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by Phil Ware

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    In just a few more days, it will be Independence Day in the United States. July 4 always carries a special meaning, but this year it will clearly mean more. With many of us having someone we know “in harm’s way” in Iraq this Independence Day, the value of freedom with peace has added meaning and importance. Winning the peace is always harder than winning the war, and the ongoing hostilities in Iraq are proving this true once again. Freedom is always much easier to declare than to realize. I would encourage you to pray for freedom with peace as this weekend approaches, and not just for those in Iraq, but also for those in the Middle East and also those in war-torn and strife-riddled regions in Africa. Freedom and peace are precious, but hard won, blessings.

    As Christians, our freedom with peace was a hard won blessing, too. The Son of God on the Cross of Calvary purchased it with his blood. He set us free from the “law of sin and death” and “destroyed him who had the power of death” so that we could enjoy peace, grace, and freedom as blessings from God. Yet for us, freedom is also much easier to declare than to realize. The apostle Paul knew that our freedom was wonderful but dangerous. He had seen it abused and was terribly concerned when he wrote the churches in Galatia:

So Christ has really set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. ... For you have been called to live in freedom — not freedom to satisfy your sinful nature, but freedom to serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:1, 13 NLT)

So Christ has really set us free.
    One way for us to lose our freedom in Christ is to exchange grace for rule keeping. Because we are not used to righteousness lived by the power of the Holy Spirit (cf.Romans 8:1-4), some of us get nervous and want to provide protection for ourselves and others and build us a set of rules to keep us from breaking God’s will. While this is an honorable desire, it doesn’t work. This is exactly what the Pharisees did with their “hedge about the Law.” They established a set of interpretations and traditions to keep people as far away from breaking the Law as possible. Before long, however, these traditions became more important than the people and more binding than the Law itself. Keeping these traditions became their basis for feeling righteously superior to others. Jesus loathed this practice and sharply rebuked the Pharisees for what they had done. We, too, can exchange our freedom in Christ for a set of man-made rules and traditions. No matter how well intentioned those rules and intentions, they kill the freedom we have in Christ and destroy the peace being in Christ brings us. Paul actually calls this “falling from grace” (Galatians 5:4) and his whole letter to the Galatians is written to address his concerns.

    However, Paul is equally concerned that we not lose our freedom in another way. We can turn our freedom into an excuse to do whatever we want, no matter those whom it may impact and influence. While we have every right to do many things, when those actions damage another in Christ or harmfully influence “a brother or sister for whom Christ died,” then we have sinned. (1 Corinthians 8:7-13) Freedom is a precious and costly gift that we must handle with loving responsibility. It is not freedom to get whatever our baser selves desire, but freedom serve each other in love. (Galatians 5:13)

    While this is a time to celebrate the freedom we have as people, let’s also renew our commitment to the freedom we have in Christ. Let’s hear the apostle Paul’s warning about the dangers to freedom — legalism and loveless disregard for others. Let’s renew our commitment to live with loving freedom in the Kingdom of God. Let’s recommit ourselves to living with loving concern toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. To do less is to take for granted the high cost of freedom that Jesus purchased on the hill of Calvary.

 
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      Title: ""
      Author: Phil Ware
      Publication Date: June 30, 2003


 
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