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Monday, July 4, 2016

Some thoughts concerning the essence of true freedom


Romans 8:1-2 "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death."

Introduction: Comparing National Freedom and Spiritual Freedom
When we talk about freedom, what comes to mind? Undoubtedly the 4th of July celebrates the freedom we have as Americans. American freedom is marked by "independence". The opening paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, states: "When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

The July 4, 1776 Declaration of Independence represents the quintessential statement of freedom that birthed forth our nation. Inasmuch as "independence" often marks freedom in respect to men, the opposite is the case in matters relating to the Christian life. 

Sin at its very core attempts to envision life independent from God. Whenever a Christian tries to live apart from submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Christian life becomes locked down. Today's post is about explaining Romans 8:1-11 in what we could call: "the declaration of dependence". We will propose that true spiritual freedom is dependence by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

The natural human realm generally shows that life independent from God leads to tyranny
The founding fathers of this nation understood as a general principle that living apart from God and His word will only lead to further human tyranny. Unless many of them had either been Christians or at least had been exposed to the Gospel, such an insight might not have been gained. Tyranny is the inevitable outcome whenever a nation or a people attempt to cut its moorings from God. 

Charles Carroll, one of the signers of the "Declaration of Independence", notes: "Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure...are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments." Carroll's statement shows that with respect to God in general, what marks true freedom (even more so than national freedom) is not independence, but dependence. The specific revelation of this point in scripture itself reinforces the argument in texts such as Proverbs 14:34 and Jeremiah 18:7-10. 

Spiritual freedom is dependence upon God
Only when one has become born-again by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, the greatest and most purest freedom is experienced. Spiritual freedom is dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself states in John 8:34-36 "Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." 

Spiritual freedom's core trait of dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ is total opposite to how we may typically think of freedom in the natural realm. Galatians 5:1 states - "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." The yoke of slavery made us dead in sins and trespasses and separated from God, without hope in this world. (Ephesians 2:12) Jesus Himself states in Matthew 11:28  “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." True freedom is experienced as a result of submission under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. (Luke 9:23-24) Freedom is dependence on God in Jesus Christ.

For people who find themselves enslaved to their past, the chief mark of life is (perceived) independence from God. Paul reminds the Thessalonians of the change that took place in them in 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 - "For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come." 

What about present circumstances? Reliance upon God entails exercising forgiveness towards those who have wronged us. Whenever we forgive, we are laying aside our so-called "rights" of gaining vengeance and instead depending upon what Jesus did on the cross as our paradigm for spiritual freedom (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). There is never any greater freedom found than when we forgive. In Jesus Christ, our past and our present find freedom. 

Unlike our civil freedom in which we broke ties with a human Sovereign, the Gospel declares that true freedom is only found when we are reconciled to the Divine Sovereign. Spiritual freedom is dependence upon God.

Getting real specific about spiritual freedom in the Gospel - The believer's declaration of dependence - Romans 8:1-11
In general the scriptures assert this underlying premise that true spiritual freedom results from dependence, rather than independence from God. In Romans 8:1-11 Paul spells out what is entailed in the wonder of spiritual freedom that the Christian enjoys as a result of the Gospel. Spiritual freedom in Christ means we have been freed "from" things and are free "to" things. 

1. Freedom from condemnation. 8:1-2
2. Freedom to desire God.   8:5-8
3. Freedom to live for God.   8:3-4,9-11

When we are set free by Jesus Christ in saving faith, we find that we are free to do what we ought to do. You and I cannot get "out" of condemnation unless we are "in" Christ. Romans 8:2 describes how this occurs: namely by the Spirit of Life and His guiding influence or what Paul terms "law". 

On February 20, 1962, decorated WWII and Korean War veteran John Glenn circumnavigated our globe three times in a span of just under 5 hours. Reaching speeds of over 17,000 m.p.h, Glenn achieved a feat that no one had ever accomplished. How did he do it? He did this otherwise impossible feat by climbing into the Mercury program space capsule known as "Friendship 7". Moreover, the laws of lift and science of rocketry were necessary to overcome the other leading influence - gravity. Glenn's inaugural journey was one of the quintessential moments that launched the modern space race. You and I dear friend need to be "in Christ" if we are to declare dependence on God and be set free from condemnation.


Closing thoughts & applications
By being set free from condemnation and set free to desire God, the sinner is transformed into a saint who now can live for God. True freedom depends on God through faith in Jesus Christ, both in the beginning and ongoing realities of Christian salvation. This is what makes Romans 8:1-11 so wonderful, in that it is the believer's “declaration of dependence”. The irony of the Gospel is that one is never more free than when their bound to Jesus Christ. True freedom as spelled out in Romans 8:1-11 means:

1). Freed from condemnation as a result of depending on His righteousness (Romans 8:1-2).

2). Free to desire God as a result of dying to my own selfish desires (Romans 8:5-8).

3). Free to live for God as a result of dying to self (Romans 8:3-4, 9-11) Jesus taught that such freedom is at the heart of what it means to be a follower of Him (Luke 9:23-24; 14:26-33; Romans 6:19-20).


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