3rd Sunday after Pentecost (Prop 8 – C)
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
June 26, 2022
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, which was read a few minutes ago.
In a couple of months, many of our recent graduates are going to be heading off to college where they’ll experience a newfound freedom. I remember my first week at Concordia Seward when I made sure I went to bed by 10:00. By the second week, I decided I could stay up as late as I wanted, and no one could say anything. I could eat powdered donuts for a midnight snack, I could stay out late with my friends, I could do anything I wanted. I enjoyed my freedom immensely. Freedom though means two things, right? I was free to make good decisions, and I was free to make poor ones. Of course, while we all choose both kinds of freedom, we should strive to make the right choice as often as possible. We must remember that freedom doesn’t mean having a license to abuse what we’ve been given.
We Americans like freedom. It’s what makes America unique and the best nation in the world. We have the right say what we want, believe and worship as we want, and a lot of men and women have given their lives and fortunes in this fight for freedom. As Christians, we’re blessed with a freedom that is far greater than anything found in our Constitution. This freedom is found in Christ Jesus who says: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” But what is this freedom?
The freedom Jesus gives us is nothing less than freedom from Sin. Not the freedom to Sin, but from Sin. You’re free from the curse of your sin, you’re free from the punishment you deserve, you’re free from the power of Sin. It’s true! Your freedom was obtained by the blood of Christ. Paul says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” The yoke of the cross that Jesus carried to Golgotha destroyed the yoke of your slavery. The blood of Jesus gives you the freedom of forgiveness. You are free!
You’re not just free from Sin, you’re free also from Satan. Yes, he still hangs around tempting you, you’re stuck with him in this life. But… he can’t force you to do anything! His accusations bear no weight because God doesn’t listen to him. He will make you feel guilty and ashamed, but the promises of Jesus are greater than your guilt or shame. Saint James, the brother of Jesus, says: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” You have the freedom to tell Satan to go to Hell.
Finally, you are free from Death. Not dying. Death. We will all die, that’s one fact we know far too well. But Death has no power to keep you in your grave. Death has no power to withhold eternal life. Death has no chance to keep you from seeing your Savior face to face. The yoke of death has been lifted and in the resurrection of Jesus, it was shattered like the seal on the Easter Tomb.
These freedoms aren’t fleeting, ones that can change depending on the government in power. These freedoms are permanent. Sealed by the blood of Jesus, they’re yours and no one, no one can take them away from you. You are free indeed!
As American citizens we understand that while we have rights, they aren’t absolute. You have the freedom of speech, but you can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. You have the right to bear arms, but if you commit a felony, you lose that right. Freedoms aren’t licenses to commit crimes, and the same principle applies to our faith. You have been set free by Jesus – free of your sins, free of the guilt of your sins – but that doesn’t give you carte blanche to live anyway you desire. Christian freedom doesn’t mean you’re free to ignore God’s Word. I remember seeing a bumper sticker or sign that said, “God forgives, it’s His job.” Is this true? Not really. God forgives because He loves us so much He sent His Son to die in our place. He forgives those who call on Him, repenting of their sins, seeking His forgiveness. What we’re not to do is to presume that because He forgives, it doesn’t matter what we do. It does matter! It matters a great deal! We don’t live however we want, embracing our sinful nature with the understanding that God’s going to forgive us. We cannot surrender the freedom of Christ for the slavery of Sin.
This is part of the attitude that Paul must address with the Galatian church. They were surrounded by wickedness and immorality, they had come to faith out of that wickedness, and they were still tempted by it. Paul names a whole litany of sins: sexual immorality, jealousy, idolatry, drunkenness, just to name a few, all of which were a problem then and a problem now. The greater problem is that to choose the slavery of sin leads only to death. Paul says, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” What does this say about how we exercise our freedoms? It says a lot, right?
Thomas Jefferson is quoted as supposedly saying, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” This is true for Americans, and it’s true for Christians. For us, vigilance is walking with the Holy Spirit, letting Him lead us through the luring temptations that surround us. You need Him because if you’ll fail if you try to walk the way of freedom by sheer will power and determination. You’re not capable of fighting off Sin and Satan by yourself.
Sin is powerful, Satan is wickedly cunning, our sinful nature is a liar, but none of these are more powerful than the Holy Spirit. It’s not like the Holy Spirit and our sinful nature are equally matched within us. If you could peer inside your heart, you wouldn’t see the Holy Spirit advancing only to be pushed back by Sin in some sort of seesaw battle. The Holy Spirit is always superior! Paul writes, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” To walk by the Spirit is to know that you are a rescued, baptized, forgiven saint, freed from bondage to Sin and Satan. To walk by the Spirit is to rely on His Word in the face of temptation, and it’s to resist Satan when he comes and by the power of the Holy Spirit tell him to go back the dark hole he came from. To walk by the Spirit is to refuse the sins of the flesh and look to the fruit of the Spirit. The flesh offers sin, misery, death. The Spirit offers love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In contrast to the bitter taste of Sin, these are the delicious fruits of freedom in Christ.
Yet, we have a struggle going on within each of us and it’s not enough to just sit idly and wait to see what’s going to happen; we Christians we have an active role. We don’t lead the way, that’s God’s place. Instead, we take His hand and let Him lead us through Sin, temptation, death, and into eternal life. And how does that happen? Paul says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” He says earlier in Galatians chapter 2, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
To be crucified with Christ means that we have sacrificed our sinful desires to Him. We gave them to Him, and He took them to the cross where He dismantled them by giving you freedom. This isn’t a one-time occurrence! Every day, we crucify our sinful nature by repenting, calling on the Lord for forgiveness, and for the strength and help to move forward. By being crucified with Him, our Sin is nothing, by being crucified with Christ, we are free! Not just symbolically free, truly free! As Paul says in Romans 6: “For one who has died has been set free from sin.”
I love the freedoms that are mine because I’m an American citizen, and I also get hostile when those rights are infringed upon. The downside to freedom is that it will always be abused. Stand firm in your eternal freedom, confident that the yoke of slavery is gone. And may the Lord protect us from abusing the freedom we have in and from Christ. You are free, your freedom is written in blood, and by the power of your forgiveness, you can walk in step with the Holy Spirit all your days.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen