If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free….Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:31-36)
On July 4, Americans commemorate the Declaration of Independence written in 1776. The original thirteen colonies resolved to be free and independent states, no longer under allegiance to King George of Britain. It’s good for us to be free from England’s monarch. But now is a good time to remember that Jesus’ followers have freedom in Him; we are never independent of Him.
First, here’s an illustration about our liberty in Christ and then some Scripture teaching. If you missed it, you can go back and read Juneteenth and Liberty in Christ on this same theme.
Robert Salzman was a 51-year-old ex-convict. His childhood was horrifying and he spent most of his adult life in prison. After being released, Salzman struggled to make a new life outside prison, but in 2010 he had amazing experience. While riding on a train, Salzman was “found” by Rashaad Ernesto Green, a writer and director searching for someone to play a tough-looking former convict in an upcoming movie. After an audition, Salzman got a key role for the film.
In the months afterward, Salzman still found it hard to believe that he had actually been released from his prison life. In between filming times at a Long Island penitentiary, Salzman fell asleep on a cot in a prison cell. When he awakened, he was confused and thought he was still incarcerated and started weeping in despair. Then Salzman slowly remembered that he was now a free man. He was overwhelmed with joy, knowing he could leave the cramped cell and walk out the prison doors to enjoy his new life of freedom.1
All who repent and believe on Jesus are free, liberated, emancipated in Him. Christ has purchased for believers freedom from the penalty of our sin, from God’s wrath, and from the curse of the Lord’s moral law. Regardless of our past crimes against God, known to the whole world or known only to the Lord and us, we can leave slavery to sin and condemnation behind us and joyfully walk in newness of life in Christ. We are free in Him, but never independent of Him.
Consider several realities about liberty in Jesus:
Christ Himself Is the Truth Who Sets Us Free. He is the source of all truth, the perfect standard of all that is right, good, and beautiful. Jesus frees His followers from sin’s death sentence, from our self-deception, and from Satan’s accusing lies. Christ brings us into eternal life with God through His sinless life, His crucifixion and atoning death, His bodily resurrection, His eternal alive-ness, His presence with us, His ongoing help to us, His prayers for us, and His certain bodily return for us. “Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.”2
Jesus Also Frees Us from the Power of Sin. Rom 6:22—“Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” Sin has a way of enslaving us, controlling us, dominating us. Christ breaks the power of reigning sin and frees us from that slavery to make us the people that God created and saved us to be. If anyone is joined to Jesus by saving faith in Him, we are new creatures, reborn and renewed by the God the Holy Spirit. Our old ways of life are gone; we are not the same anymore. New life in Christ has begun and continues to grow!3
Freedom in Jesus is Freedom to Obey God. Ps 119:45—”I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” Christ doesn’t give us freedom to do what we want, but freedom to follow Him in paths of righteousness. We are saved by God’s grace alone, through faith in Jesus alone, not by our own efforts or works. And Christ gives us a new heart and puts His Holy Spirit in us and moves us to follow His decrees and be careful to keep His laws.4 With the Spirit dwelling in us, Christians want to obey Christ out of grateful love for Him. And when we stumble, we will not fall away from Him. We will be lovingly caught and held in His mighty hands and outstretched arms.5
Freedom in Christ is Freedom to Serve Him. Gal 5:1-14—”You were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love…. Love your neighbor as yourself.” Again, Christians are never free to do whatever we please; that would lead us back into slavery to our selfish desires and foolish rebellion against God. Because of Christ’s work for us and the Spirit’s work in us, we are now free to live unselfishly. This was hopeless for us before, but now Jesus says, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”6 Christian life is liberty under Christ’s leadership, never independent of Him.
Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” And we say, “In service which your will appoints there are no bonds for me; My inner heart is taught the truth that makes your children free; A life of self-renouncing love is one of liberty.”7
Go in peace, beloved. Enjoy your liberty in Christ today and use your freedom to serve others in Jesus’ name!
Notes (various translations used): 1 Corey Kilgannon, “Sidewalk Is His Prison Yard,” The New York Times (3-11-2011). 2 Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream. 3 2 Cor 5:17. 4 Ezek 36:26-27. 5 Deut 4:34; 5:15; 7:19; 11:2; 26:8; John 10:28-29. 6 Luke 18:27. 7 From Anna Waring’s hymn: “Father, I Know That All My Life.” Anna’s life was full of suffering and pain, but she didn’t give in to self-pity. She ministered in two prisons for many years, remembering Christ’s call to visit those who are incarcerated.