What Are You Doing With Your Freedom?
So you’ve been set free from spiritual slavery. Because of what Christ has done, you are free from the slavery to sin, and you are free from God’s condemnation. Truly free. Now what? What are you doing with your freedom? There are really only two options: You are serving yourself or you are serving others.
In Galatians 5:13, Paul warns that you can take your freedom and use it as an opportunity for the flesh, or, in other words, as an excuse to sin. It seems crazy to think that someone who has been set free from slavery would want to go back to it, but sin can be seductive and deceptive. Here’s how it happens: You take your eyes off of Jesus, forgetting that you are a sinner in desperate need of grace. You forget his love and how he is the one who truly satisfies. As that happens, you start to think you’re better than others. Your love for the Lord and for others wanes and your love for yourself grows. Out of this, sin happens. It might be reading a trashy romance novel, yelling at your kids, or even doing ministry to impress people. It can be a multitude of things…feel free to fill in the blank! But, regardless, it all boils down to one thing: serving yourself.
Paul’s warning intensifies. In vs. 15, he says that when we engage in this downward spiral of sin, we are actually biting and devouring one another, and we will ultimately consume each other! When my mom was a girl, she and her brother each had a pet snake. They put one mouse into the cage, and both snakes latched onto it. When they met in the middle (think the spaghetti scene in Lady and the Tramp), the bigger snake kept right on eating. He ate the mouse and his fellow snake. This is just what sin is like. We get so focused on the “mouse” (whatever that might be for you) that we don’t even notice that we are gobbling each other up.
Praise the Lord, there is another option. You can take your freedom and use it as an opportunity to serve others in love. And you can do that even if you are in this very moment repenting of serving yourself! Here’s how it happens: You see Jesus and what he has done to serve you in love again. Do you realize that the Son of God was willing to give up the honor and glory of eternity to become human… for you? Do you remember that as a human, he was despised and counted as worthless, to the point of being nailed to a cross… for you? And do you know that he did that fully knowing all of your failures and all the times (even the times today) that you decided to use your freedom as a chance to serve yourself? He saw you at your worst and still he said something like, “I love you completely and forever, no matter what. And, even in the light of all that it cost me, it is my joy to set you free from spiritual slavery.”
As you see Christ at the cross again, it changes you. It changes your heart. Every time you remind yourself of the gospel, the Holy Spirit is at work enabling you to move past mere head knowledge and apply it deeply. As he does this, your love for him and for others grows. And this is yet another way that the Lord continues to serve you in love over and over.
Out of this, you are ready to serve others in love. It might be gently restoring a brother or sister who is sinning, with an attitude of humility that knows you might fall into the same pit. It might mean giving up your comfort for the sake of another. Or perhaps doing the job no one else wants to do. It could be that you give someone else the position of honor you wanted. But it all boils down to one thing: serving others in love. And, instead of consuming each other, you will cause each other to thrive.
The wonderful news is that Jesus really has set you free from the slavery of sin and the unbearable burden of condemnation. Plus, he’s given you the gift of the Spirit to make this truth a tangible reality right now. You are truly free. What are you doing with you freedom today?