“To as many as received Him, He gave the power to become God’s sons” – John 1:12
BAY CITY, MI – As we celebrate our nation’s independence on July 4th, Christians have a unique opportunity to renew their commitment to Christian freedom, which this verse describes as receiving both the power and potential to become more like Christ. The disciples of Jesus’ time totally misunderstood the concept of freedom in Christ. They would ask “can I divorce my wife?”, or “can I sue the person who owes me money?”, or “do I have to forgive my neighbor?” However, such questions totally miss the issue of Christian freedom.
Freedom is not about “can I do what I want.” It’s about “how you can be more like Christ, not more like yourself.” It’s about “making God’s priorities your priorities…not the other way around.” It’s about “Christ setting you free…not about you setting yourself free.”
The modern day false prophets have tried to create a religion where man is God and God is the servant. Church attenders often believe that if they say nice things about God, He will wipe their board clean, get their daughter into a Top 5 college, and give them new marketing ideas. While false religions imply that God’s role is to feed their selfishness may experience temporary success, commitment to selfishness creates a sinkhole trap from which they will never be free.
It’s the same with ignoring God’s call to holy living. While sin can seem to be enjoyable, its pleasures are only for a short time. I recently had the “pleasure” of discovering that we had a cracked sewer line. We had to get down in the muck,dig out the line, and lift up the pipes. We hoped to eventually get to a place where the ground would be dry, but because the line was broken and continued to leak, the more we dug, the deeper the muck we had to stand in. Living life apart from God’s Spirit is the same way…that’s why Paul (Romans 6:1-5) notes that we are to be dead to sin, and righteous living alone will set us free.
Many Christians embrace selfishness or sinful living because they wish to avoid the inevitable conflicts that come from confronting sin in either their personal situation or in society. The children of Israel thought by avoiding conflict they would spare their children from pain (Numbers 14); instead, they doomed them to wander in the desert for two more generations. Christian freedom won’t stop the battles, but they will keep the battles from stopping you and that is freedom found only in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
The Romans thought being rich, powerful, educated, and in control they had everything, they had it all. And yet, the society that had all the power and wealth in the known world of that time used their “freedom” to become immoral, diseased, and corrupt. They savaged entire populations of people for their own gain, and eventually collapsed from internal rot and external attacks by weaker enemies. Paul recognized the real meaning of freedom in his writing to Philemon (1:10-21), which is highly instructive here…for all of the wealth and power of Rome, it was the slave who committed his life to Christ and was obedient to Him who was truly free.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bill Livingston is an HR graduate professor, Baptist historian, and former Michigan Baptist pastor. He and his wife Anne live in Bay City, Michigan.