THE GOSPEL: Part 4 – The Constraining Freedom – Galatians

This is the last study I did in the gospel series for our bible study… enjoy!
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So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. – Galatians 5:1

Freedom from Sin/guilt/law

“Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” (John 8:31-36).

 

Freedom from Addiction:

Sin is a cruel slave master which will always kill its faithful servants in the end… you keep requiring more and more intensities of thrill to maintain the same level of pleasure. We all know of this if we’ve ever struggled with addiction – whether it be substance addiction, behaviour addiction, relationship addiction, pleasure addiction…

Signs of addiction:
– Inability to stop the addictive behaviour
– Continuing behaviour despite health problem awareness/other bad side effects.
– Maintaining a supply of addictive material so you don’t run out/ stashes
– Obsession about source of addiction
– Problems with authority and outbursts of anger
– Denial & solitude – things done hidden in the dark/alone.
– Relationship problems & Problems with authority.
– Withdrawal symptoms – physical & mood, cravings, depression, frustration, bitterness, resentment.

That list sound familiar? – that’s cuz it’s Gal 5:19-21

“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”

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Our brains naturally produce dopamine – addictive behaviour messes with the levels of this chemical – whether if by substance abuse (drugs increase the levels of dopamine production) or by behavioural abuse (sex, gambling, gossip, etc…). The effect of dopamine  is it provides pleasure sensations – but also it links memories and desires to the source of the dopamine high with cravings for more as it involves many of the same brain circuits that govern learning and memory. Also the dopamine receptors are primed for certain levels of dopamine.

[For example – sex – in the bounds of marriage this is good as it intensifies the bond between husband and wife and there is the security of the relationship. However in cases of abuse of this system – addicts become attached to something else other than what they were intended to – and thus are left feeling emptier. The act is borne not out of love but performs the function of a drug to satisfy primed dopamine receptors, of no consequence other than to provide the addict with a fix, the object is indispensable. So rather than desiring the proper source of their satisfaction – they crave the object  (they worshiped the created rather than the Creator) resulting in behaviour to seek to repair and palliate the attached depression, anxiety and blows to self esteem as people are often used as the objects. (Excerpts taken from psychology today and harvard health)]

With every abuse it takes greater and greater intensities to keep the same levels of high and in so we become slaves to our sin. In psychological terms its called substance tolerance – in biblical terms – it’s known as a calloused heart. However true freedom from addiction can be found in God – as He is the source of unlimited pleasure and satisfaction. As we experience more of His pleasures – we desire Him more – and there is no end to the depths of His love – thus pleasures forevermore!

“May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. THEN you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” – Eph 3:19

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” – Romans 11:33

GOD becomes our “Holy Addiction”. And in Him there are no harmful side effects or withdrawal symptoms… but rather the fruits of the Spirit.

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Freedom from the law.

“Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.”

…I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down.  For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God.  My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
-Galatians 2:16, 18b-20.

So then we may ask: Why, then, was the law given? Well…

” Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.”
-Galatians 3:24-25

(The law served to try to protect us from our own sinfulness – because God in His mercies knew the corruptive nature of sin & addiction – He established the law to protect us from ourselves until that time came and also to show us the need for a Savior) – The law was our schoolmaster bringing us to Christ – teaching us our need for a Saviour for by it we were condemned.  BUT – now there is therefore now NO condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.

 

Freedom from fear of Failure

Rahab, Samson, Abraham, Sarah – Hebrews 11. Faith. These patriarchs were imperfect and flawed – however they still were able to find favour with God because of their faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God – but the opposite may also hold true – that WITH FAITH – it is impossible to displease God!!!

I can’t fail. And it is by grace THROUGH faith that we are saved and freed from failure.

David had it in his heart to build a temple for the Lord – but even though that wasn’t for him – God was still pleased with him that he had it in his heart! Rahab was a prostitute who lied to hide God’s servants… but she was just trying in her best understanding at the time to do something for God. That’s the beautiful thing about grace:

“But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.” – Galatians 5:5-6

Gandhi said “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes

Don’t get caught up in perfection – figuring out the perfect plan before we take action. God is pleased when we go out and do something in faith to please Him – and THEN… THAT is how all things work together for good to them that love him and are called according to his purpose. Remember the parable of the talents – he was displeased with the servant who didn’t even try! I think if he had even tried and failed the master would have been more pleased.

What kind of father do we think we have in Heaven?! When his children earnestly try to please him – even if they are a little wrong in that expression – he’s pleased at the heart.

 

Freedom to Worship

God doesn’t want your token praise. None of us like it. Outside of Christ – all our worship is either out of obligation or what remains.

“When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

“Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should he show you any favour at all?” asks the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

 “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings.  But my name is honoured by people of other nations from morning till night. All around the world they offer sweet incense and pure offerings in honour of my name. For my name is great among the nations,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

 “But you dishonour my name with your actions. By bringing contemptible food, you are saying it’s all right to defile the Lord’s table.  You say, ‘It’s too hard to serve the Lord,’ and you turn up your noses at my commands,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “Think of it! Animals that are stolen and crippled and sick are being presented as offerings! Should I accept from you such offerings as these?” asks the Lord.

“Cursed is the cheat who promises to give a fine ram from his flock but then sacrifices a defective one to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and my name is feared among the nations!”
-Malachi 1:8-14.

Not giving our best isn’t just being busy, or forgetfulness. It’s evil. God is holy. And inappropriate worship out of anything other than a pure heart is contemptible in his sight. We see here in the passage His disgust – wishing they would just stop altogether!

Even I would rather you not say anything than compliment me out of obligation. But the gospel has freed us from obligation to worship – worship is instead a response, a reaction to what God has already done. Because we aren’t worshiping out of compulsion – the gospel frees us to true worship – in spirit and in truth.

 

Freedom to Love:

The freedoms of love only come if you surrender all kinds of your individual freedom.

Remember the example a few weeks back – you are accountable to your wife of where you are, where you go, etc…

When you’re in a relationship – your right to make even small independent unilateral decisions is over, because the more intimate the love relationship – the less independent you can be! (By its very nature – a relationship is inter-dependent and therefore no longer independent.)

Love without boundaries is not truly love. There is an aspect of exclusivity to love that makes it special.

The only way to get the freedoms of love is to surrender individualistic freedom. Some people have done that in human relationships and been hurt… surrendering to an imperfect person and ended up becoming dehumanized and abused and exploited. But surrender to a perfect God is different to that of surrender to imperfect humans.

Though he had many wrong ideas, Jiddu Krishnamurti (an Indian philosopher) got it right when he said, “Freedom and love go together. Love is not a reaction. If I love you because you love me, that is a mere trade, a thing to be bought in the market; it is not love. To love is not to ask anything in return, not even to feel that you are giving something – and it is only such love that can know freedom.” Interestingly – this is exactly the same kind of love the bible speaks about when it says that, “This is real love – not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”  – 1 John 4:10

“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love because he loved us first.” v18 & 19.

This freedom is to be vulnerable. But God is our safe place. We must have total openness in a relationship to enjoy its freedoms. Why do we try to dress up our wretchedness? We can be real and raw with God for he already knows who we really are – that we are totally depraved. We can be comfortable to be our true selves with God because He already knows us. He knit us together, He knows our frame, how frail we are… and we are accepted. Unconditionally.

So also the gospel frees us to truly love others by the love which has been shown and given to us in Christ. That after we understand His great love toward us in what He’s done – it promotes a response of love in us both toward God and His creation.

 

Freedom from meaninglessness to a life of purpose (LOGOS):

“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.”
– Gal 5:13-14

Some humanist and hedonist philosophers think: If there is a design program – divine directives – you are a robot. You are only free if there is no purpose – because then you are free to make your own. Though this may be an enticing thought, in reality it doesn’t work out – because we were created for a purpose.

A fish is designed for water… and when it is put in water it experiences freedom. What were we made for?? So that if we give ourselves in surrender to it – we experience freedom? What is our logos? What is the absolute truth we were made for?

“In the beginning was the Word” – John 1:1.

The Greek used for “Word” is LOGOS. Our english word logic is derived from Logos. Or the reason… Let’s read that passage again with that in mind:

– In the beginning the LOGOS already existed. (eternal)
– The LOGOS (Reason) was with God, and the LOGOS was God. (God was the reason!)
– He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him (the LOGOS). (He is the reason for creation)
– The LOGOS (Reason) gave life to everything that was created, (His reason gives life)
– and his life brought light to everyone. (The gospel)
– The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. (The overcoming power of the gospel)

So in this we see that the gospel gives reason to all of life…

John comes along and states that – there is a logos. “in the beginning was the Logos…” but it wasn’t an abstract logos… “And the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.” There is an absolute truth and it isn’t just some abstract truth like a bunch of rules… but that “We beheld His glory” – John 1:14. The absolute truth was a person. And absolute truth in a person – the person of Christ. A person to know. A person to love and be loved by.

SO – What’s the difference? Well if absolute truth was an abstraction – it’s dehumanizing. But because absolute truth comes in the form of a person – it’s liberating!

This is why for Nietzsche and others, they thought that all relationship with God has to be dehumanizing because they thought it’s a one way relationship. That God is in heaven mandating all these do’s and don’ts and commandments to us humans and we just have to obey or go to hell. Thou shalt not… etc… You do all the shifting and give up all your independence. Thus, Nietzsche would say that relationship with God is dehumanizing by definition. Because salvation by an abstract law is impersonal and imprisoning.

But not this God…. the absolute truth – who is the ultimate free being – became a human – related with the human condition personally – and he was bound, beaten and crucified, lost his freedom – and went to the cross. Because in this – God is submitting also to the needs of us – our need for forgiveness and grace. And because it is by grace through faith, there is no longer the chain of fulfilling the law to save you as that price has already been paid. Now the relationship is no longer one sided… On that cross –  GOD – says I will lose my independence for  you! I will sacrifice for you. And he was exploited! He’s already done the surrender… he’s just waiting on you to reciprocate the same.

In every other religion – god, or whatever other divine source – gives you a list of rules and you must obey or else you get whatever malady results from evil – whether if hell, bad karma, etc… it is driven by fear and you are a slave to the abstract truth.

Instead we have a personal truth who comes down and lives the life we should have been, dies to pay our debt, and saves us by sheer grace. That’s liberating. And only if the absolute truth is a person who’s done that am I liberated. Because you are an absolute beauty in the eyes of God, the only person who’s eyes matter. You’re absolutely loved and absolutely valued by the creator of the Universe. If you really understand the gospel you shouldn’t be afraid of anything… it frees you from EVERYTHING. The purpose of life then we see is Jesus – the LOGOS – and relationship with Him is life’s greatest meaning.

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Though we have all these freedoms…

The love of Christ constrains us. – 2 Corinthians 5:14

So a true understanding of the gospel in fact is not restricting but liberating and freedom in its truest sense. The only thing that constrains you in a way that doesn’t feel oppressive is love, and that love is the love of Christ.

Read Hebrews 10:32-39

“Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering…

…And my righteous ones will live by faith.
But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.”

But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.”

Why are we the faithful ones? Because the love of Christ constrains us!

Remember those early days? When the joy of your salvation was fresh? When you were consumed with telling people – and you got persecuted? Or did you ever live that way? Did you ever get it?! If not check yourself to make sure that you’re in the faith… true salvation brings about a change in our desires.

For those of us who have lost that first love, hear the words of A.W Tozer:

 “O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want thee; I long to be filled with longing: I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

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The critical question for our generation—and for every generation— is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?”
– John Piper

Is your love for Christ above ALL else? Is it your ultimate pleasure in life? Is it your only hope in eternity? That is what the constraining freedom of the gospel espouses – it is far reaching to even eternity! God’s love for us is furious and never ending – this is why no one can pluck us out of His hand. He is the hound of heaven, who pursues His beloved. Remember how He wooed you to His side? Once we are His, we’re His forever – because His love endures forever.

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Psalm 63:2-5

I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
I will praise you as long as I live,
   lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
    I will praise you with songs of joy.

There is something wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers. Because that kind of love that constrains us in freedom makes no sense to the natural world…. what more it should compel us to live lives which are radically different to this world – to love furiously – to go – to do – to rescue – to fight for justice – to sacrifice – to count it all loss.

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