“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Emma Lazarus wrote these famous words:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
It is the ending of a poem entitled, “The New Colossus” and is engraved on the pedestal on which the Statue of Liberty stands. The power of these words lies in the fact that they speak so eloquently about man's yearning for freedom. As Americans, we have learned to value freedom; our forefathers spent their lives and fortunes to achieve it and, even today, men and women risk their lives to preserve it.
As Christians, we also value freedom. But we have to understand freedom in a biblical and not just a political way. Freedom is a word without a single simple definition. I can stand up when I want to, and I can sit down when I want to. So, does that mean I am free to do as I please? Yes, but only in regard to standing up and sitting down. Perhaps I also want to go outside and jump over my house. I can’t do that. Why? Because the ability to do it is not part of my nature. And it doesn’t matter how much I wish or train or plan, I will never be able to do it . . . at least until something or someone comes along and totally changes my nature. As he is today, pastor Keith can’t leap over tall buildings in a single bound; sorry. So I can’t truthfully say that I am free to do it. I am restrained by my nature with regard to my ability to jump over the house. In reality I can only choose to do what my nature allows me to do. That is the big difference between God and me. You see, God is omnipotent (i.e., able to do whatever He wills) and Keith isn’t. The human will has boundaries. And friend, those boundaries have been greatly affected by man’s sinful condition. Until Christ comes on the scene, a person is only free to do what his sinful nature desires. He can walk, run, and dance a jig in the flesh; but he can’t take even one step in the spirit.
Our text says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free . . .” So what Paul is talking about in Gal. 5:1 has to be a freedom that comes as a result of a change of nature. I know that because in the same verse he also makes reference to the believer’s previous condition . . . “burdened by a yoke of slavery.” Now that is interesting because even prior to hearing the call of Christ, responding to it with repentance and faith, being spiritually renewed by the Holy Spirit, and being made part of Christ’s church, the believers in Galatia had lots of a certain kind of freedom. These people were part of the Roman Empire. It is probable that not one of them ever considered themselves to be bound by a yoke of slavery. And yet they were slaves to sin until Christ set them free. It’s true for the Galatians and it’s equally true for us and for everybody else. Freedom is an illusion until Christ sets you free. “Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. . . if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’” (John 8:34-36).
--- Pastor Keith Andrews