There are Christians who say once you’ve come to Christ, once you’ve embraced Jesus as your Lord and Savior your sins are forgiven. You really don’t have to be concerned with God’s law; you are free from the law. “Whatever violation of the law we might have made, Christ paid for that sin in His death; and furthermore, His life has been credited to our account.
That is a heresy of epic proportions, even though it is popular today. And so, as we study Galatians, we want to really understanding what the Christian life should be like and what should characterize the believer. Let’s read Galatians 5:13-16, “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature.”
“Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another. 16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.”
This is simple, straightforward and practical. The Bible is clear about one thing, that if a person loves God, he keeps His commandments. In fact, if someone loves God, he obeys God with eagerness. He obeys God motivated by love. He desires to honor God, to worship the Lord, to bring glory to God. He longs to see the will of God and the Word of God fulfilled. True Christians love the Lord.
On the other hand, if someone does not keep His commands or is indifferent to His commands, and doesn’t seem to be concerned about honoring God or obeying the word and the will of God, that person hates God. Now that sounds extreme, but there are only two possibilities: you either love God or you hate God. There is no middle ground. Saying that that you do not care means that you hate God.
John 14:15 records the words of Jesus Himself, “If you love Me you will keep My commandments.” So Christian freedom is not freedom to be indifferent toward the will of God or to be disobedient to God. Christian freedom must be expressed within the reality that I have been turned to love God, and my freedom is defined in all the ways that I can express that love toward God.
But there is a new kind of false Christianity that is becoming popular, and the idea of it is to accommodate the current culture of sin. This is a culture that celebrates sin. Sinners want freedom to do what they want to do. They reject authority, they believe they have a right to whatever behaviors they choose, and they have a right to condemn those who are opposed to them.
Jesus said in John 8:34, “Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.” They think they’re free in sinning, the truth is they’re in bondage to sin, they can do nothing else. Now, they will accept God and Jesus, and the church in some form of Christianity if it allows them to do whatever they desire. And there are always going to be corrupt preachers who will accept people on their terms, and not on God’s terms.
When you see someone like that, who advocates that kind of freedom, you know you’re dealing with a false teacher. In 2 Peter 2:12-18, we have false teachers described in very graphic terms. “They are like unreasoning animals to be captured and killed. They have eyes full of adultery. They have hearts trained in greed. They speak arrogant words of vanity and they entice by fleshly desires.”
Remember, to become a true Christian you have to follow Jesus Christ by denying yourself and taking up your cross. That means you deny yourself to such an extreme degree that you would be willing to sacrifice your life. Becoming a Christian in reality is becoming a slave. But it is the most rich, blessed, rewarding, joyful, fruitful, peaceful slavery, because it is a slavery of love. We love the Savior who first loved us.
Faithful Christians are not so drawn to their own lusts and desires that they will press on to the limit until God’s displeasure becomes so evident that they themselves are stricken with some sickness. True Christians don’t do that, they do the opposite: they run toward Christ, they strive for righteousness, they strive for purity, they strive for godliness, and they try to obtain virtue.
The duty of the true church is to pursue with all its passion, holiness, virtue, godliness and sanctification to confront the sinner’s sin and selfishness. And call the sinner to deny all of that, even to the point of death, and follow Christ at every cost. The Spirit and the Scripture are at work in you through the reading of Scripture; where you have people pursuing sanctification instead of self-fulfillment.
In Christ we have been freed from that bondage to love what is right, and to fulfill that which we now love. We have also been freed from the law’s curse: “Cursed is everyone who violates the law of God.” Christ removed the curse in His death and paid the penalty. But as Christians, we are not free from the moral law. We are not free from the law which is an expression of the nature of God.
God is the sum of all His righteous virtues which are expressed in His moral law. It is impossible to love God and resist His law. It is equally impossible to resist His law and say you love God. We are the ones who are free. In John 8:36, Jesus said, “If the Son makes you free, you’re free indeed.” So let’s look now at our text. Verse 13, “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters.”
You were called out from under the curse of the law, out from under the penalty of the law; and additionally, out from the external symbols of the law that were the ceremonial ritual regulations given to Moses to separate you from your neighbors: circumcision and all the festivals and feasts, all the externals, all the shadows of things to come. You don’t have to go back to that when Jesus arrives.
But what does that freedom mean? The call to freedom here is seen in many practical ways. First of all, we are free to oppose the flesh. Since you have come to Christ you are now free to oppose the flesh. Verse 13 continues, “But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature.” The flesh is our unredeemed humanness, the sin that remains in us until glorification. Don’t let your flesh be the base of operation.
This tells us how the flesh functions: “The flesh sets its desire against the Spirit.” So you’re a believer, the Spirit lives in you, and the flesh is warring against the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. “These are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” It is really a fight for righteousness, toward purity, toward virtue, toward godliness; and it is empowered by the Spirit.
Do not do things based on your flesh which involve the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. This is a great battle. And this started in Genesis 3:6, “Eve saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it.” Sin entered the human experience based on what Eve saw. And what about King David and Bathsheba?
2 Samuel 11:2-4, “David noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. 3 He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her.” If David only knew the tragic results of not “guarding his eyes” during his stroll on the rooftop.
In our generation, addiction to sexual uncleanliness and unrestrained covetousness are common sins. We will not grow in grace if we are not able to say ‘no’ to the many voices that call us to compromise our consciences. In our pursuit of holiness, this will surely mean for all of us to get rid of the unnecessary things for our “Christian Freedom.” Only a true conversion breaks the dominion of sin.
Paul says that people who practice the deeds of the flesh as the pattern of life will never enter the kingdom of God. So our freedom is limited. It’s a fight from love for joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self-control – all the fruit of the Spirit. You as a believer are fighting against the flesh so that you may be filled with the Spirit, and that your life might be marked by the fruit of the Spirit.
There’s even more limits on our freedom, and that is regarding things that are not forbidden and things that are not necessarily required by God. There are a lot of things that aren’t taught in the Bible, right? We talk about certain habits aren’t in the Bible, certain behaviors that are not in the Bible. The Bible doesn’t say things specifically about certain forms of entertainment. But our life is full of those kinds of decisions.
So what do we do? I’ve asked this question throughout my life when there is something that is not forbidden in Scripture. The first question I ask is this: Will it be spiritually profitable? In 1 Corinthians 6:12, Paul says this, “All things that God doesn’t forbid are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable.” Not all things are to my spiritual advantage. Is this spiritually beneficial for me?
Second question: Will it build me up? Will it edify me? “Is it going to actually make me stronger as a believer? There’s this statement we read in Hebrews 12:1, “since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
So the third question is, if I do this, will it hinder my running the race of faith? Will it weigh me down? Do I need to carry this? You don’t see an athlete going out to run a marathon carrying a suitcase. That’s the unnecessary bulk. Is it something that reorders my priorities? Is it something that eats up my energy uselessly? Is it something that fills my mind with things that have no value?
A fourth question, if I do this will it be likely to start a bad habit? 1 Corinthians 6:12 says, “I am allowed to do anything, but I must not become a slave to anything.” I don’t want to start a habit that requires all my attention, my energy and my focus. I don’t want to become a slave to anything except my Lord and righteousness. Is it likely to start a bad habit that hurts me financially, time-wise, energy-wise and focus-wise?
Fifth question, Will it be consistent with Christlikeness? 1 John 2:6, “Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” Would Jesus do this? Would Jesus be involved in this? That’s a pretty high standard, isn’t it? Will I honor Christ if I do this? And in Galatians 4:19 Paul said, “I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.”
Sixth question, “Will it glorify God? 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” The Christian should say, “How hard can I run in the direction of righteousness? How devoted can I be toward godliness, purity, and holiness? And how can I eliminate things that have the power to pull me in the wrong direction?
This is the kind of love that our Lord demonstrates in Philippians 2:5-8 where it says, “Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. 6 Though he was God, He didn’t think that His position with God was something to be grasped and hold onto it, 7 but He humbled Himself, took upon the form of a slave who’s made in the likeness of man, humbled Himself all the way to death, even to death on a cross.”
Verse 13, “Through love serve one another.” So now I have to ask all those questions about the people around me. Will this behavior build them up? Will this be profitable to them, or will this hinder them in the race? Will this be an encumbrance to them? Will this be for them an example in the direction of Christlikeness and glorifying God? The word “serve” here, means you’re a slave to others.
Take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block for the weak. Paul says, “As a believer I am concerned to live my life in such a way that it will benefit others.” John 13:35 says, “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, that you have love for one another.” Show that love to everyone, and make whatever sacrifice you need to make.
Verse 14, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” In Romans 13 the apostle Paul says basically that this love fulfills the law. It says in Romans 13:8, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” If you want to fulfill the law, just love your neighbor.
You are free to oppose the flesh, serve others, and fulfill the law at its highest level by love, and to avoid destructive conflict. Paul says in verse 15, “If you bite and devour one another, “take care that you’re not consumed by one another.” Where there is love and where there is sacrificial service, conflict disappears. Verse 16, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you’ll not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Let us pray.