Relationships: Freedom

This morning, we’ll be continuing our message series on relationships.  So far, we took a look at the parenting relationship and different ways in which our families should reflect the kingdom of God and how we are to set healthy boundaries in our relationships.  This week, we’re going to take a look at how our freedom purchased by Christ is to affect our relationships.
Galatians 5:1
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.
The context of Galatians 5 is about whether those who have accepted Christ’s salvation, particularly Gentiles (non-Jews) such as us, have to still obey the Mosaic laws pertaining to issues such as circumcision.  What these Jewish Christians trying to enforce the mosaic law were missing was these laws were simply a foreshadowing of the coming savior, who fulfilled the law and nailed it to the cross.
1. Freedom is not Free!
For us now, we have full freedom because He fulfilled the law and paid the price of salvation on our behalf.  Just as the Jews practiced their traditions and obeyed the mosaic laws in faith that their sins were atoned for by their sacrifices, we by faith accept the atoning sacrifice of Christ for our sins.  The law is good in that it defines for us in what sin is, however, we have now been set free from the power of sin by God’s grace and death through Christ’s sacrifice.  We are saved by God’s grace through our faith alone and not by works.  We cannot earn salvation because it has already been purchased – it is to us a free gift.  Of course, just because it is a free gift to us, does not mean that it was free; Christ paid the highest possible price for this gift – living a perfect life and sacrificing it.
2. Freedom is a Choice!
Now if we have been set free from the power of sin and death, why would we want to choose to chain ourselves up by it again?  We know that Christ’s forgiveness is available every time that we mess up and fall back into sin, but does that mean that we should continue to sin knowing that we’re covered by God’s grace?  NO!  We have to choose to walk in the freedom that He has purchased for us and to walk away from the temptations and traps that try to ensnare us again.
Romans 6:15-16
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey —whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?
Just as we’re told in Galatians 5, we need to be careful not to allow ourselves to be burdened again by a yoke of slavery!
3. Freedom comes with Responsibility!
Freedom comes with responsibility.  Just because I am free to do something, doesn’t mean that I should do it and doesn’t mean that I’m not going to suffer the consequences for doing so.  I may be free to do it, but I’m not free from the consequences.
I am free to drop a cinder block on my foot over and over again.  Just because I am free to do it does not mean that it is beneficial for me to do it and doesn’t mean that there are no consequences for doing so.
It’s a funny example, but how often do we do the same sort thing with sin in our lives?  We do the same thing over and over again knowing that it is only hurting us and enslaving us; knowing that Christ gave His life to empower us to be able to overcome it?
Paul wrote this to the Corinthian church about an issue very common to us today; sexual immorality.  In fact, most are even making the same foolish arguments in our society today that the Corinthians were making.  Their argument is that they have the RIGHT to do it…
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Of course, we know as well that Christ told us that when we have even looked lustfully after someone, that we have already committed adultery with them in our hearts.
Having the right and the freedom to do something does not mean that it is beneficial to do.  Freedom comes with responsibility and our actions come with consequences.  The consequences set before us are to be obedient to the Lord and live life abundantly and to its full or to be disobedient and remain unsatisfied, hurt, and even dead.  Even unbelievers clearly tell us the facts about how sexual immorality and addictions to substances such as drugs and alcohol enslave us and lead to death.  We need to remember that scripture speaks truth because it was authored by Truth; God Himself.
Alright, now that we have taken a look at freedom itself and have a better understanding of what it really means to be set free in Christ, let’s take a look at how this is to ring true in our relationships with one another.
Galatians 5:13-26
13 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. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

The words used here sound pretty harsh; to bite and devour each other.  However, too often, we do just this to others, even our own natural families and even within our own spiritual family.  This should not be!

Like animals, we tend to find an area of weakness in someone or a mistake that they’ve made and pounce on it, biting and devouring them.  And again, just as you see in the animal kingdom, this commonly occurs as a herd of animals surrounds it’s prey and devours it.  How many times have our conversations with friends looked like this image as we all circled around devouring someone in conversation?
If you’ve ever seen a lion dining on a zebra, just keep that image in mind the next time that we consider opening our mouths to spread gossip or tear another person down.  That’s exactly what we are doing; biting and devouring them!  Just as these words indicate, when we are doing this, we are doing so out of our own flesh and never by the Spirit of God!
We must be intentional about putting this thing to a stop and becoming obedient to what we’ve been commanded to do: to love others as we love ourselves.  We need to use our freedom to humbly serve each other and to build up one another instead of using our freedom to tear down and destroy each other.  In our relationships with one another, we are called to have the same attitude as Christ did; an attitude of humility and service.

How do we do this?
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery (Excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures); 20 idolatry and witchcraft (controlling); hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
So this is to be how we test our relationships with one another to see if we are walking in the flesh or if we are walking in the Spirit as we are called to do.  What are the fruits of these relationships?  Look through the list and see what fruits are being produced by these relationships.
Think of your relationships as a garden.  The fruits of the flesh are like weeds; they grow all on their own from seeds unintentionally planted by our sinful selves.  They are hard to get rid of, but very easy to see grow and bear fruit.  The fruits of the Spirit are like the vegetables that we are trying to grow in our garden so that we can eat of life and be fully satisfied.  These are hard to grow and require us to fertilize, water, and protect and constantly be pulling out the weeds in attempt to kill them.  So it is with our relationships.  We need to intentionally crucify our flesh (weed) and walk in the Spirit (fertilize and water).
Freedom in Christ is directly bound to our relationships with one another.  If we are walking in the freedom that Christ purchased for us, we need to be responsible for the fruits that come from these relationships.
If this morning, you realize that you have some unhealthy relationships that need weeded in order to walk in complete and true freedom in life, I encourage you to come forward to our ministry teams and allow them to pray with you.  Or if perhaps you realize that you do not have a relationship with Christ or aren’t walking in the Spirit and want the freedom and empowering that the Spirit gives, please come forward as well so that we can pray for you.