3rd Sunday after Pentecost (Prop 8 – C)
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
June 30, 2019
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Epistle from Galatians, which was read a few minutes ago.
If you can’t tell by the fireworks going off around town, the Fourth of July is this week. It’s the annual celebration of American Independence that began when the thirteen colonies declared that they wanted their freedom. They wanted freedom from taxation without representation, from British soldiers living in their houses, and from King George III imposing his will on the them. The Colonists went to war for their freedom and for 243 years we’ve been the beneficiaries of their toil and bloodshed.
From about 5 BC to 33 AD another war of independence was waged. The result of the war between Jesus and the forces of darkness is your freedom. You’re free from the power of Sin, Death, and the Devil, you’re free from slavery to fleshly sin and desires, you’re free from the curse of the Law, you’re free from slavery to Satan and you’re free from eternal death. This freedom is yours, it can’t be taken away by anyone, so I urge you to stand firm in your freedom.
To stand firm, first means we completely understand where our freedom came from and its cost. Americans were freed by the sacrifice of the blood of men and women. Our freedom continues to be preserved by the toil, blood, and sacrifice of men and women. Without the sacrifice of the colonists, we might still be under the rule of England, and if it weren’t for the sacrifice and blood of Jesus we would still, and forevermore, be under the rule of Satan. Political freedom is one thing, but the freedom Christ gives us from Satan and Hell, that’s something entirely different. The death of the colonists and the death of soldiers transformed our nation, but the death of Jesus transformed the world! His death changed everything! Your freedom is the proof that your sins are forgiven! Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re a slave, because it just isn’t true.
In the years after the Revolutionary War, wow many colonists do you think looked back fondly on British rule? Outside of a few loyalists who grew wealthy working for the British, I’m guessing not many. There were advantages certainly to being a colony, but they weren’t free and that’s what they wanted. Once the colonists tasted freedom it was far sweeter than living under British rule.
As Christians who have been freed, we don’t look back longingly for our days of slavery either. Paul writes, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Nothing good comes from putting yourself back into slavery to Sin and Satan, so don’t long for what used to be. Think about Lot’s wife. Lot’s family was instructed to not look back at Sodom and Gomorrah as they were fleeing, but she couldn’t help herself. She looked back to what she was losing and it cost her her life. During the Exodus, the Israelites repeatedly whined for the good old days in Egypt when they were well fed slaves, so God punished them. Both examples show us that failing to trust in God, failing to keep looking forward, desiring slavery lead only to death. Jesus is talking about this in the Gospel. Don’t follow Christ and then look back at what you’ve left behind. Paul is saying that looking back is giving our freedom away, putting ourselves again into slavery. We’ve been called out of slavery to the Sin, so why would we put ourselves back under its control? You are free and while preserving freedom isn’t easy, stand firm knowing that you stand on the body of Christ.
After the Revolutionary War was over, could the Americans do whatever they wanted? Of course not! They were limited by the Constitution, federal and state laws, and even international laws. If they ignored the laws they would suffer the consequences. You’re a Christian so to stand firm means you don’t take advantage of your freedom. Our freedom isn’t intended to be used to satisfy our own needs, it’s to satisfy the needs of others. Paul writes, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Martin Luther put it this way, “A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.” Christ has given us the freedom to love, and we freely love because we’ve been freed from slavery to sin.
Over the years, I’ve heard Christians say numerous times that their sins are no big deal because Jesus forgives them. Is that true? Not at all! Dietrich Bonhoeffer called that attitude living under “cheap grace”. If Jesus is only in the business of forgiving sins and doesn’t care about how we live, our freedom isn’t really freedom, and we’re taking advantage, or we think we are, of His suffering and death. When we live in sinful ways, when we embrace our sins, we’re putting ourselves back into slavery to Sin and Satan. When we say that God will forgive because that’s what He does, we’re cheapening our freedom. Not only are we called to serve one another in love, we called to serve God in love as well. Paul says, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” You only have two choices: you can live as a slave to sin and the flesh or you can live as one who has been freed by Christ.
To stand firm then means we battle the earthly desires which are trying to drag us back into slavery. Paul has quite a list of things that Christians do not take part in. The sins that Paul lists are sins that encompass a way of life. We all have moments in which our thoughts are impure, but we don’t revel in them. We all worship things in place of God, but we don’t seek these gods out. We all fall into jealousy and fits of anger, but we don’t embrace them as one of our favorite characteristics. Everything that Paul lists from sexual immorality to envy to idolatry to encouraging divisions in the Church, threaten our very salvation. We all fall into sins of weakness and rashness, and when we do, we turn to the Lord in repentance to receive forgiveness. However, when we live in these sins, when we don’t want to stop what we’re doing, is to choose slavery to Satan over freedom in Christ. And the consequences are dire as Paul says, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Your sinful self was crucified with Christ and buried with Him to rise to new lives of freedom. This means you’re a citizen of Heaven who doesn’t want to live as indentured servants the sins of the world and our flesh. Instead, let your freedom show through the fruit of the Spirit. Instead of not forgiving others, show them love. Instead of tearing people down, speak with kindness. Instead of choosing an immoral lifestyle, exhibit self-control. Instead of looking back fondly on your slavery to sin, look to God in faithfulness. Paul says it perfectly, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” We have
the freedom so that when we live by the Spirit we are standing firm in Christ.
You’ve heard it said that freedom isn’t free, and that’s true. America was freed with the blood, sweat, tears, and lives of citizens and soldiers alike. All people are freed with the blood, sweat, tears, and life of Jesus Christ. We may lose our American freedom someday. But we will never lose the freedom that Christ gave to us! For in Him, His life, His death, and His resurrection, we have our own Declaration of Independence.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen