Limited Freedom

spirit of the Lord_liberty

At first, it might sound contradictory to say that freedom is limited. If freedom is limited, then is it truly freedom? Isn’t freedom being free to do whatever one wants? Your answer will depend on what you think it really means to be free.
As Americans, we are proud to say we are free but even then we are not free to do anything we want. Although we have freedom of speech, we still have restrictions against,

  • Slander
  • Inciting a riot
  • Shouting fire in a crowded building
  • Revealing government secrets
  • Calling for the overthrow of the government

Speaking of government, some believe that government should give you everything including  absolute freedom for everyone. But that’s a fallacy. Thomas Jefferson warned, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have.”

The Bible also recognizes the limits of freedom. In Galatians 5:13, the Apostle Paul said, “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,” (New American Standard Bible, NASB). And in First Peter 2:16, the Apostle Peter instructed, “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God,” (NASB).

Both apostles emphasized that from a Christian standpoint, freedom in Christ does not free us from doing or having anything we so desire. The Apostle Paul says that we are not to turn freedom “into an opportunity for the flesh.” “For the flesh” is referring to the carnal or animal nature of humans with cravings which incite the passions of sin.
In Galatians 5:19-21, “the works of the flesh” are listed as,

  • Sexual immorality (pornography, fornication, promiscuity)
  • Impurity (spiritually unclean, lustful, luxurious, wasteful living)
  • Sensuality (outrageous conduct, conduct shocking to public decency, a wanton violence, wantonness, lewdness)
  • Idolatry (worship of false gods, material things such as money)
  • Sorcery (witchcraft, magic, enchantment, spells, especially drug related)
  • Enmities (hostility, hatred, alienation)
  • Strife (contentious, quarreling, disputes)
  • Jealousy (unfavorable zeal, envying, with malice)
  • Outbursts of anger (loss of temper, fits of rage, wrath)
  • Disputes (discord, selfish ambition, feuding, backbiting)
  • Dissensions (causing divisions, disunity, standing apart)
  • Factions (heresy, religious or philosophical sect based on self-chosen opinion)
  • Envying (grudges, spite, strong feeling of ill will; gladness when someone experiences misfortune or pain)
  • Drunkenness (intoxication from wine or other strong substance)
  • Carousing (reveling, drunken feasts, wild parties)
  • And things like these (compare 1 John 2:15-17)

The apostle says these works and desires of the flesh do NOT produce freedom but enslavement to sin. It’s tantamount to reaping “corruption,” (Gal. 6:8). This is in accordance with what Jesus, himself, said, “Everyone who sins is a slave of sin,” (John 8:34; see also Rom. 7:14).

In Romans 6:13, Paul addresses this same thought when he said, “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” We also find, according to this verse, that if freedom is used as an opportunity to fulfill one’s fleshly desires it will ultimately lead to eternal death. And one will not inherit the kingdom of God: “…those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God,” (Gal. 5:21).

True freedom, as the Bible points out, is freedom that is limited according to the liberty that Jesus Christ provides. For in Christ, believers are no longer slaves of sin but slaves of righteousness through the grace or favor of God. In Romans 6:22 and 23, Paul said, “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit [fruit], resulting in sanctification [holiness] and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is [eternal] death, but the free gift [grace] of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In the freedom Jesus gives, we no longer do anything we want but everything Jesus wants us to do, for the life we live is no longer ours but he who lives within us (see Galatians 2:20).

Through Christ, we enjoy the kind of freedom that makes us truly free as the Lord said: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed,” (John 8:36). When we strive to no longer live according to the deeds of the flesh but according to the Spirit of Christ, we are living within the bounds in which we find true “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control,” (Gal. 5:22-23). 

Freedom or liberty in Christ keeps us within the limits of living that not only makes us the happiest in this life, it also gives us the hope of receiving eternal life in God’s kingdom. “For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap life everlasting,” (Gal. 6:8).

When you celebrate your national freedom, don’t forget to thank God for your personal freedom in Christ. By submitting to Christ, you are not giving up your freedom but making the most of it through the grace God provides. When freedom is kept within the limits of making Jesus the Lord of your life then you will enjoy the unlimited blessings of God’s promises now and in the life to come.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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