Our subject is freedom, and the Christian life is a life of incredible freedom, although you may not always feel it. Nevertheless, we have been wonderfully freed when we put our faith in Christ. You may not think that believers look incredibly free, but they are amazingly free, and when they believe it and feel it, it’s often more evident in their lives.
So the Christian life is a life of freedom from the consequences of sin, from the fear of God, from the fear of death and condemnation. It’s a wonderful life of freedom. The dangers are to fall off the bridge into knots of legalism or to fall the other way into currents of self-indulgence, what are often called legalism or license. The Apostle Paul has kind of set out a little of this in our chapter.
Freedom doesn’t always come home to people who think they’re as free as they really are. Let me put that the other way. Some people think they’re free, who are not that free. People in the community who think, “I’m free as a bird,” but they’re not that free. There are people who are under the waves of trouble and addiction.
I was reading through the week what is called the inebriation scale. These are the 10 stages of progressive intoxication. This is humorous. I mean, it’s a serious subject, but this little section that I’m reading to you is, I think, quite humorous.
The stages of progressive intoxication go like this.
- Stage 1 – you’re completely sober, brain as sharp as an army bayonet
- Stage 2 – one drink, feeling of pleasurable well-being
- Stage 3 – two drinks, barmaid complimented on her blouse
- Stage 4 – three drinks, brilliant discussion with a guy at the bar on how to win the lottery every time
- Stage 5 – four drinks, explain the meaning of life to people around you using beer mats and bowl of peanuts
- Stage 6 – five drinks, discover everyone loves you and start finding friends to tell them that you will always love them too
- Stage 7 – six drinks, words becoming slurred, much hugging, and occasional falling over
- Stage 8 – seven drinks, headache kicking in, play poker machine for 10 minutes before seeing, “Out of Order” sign
- Stage 9 – eight drinks, the room suddenly full of identical twins, offer to have someone’s baby for them, fall and gash head on the table
- Stage 10 – nine drinks, manage to find the door, throw up, get into a taxi, throw up, thrown out, fall through the front hedge, find the door, slump in the hallway, sense of great satisfaction at how well evening has gone.
There is a tremendous example of somebody under the illusion that they are increasingly free while it’s perfectly obvious to everybody looking at them that they are dreadfully trapped.
I think we are aware that there are freedoms which are visible and there are freedoms which are invisible, just as there are slaveries that are visible and there are slaveries that are invisible. So there are visible slaveries, like people in chains. We can picture them in a chain gang, visible slavery.
Hope 103.2 is proudly supported by
Girls working the streets chained to some kind of ruthless pimp, sad people in bars playing the pokies, losing all their income. Apparently, in Australia, we have more people playing the pokies than anywhere in the world except in Las Vegas. Visible slaveries.
Then you get invisible slaveries. You get the addiction that nobody knows about. The sadness, the outward everything is okay, but inside, panicky, anxious, depressed. And those people who outwardly have everything, but actually inwardly care about nothing. These are invisible slaveries.
It’s a great grief, isn’t it, for parents when you provide everything for your children, hoping that they will be secure, and then discover that they are strangely frightened. Or you provide everything for your children, hoping that they will be happy, but they are oddly angry all the time.
Some slaveries, you realise, are not solved by money or power, and there is one slavery which we’re told is the worst of all. This is the slavery that Jesus describes as slavery to sin. It means that you disobey God, that we disobey God, and then we’ve got no way to hide the evidence. We’re caught red-handed, and we’ve got no way to stop doing it again.
You can’t see the chains of this slavery with the naked eye, but it’s real. The invisible chains are incredibly real, and the consequences of this slavery to sin are more severe than any other slavery because this slavery keeps you from God. And all talk of God, “I believe in God, I like God, I love God, I pray to God,” all of that is completely empty if you don’t know how to get rid of sin if you don’t know how to deal with sin.
Jesus said in John 8, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin. A slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son or a daughter belongs to it forever. If the Son, that is, Jesus Christ, sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
That’s why there are so many very happy millionaires in Sydney who are in still the worst possible slavery that you can be in. And many people in our jails have nothing visibly to applaud or enjoy, but who are inwardly deeply and wonderfully free, because there is slavery which is more severe than you can imagine and there was a freedom which is more wonderful than you can imagine.
So the freedom that Jesus brings by setting us free from our slavery to sin is his top priority. That’s why he came into the world, that’s why he lived and died and rose, to free people from that slavery to sin. And it should be, as we pray this morning, our top priority as well. It should be our top priority for our children, friends, and our family and for us.
We’ve been looking at the subject of freedom in the letter of Paul to the Galatians in the New Testament. And you’ll see if you look back at Chapter 5:1, which is the first verse that John read for us, and is probably the key verse in the whole book of Galatians, Paul says, “It’s for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and don’t let yourself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
In other words, if Jesus gets you out of jail, don’t fall for somebody who leads you back into another cell. But some people are doing that in the Galatian church Wand that’s why the Apostle Paul writes the letter.
Some people seem to have sneaked into the church and are basically saying, “Look, if you add some rules and regulations to your faith in Christ, you’ll be truly free. You’ll really arrive. You’ll really be adopted. You’ll really be in God’s good books.” And that’s why Paul writes the letter to say that’s a jail. That’s a jail.
So three things this morning, if you’re with me. The first is, from verses 1 to 6, we need to make a decision about our saviour. The second, verses 7 to 12, we need to make a decision about our mentor. And the third, verses 13 to 15, we need to make a decision about our master.
A Decision About Our Saviour
So that’s Chapter 5:1-6. Verse 1, “Christ to set us free,” says Paul. He’s a Christian, he’s writing to Christians. He says, “Some of you used to be Jews, you couldn’t keep the 10 Commandments. You needed to be set free, you needed a saviour. You found Jesus.” Some of them used to be gentiles, non-Jews. They were ignorant of God, they were disobedient. They needed freedom, they needed a saviour. They found Jesus.
That’s why the Apostle Paul’s ministry was so wonderful. He came into Galatia, he told them about the Lord Jesus, and they listened, and they discovered that Christ died for the ungodly and could forgive and would forgive, and they believed, and they became people with eternal life, and they rejoiced. And then suddenly, in came the heretics and said, “Oh, that’s not enough. That’s not good enough. You’re going to have to improve.”
And when you do put your faith in Christ, and you believe that he’s died for you on the cross, you are wonderfully free. Your sin is taken away, the guilt is taken away, the law can no longer condemn you, death can no longer hold onto you, judgment can no longer threaten you, you cannot be condemned. You’re in a wonderful position.
This is the promise of God who doesn’t tell lies. Those of you this morning who trust Christ, you’re wonderfully free. However you feel, you’re wonderfully free, and you mustn’t fall for the person who sneaks in to tell you some religious extras or some hurdles that you need to jump as if that will truly make you free. You’ve put your feet in the dinghy called Christ. You’re free.
Yesterday, my ex-neighbour came to see me. Lovely man. Never understood Christianity as far as I know, although I’ve talked to him many times, even took him to the Men’s Convention at Katoomba, which was a shock to his system. And we had another chat, and he was reminding me that my ministry was basically positive thinking. I was trying to say to him my ministry is not at all positive thinking. I’m trying to be a realist. He’s never really understood Christianity, as I say.
So I said to him as we stood on the little front veranda of our house, I said, “You know, if you want to be a Christian, see the doormat here. Let’s imagine the doormat is Christ. You put your two feet on Christ, and you say to yourself, ‘This is the complete saviour of the world. He is the complete king of the world. I’m trusting him. I’m committed to him.'”
I said, “The problem, of course, is that for many people,” and I thought about his particular denomination, “you’ve sort of got a foot that occasionally goes near Christ, but mostly, your foot is on self. You’re trusting yourself, your confidence is in yourself.” I tried to explain this a few times using the doormat in the front veranda, and it didn’t really go anywhere. After a while, another neighbour came past and interrupted us. So that was all over, and I look forward to another opportunity to confuse him again.
But that’s the point the Apostle Paul is making. You’ve come to put your faith in Christ. Don’t fall for the person who tries to move one of your feet over to ritual, and what you do, and how you perform, and how you live. As soon as you do that, you’re split in half, you’re in a fatal, hopeless position.
That’s how the Apostle Paul uses verses 2-6. He talks about this do-it-yourself religion, and then he talks about what I’m going to call SBJ, salvation by Jesus. Just look at the Bible with me. Look at 5:2. “If you go down,” says Paul, “mark my words, if you let yourself be circumcised, if you go down the line of ritual, if you say, ‘This is what I will do to make God satisfied,’ then,” verse 2, “Christ will be of no value to you.” You’ve chosen the do-it-yourself process, Christ is useless to you.
Verse 3, you must now keep the whole law. “I declare to every man who lets himself that he is obligated to obey the whole law.” You’ve chosen the DIY process. You’ve got to do the DIY process perfectly. That’s what you’ve chosen.
Verse 4, you’re alienated from Christ. You’ve left Christ. You’ve walked away from Christ. You’ve chosen the DIY process. And then verse 4, again, “You’ve fallen away from grace.” No more grace, no more amazing grace. You’ve chosen works. You’ve chosen the DIY process.
People who insist on saying, “I’m a good person,” don’t realise that they are refusing Christ. Christians who start trusting Christ and then fall back into the DIY process are actually refusing Christ. “That’s the way the path goes,” says the Apostle Paul. It’s a terrible and dangerous path.
The SBJ path, salvation by Jesus, verse 5, goes like this. It’s a matter of faith. “By faith,” says the Apostle, “by confidence in Christ, we eagerly await through the Spirit. New life has come to us. The Spirit has come to us. We eagerly await the righteousness for which we hope.” That is, we’re looking forward to the future which God has planned for His people, where our salvation will be public and perfect.
Verse 5, we wait for this. We don’t work for this, we don’t try and achieve this, we wait for it. It’s something that God has promised the believer, and we’re like children whose father has promised us a holiday and he’s a good father and he keeps his word and the holiday will come, and so we wait for it. It’s his promise. It’s his gift. He will do what he said. That’s salvation by Jesus.
You see the two paths? One, “I’m going to do this myself. I’m going to be the person that I want to be. I’m going to satisfy God myself.” The Apostle Paul says, “Well, you better be perfect.” And actually, you’re walking away from Christ. You’re walking away from grace. There’s no future.
“Alternatively,” he says, “you could put your faith in Christ, which will bring the Spirit of God, which will bring righteousness immediately and righteousness to come because there’s going to be this perfect righteousness and you must wait for it.”
That’s the first thing this morning. I cannot tell you how important it is to make your decision about your saviour. It’s either self or Christ, and the problem for many Christians is that they hear the good news and then they veer back to the bad news.
The second thing, verses 7 to 12, is make your decision about your mentor. In other words, who’s going to give you your directions? Someone has said that if you have no musical talent, then you should be given two sticks so that you can beat a drum. But if you have no gifts to beat a drum, then the people should take away one of the sticks, and you can be the conductor at the front.
It’s a slightly rude comment because I gather being a conductor takes a lot of talent. Although I did see a cartoon once of a conductor, and on his piece of paper, it simply said, “Wave stick till music finishes, then turn around and bow to the audience.” So I don’t know whether it’s difficult or not.
But you can imagine, the Apostle Paul is saying here, “I don’t know who’s giving you your instructions.” “I don’t know who’s conducting your life,” says the Apostle Paul, “but if a person conducts you so that you start to think away from Christ, then you need to get another mentor.”
You see verse 7? He says, “Who’s cut in on you? You were going well.” Interestingly, he says, “Who has,” who, singular, “has cut in on you?” Some ringleader has come in, and this is how Paul describes the enemy, the enemy mentor, the enemy conductor.
Verse 7, they keep you from the truth. If the person that you follow, the person who you listen to keeps you from the truth of Christ, you’ve got the wrong mentor. You need to be listening to someone who drives you to Christ.
Verse 8, this person who’s telling you to move away from Christ is not representing God. He’s not representing the one who called you. God calls you to spiritual freedom. This person is calling you into spiritual bondage.
Verse 9, and they infect people. They are like leaven in the lump. They are like garlic in the food. They’re like curry in the meat. They are like a worm in the apple. They are like poison in the glass. Error spreads.
Verse 10, they will face God’s penalty for this. People who lead people away from Christ are failing their number one responsibility. It’s a serious word to ask to our parents, isn’t it? The person who leads a person away from Christ is failing their number one responsibility. God will deal with them.
And verse 11, “If you preach circumcision,” says the Apostle, “that is, if you preach, ‘You can do this, you can do this yourself,’ you’ll end up in slavery, slavery that is terribly wrong.” You can see how frustrated Paul is.
In verse 12, he says, imagining these people who’ve got the knife and are discussing circumcision. He says, “I hope they’ll go the whole way and emasculate themselves.” There’s a fairly earthy little note in the New Testament. At his nicest, he may mean by that, “I hope that those who are teaching this will suffer.” But it’s obvious something that distresses him greatly.
Well, his ministry, by contrast, you see in verse 11, is that he preaches the cross. He tells people about the cross. He tells people what Christ has done, not what they must do. He tells them that the Son of God took what we deserve to offer, what he deserves, that he faced at the cross the wrath of God in order to provide for us who believe the fellowship of God, or, in the words of Peter, that Christ died the righteous for the unrighteous to bring you to God.
And Paul gets persecuted for this. Why does he get persecuted for these? Because it’s so unflattering. You’ve got to go to a person and say, “Do you realise you’ve fallen short and you’re in trouble, and you can’t do anything about it, and you need a saviour?”
So he gets persecuted for this. He gets persecuted because he carefully preaches the cross. The cross, of course, tells us that we’re deeply sinful, but deeply loved. It tells us that we are deeply needy, but we’re greatly provided for.
So the DIY message never brings much persecution because it’s so flattering, “Do it yourself. Be a nice person. All will be well.” But the SBJ, that is, salvation by Jesus, will bring persecution, but it will also bring eternal life, and hope, and a future, and freedom.
What sort of freedom? What kind of freedom is brought? Is it the freedom to do anything? The Apostle goes on to say in these last three verses, you need to make a decision about your master. First, you need to make a decision about your saviour. The second is you need to make a decision about your mentor. And thirdly, you need to make a decision about your master.
Christianity is not a rule book like a dog tied to a post. Christianity is not abandoning yourself to anything like a dog roaming the streets wholly lost. Christianity is a special freedom like a dog walking beside its master, enjoying protection, enjoying provision, enjoying company.
In verses 13 to 15, Paul tries to make sure that the Christians in Galatia don’t run from the post to the streets, from legalism to licentiousness, from the Pharisee to the playboy, because both are slavery.
In the heart of the real Christian is a new love from Christ and for Christ. That’s what Paul says in these last three verses. “You, my brothers were called to be free. But don’t use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature, rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ But if you keep on biting, devouring each other, watch out, or you will be destroyed by each other.”
I wonder, friends if this danger in these verses is much more severe for us today. I wonder whether much more serious for us than legalism is the whole area of indulgence. I wonder whether a camera was allowed to watch your life during this last week or my life during this last week, whether the camera would see us walking in faithfulness and joy with Christ, or whether rather than veering into the slavery of law, we turn into the slavery of self-indulgence. That’s what the Apostle Paul is warning about.
We do need the Gospel to keep us from legalism, so we don’t fall into the trap of thinking, “I’m going well. Christ must love me more,” or, “I’m going badly. Christ must love me less.” That’s not the Gospel. The Gospel is, “Christ loves me.” But we also need the Gospel to keep us from license.
No spouse should be thinking, “I’m married. I can do what I like.” No parent should be thinking, “I’m a parent. I can behave as I want.” No child should be thinking, “I’m a child. I can do whatever I want.” When the relationship gets into you, and you realise where you stand with Christ, and Christ gets into you, you should find yourself with the great joy of freedom, being loved and loving in response.
I want to finish by reading to you some words of Martin Luther who wrote these back in the 16th century. But it’s a wonderful way to finish this morning. He says,
“Who is able to express what a thing it is, when a man is assured in his heart that God neither is nor will be angry, but will be forever a merciful and loving Father for Christ’s sake?”
“This is indeed a marvellous and incomprehensible liberty, to have the most high and Sovereign Majesty so favourable unto us, that he doesn’t only defend, maintain, and succour us in this life, that our body shall rise again in glory and power. Wherefore, this is an immeasurable liberty, that we are made free from the wrath of God forever, and is greater than heaven and earth. Let us learn, therefore, to magnify our liberty, which no emperor, no prophet or patriarch, nor any angel from heaven has obtained for us, but Jesus Christ, the Son of God, by whom all things were created in heaven and earth.”
“Which liberty he has purchased with no other price than with his own blood, to deliver us, not from any bodily or temporal servitude, but from a spiritual and everlasting bondage under most cruel and invincible tyrants, the law, the sin, death, and the devil, and to reconcile us to God our Father. Now, since these enemies are overcome, and we are reconciled unto God by the death of His Son, it is certain we’re righteous before God, and whatsoever we do pleases Him. And although there be certain remnants of sin yet still in us, they’re not laid to our charge but pardoned for Christ’s sake.”
That is the freedom that Christ provides, and he provides it for us, and he provides it for those we love through the Gospel. So that’s our section this morning. There is a decision to be made, isn’t there? There’s a saviour we must trust. There’s a mentor we must listen to. And there’s a master we must obey.
Let’s pray. Our Heavenly Father, we thank you this morning for the freedom that you give to us in the Lord Jesus, freedom from the law, freedom from falling into license, but you lead us in the great liberty of the Lord Jesus. We pray that you’d help us and our loved ones, our children, and our families to appreciate all that Jesus has won for us at the cross. We pray that you’d help us and them to trust and obey all our days and we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.