By Ron Hull
“For freedom Christ has set us free…” (Galatians 5:1).
It has been said that the desire to be free is a universal yearning, so it should come as no surprise that the Bible has much to say about freedom.
After asserting that it is Jesus who desires us to be free and that he enables it, the Apostle Paul discussed two threats to freedom in Galatians, chapter five.
One is obvious: self-indulgence. When “free spirits” pursue the good life without obligations, commitments or rules, they eventually become enslaved to their own bad choices, habits and hang-ups. And slaves are not free. Indulging every whim and appetite leads to a loss of freedom. “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13, NLT).
Another threat to freedom is more subtle: seeking security through self-reliance. The Apostle adds to his declaration that believers have been “set free,” this admonition “…stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
The “yoke of slavery” refers to trusting in one’s ability to keep God’s law. The law is good, but we are not. And law can never put us in a right relationship with God. Only grace can give us the freedom to approach a holy God with confidence.
Apparently, the Galatian believers, who had tasted true freedom from their sins and their past by embracing God’s promise of grace that is in Christ, were being enticed to supplement this by their own efforts. It seems that they thought that they would somehow feel more secure if they had a “black and white” religion/morality list that they could check off when the items on the list were “done.” Then they could know they were “right” with God because their own “righteousness” (list) proved it!
I used to think that our desire to be free was the deepest human yearning. Now I’m not so sure. As skeptic H. L. Mencken observed, “Most people want security in this world, not liberty.”
But when a desire for “security” (a good thing) replaces a desire for “freedom,” it can turn Christians into “legalists,” who tend to trust what they can see on their “good person” check-off list more than they trust God’s promises which must be taken by faith.
A better, and more biblically accurate, way to look at grace-based salvation is to recognize that not only were we saved (in the past) by grace, but we continue to be saved by the same grace in the present. When this is accepted, we experience true freedom—and a sense of security thrown in as a bonus!
On one occasion Jesus invited some who were enslaved to, or “burdened” by self-help religion to come to him and put on his “yoke” of grace, and then they would find rest or peace. The invitation is still open to those who yearn to be free.
Ron Hull is pastor of the Church of Christ. He may be reached by calling 559-592-2909.
Prays Together is a rotating column between the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church as well as the Lemon Cove Presbyterian Church.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.