For freedom Christ has set us free! I graduated from school 12 years ago. The next day I rode past a school bus near my school; “Ha! I never have to do that again,” I thought, “I’m free!” Young and free, the whole world before this teenager; work or study, adventure, love, fear and danger; this young adult: free. But free for what? Last week we heard that God’s Law was our guardian, like a harsh schoolmaster; yet now that Christ has come you are free! Free from school, free to go out and live, free to make your own choices. But what choices will you make? Will you respect your old schooling, or make a new way? What now will you do?
Today there is so much freedom across the western world. You are free to study, free to work, free to own land, free to marry whoever, free to divorce, free to do so much that our ancestors even 200years ago were not free to do. So much freedom, so much choice that people are creating their own answers as to what they are free to do. But we don’t always make good choices, if you are free to travel the world, free to live as a different gender, free to work or to just brood in a basement; if you are free yet don’t stand firm in what is good, true and beautiful then you submit yourself again to slavery, burdens and suffering. We hear this in the news all the time, the pain amongst broken families, the troubles of substance addictions, riots and shootings; those people who, not standing firm, are influenced, pushed this way and that, by so many things, dreams, movements, politics, ideals, idols. So many, being free, submit themselves to these false and deadly gods.
Is this the freedom we are called to in Christ? No! Of course not! For you were called to freedom and life, not the burdens of sin and death; so do not use your freedom as an opportunity for these things, rather serve one another through love. (Galatians 5:13). The devil is defeated, yes, but that does not mean that the demons are not now at work. We are tempted by the ads we see and hear, by your body’s selfish desires, even by stray thoughts in our heads; by our enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil. These are what our guardian, our school master, taught and protected against. God’s Law prepares us for life with Christ. Now that we live free of our guardian; will we respect it and the Holy Spirit who gave it? Or do you freely submit yourself to sin? To porn, impurity, sensuality, sorcery, strife, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, and things like these? These things trap you, enslave you, and kill you. Perhaps your body desires them, yet these acts, doing or causing these things and fulfilling those desires does not bring peace only pain. These evil works destroy the gifts God has lavished on you, doing them kills faith and drives away the Holy Spirit, this is why Paul can write that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. God does not save you so that you can kill yourself again. Christ does not give you life so that you can throw it away. The Holy Spirit does not give such great gifts, even faith, even Himself, so that you can despise Him and throw Him out. You are not free to sin.
You are free to live the life of Christ. You here today, forgiven and made new in Jesus, are free to go out and live a life free from submission to sin, death and the devil. To live in accord with the Holy Spirit and with the Law He gave. For all who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. This is why you broken people come together to be reformed by God’s Word, to be conformed to Christ. So, you are now free to respect all of God’s Word, the most troubling or obscure text of scripture and chiefly the Gospel of Christ; and free to respect all of God’s Works, His allowance of all your pain and suffering and chiefly the Cross of Christ. For it is in His Gospel and His Cross that you find the answer to your sin. It is God’s Word and Work that heal you. Jesus has defeated your sin and death, and the demonic powers at the Cross; this Gospel is given for you clearly and assuredly in Baptism, in the Absolution, His words returning you to the grace of your Baptism, and in Holy Communion. In Baptism your sinful self is drowned, slain again by Christ’s Word in the Absolution; and in Holy Communion, you share in Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, the defeat of sin, the devil and death. The Holy Spirit either comes into you, or if we have not chased Him out, sustains the life of Christ in you. This is the wonder of God’s Word and Work for you here today; He promises you He has dealt with your sin, He has given you life stronger than death, He has cut you free from any demonic influence. Today you are free; For this freedom Christ has set you free!
So now we live by the Spirit! He produces in us who trust Him love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. There is no law, no crushing burden, that comes with the peace of God, joy does not hurt. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. If Christ has set you free from sin and worry, live as the righteous and faithful people He has freed you to be.
And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now unto life everlasting. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.