Man. Do I know how to put a gap between blog entries or what? Sheesh! In the previous entery I vamped about holiness. No need to summarize it when you can just pop over and read it, right? So let’s get into this liberty things.
As Americans, the word “liberty” is ingrained in our vocabulary from a very early age. We learn about the founding of our country. “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.” (Did you know that that song is a diss against one of England’s national songs, “God save the Queen?” Tis true!) The Statue of Liberty. The Liberty Bell. Liberty means freedom. Just as in holiness we are set apart from certain things and set apart to the Lord, so it is in freedom. We are free from certain things and freed to other things.
There are a couple different Greek words translated as “liberty” in the New Testament. There is on in particular I’m thinking of in terms of this topic. It is used 11 times in the NT. An example of it is found in Galatians 5:1, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” It’s an interesting word study that should help us put in context the liberty, the freedom we have in Jesus and as Christians in a messed up world.
At a very basic level it means to do what one pleases. You are able, with no restriction, to do what you want. But that can’t be the extent of what it means. Why? Because at some point one person expressing their liberty will conflict with someone else’s liberty. Someone who want to murder someone else conflicts with the one who has the liberty to be alive. So let’s try this on. “True liberty is living as we should, not as we please.” Now that’s closer to what we are after. Living as we should, not as we please. The flip side would be living as we should, not as we are forced to. I think this is what Paul had in mind when he used this word.
Much of Paul’s writing has to do with contrasting living under the Law of Moses and the freedom we have in Christ apart from the Law. The Law was a means by which we had to live rightly according to God’s desires. God’s ways are right and good and just, no question. But when one is forced to live rightly, there isn’t any freedom in that. Since Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Law for us, since no human could ever do it on their own, we are now free from having to try and earn our right standing, our liberty before God. We are now free! Free from the laws of sin and death and free to live God’s way.
The Greek word from which this word for liberty comes is also pretty cool. It means one who is freeborn. One who is not born a slave, or one who has ceased being a slave. Whether one is aware of it or not, anyone who is outside of Jesus is a slave of sin. That’s Paul’s whole point in Romans 6. Everyone is born a slave to the power of sin and its consequences. Once we are in Christ we are no longer slaves of sin. We have been freed from its power. So why do we still sin? Because we choose to. Paul says that instead of being slaves of sin that we are now slaves of righteousness. We are free from sin and free to be righteous. Ever thought about it that way?
So what does this mean for our daily lives? What movies and I free to watch? What TV, radio, etc. am I free to be into? Can I drink? Can I go clubbing (the party kind, not the caveman kind, though some would ask, “Is there a difference?”)? This is where it gets tricky. Because one person’s liberty can be another person’s hang up. That’s Paul’s point in Romans 14. So I’m not going to lay out a list of do’s and don’ts here. That would be legalism, not liberty. But I will give you this little guideline. The difference between legalism and holiness/liberty is where your heart is. Where is your heart in the thing you are seeking to do in the name of Christian liberty? Does it move your heart toward or away from the Lord? How will it effect other younger Christians who observe your actions?
Consider Peter’s words in 1 Peter 2:15-16. “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men–as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.” Don’t use your liberty as a license to sin and then tell those who criticize you, “You’re judging me!” Use your liberty to demonstrate that you are God’s servant. You are free to not do the drugs, to not sleep around, to not give into the peer pressure, to not be motivated by greed, the list goes on. Why to not do these things? Because of your love and resulting freedom that comes through a relationship with Jesus.
We are free, we are at liberty to not live according to the rules of this world. We are free to live by the power of the Holy Spirit as servants, as representatives of the God of the universe, in order to deliver God’s message of reconciliation to the world. How cool is that?
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