"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1
Who doesn't get inspired by a genuine call to stand up for freedom? Just picture Mel Gibson in Braveheart rallying fellow Scotsmen to fight the tyrannical forces of King Edward with the cry, "For Freedom." Yet, just what are the freedoms worth fighting for?
It's an interesting thought, really, to consider just what genuine freedom is. How much of our "free" choices come from our own free thoughts and will? This is the debate behind chaos theory-the idea that the flap of a butterfly's wings in Asia becomes a hurricane in America. Are we simply the subjects of forces beyond our knowing and understanding? Did I really want a soft drink at the theater or was I influenced by a subliminal picture of an ice-cold drink on the screen? Did I really crave a juicy hamburger with crisp lettuce, onion and tomato along with French fries or did the McDonald's commercial on TV put a thought in my head that lead to my mouth watering? Is your stomach growling right now because you are hungry or because you are reading this devotion? You get the idea.
Maybe what feels like freedom is sometimes orchestration. But is limiting the ability to influence people's choices a denial of freedom? Okay, I know that's getting deep, so let's simplify.
Many years ago Paul wrote one of the most significant Declarations of Independence ever written-the Letter to the Galatians. It was a rebuttal to the Judaizers (we talked about this in last Sunday's sermon remember?), who taught that converts to Christianity had to obey all the Jewish laws. Paul defiantly called for Christians to resist this influence lest they give up on grace. Grace sets us free from living out of legalistic obligation and earning God's favor. "For freedom, Christ has set you free," he wrote. "But!" Paul continues, this freedom doesn't give us license to do whatever we please. We aren't free just to gratify licentious behavior. We are free to put our lives under the direction of Christ, to allow Him to be our Lord or master, and let our lives reflect His values. In other words, we are free to restrain ourselves.
What does that look like today? What does it look like in your personal life where you are free to watch anything on the internet or television? What does it look like when you are free to eat or buy anything you want? What does it look like when you are free to turn a deaf ear to others' needs? What does it look like when you are free to own things that are behind the deaths of others (and if you are wondering if that was a veiled reference to guns it was!).
Are we free or not? It's a question that's up to us to decide. Maybe this will bring it together...
A fellow who used to live a pretty unrestrained lifestyle had a powerful conversion to Christ that changed his life. One of his former friends caught up to him one day and said, 'You know, since you got religion and started going to church you can't do anything fun. You can't go out and party like we did. You can't pick up girls like we did. You can't go to strip clubs. What happened to you?
The friend replied, "Actually you are wrong. I am free to do all those things. I can go to strip clubs, get wasted and sleep with whomever I want. I just don't want to do those things anymore. Christ gave me new wants." This July 4th weekend, I hope you will consider just what are the freedoms you celebrate, as an American and a Christian? "For freedom, Christ has set you free." See you Sunday,