Freedom

“It is by true piety that men of God cast out the hostile power of the air which opposes godliness; it is by exorcising it, not by propitiating it; and they overcome all the temptations of the adversary by praying, not to him, but to their own God against him. For the devil cannot conquer or subdue any but those who are in league with sin; and therefore he is conquered in the name of Him who assumed humanity, and that without sin, that Himself being both Priest and Sacrifice, He might bring about the remission of sins, that is to say, might bring it about through the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, by whom we are reconciled to God, the cleansing from sin being accomplished. For men are seperated from God only by sins, from which we are in this life cleansed not by our own virtue, but by the divine compassion; through His indulgence, not through our own power.” – St. Augustine

Christ has liberated us into freedom. Therefore stand firm and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 HCSB)

Imputed Righteousness

The imputation of Christ’s righteousness is a dieing, if not already dead, doctrine in the modern Christian church. And because of the lack of teaching on the topic, many people struggle and fight with themselves over their sin, thinking that in some way they can overcome their sin by some miraculous strength that they inwardly posess. And even though I hold strongly (at least intellectually) to this doctrine, I find myself daily thinking I can make it through my sin struggles on my own. I find myself thinking that every time I sin, God sees me as a mess and that He is ready to send His wrath upon me. Of course, most of us feel this same way at times I am sure.

We need to realize, as Christians, that God no longer sees us a heaps of filth. Christ’s righteousness was stamped to our account. He became sin on our behalf.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB)

And through this, we are counted righteous in Christ.

But now, apart from the law, God’s righteousness has been revealed–attested by the Law and the Prophets –that is, God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, since there is no distinction. (Romans 3:21-22 HCSB)

Our faith is credited to us as righteousness.

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, (Romans 4:4-5 ESV)

So, in God’s eyes, we are seen as righteous based on our faith.

Imputed Righteousness and Freedom

And this leads me to my topic of the day. Most of the time, the reason we struggle so much with our own sin is because we are doing just that: struggling with our own sin. We call our struggles with sin “our” struggles. In a sense, this is true; but not completely. These struggles with sin could easily be allieviated if we would just realize that, when Christ was dieing on the cross, He was actually accomplishing something.

When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” Then bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. (John 19:30 HCSB)

This is where it is important that we have a proper understanding of the atonement; and the only proper, biblical, understanding of the atonement is that which is called “Particular (Limited) Atonement”. Michael Horton says this in his book Putting Amazing Back Into Grace,

“When Jesus died for us, he paid the price for our sins; he actually redeemed us and cleared us of all charges, taking them upon himself. In short, he saved us. This is the message of the gospel. Our Lord came with a mission: to redeem the elect of God, not to make possible the redemption of every person.” (Michael Horton. Putting Amazing Back into Grace. 1991. Baker Books. Pg. 244)

You see, if we truly believed that Jesus actually accomplished our salvation for us, we would be truly free from our struggles with sin. In fact, they wouldn’t be our struggles because we would realize that Jesus had defeated sin while on that cross. And, having a biblical understanding of the atonement would lead us to a proper understanding of Christ righteousness being put to our account; of His righteousness being counted to us; His righteousness being imputed to us. And believing this would lead to liberation from our sin.

I will again quote the verse I had at the beginning of this essay.

Christ has liberated us into freedom. Therefore stand firm and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 HCSB)

There are 2 aspects to this passage that need to be looked at. Everyone looks at the first part, which says, “Christ has liberated us into freedom”. But what about the last part where Paul writes, “Therefore stand firm and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery”? I will spend the rest of the time here looking at the two part of the last half of the verse.

“Therefore stand firm”

What are we to “stand firm” in? For most interpreters, this would be seen as “stand firm in some strength of ourselves”. But I deffinitely do not think that this is what Paul is even remotely hinting at. Paul is saying here that we are to stand firm in the fact that Christ has liberated us into freedom. We are to stand firm in the fact that Christ has actually accomplished something on our behalf that we could never accomplish on our own.

This is a very hard idea for us to accept. We always want to accomplish things on our own. We want to take matters into our own hands. We are just like Abram and Sarai:

Abram’s wife Sarai had not borne him children. She owned an Egyptian slave named Hagar. Sarai said to Abram, “Since the LORD has prevented me from bearing children, go to my slave; perhaps I can have children by her.” And Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar, her Egyptian slave, and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife for him. This happened after Abram had lived in the land of Canaan 10 years. (Genesis 16:1-3 HCSB)

Viewing this passage symbolically, we do the same thing. When life doesn’t seem to be working out the way that God has told us it would, we take matters into our own hands, cause hurt to someone else, and create Ishmaels.

He slept with Hagar, and she became pregnant. When she realized that she was pregnant, she looked down on her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for my suffering! I put my slave in your arms, and ever since she saw that she was pregnant, she has looked down on me. May the LORD judge between me and you.” Abram replied to Sarai, “Here, your slave is in your hands; do whatever you want with her.” Then Sarai mistreated her so much that she ran away from her. The Angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. He said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” She replied, “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai.” Then the Angel of the LORD said to her, “You must go back to your mistress and submit to her mistreatment.” The Angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will greatly multiply your offspring, and they will be too many to count.” Then the Angel of the LORD said to her: You have conceived and will have a son. You will name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard your cry of affliction. This man will be like a wild ass. His hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him; he will live at odds with all his brothers. (Genesis 16:4-12 HCSB)

Instead of standing firm in our own wisdom, we need to stand firm in the fact that Christ has liberated us into freedom. We need to stand firm in the fact that we are free because Christ has made us that way, not because we can or have somehow made ourselves that way.

“Don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery”

This is the hardest part of this entire verse, at least in application. The most intellectually challenging aspect of this short verse is the part about how we are made free by Christ. Our finite human minds have a hard time comprehending that idea. It is pretty easy for us to “stand firm” in the fact that we are made free once we truly understand that we have been set free. The challenge comes in remaining that way.

Every time we sulk and beat ourselves up over our own sin, we have submitted again to a yoke of slavery. We are in bondage to that sin. We have, as Creed so beautifully says, created our own prison. We’re locked and trapped with no escape and yet the door is standing wide open because Christ has set us free.

I want to challenge you today to stand firm in the truth that you have been set free by Christ. That you don’t have to try to be righteous in God’s eyes because you are already seen as righteous by God because of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Don’t trap yourself in the wide open room of your own sin. Live a life of freedom.

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