What Is “Freedom in Christ”?

What Is “Freedom in Christ”?

James R. Aist

“If you remain in My word, then you are truly My disciples. You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

Freedom has been defined as the right of enjoying all of the privileges of membership or citizenship, the right or the power to engage in certain actions without control or interference. The Bible says we (Christians) have freedom in Christ, and that it is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1). We have this freedom if we remain in (believe, adhere to and obey) His word. But what, exactly, is this freedom that we have in Christ? Even apart from Christ, mankind has a natural freedom to make decisions and choices and to think and say most anything he wants. Our freedom in Christ must be a different kind or expression of freedom.

So then, in Christ, what exactly are we free from? Here is a short list I have put together for you to ponder:

1. We are free from the “law of sin and death.” This law is stated succinctly in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death…” So, if you die in your sins, your payment will be (spiritual) death. But, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). Therefore, we no longer have to fear death (1 Corinthians 15:55)!

2. We are free from bondage to sin. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). Who among us has not experienced the grip that sin can have on a person? If not “nipped in the bud”, sin can become more powerful than our will to resist it. Thankfully, Paul has pointed us to the solution to the power of sin, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin, because anyone who has died has been freed from sin” (Romans 6:6-7). How glorious it is to walk in the freedom from sin!

3. We are free from the burden of the Law. The Old Testament Law served to convict mankind of sin, but did nothing to save him from the consequences of it, because “…all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The Law is a burden too heavy for anyone to stand up under, but Jesus has made a way out of this dilemma for us, as Paul explains, “When we were in the flesh, the passions of sin, through the law, worked in our members to bear fruit leading to death. But now we are delivered from the law, having died to things in which we were bound…” (Romans 7:5-6a). The burden has been lifted!

4. We are free from our past. Because we have all sinned (Romans 3:23), most of us have built up a backlog of unforgiven sins by the time God saves us. In the “conversion” process, we confess our sins to God and repent of them. And, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). At that moment, all of our past sins are forgiven and we are set free, forever, from the guilt and shame of our past life. This is what we refer to as “justification”, and our relationship with God is, at that point in time, “Just as if we had never sinned.” We are freed from our sinful past because Jesus paid the price for our sins by His substitutionary death on the cross. There is no other way for us to be freed from our past; Jesus made the way for us!

5. We are free from the veil of separation. Until Jesus was nailed to the cross, there was a veil in the Temple separating the people from the presence of God in the Holy of Holies (Exodus 26:31-33). But while Jesus was still on the cross, that veil was torn in two at the middle (Luke 23:45), giving us free access to God, so that now we are instructed to “…come with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). No more layer of priests standing between us and God’s throne of mercy and grace!

6. We are free from self-serving motives. I was blessed beyond words when this revelation was given to me. All religions, except Christianity, teach that our good works earn us a place in heaven with God when we die. This false doctrine of “salvation by works” makes it virtually impossible to do a good work that is not, at least in part or at some level, motivated by the perceived need to earn your way to heaven. Thus, apart from the uniquely Christian doctrine of salvation by grace alone, good works are done with a self-serving motive, not with a pure love for either God or for the one being blessed. But, Jesus already did the work – all of it – that is required for a born-again Christian to qualify for heaven (click HERE), and there is no good work we can do that will improve on that. Jesus declared from the cross “It is finished” (John 19:30), and so, it is finished! Since we are already guaranteed a spot in heaven (1 John 5:13), we are now free to do good works for pure, unselfish motives, e.g., it will please God, it is the right thing to do, someone needs help, etc. And that, my friends, is what “love your neighbor” is really about! Paul put it this way, “But now we are delivered from the law, having died to things in which we were bound, so that we may serve in newness of the Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter of the law” (Romans 7:6). Jesus “paid it all”, that we may be free to truly “love one another” with pure motives!

My friends, I believe that these are six of the most important freedoms in Christ that we have as born-again believers. Perhaps you will want to add to the list. In any case, I trust that you have been blessed, as I have, by thinking on these things with me for a few moments.

(To read more of my BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)

Forgiving as We Are Forgiven

Image result for forgive free images

Forgiving as We Are Forgiven

 James R. Aist

 “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

What does it mean to “forgive” someone, and how can we know that we have truly forgiven them? In Ephesians 4:32, we are instructed to forgive as God has forgiven us. So, answers to these questions can surely be found in an understanding of how God forgives us. Let’s go to the Scriptures to find out how God’s forgiveness of our sins is portrayed there.

First, let’s check out what Hebrews 10:16-18 has to say in this regard: “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.” Here, we see clearly that “remember no more” is indeed referring to forgiven sins that no longer need a blood sacrifice (because Jesus paid the price for them with His own blood). But, it does not say that God cannot remember them (i.e., that He has amnesia); it says that He will not remember them (i.e., by choice). And Romans 4:8 says, “Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” Once again, we see that it is God’s will at work here, not amnesia. And it clarifies the matter for us by explaining that the Lord will never “count our sins against us.” So, we see that when God says that He will “remember our forgiven sins no more”, He is not saying that He will forget them in the sense of amnesia, but that, by an overt act of His sovereign will, He will, intentionally, never again bring them to His mind and count them against us. That, in effect, blots them out from our “record” in heaven. That is what God requires of us: by an overt act of our will, we must resolve to stop bringing their sins to our mind and to stop holding them against him/her. And, when we do this, we are bringing ourselves into obedience with the “golden rule”, which commands us to “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31).

But, let’s not leave it at that. Let’s flesh this out a bit with more detail, so that we can get a better overall picture of what true forgiveness does and does not “look like” on the level of human experience. To do this, consider first what true forgiveness is not. It is not pretending that we cannot remember what was done to us. It is not pretending that the wrong done against us was not really wrong. It is not pretending that we were not offended. And it is not pretending that, when reminded of the offense, we don’t feel the same feelings as we did before. True forgiveness is honest and real. When we have forgiven someone, we no longer allow our minds to obsess with what they did. We no longer allow our minds to dwell on how we feel about it. We no longer allow ourselves to rehearse their sins in our mind, or to anyone else, to get sympathy or to avenge the wrongdoings. We do not allow ourselves to hope for anything bad to happen to them. We treat them with the respect, courtesy and honor that is due to everyone made in the image of God (i.e., everybody), even if we don’t feel like it. And we pray that God will bless them with all good things. In short, we follow the “golden rule” with respect to them, despite what they did and how we feel about it.

Having said that, let me insert a few caveats to try and balance out this brief treatment of forgiveness. First, forgiveness is often very difficult to accomplish, and it may take a long time to get there, so don’t give up when you fail in one aspect or another. Just ask God to forgive you, re-double your efforts and try to do better next time. Second, you may experience doubts that you have really forgiven. When that happens, consider whether or not you are doing what forgiveness looks like. If you are not, then you have more work to do. If, however, you are doing what forgiveness looks like, then it is probably just Satan trying to discourage and condemn you because you can still feel the hurt. Remember that Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). Do not believe him, and continue to walk in forgiveness. Your feelings will, eventually, catch up with your (continuing) acts of forgiveness. Third, forgiveness does not always mean that you have to renew a broken relationship. For example, a marriage that is “on the rocks” because of adultery does not have to be resumed, and a spouse who was physically abused does not have to return to the relationship, just because they have forgiven the wrongs that were done. Forgiveness is required (“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6:15), but continuing with the relationship is not; that is a separate, albeit related, issue. And fourth, forgiving someone does not necessarily mean that you do not want to see justice done. If the law has been broken by the person who sinned, the law will require justice through punishment of the guilty party, and you can stand for justice. But, you are required by the law of God (e.g., Matthew 6:15) to forgive them for what they did.

Finally, let’s keep in mind what Jesus said about this: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43-45).  Because all have sinned (Romans 3:23), not one of us has a right to hold back forgiveness from anyone for anything done against us. The only one who ever had that right was the only righteous One, Jesus Christ, and He said, instead, “Father forgive them…” (Luke 23:34).

(To read more of my biblical teachings, click HERE)

The Season’s Touch

Violin Stock PhotoThe Season’s Touch

By Angie Brown, Guest Author

The unshaven elderly man, dressed in a double layer of overcoats, a woolen knit hat pulled snugly over his ears, and black unbuckled overshoes, stood on the corner of a busy main street. He was standing with his back close to the massive building where the throng of people were coming and going near the double door entrance. The woolen mittens covering his hands held a songbook. It was the Christmas season and he stood erect, singing lustily, in a deep haunting voice. What was so unusual was that he was not asking for a deed of mercy. He was singing with delight, as could be seen from the joy on his face. Occasionally, he picked up his small violin and brought forth a sweet musical arrangement while he sang. His excellent baritone voice was noticed, and the moving crowd slowed its pace as they approached.

Alex Kallenbach, the vice president of Maier, Jones and Kallenbach law firm, was hurrying from the parking ramp to his office on the fourth floor of the building. He had observed the elderly gentleman before, but this morning, as he looked at the singer, he stopped and listened. He engaged him in conversation. The singer pulled his mittens off and flipped through a few pages of his book, and said, “Here’s a favorite. Would you like to hear it”? “Sure,” was the reply. As the strong, low-pitched voice started “We Three Kings”, Alex joined in and finished the song with the stranger. They laughed, shook hands and Alex thanked him, going through the doors of the building. “Good morning,” Alex sang the greeting, happily seating himself at his desk. His partners took a moment to look in his direction. “A.K. must be in a rather good frame of mind today,” they thought. The day passed swiftly and surprisingly well.

The next morning, there he was again at the corner, the violin was sending out its message, and again the glow on the singer’s face was evident. Alex stopped beside the stranger and joined in with “Joy to the World.” He was having so much fun that he continued singing the next Christmas song as well. Finishing that, he picked up his briefcase and walked the four flights of stairs to his office instead of taking the elevator. He wanted a few more minutes to bask in the atmosphere of the lightness he felt.

All week long, Alex was filled with energy and enthusiasm. Every morning, he sang with the stranger. His zeal was contagious. Others observed the new attitude as they worked. The clerks next door in the advertising offices walking by heard the jovial tone coming from the law office and wondered what was going on. At the end of the lengthy hall in the medical office, the secretary mentioned, “There’s a whole new air on this fourth floor.” By the end of the week, she too found herself happily encouraging the patients who came in.

Every door on the fourth floor was dressed in fresh evergreens with bright, red ribbons. This year, all the offices in the building were having a party together in the restaurant on the ground floor. The morning of the party, Alex, as usual, accompanied the singing gentleman with a few carols and then he said, “Sir, you are a trained baritone. Surely you’ve been singing before, haven’t you?” “Oh, yes,” was the answer. “I’d like to invite you to our Christmas party this afternoon at five p.m. Bring your violin,” said Alex. The man smiled a grateful “Thank you,” as the lawyer entered the building.

Alex mentioned the stranger to the others, and it was decided that the collection they usually take to benefit some needy person should be given to the singer. At five o’clock, the party was in full swing when they heard the sweet strains of “O Holy Night” coming from the hallway. Opening the door, the crowd found no one there, but the old violin was there, with a note tucked into the strings which read: “Wise Men Still Seek Him.”

(For more short stories by Angie Brown, click HERE)

The War of the Wills within Us

The War of the Wills within Us

James R. Aist

Introduction

“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.” (Romans 7:21-23). Paul is speaking here of various “laws” at work within him (and, by extension, within us). And, like us, he senses that there are opposing forces within us that are at war against each other. How can we make sense out of these inner struggles, and how can we turn a better understanding of them to our advantage as we “work out our salvation with fear and trembling”? 

The Wills within Us

Perhaps it would help if we first try to identify and define the different “laws” at work within us. To do this, I find it useful to think of them as “wills” instead of “laws.” If we subscribe to the idea of the triune nature of man as spirit, soul (mind, will and emotions) and body, then we can identify three different wills of man by re-examining the structure of Romans 7:22-23 in a slightly different way, as follows: For in my inner being I delight in God’s law (will of my spirit); but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind (will of my soul) and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me (will of my body). This analysis suggests that everyone is born with three wills: the supernatural will of the human spirit, the natural will of the human soul and the natural will of the human body. Each of these wills is able to influence what we do and don’t do in life (i.e., our behavior), and we can easily get a sense that they are often at war with each other when we are tempted to do something that goes against our “morals” or “ethics”, regardless of how we may have come by them. If this is, indeed, the “order of command” in a person — spirit commands soul commands body — then, for example, the will of the body may be to get drunk on wine because it feels good, the will of the soul may not think it is a good idea to get drunk because it is harmful to your health, and the will of the spirit is left to mediate between these warring wills and make the final decision. Inevitably, one of the warring wills will lose out.

Enter Even More Wills!

Unfortunately, because of the fall of man, our natural inclination is to do evil all the time (Genesis 6:5); we are born with a fallen conscience and are at enmity with God (James 4:4). But God has come up with a remedy for this problem: we call it “salvation.” In the process of being “born again”, we receive a new human spirit from God (click HERE), a spirit that is morally pure, delights in the things of God and is not at enmity with Him. But wait, it doesn’t stop there. We also receive the Holy Spirit of God (Acts 2:38) who takes up residence within our new human spirit and has His own will. Now we have not three, but four, wills within us: the supernatural Holy Spirit of God, the supernatural will of our new human spirit, the natural will of the human soul and the natural will of the human body. And the order of command now becomes Holy Spirit commands human spirit commands soul commands body. This is, of course, the way God intends for it to work, and to the extent that we are obedient to the Holy Spirit within us, it does so. But, unfortunately, the “old man” doesn’t give up easily, and so we have to go through a process of “sanctification” to align our wills with the will of the Holy Spirit living within us. Thankfully, it is the work of the Holy Spirit living in us to sanctify us (2 Thessalonians 2:13) and to “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Summary

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)

(For more articles on BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)