I just finished having lunch with a woman who almost single-handedly has enabled her granddaughter to thrive. And what a price she’s paid! Over the years she prayed thousands of prayers; she shed rivers of tears; and she’s spent untold thousands of dollars. The main culprit was a neurotic, narcissistic son-in-law who combined with his nuclear family to make her granddaughter’s life a living hell.
For more than half her granddaughter’s life she wanted to be free of the dysfunction of her father and his family. Due to the hasty break-up of her parents’ marriage, the courts ruled that her father would have primary custody – something she’s hated.
But not long ago the courts determined to listen to her pleadings to be free of the toxic environs of her father’s domain. Within minutes of their ruling in her favor, she packed her bags and hightailed it to her mother, and the indefatigable devotion of her grandmother. Now she’s on the cusp of a whole new chapter in her life with her recent appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.
The reason I mention all of this is because it fits so well with what Paul describes in the Galatians text we will be considering this Sunday – Galatians 5:5-18. Here, in rather stark detail, Paul discusses the nature of every Christian’s freedom in Christ. And interestingly, that freedom is far different from what most people think freedom involves.
Have you ever noticed that the stories that move us most deeply are the ones where someone is freed not only from something, but to something? Think of this 17-year-old who has been freed not only from the clutch of her father’s dysfunction, but to the whole new range of academic, athletic, and professional leadership opportunities. She is not only freed from something, she’s been set free for something; something much greater than she’s ever known. And that’s exactly what Paul is saying about everyone who has been freed by Jesus Christ.
Today, in our culture, when most people think of freedom they define it as release from something. It’s actually got a name – “Secular Negative Freedom”. SNF says, “I am free when I am free from all impediments and obstructions that prevent me from doing what I wish to do.”
Christianity offers an alternative to SNF. While many hold that Christianity is a religion that represses freedom because it says, “If you don’t comply with God’s will He will get you”; the Gospel says something radically different. Christianity is not just another repressive religion, and Paul proves it.
The truth of the Gospel is that Christ sets us free not just from something, but for something. And that’s what we’re going to talk about this Sunday in a passage entitled, “Our Freedom in Christ.” In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:
- How do Jesus’ words in Luke 4:16-21 blow away the common view of Him and His message?
- If in biblical terms sin is slavery, what is salvation?
- Why do you suppose that freedom “from” gets all the airtime among Christians, especially in their presentation of the Gospel to the world?
- How does the view, “I just want to do what I want to do,” express bondage rather than freedom?
- According to Paul, real freedom is compatible with the complexity of the human heart, for our hearts are a jumbled mess of incompatible, contrary desires. Do you agree?
- Someone has said, “True freedom is not the ability to wholly desire what’s best.” Do you agree?
- Freedom is wanting the right thing? Do you agree?
- What does Paul tell us about true Gospel freedom in verse 13?
- What is the connection between freedom and love?
- In verses 16 and 18 Paul talks about the Holy Spirit’s role in our freedom. What is His main job and how does it relate to real freedom?
See you Sunday!