Freedom Not Slavery!
Pentecost 6 (Proper 8) Trinity Lutheran Church
26 June 2016 Murdock, NE
+Jesu Juva +
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
“For freedom Christ has set us free.” “Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
You’re free. From sin, death, the devil, the law and God’s wrath. Because of Jesus. So don’t go back to living like a spiritual slave.
Here’s what I mean. Spiritual slavery comes in two forms. The first is legalism. The second is license. Legalism is trying to use the law, the Ten Commandments, to get saved, to earn heaven. However, the law is never to be used in that way. License, on the other hand, is abusing your freedom in Christ to do whatever floats your boat. It is doing whatever pleases you. Gratifying your sinful desires. Legalism and license are both wrong.
License is what St. Paul warns you about today. So be warned. Seriously. Listen: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh [flesh = sinful nature].”
The point is this: the freedom that you have in Christ is not a freedom TO sin but a freedom FROM sin! It is not a freedom TO GIVE IN to your sinful lusts and desires but it is the freedom TO RESIST them!
This is the Christian’s constant life struggle. Literally there is a war raging in each one of you who believe in Jesus. “For the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
One of Pat Benatar’s mega 1980s hits was “Love Is A Battlefield.” Let me shamelessly steal that song’s title and apply Paul’s point: “The Christian’s Life Is A Battlefield!” A spiritual battlefield! Yes, indeed! Every day a war rages between your inborn sinfulness (the flesh) and the Holy Spirit. This spiritual war within us puts to shame anything that the latest movie Warcraft displays. And as you all know from experience this warfare between your sinful nature and the Holy Spirit can get extremely violent. Sometimes it just tears you apart.
If you want to be comfortably complacent in your sin, then live outside your baptism or don’t be a Christian. Don’t get baptized. Don’t be a disciple of Jesus if you want to be a draft dodger in the war against your sinful nature! To be a Christian is to be at war WITH and AGAINST yourself!
Now I think you can begin to understand why so many people give Christianity a try for a little bit and then give up. One of the biggest reasons is that the Christian life is full of tension and conflict. The sinful nature actively opposes the Holy Spirit. Your old Adam holds you back from living by faith in Jesus – from leading holy lives according to God’s Word. The old Adam crimps your liberty in Christ. Hinders you from wholeheartedly loving God and your neighbor. You want to do what pleases God but your sinful nature, the flesh, holds you back, polluting every thing you do with sin, raising doubt and unbelief in your minds, driving you to despair and depression as you’re turned inward to yourself.
You old Adam enlists some prominent allies in the spiritual war. One is the world. The other is Satan. Both tell you to “follow your heart.” Even if you heart would lead you to hell! Both want you to doubt God’s Word. Both portray God as some backwards, regressive, and tyrannical party-pooper who won’t let you do what you want in order for you to reach your potential!
The Holy Spirit given to you in the preaching of the gospel and your Baptism opposes your sinful nature. He wars against it! Blessed are you when that’s happening! Seriously! Sent by the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit rolls up His sleeves to hold your sinful nature in check. He puts your old Adam in a chokehold. A stranglehold. Otherwise you’d let sin run wild in your life. You’d let sin have unbridled free course in your life.
So the Holy Spirit protects you from yourself! So that you don’t hurt yourself and others! Isn’t that magnificent? It sure is! Thanks be to God!
Wait! There’s more! The Spirit does something else. Something you never ever expected. He convicts you of your sin! Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do just that. That’s John 16:8!
In connection with that the Holy Spirit stirs up the guilt. And I’m here to tell you that guilt is a good thing! Thanks be to the Holy Spirit for guilt! Guilt is a barometer that tells you something isn’t right between you and God. AND THAT YOU ARE IN NEED OF JESUS’ FORGIVENESS! The Holy Spirit shows you that the end of sin is … DEATH! The Spirit takes all the fun out of sinning. That’s why I said earlier: if you want to be at peace with your sin and your sinfulness, don’t be baptized; don’t be a believer; don’t be a follower or hanger on of Jesus!
Well, if you’re tracking with me and haven’t completely fallen asleep, you have learned that every day of the Christian life is a struggle. A war. The old Adam versus the Holy Spirit! Daily the old Adam must be drowned with all sins and evil desires. Daily the new man (spelled F-A-I-T-H) must emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity. Every day this struggle between flesh and Spirit, death and life, goes on in the life of the believer. And it will go on until you are buried six feet under because you remain sinner-saints right up to the very end of your lives.
I’m here to tell you something else. It’s this. Jesus has already won the battle! He has achieved the victory. He bore all your sin to death on the cross. He nailed it all there. He crucified it and buried it. He baptized you into that victory. In Baptism you have been crucified with Christ. In Christ you are dead to the world, dead to sin BUT ALIVE TO GOD IN CHRIST! The outcome of the struggle is a done deal. Jesus is God FOR YOU! He has won! He has conquered sin and death by His dying and rising. Now He wants to conquer sin and death in you.
That’s why St. Paul says: “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
So here’s another no–brainer of the day: YOU WILL BE TEMPTED. By things that don’t bother the unbeliever one bit. Just so you don’t misunderstand, the apostle gives a long list that describes the desires and temptations of your sinful nature. They are quite obvious. This is where the heart will lead you if you follow your heart. Sins of sex: immorality, impurity – that includes anything from couples playing house without being married to anything that adulterates marriage like cheating, homosexuality or engaging in porn. Sins of false worship: idolatry and sorcery. Sins of anger: fits of fury, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, and envy. Sins of sensuality: drunkenness, orgies and things like these. Those are just a few examples. The list is endless.
The world and unbelievers think nothing of these sins of the flesh. The world glamorizes them. Calls them lifestyle choices. And then takes legal action to force you to obey or else. This is the world’s idea of freedom. Do as you please. Do what pleases you.
You are a Christian! Therefore, you are to resist all this! You don’t have to act on your urges. YOU ARE NOT A SLAVE TO SIN!
That’s why St. Paul speaks this serious warning: “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” This is very serious. If you give in to the desires of your sinful nature – when you live according to the flesh – you do so at the peril of your faith and your eternal salvation.
Despite what the world, the devil and your old Adam preaches sin is serious. Deadly serious. Sin is slavery. Sin is the loss of your freedom in Christ. “Anyone who sins is a slave to sin,” Jesus taught (John 8:34). When you obey the urge to sin, you are no longer free. You are living in slavery. However, “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desired.”
So it’s time, really it is, for us to confess our sin, receive Christ’s forgiveness today, and relish the freedom He gives. It’s time to take up the struggle! To live in and from your baptism! When you find yourself tempted, pray. Pray right then and there for strength to resist. Enlist the help of the church and your fellow believers. Draw strength from God’s promises in His Word, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. God’s desire is that you be free. He’s paid for your freedom and provided the means.
Finally, in contrast to the works of the flesh, the apostle describes the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of your freedom! He calls these things fruit – not works! Fruit is what naturally hangs on a tree that is healthy and alive. A tree needs no law to produce fruit. It doesn’t need to be forced or coerced. It’s what a healthy and vigorous tree does! This is how the Holy Spirit adorns your life when you trust in Jesus
Love – even to those who hate you.
Joy – even in the midst of sorrow.
Peace – even in turmoil.
Patience – even in suffering.
Kindness – even to those who are unkind to you.
Goodness – that overcomes evil.
Faithfulness – in a world that is faithless.
Gentleness – in a world filled with violence.
Self-control – in a world that doesn’t know how to
This is what the Holy Spirit works in you as you are joined to Jesus through faith. As you are regularly watered and fed with His Word. You are like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither (Ps 1:3). You can expect this fruit to be there, like oranges on an orange tree or apples on an apple tree. This is the fruit of your freedom in Jesus Christ.
Enjoy it! Savor it. Defend it. Live in it.
In the Name of Jesus.