E29: What is the freedom that we have in Christ?

PODCAST: What did Jesus mean when He said He can make us free indeed? What are we free from? What are we free for?

  • E29: What is the freedom that we have in Christ?
  • We know that if the Son has made us free, we are free indeed. Jesus told us that Himself. But what does it really mean to be free? What does it mean that we have freedom in Christ? What are we free from? What are we free for? In today’s podcast Julia and Kathy discuss these questions, and more.

    Transcript: “Living the Gospel” podcast, Episode 29: What is the freedom that we have in Christ?

    This is ActiveChristianity’s “Living the Gospel” podcast. Join us as we explore different aspects of the gospel according to the Bible, and how we can put this into practice in daily life.

    Kathy: Hi everyone! Welcome back to “Living the Gospel.” I’m Kathy …

    Julia: And I’m Julia.

    Kathy: … and thank you for joining us today. And if it’s your first time, welcome!

    Julia: Welcome here!

    Kathy: And if you’re a regular listener, thanks for listening! So, our topic for today is something that Jesus said. The verse in John 8:36. He said: “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” So, the freedom that we have in Christ … it’s written another way in Galatians 5:1. Julia do you have that verse there?

    Julia: I sure do. Yeah, it says in Galatians 5:1, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty with which Christ has made us free and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”

    Kathy: So, what is that liberty we have in Christ? That’s what we’re going to talk about. And we’re going to … really want to get down to, what are we free for? So, on our website we have an article called “The truly free Christian.” So we’re just going to read through that a bit and talk about it a bit. So it starts with a section called, “Freedom in Christ:” “Through His death on the cross Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and death! (Romans 8:2) Freedom in Christ is a grace that we cannot comprehend! That includes freedom from so many things which we experience here and now in our day-to-day life.”

    Julia: So, that verse that was just read there from Romans 8:2, talks about the law of sin and death. And what is that? That’s simply, everything in nature, everything in this universe, goes according to laws.

    Kathy: God’s laws.

    Julia: God’s laws. And the law of sin and death is just simply, like it’s written in Romans, that the wages of sin is death. And it’s as simple as that. And if you sin, you cannot avoid the death that comes as a result of it. So then this freedom in Christ really is a grace that we can’t comprehend. That we can come away from this law of sin and death.

    Kathy: Well, first of all, in that He died on the cross for us and He took that burden, He paid that price for us, right? So, for the sin that we have committed, we can be completely forgiven for that! And that, we definitely don’t understand, I don’t think we can comprehend really, the grace that that is.

    Julia: What a tremendous sacrifice He made for us, yeah.

    Kathy: I know I don’t, and it’s something I need to think about and meditate on much more, to really see what it is He did for us, and that that should lead me to such a reciprocal love for Him, that I would do anything for Him. And what does He require of me, is that I lay down my life, right, that I give up my own will. And like He taught us to pray in the Lord’s prayer, that…

    Julia: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

    Kathy: So, that really is what …

    Julia: Because the reason that Jesus came down to earth and did all of this for us is because He wanted brothers, in other words, brothers and sisters, and that’s what He wants from me. And that’s why He, His whole life long used the death of the cross on sin in His flesh, and that’s why He died on the cross for us. And what we can do back for Him, like you said, in that reciprocal love, is to come free from sin and to lay our lives down so that we can become somebody who’s worthy of being His brother or sister.

    Kathy: Which leads us right into this next part of the article, which is titled “Freedom to not commit sin.” “To sin – to commit sin – is to do what we know beforehand to be against God’s word and will.” So, I’m going to read a little bit more of that story from John 8, where Jesus said that if the Son makes you free you shall be free indeed, and what it was in response to. So, “Jesus said to those Jews who believed in Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, “You will be made free?”’ Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.’” So, to commit sin, quite simply …

    Julia: … is to be a slave of it.

    Kathy: Is to be a slave of it. And it doesn’t feel like that, right? Like, in a way, because we’re tempted like we read, and we’ve talked about this before, when we’re drawn away by our own lusts and desires. So, we’re tempted to do things which …

    Julia: … are obviously what we want to do by nature.

    Kathy: Yeah, and we have to really understand that. It’s in our nature to want these things, or to feel a certain way, right?

    Julia: And then you can think that it’s freedom to be able to just follow that, and just do that, and go with whatever comes up. And I can do what I want. And if I’m annoyed by something, if I want to go do something that I know isn’t going to be encouraging or edifying for me, I can go and do that, because I have freedom! But actually, that leads to death.

    Kathy: And it’s the opposite.

    Julia: Yeah, and that’s what our short-sighted, kind of natural human understanding doesn’t see in the moment, is that this thing that I think is freedom is actually bondage.

    Kathy: And like it’s written in Hebrews, about Moses, that he chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. So we know that while it feels like it’s something you want in the moment, to give in to those lusts and desires from your flesh, we know that those are passing pleasures. To give in to that. Because while you have freedom to make your own choices, that’s a big thing that God gave us, is free will to make our own choices. And we have that. But it is also a law, like we talked about those laws before, that you have to reap what you sow. And even though there’s forgiveness, and there is forgiveness for sins, if we are consciously deciding to do what we know is wrong, we have to reap from that.

    Julia: Yeah. And forgiveness comes with repentance, too. Like, of course if I become a Christian and I repent, or even if I am already a Christian and I’ve done something and I repent for it, and ask for forgiveness, then I’ll be forgiven. But if I have this attitude that, “Oh, there’s forgiveness, I can do whatever I want. We have freedom, we have free will.” There’s not grace over that for forgiveness.

    Kathy: No. And I don’t think … most people probably don’t think like that.

    Julia: People don’t think that, but …

    Kathy: We can be a little sub-consciously … think, “It’s not so serious, because …”

    Julia: “… we serve a loving, merciful God.” But the grace and the love that God has for us, actually, the way that He shows that to us is by giving us His word and His Spirit to help us overcome sin, not by giving us a “get out of jail free card!”

    Kathy: And if we become free from our own will, that means we’re free from being dictated to by our passions and desires. Because that’s like Jesus said, you’re a slave to that, if you sin, you’re a slave to that, to those passions and desires. So, when we can become free from that, then that is true freedom, really. To not have to give in when these things come up. Like when I’m tempted to just get angry or …

    Julia: Well, this reminds me of yesterday when we were driving on the highway, a divided, you know, two lanes of traffic going the same way. And the left lane is supposed to be for passing, but around these parts where we live, people aren’t always so good about using it the right way.

    Kathy: They take it more as a suggestion than a rule.

    Julia: So, there was somebody driving in the fast lane, going maybe 1 km per hour faster than the guy next to them. Actually, I think their foot wasn’t even steady, they were kind of back and forth … Anyways, nobody could pass them. And, we of course, as humans, we can be tempted to be annoyed, but we weren’t on any tight schedule, we were like, this doesn’t really … we’re not trying to be somewhere. We can just learn to relax, not get annoyed, you know, this is a good opportunity for a little salvation right here. But then this poor guy next to us … We had moved over into the slow lane. And this guy trying to get past, and behind this car that’s not going anywhere, and he was getting so visibly frustrated …

    Kathy: Yeah, you could just see it …

    Julia: He’s revving his engine, he’s on their tail …

    Kathy: He’s weaving back and forth …

    Julia: Yeah, backing off and then bumping their tail again – not bumping it, obviously, but like, putting some pressure on them by come up right behind them. And just visibly annoyed. And I just thought, this poor guy, I mean I think I can make a fair assumption based on that, that he has never heard a gospel that shows him how to become free from getting annoyed. And that actually, the common human way of thinking is that I have every justification to be annoyed in this situation, because this person has done something annoying!

    Kathy: Because they’re being annoying!

    Julia: Yeah, which can sound very legitimate. But that’s bondage, to think that every time something – we talked about this last time, it’s about reactions, right? – to think that every time someone mistreats me, for example, I have to react with annoyance, with offendedness, with pride, all these things. That’s bondage to have to react in that way.

    Kathy: And then I know that in that moment, where I’m tempted to whatever it is, to get offended at something, to be bitter about something, whatever it is I’m tempted to, in that moment, I do, I have to suffer a little bit to give that up, right? It takes a battle inside. And then I have to cry out, just like Jesus cried out, “Lord, not my will, but Yours be done here!” And then we reap from that, the joy and peace and rest and the liberty from these chains of having to do according to the passions and desires of my flesh.

    Kathy: The next part is called “Freedom to respect each other’s conscience.” “We have freedom to let others be free. No demands on how people should be or what they should do. Each individual has the freedom to follow their own conscience and to be obedient to the leading of the Spirit in their own life. I might, in all good conscience, be able to do something that isn’t freedom at all for another person, and vice versa. If we hold others to our conscience, we can place heavy burdens on them. Everyone has the undisputed right to follow their own conscience and we have to respect that. The conscience is also fluid, changing and updating as God gives us light about different things. He shows each one His truth as they are able to receive it and bear it. 

    Julia: To me, this section is an incredible truth I guess, if you want to say it that way. First of all, that God has given us a conscience that He uses to guide us in life. And that, when we start out on the way, for example, then maybe … Myself, I got converted when I was 15 years old. And I didn’t have a huge understanding of what God’s will is for my life, and all this. But you start with the conscience that God has given you. And you start to be faithful to it, and as you are, then you are drawing near to God, and He can speak to you more and more. So, you start to hear God’s voice, and God can guide you in the decisions you make in life and in your day to day, how to take each situation. And that is such an incredibly valuable thing, given that we have freedom. Because otherwise, we just have freedom and we do whatever we want. But in this freedom, we have our conscience and the voice of God to guide us to make the right decisions and to take things in the right way, in spite of the fact that we are technically “free to do whatever we want.” So, we’d be lost without that, without this conscience and this voice from God.

    Kathy: And the things is that the Holy Spirit writes His laws on our hearts and our minds, right? So it’s not that we have a list of rules that we look at, and we check that we’re, you know … we can have a checklist that we’re checking off that we’ve done this, and we’ve done this and we’ve done this. But the Holy Spirit works in each of us individually. And He writes His laws on our hearts and minds. And He leads each individual according to God’s working for them, right? So we each have to be obedient to how the Holy Spirit works in us.

    Julia: It’s just a tremendous grace from God, because we are all different people, and we are not all the same. So if we had this list of 125 – well that would be a very small number, probably … Anyways, if we had this list of rules that we all have to follow, and it’s all cookie-cutter, and it only works if we have the same basic personality and all this, but instead, God works with us on the individual level. Like you said, the Holy Spirit writes His laws in our heart, and that means that God in His grace has decided that we can progress and become free from sin, I don’t want to say in different speeds, but in a way that He has custom designed for me. So then, if I look around me at other people who are by nature and by personality in no way like me, why on earth should they also be progressing in exactly the same way as me and following exactly the same steps as me? And all the same rules. That would make no sense. So we have this freedom now, because it doesn’t operate like that, because God uses His voice and His Holy Spirit to work with us on an individual level. And that’s incredibly freeing.

    Kathy: Yeah. And like it’s written here, we have to respect that for each other. And I think it can be incredibly hard, for me I know, especially with the people who you are closest to, right. You see them doing something and you’re like, “What? How? How are they doing that? Isn’t that just so obvious them that maybe that shouldn’t … that’s not how it should be.” Because for me, that’s what I know for myself, is that I need to not be doing certain things, or going certain places or whatever, right? So, you see something doing something, and you just think, “What? How could they?”

    Julia: “How can they?” Yeah. “Don’t they know this is bad?”

    Kathy: Yeah. But that’s exactly where I have to respect that God is working in that person and I have no right to judge or think that, because of my own conscience and my own … what God’s working in me, they should be doing things the same way that I do. And I mean, that goes for everyone, obviously, but for me I’ve found it’s most…I think about it most with the people that I’m closest to.

    Julia: For sure. And perhaps the people that you feel are most like you, personality-wise anyways. And you think you “get them.” So then, “Oh, I know them well enough to know that they can’t … they can’t do that, and …” But God knows the hearts. And I just have to give complete freedom for God to work and for that person to develop as God leads them. And how that works in the details or whatever, that’s none of my business. And then that also prevents us from having judging thoughts about the others, and maybe a temptation to be envious of situations and circumstances. And it just, all these things that break down fellowship in our thought life and bring a division, they can all be done away with.

    Kathy: Right. The next section is called “Freedom to change” and this is just… I love this. I absolutely love it. “We don’t have to remain the same person as we start out as! God has given us each a personality, with gifts and talents. But within what He has given us we find our limits – that what we do is often contaminated by seeking honor, pride, and other sins. But we can become completely free from all of that! We are progressing on the way of life, on which we find these things and have full freedom in the Spirit to overcome them so that our works can be purified, so that with the personalities that God has created within us we can be a blessing, a help and a joy and strength to others. That is glorious freedom – freedom from the constraints of sin!” 

    Julia: To me this is amazing. It can be so easy, like we’ve talked about, to think that, let’s say, for example I’m bound by fear of man. Being terrified of what people think about me. And it is something that really can come up at every turn. And if you have this attitude of being unwilling to suffer sin unto death, then it can be like, “Ugh! I have to fight against this.” It can be heavy: “I have to fight against this, and fight against this,” over and over again. But really, if you flip it around and think, I have the freedom that I don’t have to be bound by this for the rest of my life!

    But to think that if that’s the way that I had to stay for the rest of my life, that would be bondage. But that there is freedom to change. I can seek God and work with the word and the laws He’s put on my heart and I just work with those things as He puts them on my heart. He works so gently with us. And I can change! That’s freedom! It’s not, “Oh, I have to put this to death again, I have to put this to death again.” And if you have the wrong mindset, that feels like the bondage, but that is what is bringing you free from the bondage.

    Kathy: OK, and then the next part of the article is called “Freedom to make our own choices.” “We have our free will. We have full freedom to make our own choices. But we are still responsible for the outcome of our choices. When we choose according to our own free will, time after time, we have opportunity to see where our choices lead, and how things turn out. We get a chance to see how good or bad our choices were. In this way we learn lessons from previous experiences and learn to make better and better choices as time goes by. In this way God trains us and makes us into unique individuals!”

    Julia: Just the way it ends there, that God is making us into unique individuals. Is there a stronger argument for the freedom that’s in the gospel than that? God’s not making us into church drones. You know what I mean? There’s not this, “This is what a Christian looks like, and everybody needs to look like this.” God’s given us personalities on purpose …

    Kathy: And within those personalities we come to the fruit of the Spirit and the virtues of Christ.

    Julia: Exactly.

    Kathy: We purify the sin, we all have that body of sin, and when we’re cleansed by the power of the Spirit and by the grace of God we’re cleansed from that, and then these personalities become pure and like it says, then we have the opportunity to bless the others, right, and to be a help and a joy.

    Julia: Without this ugly sin getting in the way. Well, and then that leads right into the next section…

    Kathy: Which is “Freedom for goodness.” I love this part.

    Kathy: “Free to do as much good as we want! Sin is what hinders our ability to be and do good to others. When we aren’t a slave to our impatience, temper, envy, etc., we can bless and be good without limit. God is incredibly good to give us so much freedom in Christ. If we use it right, we will come to peace, joy, and righteousness in all that we do.”

    Julia: And this is, and in this list of things here, we aren’t a slave to impatience, temper, envy, and I think, a big one that’s actually not mentioned here, is just selfishness. We’re just so selfish by nature. And when we want to have good relationships with the people around us, whether it’s family, friends, co-workers, whatever it is, and we want to be good to them, it is only sin that gets in the way of that.

    Kathy: Well, I mean, that’s exactly what Paul wrote in Romans too, right? That when he goes to do the good, he finds the evil present.

    Julia: Romans 7?

    Kathy: I think it’s Romans 7, yeah. And we do, right? We want to do good for people, and we want, for example, maybe with our co-workers at work, and we want to be good to them and we want to show the light of the gospel through our lives, right? And then we come into situations and all of a sudden, we find that we’re impatient with them. Or we’re tempted to be impatient with them, rather I should say. So, I want to be good, but I find that evil present. But the amazing thing is that I don’t have to act according to that. And we’ve talked about that already, but it just … So then, I pray for help and I pray for power, I go to the throne of grace and I get the help to overcome that, when I find that evil present. And then I don’t have to react that way.

    Julia: And then you’re free to do good without it being smeared with traces of sin coming through.

    Kathy: Yeah, self-seeking.

    Julia: And that’s the only way to be a real blessing.

    Kathy: Yeah. So I think, to define what liberty in Christ is, it’s that liberty to live according to God’s working in my own life, and that freedom to not commit sin.

    Julia: And actually, I think, if I were to maybe put it in a nutshell, the difference between seeing it as freedom and seeing it as bondage comes down to whether I have the desire to do God’s will. The Apostle Paul talks about putting off the old man, and putting on the new man, and that is that point we make, that decision where we decide that we are done serving our flesh and that we want to do God’s will. That can be the work of a moment, and as soon as we flip our mindset like that – because that’s what it is, it’s a mindset flip – then this gospel becomes freedom. Until then, it’s heavy and it sounds like rules, because all you see is what I can’t do, what I can’t do, what I can’t do. But as soon as you flip your mindset, it’s, “This is what I come free from! This is what I come free from! This is what I can do now! This is how I can bless better! This is how I can be good to the others. This is how I can become more like Jesus!” And it becomes freedom, whereas before, all you saw was what you are not able to do anymore.

    So, that’s what we had for today. If you want to read more, get into more about that, actually you can read in Galatians 4, 5, and 6. There’s a lot about this freedom that Paul writes.

    Kathy: You can also go into the website and read this full article for yourself, if you’d like. We’ll put a link in the episode description today. The article is called “The truly free Christian.” So, we really love to hear from our listeners, so in iTunes you can go in and leave us a review if you want, or let us know what topic we should talk about.

    Julia: That would be awesome.

    Kathy: Or let us know what your favorite episode so far has been. If you have a favorite article on the website that you’d like to hear in a podcast. Just any feedback or review at all. We’d love to hear from you. So thanks again for listening, and we’ll see you next time.

    Julia: Bye everyone!