Happy Independence Day to my American readers! (And a slightly belated one to those in Canada. 🙂 )
Today, we are celebrating freedom. Specifically, the freedoms we enjoy in our country to worship, speak, peaceably assemble, protest government actions and decisions, bear arms, have private property, plead innocent until proven guilty, expect a fair and honest trial and an impartial jury, fear no cruel or unusual punishment, and live without governmental tyranny (see the Bill of Rights). Or as Franklin Roosevelt idealistically summarized, we have the right to freedom of speech and worship and freedom from want and fear. I praise and thank God that I belong to a nation where I do not have not be afraid to write a blog, go to church, engage others in religious conversations, or state that I am none too thrilled with the selection of presidential candidates for this coming term (and, yes, I have lived in other countries where I learned what it feels like when each of those rights is not recognized).
But more than political freedom, today has me thinking about personal, spiritual freedom, freedom that reaches my mind and heart and affects my relationships with God and others: freedom in Christ. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is John 8:31-32,
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
FREEDOM IN CHRIST. We hear that phrase often and in many contexts, but what specifically does Christ free His people from? What does He give them the freedom to do? A quick concordance search led me to these answers:
- In Christ, we are free from sin and it’s condemnation (John 8:31-36, Romans 8:1)
- In Christ, we are free from the law’s demands (Galatians 4-5)
- In Christ, we are free from deception (also John 8:31-32)
- In Christ, we are free as fellow Christians to differ in preferences and opinions (1 Corinthians 8-9)
- In Christ, we are free to defer to others’ preferences and love others for the sake of the gospel (Galatians 5:13-14, 1 Corinthians 8:1-2)
- In Christ, we are free from fear, for we are free to approach God as His own children (Ephesians 3:12, Romans 8:14-17, Galatians 4:4-7)
A plethora of blog posts could be written about each topic, but what struck me the most today was number 6. God has freed us from fear in Christ Jesus and has instead given us the right to come boldly into His presence and address Him as Papa.
TWO SIDES OF A COIN. There are two sides to this wonderful freedom Christ offers. The first is the “freedom to” side. In Christ, we are free to be God’s children. He made us (John 1:3) and loved us (John 3:16), yet we chose disobedience and rebelled against His natural authority (Isaiah 59:1-2). In seeking our own way, we became slaves to God’s archenemy (Romans 6:16-21). Satan allured us with promises of pleasure and satisfaction, but in the end we found ourselves bound by our own sins (Proverbs 5:22) and being dragged to eternal death (Proverbs 9:13-18, James 1:14-15).
That’s when God appeared on the human scene. “When the fullness of the time had come,” Galatians 4:4 tells us, the transcendent, holy, Almighty God of the universe, though completely beyond our reach (Exodus 33:18-23, Isaiah 6:1-5), reached out and became one of us to rescue us (Galatians 4:4-5). When we could not save ourselves, He came and took our place at the judgment bar (Romans 5:6, 2 Corinthians 5:21). He was killed, but rose triumphant three days later (Matthew 28, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4) He defeated sin with its own worst fear (1 Corinthians 15:54-57), then, having fulfilled His Father’s plan and the law’s demands (John 17:4, Colossians 2:13-15), He adopted us into His family (Romans 8:14-17, Galatians 4:4-7). We now enjoy all the rights of children and heirs; we have the freedom to enjoy God’s presence (Ephesians 3:12), to claim His promises (2 Corinthians 1:19-20), to make petitions (John 16:23-27), to offer praise and prayers (Psalm 118:4, 29, Proverbs 15:29), to expect His provision (Philippians 4:19), and to proclaim His truth (Psalm 51:12-15).
Besides all the things we are now free to do, there is one tremendous thing that we have been freed from, and that is fear.
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”(Romans 8:15)
As God’s own children, we no longer have anything to fear. Nothing! “I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4)–all of them!
Before we were saved, our greatest fear was God’s wrath. Now, God’s wrath has been emptied on Christ, and we look only for grace (1 Peter 1:13). With that taken care of and God on our side, what else is there to fear? “If God is for us, who can be against us? He Who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32).
Yes, God has freed us from all our fears. But since I seem to be in listing mode, here are a few specific things we, as God’s children, don’t have to be afraid of. (I don’t have time or space here to go into detail on each of these, but the verses give more explanation.)
- We are free from the fear of failure (2 Corinthians 3:5-6)
- We are free from the fear of abandonment (Hebrews 13:5-6)
- We are free from the fear of the unknown (Isaiah 14:1, 24-27)
- We are free from the fear of want (Psalm 23:1, Psalm 34:10, Psalm 84:11, Romans 8:32)
- We are free from the fear of bondage (Romans 6:16-23)
- We are free from the fear of lack of fulfillment (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
- We are free from the fear of guilt (Romans 8:31-39)
- We are free from the fear of shame (Psalm 25:1-2, 6-7)
- We are free from the fear of God’s punishment and wrath (1 Peter 3:18, Romans 8:1)
- We are free from the fear of death (1 Corinthians 15:51-57, 2 Corinthians 5:8)
Praise God for a country where I experience political freedoms, but praise Him even more that in Him, we are free to live joyful, carefree lives of love and service to Him and others.
What about you? Which aspect of our freedom in Christ are you most grateful for? What kind of response should we have to our freedom? Which fear do you praise God specifically for freeing you from? Feel free to comment below!