I wrote this in May 2013 as I began hearing a lot of ideas that presented grace wrong and I saw close friends start to embrace it.
17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
– 2Corinthians 3:17-18 (ESV)
Have a listen to this song before we dive in! Feel free to dance…
FREEEEEEDOOOOOOOOOM!!!! I’ve been excited to write this post for quite a while so I hope you enjoy it and that it helps provoke you to enjoy the fullness of your freedom in Christ! I’ve been hearing a lot of things about freedom that I feel misrepresent, abuse or cheapen it which have upset me and I’d like to address some of those things but most of all I hope to paint a picture of the true nature of the freedom that was won for us at the cross! Of course that sounds like I think I have all the answers and I don’t so please read with discernment and go to the Word, Berean style (Acts 17:11) There is plenty of opportunity for offence in here so I pray that you hear His heart over my words. Enjoy : )
I was thinking about the phrase “Freedom in Christ” the other day and just pondering what it really meant. I believe that freedom in Christ is a precious and invaluable gift we have been given and so I really want to use it to its fullest and steward it well! Apparently every cell in your body contains your DNA (back me up anatomy people) which is the written code of what makes up your physical body. If I were to take a cell from anywhere in your body and was able to read your DNA I’d be able to tell not only that that cell belongs to you but from it I’d also be able to tell you other things such as your eye colour and your blood type etc. I feel like I’m over-stepping the boundaries of my biological knowledge with this analogy now so I guess what I notice first about this freedom is that it is IN Christ and I think that is essential to really getting the nature of it. Our repentance and faith in Jesus that we received by grace separated us from our old life as God gave us new life placing us in Christ. Anything that is found in Christ is going to filled with His DNA, His genetic makeup, in essence His attitudes and values. That includes us and our freedom. I believe that our freedom in Christ is first a freedom from the law of sin and death (meaning that we are no longer bound to sin and separated from God but rather we have been freed from sin and returned to our relationship with God, reconciled) and secondly a freedom to become like Him. As He was free from sin, He has made us free from sin also by sacrificing Himself in our place. When we die to ourselves we live in His life and He lives His life in us and through us. Basically this just means that we walk, talk and act more like Jesus.
There’s a tradition in a lot of secondary or high schools to pull some sort of prank when you are leaving and about to move on to the next stage of your education. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a story where all of the final year students came in on their last day to hug their teachers, give them gifts and thank them for their hard work and sacrifice. Typically cunning acts of sabotage and theft occur with either humorous or costly results. Liberated from the school rules, the students’ true feelings towards the school and the teachers are quickly exposed and displayed. The freedom that Christ gives us is a gift that keeps on giving because it exposes what’s really going on in our hearts so that with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can deal with it. When we respond to our freedom in ways that don’t reflect the beauty of the nature of Jesus it should set off some alarm bells and cause us to question what’s going on in our hearts and what is our true value of Him. Paul addresses this a bit, replying to something someone had said to him about their freedom in Christ.
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything.
1Corinthians 6:12 (ESV)
I think it can be very tempting to act according to the flesh and then justify it by claiming freedom in Christ. Personally I think that is one of the most offensive things a Christian can do. I think it is an abuse and a mockery of the grace of God in Christ who died to free us from obeying the flesh. It’s wilfully going against our new nature of righteousness, hurting the heart of God and then trying to use God’s gift of freedom in Christ to excuse our behaviour. Before you envision me on a high horse, I have done it too. But it is NOT ok! If my “freedom in Christ” leads me to give authority to carnality and fleshly desires in my life, maybe I need to consider what it means to be dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Rom 6:11). If my “freedom in Christ” leads me to act more like the world, maybe I need a greater experience of who He is and what He is like (1John 2:6). If my “freedom in Christ” leads me to do less for the Lord and more for myself, maybe I need to check if I have any faith at all (James 2:26) If my “freedom in Christ” leads me back into slavery to sin, maybe I need to check the best-before date or make a complaint to whoever sold it to me.
Our freedom in Christ is supposed to empower us, not take away our responsibility.
Our life in Christ is an altogether new life. It’s not about giving new life to our old self but instead putting our old self to death and bringing forth a new self that is just like Jesus (2Cor 3:18). I don’t really want to get into sanctification but I’ll just say that life as a Christian is about uncovering what Christ is like and therefore who He has made us to be. This means that each day I look, think, speak and act less like my old self and more like Him. When we abuse freedom we preach a false Christ and a false gospel that essentially says “Come to Jesus as you are and stay as you are. His love is unconditional so just accept Him then you can do whatever you want and still go to heaven.” I believe this is an incredibly damaging perversion of the message of grace because it robs the cross of its power and the kingdom of the King’s purpose. Salvation is not just about escaping hell and punishment but it is being delivered from the power of sin not just in action but right down to the level of thought and intent until my heart becomes like Eden where I can walk in intimacy with God in unbroken communion. The gospel promises a change of heart as well as eternal destination. Our King desires His people be transformed into a kingdom of priests (Rev 1:4-6) who reflect and project the holiness of God to the world (1Peter 1:15-16).
I had a friend when I was a teenager (who is still a much loved and valued friend today) who used to challenge me very directly on how my life was matching up with the life God had called me to in the Scriptures. I remember one occasion where she asked me what I thought of Ephesians 5:4 (go check it out) At the time I’d been hanging around with a group of Christians who frequently engaged in coarse jokes and rude films and would tell others to “lighten up” if their behaviour was challenged. Freedom for some of us has become a shield that we use to protect our sinful or immoral practices from the wisdom and counsel of others. It’s not easy to have our lifestyle challenged by other people especially in a world where relativism and individual autonomy is glorified. This way of thinking and living can creep into the Church and cause us to recoil in offence when someone questions our actions or our way of life even if they are straight from Scripture and the heart of God. Grace is and always will be an outrageous truth about God and our relationship with Him. When describing it to the Romans, Paul had to emphasise that the power and availability of grace didn’t mean we should continue to sin (Rom 6:1+15) Grace isn’t a licence to live in sin, it’s a licence to kill it!
Swearing, initiating or enjoying dirty humour, getting drunk and having sex outside marriage have probably been the most common things that I’ve heard Christians try to justify using freedom and grace but if I use my freedom in Christ to act like the world who benefits? I don’t because I stop being conformed to His image. They don’t because I show them a lifestyle that is just like theirs and either they jump on the bandwagon of half-hearted consecration that leads to death (Rev 3:16)or they reject my hippy Jesus altogether because clearly He has no power to transform and there’s no real difference between life with Him and life without Him. Jesus definitely doesn’t benefit because the people He wants to know Him end up with a warped view of who He is. Paul makes it pretty clear when He says that living by the flesh leads to death but living by the Spirit leads to life. In Romans 8:13 Paul tells us that living by the Spirit actually means killing sin, so life in the Spirit is a life of uprooting sinful attitudes and behaviours by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit to make room for the seeds of the oaks righteousness (Isaiah 61:3)that is continually being unveiled in us. There is a higher call! If our freedom is leading us into being conformed to the ways of the world, we’re in trouble! (Rom 12:2) We tend to be led into cycles of bondage or addiction where we don’t utilise our self-control that exists within our freedom and it begins to wither. It’s important to remember that a clean conscience and a seared conscience are not the same thing. A clean conscience has conversed and agreed with the Holy Spirit that all is well in our thoughts and motives. A seared conscience has become numb to the voice and promptings of the Lord through continued disobedience or through our desire to do something being greater than our desire to please the Lord.
Just because you “feel at peace about it” doesn’t mean it’s ok. The fact that God hasn’t directly spoken to you about it doesn’t mean it’s ok. I’d soon find myself in jail if a police officer came round to my crack den to arrest me and I told him “It’s ok, I feel like this ok for me to do. I feel at peace about it.” If you’re in a place where no one can bring challenge or correction into your life unless you agree with them, you’re in trouble. As Kris Vallotton says, “the very nature of deception is that you don’t know you’re deceived.”
Celebrating freedom in Christ is a beautiful thing! I had a friend text me once to tell me that he was struggling with lust and temptation to look at porn and he wanted me to pray with him. We then had a text convo backwards and forwards just laughing at the idea of him giving in to a defeated foe! We laughed at the thought of him succumbing to temptation when his default is righteousness. We laughed at the idea of him choosing lesser pleasure over Divine pleasure. The temptation went away and he just went to sleep haha. FREEDOM!! There was a time when he was “bound” to sin. It was inevitable. But now he has been “unbound” by the ultimate Freedom Fighter! And for the rest of us there was a time when we were hell-bound but now we’ve been set free and whom the Son sets free is free indeed!! (John 8:36) I am free to pray for the sick and see them healed!! I am free to show supernatural love to my enemies in the face of persecution!! I am free to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength!! I am free to experience a relationship of intimacy and obedience with the God who can see all of time, past present and future without even moving His eyes! (“God’s Pursuit of Man” – A.W Tozer) I’m so free!! I’m free to love the poor to the point of personal loss because I know that God will provide what I need. Go and find your favourite songs about freedom in Christ and have a rave! Or maybe just sit and think about what He has saved you from and thank Him.
Jesus you stood alone and took on sin to become our great Saviour! Thank you Lord! Without you were are dead and we are nothing. Thank you for sharing your life with us and making us sons and daughters of God. Thank you for filling us with Your Spirit and daily making us more like you. Help us to desire to see more of our lives given over to You and Your kingdom. Help us not settle for second best or mediocre. Show us how beautiful you are so that the things of the world pale in comparison and we don’t want to hold on to them. We want to be salt and light in the world, fully representing you, Your freedom and Your grace.
Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings : )