Would You Be Free?

That word “revolution” gets thrown around often in these times. Not in a military or national sense has it been used, but in a social context to describe how we have cast off traditional definitions for new, and not always biblical, perspectives that flow out of the imaginations of humanity rather than the dictates of God’s Word. There was a famous speech by the American Patriot, Patrick Henry, on March 23, 1775, which any student will recognize from the date that it was spoken. It was spoken on the eve of the American Revolution. The great debate at this point in time is whether the American colonies would take up arms against Britain. It is evident that patriotism and religion are very closely entwined at the very beginning of the United States as it is today. Here, for the record, is Patrick Henry’s larger quote: 

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

It was this kind of fiery rhetoric (sounds like Joshua) that created the American War of Independence. It began with a quest for liberty. But there has always been a quest for liberty in the collective soul of humanity. Paul poses a question in Romans 7:24: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?” Paul knew what it was like to be bound. Perhaps he knew the stories of the Etruscan kings recounted by the poet Virgil. These kings would bind their captives in war to decomposing corpses. They would cry out from deliverance from a body that death had already claimed. Romans 8 has been described as theChristian's Declaration of Liberty:

Romans 8:1-4 1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (NIV)

Romans 8 is the high and holy ground of the Christian pilgrim. Chapter 8 signals that redemption has accomplished its goals for us: no guilt and no condemnation for the dominion of sin has been broken. Verse 2 introduces the two laws at work in the world: the old “law of sin and death” we know quite well for it is the law that exposes sin and pronounces the death sentence upon the guilty. Now we have “the law of the Spirit of life.” In these two statements are the essential difference Christ has graciously provided to humanity. The difference is simply between “life” and “death.” The proof of new “life” in Christ is freedom.

Paul the Pharisee needed freedom and didn’t know it. He was a strict ceremonialist, a religious zealot, but he realized he was bound. He came to a point in his life where he was smitten with a realization that the Law he observed could not save him.  He said in Romans 3:20, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law, we become conscious of sin.”  Paul knew about sin because the Law told him what sin was. We know about sin because of laws. The Ten Commandments tell us murder is sinful, the Criminal Code tells us driving under the influence is a crime, our moms tell us that snitching a stick of chewing gum in the candy store is wrong, rules of examinations tell us that cheating results in expulsion and failure. Throw away your list of sins and abandon your puny attempts to save yourself. 

If we were to tabulate the test scores of life, God would give us all a failing grade - a zero. What utter frustration for a man like Paul. He defended God. He extolled righteousness. But he failed to measure up. The stain of Adam's sin in the Garden of Eden was upon him and the Law told him how wrong he was. Yet the Law could only identify sin and condemn the sinner. It could not remove sin or save the sinner. That was Paul's dilemma when he cried out for salvation.

All of that changed on the Damascus Road when he met the risen Christ. He met the One who could cleanse him from sin and justify him in the presence of God. God could look at him through the sacrifice of Christ and declare Paul “not guilty.” For Paul that spelled freedom! When he cries out in chapter 7 verse 24, “Who shall deliver me from this body of death?” he doesn't stop there. Verse 25 begins, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

  • He is the author of freedom.
  • He is the giver of freedom.
  • He is the sustainer of freedom.
  • “He whom the Son sets free is free indeed.”

The hymn-writer said, “no condemnation now I dread, I am my Lord's and he is mine.” It does not say “no mistakes” or “no failures” or “no sins.” The power of the Gospel in wrapped up in the fact that because of Jesus Christ, because of the cross, we do not have to be condemned. That doesn't mean we never know what it is like to be guilty from something we do, but it does mean we do not have to bear the judgment for that. Here’s the reason:

  • every sin was atoned for on the cross
  • Christ took our judgment
  • we do not have to be condemned

Note: a condemned person is one declared guilty by the verdict of a judge and sentence passed upon them to pay for their crime.

The fact is we could not pay for our crime of sin; we could not satisfy God. Jesus satisfied God fully at Calvary. When we accept what He did for us we pass “from death unto life.” It is a fact that unless we understand this principle of justification we will never be happy in our Christian life. Many people never get truly free because they still carry the condemnation upon their shoulders for something that Jesus has forgiven them for. 

Emerson wrote: “If you would liberate me, you must be free.” I believe a Christian who is not truly free will not win others. In reality many people fall short of freedom because they refuse to forgive themselves. I am reporting today, on the basis of God's word, that we do not have to live with a crime that Jesus satisfied the penalty for. In Adam we were condemned; in Christ we are set free - WE ARE FREE FROM THE LAW OF SIN AND DEATH.

When the Emancipation Proclamation was taken to Mr. Lincoln by Secretary Seward, for the President’s signature, Mr. Lincoln took a pen, dipped it in the ink, moved his hand to the place for the signature, held it a moment, then removed his hand and dropped the pen. After a little hesitation, he again took up the pen and went through the same movement as before. 

 Mr. Lincoln then turned to Mr. Seward and said: “I have been shaking hands since nine o’clock this morning, and my right arm is almost paralyzed. If my name ever goes into history, it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it.  If my hand trembles when I sign the Proclamation, all who examine the document hereafter will say, “He hesitated.””

 He then turned to the table, took up the pen again, and slowly, firmly wrote “Abraham Lincoln,” with which the whole world is now familiar. 

 He then looked up, smiled, and said, “That will do.”

It was with a firm hand that Jesus signed our pardon. The cross does not shake with indecision!As He began his public ministry, He announced in Nazareth (Luke 4:18-19):  “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Most of us have read stories or watched police programs where officers refused to cross a country, a provincial or a national border because they would be out of their jurisdiction. “Out of jurisdiction” refers to an area where an officer has no authority, no right to exercise that authority. Grasp this: when we come to Christ we enter his jurisdiction. Paul refers to two jurisdictions with two sets of laws:

  • The jurisdiction of sin and death -  the offender is guilty and must pay a penalty for his crime. This is the jurisdiction of condemnation.  People who live there live with guilt of everything they have done and fear of what they will do to incur the wrath of God. They live in fear of breaking the law. 
  • The jurisdiction of the Spirit of life -  here Jesus Christ, the Great Emancipator (our Liberator) has paid for our crime, defeated sin in his own body and conquered death.  People who live here are released from the bondage of sin. They live with the reality of new life coursing through them and they live to freely serve the one who has set them free.

Point: When we meet Christ we leave the jurisdiction of condemnation ruled by sin and death and we are “born again” by the Spirit of God into the jurisdiction of glorious freedom ruled by the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us. Our passport to this new jurisdiction is...

  • stamped with the blood of Jesus Christ
  • it is witnessed to by the Holy Spirit
  • forever recorded in heaven where the Son of God sits at the right hand of the Father [Can I tell you something funny: People cringe when they bring me their passport photos, but God loves you even when you look like your passport picture!]

Note: Some would say, “Well pastor, sometimes I mess up, I make mistakes. Some days I don’t feel so hot! Does God send me back to this jurisdiction of sin and death?” Does he revoke my passport? Am I disowned and deported? Does God accept extradition papers from Satan? We are not in the family of God based on what we have done, we are there by virtue of a new relationship with our Heavenly Father.  We are adopted as His children and children make mistakes. Do we condemn our children when they make mistakes? No, we restore them. Listen to what John said to his flock,  “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2: 1)  Jesus sits on the right hand of the Father, not to condemn, but to intercede: to keep us free. Paul told the Galatians (5:13) “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty...” Therefore “reckon” yourself dead to sin and alive unto God. Count on God’s grace like money in the bank.

Let me offer you a paradox. WE HAVE FREEDOM THROUGH CONDEMNATION. Now it sounds like I've contradicted myself and Paul who said, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” But the truth is, we are not condemned because Jesus was. The ancient prophecies pointed to a time when people could be free. Ezekiel 36:26 reads: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” The question was, “How?”

Paul answers that question in Romans 8, “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man ...” Jesus was our substitute. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Jesus bore our sins and sentence was passed on him on the cross. He satisfied God's righteousness and we were granted liberty. Point: There is a rule of law called, “Double Jeopardy.” (Not the Alex Trebek variety.)  It states a man cannot be tried twice for the same crime. If this was not in effect a person could be tried over and over again until the plaintiff gets a conviction.  Since Jesus paid the penalty for my sins and since I am “in Christ” no sentence will be passed on me, “there is therefore no condemnation.”  God wants us to live in freedom.

When we live in that jurisdiction of sin and death, the best we can hope for is misery and defeat. We will always be ashamed of something and fearful for tomorrow. Under the law of the Spirit of life things are so different. Paul told a group of Christians in 2 Corinthians 3: 17, ''Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 

I hate to tamper with famous words, but I have to do a little switch on Patrick Henry.  The patriot said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”  The Christian says, “Give me death and I will find liberty.” S.H. Hooke said, “Those who love by the Spirit ... produce the fruits of the Spirit. a vine does not produce grapes by an act of parliament (not by law in other words); they are the fruit of the vine's own life; so the conduct which conforms to the standard of the Kingdom is not produced by any demand, not even God's, but it is the fruit of that divine nature which God gives as the result of what he has done in and by Christ.” Life begins at the cross for it is there the repentant sinner dies, is reborn and then transported across an invisible border to the Kingdom of Light, Life and Freedom.

Two “therefores" open two chapters of Paul’s writings:  The first is Romans 8:1: “There is therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ ...” and  the second is Galatians 5:1: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.” Thank God for liberty – our freedom through Christ and in Christ!