Sunday, July 3, 2016

Let Freedom Ring

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself." Galatians 5:13,14

Our country is celebrating Independence Day this weekend.  There will be back yard cook outs, sparklers by the lake and friends and families gathered across the US.   Yet in the midst of all this celebration, we can’t ignore that our world is in turmoil.  Stories of bombings in Turkey, Paris and Brussels combined with a horrific night club shooting in Orlando and a rampage this spring in California highlight the fact that ISIS is waging an on-going guerrilla war.    Our freedom seems more precious as I think about Egyptian Christians that were massacred by ISIS on the beach in Libya, the 200 Christian girls in Nigeria who were captured by Boko Haram, the numerous Christians in Sudan and India who are openly persecuted for their faith.   Christians all over the world are persecuted for their faith.  See http://www.persecution.org/


I live in a bubble.  Unlike Christians in Saudi Arabia, I am blessed to be able to openly wear the cross my husband bought me for our tenth anniversary.  I have a friend who is Jewish and her family started a Jewish congregation in our town and can openly worship with friends and relatives.  I have another friend who married into a Muslim family.  They will all get together this weekend for Ramadan festivities and eat a big meal and celebrate that they are all together in our country able to worship in freedom.  Our freedom in America was paid for by many soldiers who believed that freedom we enjoy every day was worth fighting for.  They knew they might not even survive the battle to enjoy the freedom they fought for but they chose to risk everything for the opportunity for others to live in freedom.

Each of our Founding Fathers understood that Freedom and Liberty were essential to being who God created us to be.  As the Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”   To further clarify the rights we have been given by our Creator, authors of the Constitution made sure the 3rd Article of the Bill of Rights states “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the rights of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Freedom is risky. People don't always make the best choices.  Yet, a defining characteristic of Christianity is free will. Our country allows freedom of religion because God gives us freedom in choosing him. People aren’t born Christians. They chose to follow Christ. Just because your parents are Christian doesn’t mean you will choose to follow Christ and in the same way; if your parents aren’t Christian, you can still be a Christian because it isn’t an inheritance passed down through your mother’s lineage.  Think about it- When Jesus was choosing the twelve disciples; he asked them to follow him.  Each one had an option to decide – will I follow Jesus or will I continue whatever I was doing before he called me?   

Once we decide to follow Christ, we have a choice -will we try to earn our salvation through our effort or accept that Christ saved us and that we are complete in him.  Paul reminds the Galatians that Christ bought our freedom so that we can experience life completely.  He writes in Galatians 5, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”  We have a choice to live in the freedom that Christ has bought for us.  He has redeemed us from slavery to sin and the empty way of life that we were born into, he died for us to live in freedom and not be burdened by earning our salvation through our effort.  Galatians 5 continues with this important admonition, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.””  If we are using the freedom that Christ paid the ultimate price for to indulge our selfish whims and desires, we have stepped back into bondage.  

True freedom is found in loving God and serving others through love.  If we grow insular in our focus on our wants and needs it creates an unending hamster wheel of always seeking a little more comfort, a little more safety, a little more money, a little more food, a little more happiness. Our theme song becomes, "I can't get no satisfaction." The only way to jump off the hamster wheel into freedom is to realize that our freedom doesn’t come from serving ourselves but in serving others through love.  The amazing thing is that as we serve, we will experience comfort from the Holy Spirit, safety from the presence of the Lord, our physical needs met by our Provider and joy in the Lord.  

As you enjoy your freedom this weekend, pray for Christians around the world who can’t worship in freedom.  Ask for God’s protection and strength for each of them.  If you feel like you are caught on the hamster wheel of life’s worries, remember it is for freedom Christ has set you free.  Revel in the freedom you have in Christ, freedom to choose Him and to serve others which will give you satisfaction and complete freedom in Him. 




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