Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of God

 

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The nation lay afflicted in tyranny. The harsh king cared little for his foreign subjects. Financial gain and personal control were the king’s primary motivations. Then God began to act. The LORD said to Moses, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3: 7-8).

This Exodus from Egyptian bondage became paradigmatic for the Messianic expectation as well. The cross is shorthand for Christ’s defeat of sin, the resurrection, and future return. The Exodus is shorthand for God’s incredible grace put into action to deliver his people from bondage.

Liberated

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). Christians have been “set free” from the Law of Moses as we have been set free from sin.  Sin has no dominion over us. We have been “set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:18).

All humanity lives either under the reign of Christ or of Satan. Martin Luther described those in sin as those who live freely under the reign of Satan. He wrote “there is a fleshly, or rather a devilish liberty, whereby the devil chiefly reigneth throughout the whole world. For they that enjoy this liberty, obey neither God nor laws, but do what they list. This liberty the people seek and embrace at this day; and so do the Sectaries, which will be at liberty in their opinions and in all their doings, to the end they may teach and do whatsoever they dream to be right, without reprehension. These stand in that liberty wherein the devil hath made them free.”[1]

On the other hand, Christ has a people who have been liberated so that they may live freely in him. Luther described this freedom beautifully. He wrote:

This is that liberty whereby Christ hath made us free, not from an earthly bondage, from the Babylonical captivity, or from the tyranny of the Turks, but from God’s everlasting wrath. And where is this done? In the conscience. There resteth our liberty, and goeth no farther. For Christ hath made us free, not civilly, nor carnally, but divinely; that is to say, we are made free in such sort, that our conscience is now free and quiet, not fearing the Wrath to come. This is that true and inestimable liberty; to the excellency and majesty whereof, if we compare the other (the civil and the carnal), they are but as one drop of water in respect of the whole sea.[2]

Christ has liberated us from sin. He has liberated us from the wrath of God. We Christians have freedom. That freedom should be prized. We should live the abundant life in that freedom. We should bless others as we live the freed life.

Truly Free Christian Slaves

Being a slave of Christ is the only way to be appropriately free. Aquinas described the freedom of human will saying, “Man has free-will: otherwise counsels, exhortations, commands, prohibitions, rewards and punishments would be in vain. In order to make this evident, we must observe that some things act without judgment; as a stone moves downwards; and in like manner all things which lack knowledge.”[3] That freedom is inhibited by sinful influences. Our desire for spiritual good is hampered by our desire for physical pleasure and personal autonomy from God to live out our own desires.

But Christ has set us free from those sinful influences. This shift in desires is the heart of repentance. We don’t have to be captive to them. We cannot accept their rule. We have been freed by Christ. Our freedom must never again accept bondage to sin. Luther wrote, “It is an easy matter for a man to speak these words: “Freedom from the wrath of God, sin, death, &c.;” but in the time of temptation, in the agony of conscience, in practice to apply them to himself, and to feel the excellency of this liberty and the fruit thereof, it is a harder matter than can be expressed.[4] Let us be a free people. Free from sin and free for God.

Those who are liberated by Christ must then live by the Spirit (Gal. 5:1). Being led by the Spirit, we are not under the Law of Moses (Gal. 5:18). Being led by the Spirit we bear the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-24). This is how Christians are truly free. We are no longer captive to sin. We are liberated from sin and able to serve God and enjoy life abundantly (Jn. 10:10).

Let us learn, therefore, to magnify this our liberty, which no emperor, no prophet or patriarch, no nor any angel from heaven hath obtained for us, but Jesus Christ the Son of God, by whom all things were created both in heaven and earth. Which liberty he hath 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, to wit, the law, sin, death, and the devil, and so to reconcile us unto God his Father. Now since these enemies are overcome, and we reconciled unto God by the death of his Son, it is certain that we are righteous before God, and that whatsoever we do, pleaseth him. And although there be certain remnants of sin yet still in us, they are not laid to our charge, but pardoned 4 for Christ’s sake.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 443.

[1] Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 442.

[2] Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 442.

[3] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne, n.d.).

[4] Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 443.

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