teach the lost (Galatians 5:15).  This really grieves my heart!!!

The world's freedom is deceitful.  Why?  Because they deceived themselves into thinking that they are free when, in fact, they are not.  They are entangled in the desires of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life, worldliness, and everything that's against the Word of God (1 John 2:16).  They are enslaved to their sinful living, their riches, worldly success, and weaknesses.  They think that this is freedom.  They say, "if you just plan enough and set enough goals, then you will find freedom."  I am not going to deny that these accomplishments can bring one a sort of freedom, but it is only earthly freedom, not God's freedomGod's freedom is to love and serve, to trust Him, and, most importantly, to do His will.  This fleshly slavery renders them helpless without any way of escape unless they surrender to the knowledge of God's Truth.

Sadly, the affairs of this lifeworldliness, and ungodliness are most likely the greatest dangers the Lord's church is facing today.  
"And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature."  (Luke 8:14)

It is all the worldly affairs of this life that keep us from loving God's Word and from serving Him faithfully.  Our faith then becomes like the religion of a spectator.  We desire only to come on Sunday mornings (if we make it at all!).  We sit and watch what is going on as a "spectator."  We refuse to get involved in our Lord's business since our minds and hearts are engaged in something else.  We are too busy to visit the sick, so we burden our preacher with the job for us.  

Indeed, we have missed the point of being a true disciple and servant of the Lord.  We are also too busy in our worldly affairs to study and to teach God's Word, so we give that responsibility only to our preacher. We don't seem to find time for praying anymore, thus neglecting the furthering of our soul and the kingdom as well. We ought to be ashamed to behave in this way, ignoring our God-given responsibility to Him and our neighbor.  It is all about me, me and no one else! 
"Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him"  (2 Timothy 2:3-4).  

Our freedom in Christ must not be abused to satisfy our flesh without restraint (Galatians 5:13). Our freedom in Christ does not give us license to indulge our fleshly desires, "perverting the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ"  (Jude 4). We must not under any circumstance, turn our freedom in Christ into licentiousness that we may continue in sin so that grace may abound (Romans 6:1, 15).  Yes, we are free from the old Law (the Law of Moses), free from sin, free from fear.  Yet, we must not use this freedom as a covering for our sins or lawlessness but rather to serve God in righteousness and holiness as faithful servants and heirs of God (Gal. 4:7, 31; 5:1; Psalm 110:3).
"And having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness"  (Romans 6:18)
  •  Serving One Another Through Love:  
So how does one demonstrate freedom in Christ?  By accepting another class of service.  We stop being servants of sin to become servants of righteousness (Romans 6:12-18).  We then become servants of Christ when we serve one another in love (Matt. 25:34-46).  When we refuse to be servants of Christ and one another, in reality, we are abusing our freedom in Christ.

We are indeed free, but at the same time, we have responsibilities toward one another as part of that same freedom.  We have obligations.  The Law of Christ, the perfect Law of liberty (James 1:25; 2:12) compels us to serve God with love.  It is impossible to love God if we don't love one another (1 John 4:20).  The greatest in the kingdom of God is the one who is a servant, the one who serves the most as a slave (Matthew 20:26-28).  By way of example, consider:
  • Dorcas (Acts 9:36, 39), 
  • Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2), 
  • The house of Stephanas (1 Cor. 16:15-16), and 
  • Gaius (3 John 5-8).  

To give one's life to the Lord means to give one's life in service to others.  Notice that in Galatians 5, Paul employs the expression "one another" five times (verses 13, 15, 26).  If we don't learn what it means to live in peace with our brethren in Christ and serve one another in love, we are violating the second commandment:  

"For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14; Matt. 22:39).  

It implies that we have not learned this second commandment.  It also shows that we are not free.

Most people on this earth are dependent on each other.  It is an inescapable reality.  That is, "you help me, and I will help you back."  The world's philosophy is mostly self-interest or selfishness.  That is why Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me"  (Matt. 16:24).  That is to say, disciples are not to be moved by self-interest but rather by a genuine spirit of service. There is no other way to be great in the Lord's eyes (Matt. 20:25-28).

A faithful follower of Christ serves in the hope of saving souls, strengthening, and encouraging (edifying) the souls of all Christians so that they may continue in the faith. They serve because they want to save their souls and the souls of their hearers (1 Tim. 4:16).

So as a Christian, how can I best serve in the kingdom of God?

We have several Scriptures that explain how we ought to serve one another:
  1. Admonishing one another, Romans 15:4.
  2. Restoring one another, Galatians 6:1
  3. Encouraging, edifying, admonishing, comforting, supporting, and being with one another, 1 Thes. 5:11, 14.
  4. Stimulating one another, Hebrews 10:24
  5. Practicing hospitality, Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9.
  6. Meeting their physical needs, James 2:14-26; 1 John 3:17-18.

In serving one another and doing all of the above, we are serving our Lord Jesus, our Master (Matthew 25:34-46).  My question:  What did the house of Stephanas do?  Consider what Paul has to say in 1 Cor. 16:15-16:
"Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household  of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— 16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer."

Notice that they did not ask, "What shall we do?  Likewise, they did not wait for someone to tell them what to do or give them work to do.   They simply devoted themselves to serving the saints without being pushed or forced to do the job. They did not complain saying, "No one gives us any work to do in the church."
"I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, 2 that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well."  (Romans 16:1-2)  

Phoebe and Dorcas were sisters who served in many ways in the Lord's church (Acts 9:36, 39).  In Romans 16, we have several examples of saints who served and helped in many different ways in the church. When we attend to the needs of our brethren, we are serving Christ (Matt. 25:35-40).  There will always be sick, poor, needy brethren.  Several Scriptures speak of the need to practice hospitality toward one another (Rom. 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9, etc.).  The face of the earth is full of lost souls.  Sadly, the majority of them have never heard the saving Gospel of Christ.  As members of the body of Christ, we each have responsibilities that we must meet if we want God's approval:  
  • Visit, teach the lost, 
  • Invite them to our homes for Bible classes, 
  • Distribute tracts, etc.
  • Make good use of the phone, the internet, etc. to teach the Gospel.  

There are endless ways to serve and be of good use in the kingdom of our Lord.  But there must be a willingness of heart to do it.
  • Love:  
Love is active and is known for its actions.  God loved, God gave.  Christ loved, Christ gave.  Love most be visible and evident.  One who indeed is seeking to find true freedom in Christ and freedom from the slavery of the flesh is not selfish, serving his own interests.  Rather with self-denial and a willing heart, he seeks the physical and spiritual welfare of others.
  1. He not only serves willingly but chooses to do it, showing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  
  2. He is "filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18).  Everyone can see it!  Because he is moved by love. 
  3. He does everything with a joyful heart.  
  4. He shows it in his conduct, way of speaking, and service to others.  
  5. He is always a "peacemaker."  He lives peaceably with all (Romans 12:18).  
  6. He does not try to appease or crush the sinner.  
  7. He does not compromise with sin and error but rather teaches and practices with long-suffering the glorious Gospel of peace.  
  8. He practices tolerance (patience) because he trusts (has faith and confidence) that the Word of God (the seed) will produce good fruit in due season.  
  9. Not only does he endure his brethren with patience, but also he helps them bear their burden in love.  
  10. He perseveres in doing good despite their ingratitude or rudeness.  
  11. Moreover, he is kind and gentle in spirit like the good Samaritan, Dorcas, and Barnabas.  
  12. He is always faithful, loyal, trustworthy, and responsible.  
  13. His gentleness of spirit is known to all men (Phi. 4:5).  
  14. He practices self-control in everything and with everyone.  

Therefore, if none of the above fruits are visible in us, cannot be seen in us, then they do not exist in us.  We are simply not bearing any good fruit.  Love is not about hidden qualities but rather about evident and provable ones.

Indeed, love is the source of freedom.  Let me explain how:  
  1. If you hate me, I choose not to hate you back; that is freedom.  
  2. If you slander me, I choose not to slander you back; that is freedom.  
  3. If you are bitter against me, I choose not to be bitter toward you; that is freedom.  
  4. No matter what evil you do against me, I choose to do good toward you; that is freedom. 
Think of Jesus as our highest example:  
    • They spit on Him, yet He did not spit back.  
    • They slapped Him, yet He did not slap back. 
    • They cursed and mocked Him, yet He did not curse and mock any of them.
    • They abused their power against Him, yet He did not abuse His power against them. 
    • They killed Him, but instead, He forgave them.  
    • They were slaves to corruption and evil, yet He was free of sin.  
    • Jesus was the freest person who ever lived on this earth.  Nothing could enslave Him. 
    • No evil ever motivated Him.  
    • Not even death had dominion over Him.  
"For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Galatians 5:14)

In Matthew 22:34-40, a certain lawyer of the Sadducees asked Jesus about the greatest commandment in the Law.  Notice what Jesus said to him:
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."
In Romans 13:8-10, Paul told the brethren in Rome:
"Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."'

The word "love" in the Bible does not mean just a feeling or emotion but rather an action (a state of being active).  It is seen in our service to others and our goodwill (our kindness, generosity, tolerance, friendliness, empathy, sympathy, understanding, wholeheartedness, warmth, earnestness, etc.).  Love desires the welfare and protection of the one that we love.  Love demands that we love even our enemies and persecutors.  Love demands that we pray for them, their souls that they may come to repentance (Matthew 5:44-45).

What the Bible teaches about love is much different than what the world teaches.  The world's love demands that we love self.  It is all about us and little else.  Our world teaches that love is one's appreciation for himself, and the attention others pay us.  Love is Valentine's Day and Cupid, love songs and romance. Moreover, the world's concept of love is based primarily on feelings rather than on the loyalty and commitment we have made to those we love and to God.

So true love is not just a feeling or emotion.  In fact, love goes against our feelings.  Love is treating others the way we want them to treat us.  It follows the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12.  It involves self-denial rather than self-fulfillment.  It is considering others' interests before our own,

In John 15:13, we are given an excellent example of love, the love of our Lord and Savior, who died for us.  What more excellent example of love can there be than this?!

The world's concept of love is selfish rather than sacrificial.  It is self-absorbed emotionalism. Designed to meet one's needs rather than respond to the needs of others.  It is conditional love rather than unconditional.  It is mutually exploitative.


CONCLUSION:

It is such a great blessing to have freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to privacy. But all these can be taken away with the blink of an eye.  And though they can be all removed from us, we Christians will remain free.  Free from what?  Free from the slavery of sin.  Free to righteousness in Christ.  Free from the condemnation of sin that we might have eternal life.  Jesus has already paid the price for our freedom with His own blood, the blood of the sinless and innocent Jesus.

You see, "whoever commits sin is a slave of sin"  (John 8:34).  One who sins is a slave to sin (Rom. 6:16-23).  When we are enslaved to sin, we are in danger of dying in our sins without hope (John 8:24).  Jesus, the Son of God, makes us free through His Truth (John 8:32).  In Him, we have eternal freedom (John 8:36).  Sadly, many don't want freedom from sin.  They like to be slaves to their desires, pleasures, indulgences.  Some have the wrong idea about freedom, and they show it by acting and thinking irresponsibly.  Their freedom is unrestrained.  They are deceived, thinking that freedom is whatever it takes to make them happy.  Others use their freedom to gain and exercise control, that is, doing everything their way, surrendering to their traditions, presumptions, preconceived notions, and prejudices.

Only in knowing Jesus can we truly be free and find peace and contentment.  We can rest in Him and be free to walk with Him, abide in Him, and have a diligent heart that freely listens to and obeys Him.  He walks on ahead, showing us the WAY.  He is guiding us in the path of righteousness through His everlasting Word. We follow Him, setting our hearts free from the bondage and slavery of sin. Christ's true freedom is to love and serve.  It demands that we die to self, crucifying our ego, which so many times gets in the way.  As we love and serve, we draw nearer to Jesus, His character, and His heart.  We conform our lives to only Him.  Only then do we find true freedom for our enslaved souls. It will bring joy in our walk with Him.
    "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed."  (John 8:36)


Our Lord and Savior.  He sacrificed His life so that we might taste the freedom that can only come from God.  A freedom that will come to its full glory in heaven. Therefore, let us purpose to seek after Him and His kingdom of righteousness.  Let us pray for God to help our hearts be free from the chains of sin so that we may walk in freedom.
"Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God."  (1 Peter 2:16)


May the Lord open our eyes to see His real and lasting freedom.  May He also free our heart, mind, and soul from bondage, that we may breathe the fresh air of Truth that He offers.  May He open our minds to a life of righteousness and holiness that brings honor to Him.  May we always desire to live in His freedom, breaking all the chains in our lives so that we may be enslaved to Him only.
 "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life."  (Romans 6:22)

Luci


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