Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Freedom in Christ

Fourth Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Freedom in Christ”
For the week of  December 4 -10, 2011
Galatians. 5:1–15
The Christian is "called unto liberty" and that freedom comes only through Jesus Christ.  Notice how clear Jesus makes this point.  "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;  And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free....Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.  And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.  If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:31-36).
Notice some key words that have been italicized in the above passage.  From what is the Christian set free?  It is the very thing to which he was in bondage - SIN.  According to Jesus, He sets us free from sin, which the Bible defines as "transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4).  John fearlessly affirms that Jesus "was manifested to take away our sins" and "whosoever abideth in him sinneth not" (1John 3:5, 6).  The reason for this is self evident for, "He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning.  For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.  Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.  In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God" (1 John 3:8-10).  The line of distinction between the children of God and the children of the Devil is made simple by God’s word.  The children of God keep His commandments and do righteous works, whereas the children of Satan reject God’s commandments (even if it is only one) and their works are works of unrighteousness - sin.  They are "the children of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2).
The entire sixth chapter of Romans addresses this very issue.  Observe how plain Paul makes this great biblical doctrine of deliverance from sin.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?...our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.  For he that is dead is freed from sin....reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.  Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.  For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.  What then?  shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace?  God forbid.  Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?...Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness....For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness....But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.  For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
--Romans 6:1-23
We have the promise of God through His word, therefore, we have the deliverance.  We have been set at liberty from sin, not at liberty to sin.  Yet many today use their "liberty for an occasion to the flesh."  As such, they eat what they want, drink what they want, do what they want, etc.  In short they seek their own will.  They choose to be willingly ignorant that we are freed from the curse of the law, not obligation to it.
Galatians 5:16, 17 has often been misunderstood and misapplied.  Are the impossible things  that we “cannot do” the good things, or the bad things?  Many believe it is the good that we cannot do.  What a terrible state that would be, not to be able to do good and forced to go through life doing only evil.  However, verse 16 makes it clear.  What Paul is saying is that those who walk in the Spirit, will not do evil.  "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).
We are so accustomed to running our own lives, we often ignore, resist, or reject the leading and promptings of the Holy Spirit, but if we allow the Holy Spirit to have control of our lives, we cannot do the works of the flesh.  For example, the Spirit of God will never lead anyone to lie, steal, cheat, commit adultery, etc.  Having been crucified with Christ, the carnal mind is put to death, and being now spiritually minded we walk in the Spirit and "sin shall not have dominion over you" (Romans 6:14).  "But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life" (Romans 6:22).  Those who reject and resist the Bible teaching that we can fully obey and do good works have never fully experienced the power of God’s grace and His Spirit.
Which is greater, the Spirit or the flesh?  If we believe, as the Bible teaches, that the Spirit of God is all powerful, then it stands to reason that the power of the Spirit can overcome the desires of the flesh.  God’s word gives us this assurance:  "Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4).  Do you believe this?  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can overcome the lusts of the flesh.  Not only this, we must overcome them, for unless we walk in the Spirit, we are in a state of disaster; we are under the condemnation of God.  However, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Romans 8:1).
Being "in Christ" is not a one-time event, but a moment-by-moment choice – a continual surrender of our will to His.  If we are walking after the flesh, we are not in Christ and are under condemnation.  "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.  But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.  Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his...for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Romans 8:8, 9, 14).
“The Sons of God” are distinguished from worldlings by the fact that they are walking in the Spirit rather than the flesh.  Remember, "the Christian's life is not simply a modification of the old, but a total transformation, because the old man is dead.  There is a death to self and sin, and a new life altogether.  This change can be brought about only by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit" (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 172).  "When the Spirit of God takes possession of the heart, it transforms the life.  Sinful thoughts are put away, evil deeds are renounced; love, humility, and peace take the place of anger, envy, and strife.  Joy takes the place of sadness, and the countenance reflects the light of heaven" (Ibid., p. 173).
Our Lord longs for us to put away all doubt, and in simple faith accept the promise of His Spirit that we might be "changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18).  Yet the "mystery of iniquity" has such a control over the minds of the multitude that they are demonically driven to vehemently resist or reject the glorious good news.  We fail to see that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the moral image of God is to be perfected in the character.  Thus, while bearing the name "Christian," we perform the "works of the flesh" rather than exhibiting the "fruit of the Spirit."
Just as it is impossible for one who is led of the Spirit to be under the condemnation of the law, so, it is impossible for one to transgress the law and come under condemnation while being led of the Spirit.  Remember, the Holy Spirit is not the minister of sin, but is the minister of righteousness.  The Spirit will, therefore, never lead anyone to sin or break God’s law.  The Spirit does not bring them again under the condemnation of death.  "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Romans 8:1).
--Joe Gresham