Monday, November 5, 2007
FREE ONLY IN GOD
Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
So Jesus addressed the Jews who had believed him, saying: 'If you abide by what I say, you are really disciples of mine: you will understand the truth, and the truth will set you free.'
Everything is permissible for me -- but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me -- but I will not be mastered by anything... Though I am free and belong to no one, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's Law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to everyone so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Freedom is what we have -- Christ has set us free! Stand, then, as free people and do not allow yourselves to become slaves again.
For you were called to freedom; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' But if you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another.
(Mark 10:43-45, NIV; John 8:31-32, Moffatt; 1 Corinthians 6:12 and 9: 19-23,NIV; Galatians 5:1, GNB; Galatians 5:13-15,RSV)
Christian freedom has limits. The Christian only remains free while a servant. When we refuse to obey we lose our freedom. As William Barclay points out, 'Christian freedom is not licence for the simple but tremendous reason that the Christian is not the person who has become free to sin, but the person who by the grace of God has become free not to sin.'
Christians are called to be responsible people. There are two sides to the coin of Christian living: first, Christians have been set free from slavery to sin; second, they are called to serve Jesus Christ. Freedom is one of the most frequently used words in our world. What do we mean by it? Millions are crying out for freedom, with many different ideas of what freedom is. People want to do what they like. Albert Camus once said that basically all rebellion is, at its root, rebellion against God. This truly is the spirit of our age -- rebellion, revolt against authority. Ordinary people say, 'I'll do as I like.' In taking such an attitude they become slaves to sin and incapable of real freedom. Believers on the other hand are free to serve Christ (John 8:32 and 34-36; 1 Peter 2:16).
Man is really free only in God, the source of his freedom.
For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of man's mind;
And the heart of the Eternal Is most wonderfully kind.
But we make his love too narrow,
By false limits of our own
And we magnify his strictness,
With a zeal he will not own.
Frederick W. Faber
True freedom comes only through Jesus. The New Testament presents Jesus as the totally free person who can liberate us. Other people and ideas may understand some aspect of freedom, but Jesus incarnated the total freedom offered by God. Jesus inaugurated freedom in his earthly ministry, but the full actualisation of freedom will come at the consummation of history... We are often impatient with the gap between the freedom we experience in Christ now and the final realisation of freedom. Our culture teaches us to demand satisfaction now. Christian freedom is both present and future. Our demand for instant freedom may cause us to ignore the freedom we already have in Christ. Jesus is our guide to freedom.
Warren McWilliams, Free in Christ
If we want this freedom, we must pay the price. And the price is unreserved surrender to him, in decisions big and small. It sounds hard, but it is not unreasonable, if you come to think of it. After all, he made us; he gave us the qualities, the aptitudes we possess. He knows how they would be best employed. Is it not wise, therefore, to entrust the choice of your career to him, rather than blunder along with your own guess? Is it not wise to entrust the decision about your marriage to him? That is a sphere where we get so easily carried away, and where we greatly need his guidance. Not that Christ wants to interfere; but he wants the very best for both our personal happiness and for our joint usefulness. Both could be wrecked by a foolish choice of a life-partner. 'Remember any girl can sleep, choose one who is some good when she is awake, 'said Martin Luther. Christ will enable you to do just that -- if you share the decision with him.
Michael Green, Choose Freedom
Karl Barth, the great Swiss theologian, used to preach to prisoners in Basel, Switzerland. These sermons were published under the title, Deliverance to the Captives. As he went in and out of that prison he noticed how heavy the doors were and how thick the walls. One Sunday afternoon he said to those prisoners, 'Frankly, we are all together great sinners. I stand ready to confess being the greatest sinner among you all; yet, you may not exclude yourself from the group... And we are prisoners. Believe me there is much worse captivity than the captivity of this house. There are walls much thicker and doors much heavier than those closed upon you.'
Quoted by Chevis F. Horne in his sermon 'Liberation'
Freedom means much more than the opportunity to do what we like or go where we want. A lot of people do what they like but seldom like what they do. Some have all the goods of life, it seems, but no life. They have everything to live with but nothing to live for. Handling freedom is like handling nitroglycerin. It may be a good feeling to have so much power in your hands, but you'd best be careful, or it will destroy you. Too many feed the hunger in their hearts -- that appetite for living -- with junk food, ways of living that destroy. The result is an unhealthy lifestyle which is anything but free.
Frank Pollard, Keeping Free
We talk about our freedom... But we are not free from God... We see this truth when we think of-the 'laws of nature'. There is no freedom in this universe except perfect obedience to the laws of the universe. Science seeks to know how the universe behaves, because only by knowing her ways can we know how we must obey. Perfect obedience gives us more 'freedom', not from laws, but through obeying laws. Those who say 'knowledge is power' are half wrong. The truth is that knowledge plus obedience to Nature's laws is power.
Frank C. Laubach, Christ Liveth in Me
Lord of all, give me a greater understanding of the fact that my only real freedom is found in Christ; for only when he is in me and I am in him can I really have the power to be free. Only through Christ can I be free from the shackles of serving evil; only when I seek to obey the will of my heavenly Father can I really know what freedom is.
Father, help me to hand over my life more fully to your keeping so that my ways may become your ways, my thoughts your thoughts, my acts your acts. May your image be implanted upon my mind so that I will start living the kind of life you would have me live. Forgive my foolish ways and my past insistence on doing my own thing.
My ways, gracious Lord, are not your ways. My ways lead in the wrong direction and I find myself caught up in failing to do your will. Quickly I become once again a servant to sin. Help me, l pray, to seek your will, obey your will and follow in the ways of Jesus Christ your Son, my Saviour.
O loving Lord, grant that I may much more closely follow in your footsteps and refuse to follow a different way. May your powerful Spirit keep my feet walking in the path you have chosen for me and may I never be found in strange places where I would be ashamed. Amen.
Rowland Croucher ed., Still Waters Deep Waters, (Albatross/Lion) chapter 13