Finding Faith: What does it mean to have freedom in Christ?
In John 8:36 Jesus makes a wonderful statement of victory. He says, “So if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed.” These are powerful and encouraging words and I want to issue you a big congratulations, if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, because you are free. However, have you ever taken the time to consider what you are freed from?
In Greek this word free can mean to liberate or to exempt from liability. That means this verse could read whom the son liberates or exempts from liability will be really liberated and exempted from liability. Because of this definition, when you consider this verse in its full context, there are two conclusions I want you to consider. First, there are things Christ has freed you from. Second, there are things Christ has freed you to.
Let’s consider both sides of the coin because they are both critical to living the full and abundant life that Christ wants you to live.
What has Christ, the Son, freed you from?
The Bondage of Sin (Your Captivity) — For something or someone to be liberated it must first have to be bound or imprisoned. The very definition of a captive is one who is confined. That’s exactly what we were. You and I were prisoners held under the bondage of sin. We were held captive by the impulses of sin. We were bound to the instincts of sin. We had no power to overcome the influence of sin. Sin was our ruler and it held us captive.
In your days of living before Christ, whatever sin wanted that’s what sin got. This doesn’t necessarily mean you were out living a wild lifestyle, though it could, it simply means that the primary authority in your life was your sinful nature. It is was what was in control. In Romans 6, Paul refers to sin as your master or controller.
However, when you were born again, something beautiful happened – God gave you a new nature and more importantly filled you with his Holy Spirit so now you are no longer under the control of your sinful nature – you have been set free. Paul sums it up in 2 Corinthians 3:17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
Because the Holy Spirit lives in you, you are free.
The Penalty of Sin (Your Eternity) — Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Let’s be very frank here, outside of Christ we all had an eternal death sentence. That’s right, you and I were on death row. You may not have understood it and probably didn’t grasp the gravity of it but that’s where we were.
Unfortunately, today many people still don’t understand that. Because of our sin, you and I were on a path to be eternally separated from the very presence of God. This was the eternal penalty or liability of our sin. Thankfully the story doesn’t end there. Paul states here the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. When Jesus sets you free, He takes away your death sentence. The penalty you deserved has been removed and you now have eternal life. He literally shifted your eternal destination.
Today you can rejoice because if you have Christ then you have eternal life. You no longer have to pay the penalty for your sin.
The Guilt and Shame of Sin (Your Vitality) — Have you ever experienced the feeling of guilt? Have you ever felt shame for things you have done in your past? Have you ever repented but felt like you need to repent again because you feel so bad that you want to make sure God “really forgave you?”
We have all done things that we are ashamed of. Things that we wish we could take back and never do again. We all have the capacity to relive our bad moments questioning why did we do that? However, when you do this all you are doing is creating guilt and shame. This can haunt you and it can cripple you, taking away your capacity to live and develop, which is your vitality.
This is one of the biggest weapons of our enemy Satan: encouraging you to look back at the shameful moments of your past. When you do you can be overwhelmed by guilt, shame, and condemnation. This will ultimately strip your joy, rob your peace, and destroy your vitality.
The good news for you – you have been set free in Christ. When you sincerely repented, God forgave you. He removed that sin from you as far as the east is from the west and He doesn’t remember it anymore. He will never bring it up again and neither should you. However, forgiveness is not just about dealing with sin it also deals with your shame. Christ does not just forgive the sins of the past. He also liberates you from the shame and guilt of your past. He takes away the thing that has limited your ability to live and develop which is your guilt and shame.
If you are forgiven, you are forgiven completely and totally. Sin, shame, guilt all of it is dealt with when Jesus sets you free. You don’t have to carry that burden of guilt and shame anymore. You are forgiven and truly free indeed.
When you understand what Christ has freed you from, it sets the stage for you to live in what Christ has freed you to.
What has Christ freed you to?
The Freedom to Live (Your Capacity) — One of the reasons it’s so important to understand that you are free from the bondage, penalty and guilt of sin is because it now increases your capacity, through Jesus, to love, to have joy, to experience peace, and to enjoy life.
He also wants to increase your capacity to have a relationship with your Heavenly Father. This can’t happen if you are not free. You cannot have a vibrant, living, loving relationship with God or with anyone else for that matter, if you are holding on to the guilt and shame of your past. Jesus said in John 10:10 “… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
If you remember in the garden when Adam and Eve sinned, they hid from God and their capacity for a relationship with God was hindered. When Jesus comes and sets you free you don’t have to hide anymore. You can now enjoy a healthy relationship with your Heavenly Father and He actually encourages it. James 4:8 says “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” This is the essence of what Christ has freed you to. God wants a close fellowship with you and the only way that happens is by Jesus freeing you. This allows you to build that relationship without fear or worry. You can enter God’s presence with confidence because you know He wants you there and the hindrances have all been removed. This truly is living free.
The Freedom to Serve (Your Activity) — Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” One of the other reasons Christ has freed you is because He has work for you to do. He has a plan for your life. However, it will be difficult to achieve this plan if you are running around with a guilty conscience. When you do this, you are always trying to prove yourself or win the approval of people.
Remember you are saved by grace. You live by grace. God will accomplish His plan in your life by grace. Christ frees you so that your activity doesn’t flow out of some sense of trying to win God’s approval. Your approval doesn’t come because of what you do, but because of what Christ has already done. When you understand this, you are free to accomplish the plan God has for your life with no agenda, no ulterior motive but out of a heart motivated by love for Him.
In the dictionary, freedom is defined as the power or right to act, speak, or think without hindrance or restraint. That completely wraps up everything Christ has done for us. There is only one thing left for you to do. Live Galatians 5:1: “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.”
Enjoy your freedom … live the life Christ has freed you to live.
Finding Faith is written by area pastors. This week’s column comes from Rev. Don Grant of Hillview Wesleyan Church, Flemington.