Saturday, November 26, 2011

Freedom & Bondage: The Paradox of Christianity

As Christians we often speak of the “freedom” and “liberty” we have in Christ. But what exactly does this mean? Let’s see what the following conversation has to say…..

Let me ask you, what are free from?
I am free from the law.
What law?
The law that condemns me as a sinner.
The law of sin then? Not just the law in the Old Testament?
Well, yes.
Yes, it goes deeper than just an external law does it not? Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that the law goes much further that just outward performance, rather inward perfection.
Tell me, what does it mean to be free from this law?
It means that I am no longer under law.
How do you mean?
Well it no longer binds me to keep it.
Why not?
Because Christ has kept it for me.
So you are free to do whatever you want now?
No, no of course not.
Than are you really free?
I am free from the law.
What law?
Why do you keep asking that?
Because there are different laws. There’s the law of sin (which is connected with the moral law in the Old Testament) and then there’s the law of the Spirit of life. Romans 8:2 says that we have been set free from the law of sin and death, by the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. So are you really free?
Well, I am free from the law of sin.
That is good, but would it be true to just say that you are free and no longer under any law?
Well, I suppose not.
So you are under a law – but it’s not like the law of death, it leads to life.
Yes, and there is freedom in that.
Yes, but there is also freedom in the other.
How do you mean?
Under the law of sin and death you were free from the law of the Spirit of life in Christ. Now it is reversed, you are under the law of the Spirit of life in Christ and free from the law of sin and death. But you are not entirely free, you are always under a law.
I've never really thought about it...
Being under the law of the Spirit of life in Christ what does that mean?
It means I have life?
Yes, but it means that you are under it, under its authority. More specifically, His authority. 1 Corinthians 6 says, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.” (1 Cor 6:19-20) When God redeemed us, He redeemed us out of the bondage of sin. He purchased us with His blood and thus He owns us! Our lives are not our own, but we are under subjection to the Spirit of God. My question to you now is, how then should we live?
We should live in holiness and walk after the Spirit.
By obeying Him.
Good. But remember the law goes much deeper than just externals. It’s an inner law, a spiritual one. In 1 Corinthians Paul discusses the issue of Christian liberty and he writes this, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (1 Cor 9:24-27) Paul is not simply talking about simple obedience here would you agree?
So there’s something more than just obedience. There’s a full pursuit after the things of God. He says run after the prize– which is what?
The imperishable crown?
That’s part of it, but I think it’s more that that, we are seeking Christ. The Bible talks about Him being our inheritance and reward.
So we are running after the prize – which is Jesus, more of Jesus in us and showing through us. Paul says that those who run in a race are “temperate” in all things. What does that mean?
It means disciplined, and having self-control.
So how are we to restrain ourselves in this race after Christ?
By not giving into sin.
Is that all?
By striving after Christ.
And being Christ-like.
Right, because we are His body – that’s what Ephesians says, we are the body of Christ.
Hebrews says, “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus…” (Heb 12:1-2). So there’s the race that we’re running and we’re looking to Jesus. What are we to throw off?
What else?
What are those?
Hindrances yes. But they are not “sin”, did you notice that? The weights and the sin are two different things and we are to throw both of them off.

How about you? What is it that hinders you from a full pursuit of Christ? Are there things in your life that distract you from Christ, take away time that you should be giving to Him? Remember, this is not a “liberty” issue, this is about running the race and pursuing Christ. We belong to the Lord, and we are not our own. We are called to a life of surrender and pursuit of the Lord who bought us.

Watchman Nee, a Chinese pastor who suffered and died under Communist rule wrote this statement: “The whole principle of the Christian life is that we go beyond what is “right” to do that which is well pleasing to Him.” That is our aim, Paul said, to be “well-pleasing to Him” (2 Cor 5:9). It’s not simply about “right” and “wrong” or about “sin” and “not sin”… but what is pleasing to our Savior. And living to please the Savior should be our ultimate goal.

Leslie Ludy once said, “A lot of us take the attitude, ‘I’ll just do the bare minimum so I can stay on God’s good side’ – especially when it comes to dressing modestly, living in purity, and caring for the needs of others. But in light of what Christ did for us on the cross, how can any sacrifice for Him be too extreme?” Similarly Elisabeth Elliot wrote, “What kind of a God is it who asks everything of us?  The same God who ‘did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all; and with this gift how can He fail to lavish upon us all He has to give?’  He gives all.  He asks all.” Wow. That’s all I can say to that quote! That and - Take all of me Lord Jesus!