Tag Archives: freedom

Galatians 5:1-3 – Standing Firm in our Freedom

I’m sure you’ve seen those TV ads for cookware, tools, cleaning products or some other product that always ends with, “but wait there’s more…”  Well, today we are going to look again at Galatians 5:1 (plus verses 2-3) because…THERE’S MORE!   So here is the verse again, this time in the King James Version and English Standard Version.  Each brings unique twist to the text.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.  Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.  For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. (Gal 5:1-3 KJV)

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.  Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.  I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. (Gal 5:1-3 ESV)

Remember from my last post that freedom refers to being “free from the dictates of the law, from the curse of the law and from servitude to the law, which means we are also free from the guilt, shame and condemnation that comes from failing to keep the law as a means to earn our righteousness before God.” But here Paul encourages us to “stand firm” in that freedom and not revert back to a state of slavery or bondage to the law.  I love the way the King James says, “entangled again.”  It reminds me of being caught up in a bunch of vines that are wrapped around legs and arms restricting my movements.  This is what being subject to law does.

Verses 2 and 3 clarify Paul’s point.  Paul is concerned that if the Galatians accept circumcision (as a symbol of their submission to Jewish law) then grace and faith in Christ’s work alone is nullified.  They lose all the benefit of Christ’s work and are once again subject to ALL of requirements of the Jewish Law and the idea of salvation by self-effort.  For us, the slavery we are talking about here is slavery to earning our own righteousness, to the burden of maintaining our own salvation through keeping rules and regulations.  It is a slavery to self that only leads to self-condemnation, guilt, shame, isolation from others and, ultimately, isolation from God.  We fall into this slavish life when we turn our focus from Jesus to ourselves.  It doesn’t matter what form it takes it is all essentially the same thing – Law.

The lure of “doing something” to merit salvation or to earn God’s favor is strong in us.  It is tempting to believe that if we keep certain rules or try to be “good” people we can achieve salvation for ourselves. We want to be independent of God.  That’s what sin does.  We don’t see the law as slavery but as a means to save ourselves.  It satisfies the sin nature.  So we place ourselves in subjection to rules, traditions, practices, values that we can do ourselves.  Paul’s exhortation to the Galatians, and us, is to say “no”.  We must depend on Christ alone and not fall for the “Christ and…” fallacy.  The danger is that once we start down that road there is no end.  We have to keep striving and working and wondering if it is enough.  We know that we need to “keep the whole law” but we don’t really know what the whole law is.  Thus Paul’s warning to stand firm.  The gospel of freedom is too important to let slip away.  If we go back to the law then there is no redemption, there is no hope for our salvation and there is no way to build an effective Church.

So let me paraphrase this verse this way, “Don’t give in to the tyranny of the shoulds.” When we start thinking, “I should read my Bible more, I should be a better Christian, I should pray more, I should…” and all those “shoulds” come at us like a hammer that beats us down – that is slavery; that is self-effort and self-righteousness; that is legalism; that is “law” talking to you.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to grow and mature, but to what end?  Is it to earn God’s favor or is it to learn to love Him back.

Stand firm therefore.  Say to the devil or to your own condemning thoughts, “Jesus loves me and because He died to the Law so did I.  Go away!”

It is for freedom that Christ set you free.

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Galatians 5:1 – Freedom from Guilt

Oftentimes people will start reading Galatians from Chapter 5, after all it seems the most practical and it’s got that great Fruit of the Spirit verse.  But to skip or minimize the preceding four chapters is to miss the whole point of chapter five and, indeed, the whole letter.  Paul has been meticulously building, layer by layer, his argument of freedom from works-based righteousness and righteousness based on faith alone.  Here in chapter five he builds to his great conclusion and shows us what it means to be free in Christ.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Gal 5:1) 

First let’s put this in context. Paul just finished using the example of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar as an allegory of freedom in the Promise or slavery to self-effort.  He makes the point that we, who have accepted the work of Christ by faith, are children of the Promise.  So saying, “For freedom Christ has set us free” ties back to the previous verse, “we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.”   Paul is saying that we have a birthright that comes from being recipients of the promise of God in Christ.  Jesus won for us freedom from the law.  Jesus did not die just to submit us again to the demands of the Law.  So there was a purpose, a benefit, an inheritance, a promise in the Cross that we can and need to claim.

But what does freedom mean?  In his comments on this verse John Stott says, “The freedom described in vs 1 is not primarily a freedom from sin, but rather from the law.  What Christ has done in liberating us is not so much to set our will free from the bondage of sin as to set our conscience free from the guilt of sin.”  We are free from the dictates of the law, from the curse of the law and from servitude to the law, which means we are also free from the guilt, shame and condemnation that comes from failing to keep the law as a means to earn our righteousness before God.

Again, Martin Luther says it so well, “Our conscience is free and quiet because it no longer has to fear the wrath of God. This is real liberty, compared with which every other kind of liberty is not worth mentioning. Who can adequately express the boon that comes to a person when he has the heart-assurance that God will nevermore be angry with him, but will forever be merciful to him for Christ’s sake? This is indeed a marvelous liberty, to have the sovereign God for our Friend and Father who will defend, maintain, and save us in this life and in the life to come.”

For me this verse finally starts to put the rest of the letter in order and make sense out of it.  Paul comes back around to the idea of Christian liberty that he alluded to in Chapter 2 (see post Coming Attractions).  Freedom isn’t simply about freedom from sin, but freedom to pursue God without the fear of condemnation or guilt or the endless cycle of trying to be good enough by living up to some standard that others have set for us or, indeed, that we have set for ourselves.  We can experience and live in constant peace with God.  Nothing can assail our conscience. No sin or no devil can condemn us.  No fear of God’s rejection need overwhelm us.  That is all in the past.

So let us breathe freely the air of God’s favor.  Let us walk in the freedom Christ paid so dearly to obtain.  Let us enjoy, guilt free, our unrestricted access to the presence of the Father.  That is what we were meant for.  It is for freedom that Christ set us free.

Galatians 3:10-14 – Becoming the Curse

We don’t like to talk about it.  We don’t hear many sermons preached on it.  We’d rather not bring it up.  We’d rather focus on the happy news.  But the truth is there are consequences to sin.  Unrighteousness does, indeed, bring wrath and judgement.  Nothing makes this as clear as Romans 1:16.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men

In this next section of his letter to the Galatians, Paul explains how and why we would come under God’s curse.  (Don’t worry there is good news at the end).  Remember that Paul’s main argument is that we cannot be saved by self-effort, by rule-keeping, by trying to earn God’s favor by any means that flows out of our works.  In other words, keeping the Jewish Law or keeping any religious rules does not earn us salvation.  Here, in verse 10, he goes further and actually says that anyone who relies on rule-keeping is under God’s curse because they would have to keep 100% of the rules 100% of the time for their entire life.

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” (Gal 3:10)

The word “all” is key to Paul’s argument.  He is making the point that those “who rely on works of the law” are required to keep “all” the commandments and that missing one immediately places one under the curse. This means that everyone is, in fact, under the curse because no one is able to keep all the law all the time.  Many people would like to omit the word “all” and give themselves some wiggle room to say, “I can keep most of the law and be ok.”  Paul would argue strenuously that this is not true.  There’s no other way to put this: This is really bad news!  We are stuck with no way out.

Now here is where the Good News come in – the really good news.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Gal 3:13)

David Guzik, in his commentary on this verse says, “The punishment of being hanged on a tree, and left to open exposure, was thought to be so severe, that it was reserved only for those for which is was to be declared: ‘this one is accursed of God.’  Jesus not only died in our place; but He took the place as the accursed of God, being hung on a ‘tree’ in open shame and degradation.”

And Martin Luther wrote, “Our merciful Father in heaven saw how the Law oppressed us and how impossible it was for us to get out from under the curse of the Law. He therefore sent His only Son into the world and said to Him: ‘You are now Peter, the liar; Paul, the persecutor; David, the adulterer; Adam, the disobedient; the thief on the cross. You, My Son, must pay the world’s iniquity.’ The Law growls: ‘All right. If Your Son is taking the sin of the world, I see no sins anywhere else but in Him. He shall die on the Cross.’ And the Law kills Christ. But we go free.”

So hanging on a tree was not just about the means of execution, which is what we normally assume, but it was a demonstration of the curse of God upon this person.  In the case of Jesus, the cross was both a means of execution according to the Romans to display the vileness of the criminal but also a symbol to the Jews of God’s curse upon Jesus.  So both Jew and Gentile look upon the cross as a demonstration of the utter contemptibility of the person hanging there.  Jesus took the curse for both Jew and Gentile.  He became the curse so that we would not have to.

The point here is remarkable.  Christ the innocent Son of God took on Himself the full demands of the law and the sinfulness that it pointed to in all of us.  The law demanded perfection and anything less than that incurred God’s wrath and curse.  Jesus stepped into that and “took the bullet” for us.  I am therefore free of the curse and free of the unrelenting, oppressive and crushing demands of the law.  I walk in the knowledge, freedom and comfort that God is not waiting to “zap” me when I get out of line.  Instead he looks upon the work of Christ, the curse being lifted, the demands being fulfilled and He loves me.  ME!

Galatians 2:16-20 – Justification by Faith

In 2017, many churches celebrated the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant reformation.  Martin Luther’s rebuff of the Catholic Church’s teachings resulted in the great catch phrase of the Reformation: Justification by faith alone apart from works.  It was actually not a new concept, but I think one that had been buried under centuries of practices and teachings that obscured it.  It seemed to be easier to emphasize our own self-effort in trying to please God and gain some measure of self-righteousness than simply to depend on “faith”.  And yet that is exactly what the New Testament taught and it is especially clear in Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  In fact, it was the whole reason Paul wrote this letter: to explain and clarify this great principle of justification by faith.

We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified…I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal 2:16, 20)

Let me make sure we are clear here.  Paul is saying that the path to being righteous, guilt-free, saved is not through self-effort, working to earn God’s acceptance, being “good enough”, trying to live a good life or performing religious works.  It is only through having faith in the sufficiency of Christ’s death and resurrection.  He refers to the “works of the law” because that is how the Jews thought they could please God.  We have the same thing today, don’t we?  People who think they are living “holy” lives, who feel they are exceptionally righteous because of how good they are and who feel superior to the rest of us.  Surely God must accept them because of their goodness.  Those people are sadly mistaken.  Our slavish obedience to rules does not make us more acceptable to God.  We are all on the same footing with God when it comes to our salvation and our righteousness.  It is all by faith in Christ to whom we all have equal access.

Christ’s death killed the requirements of the law.  So if Paul’s claim is correct, that he was crucified with Christ, then he is also dead to the requirements of the law.  In Christ, he can live, truly live, to God.  Going forward, any life he has, any opportunity to be in relationship with God, can only be possible by living in faith and by allowing Jesus to fully and completely live in him.  This is true of us also.  We have been crucified in Christ.  Isn’t this what Jesus said in John about abiding in Him or Paul said about having the mind of Christ or setting our mind on things above?  All these encouragements amount to the same thing:  Letting Jesus Himself live in and through us instead of trying to live by self-effort and self-righteousness; trying to live a life of independence and self-reliance.  Being crucified with him is not some morbid, sad, self-abasement attitude, it is joyful; it is an opportunity to live fully the life we were meant to have;  it is laying down all the baggage we carry through life – the “oughts” and “shoulds” – that strangle the life right out of us.  Being dead to law, to self-effort, means that law no longer has a voice in my life.  It means it has been silenced and cannot call me back.

In Romans, Paul says, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”  (Rom. 8:33-34)

There is no one who can bring a charge against me.  That even includes me, in my self-talk.  Since God has, indeed, justified me then who am I to accept condemnation, judgment, or guilt from any quarter.  How is that possible?  After all, I sin.  I screw up.  Why would I not charge myself with that sin and extract some kind of remorse or penance?  Because while I may still have further to go in my journey of Christian maturity, it is carried out in the context of a condemnation-free relationship with the Father.  My journey is already bathed in the prayers of Jesus for me.  So, do I go about with head slung low and kicking myself?  No, how about if I take a moment to regroup, refocus and restart walking toward glory.  That is what justification does.  It allows me to walk in peace with God in this life, without fear.  This is what Paul says in vs 20, “I live my life faith in the Son of God who loves me…”  The reality of Christ’s death is a life free to be lived in His love.  So I can’t say things like, “I am too bad. I’m never going to have an impact.  It’s too late.  I’ve screwed up too much.”  Those thoughts are now out of bounds.  My life now is bounded by two realities:  “I have been crucified…”, therefore I am dead to the demands of law and self-effort and self-reliance.  And “I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me…”, thus making a full and fulfilling life possible.

How about you?  Are you ready to give up a life of self-effort and instead live by faith in the One who loves you?

Galatians 2:4 – Coming Attraction

You know how when you go to the movies they always show previews for movies yet to be released – coming attractions; little snippets of the movie that are designed to give you a glimpse of the full movie enough to whet your appetite?  Here as we get into chapter 2 of Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches he gives just such a glimpse into a theme he will develop more fully later.  It’s a teaser into the possibilities of the Christian life and the purpose for Christ’s death and resurrection.  Intrigued aren’t you?

Let me first remind you of Paul’s purpose in writing this letter and put his comment into context.  Paul was concerned that the Galatian disciples had abandoned the truth of the gospel he had preached because certain false teachers had told them that to be “really” saved the Galatians had to practice all the Jewish Law also.  Paul writes this letter to re-emphasize the gospel and assure the churches in Galatia that the gospel he preached to them was true.  He also gives them a timeline of his interactions with Peter, John and the other apostles to show that he did not just parrot their message but received the gospel from Jesus Himself.  In the middle of this explanation Paul gives a “coming attraction.”

Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.  (Gal 2:4, 5   ESV)

The key phrase – the coming attraction – is this: our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus.”  According to Paul, inherent in the gospel is a freedom that Christians enjoy, a freedom that these false teachers were trying to rob, a freedom that Paul felt was important enough to fight for, a freedom that Christ won on the cross.

We usually think of Jesus’ death as gaining us salvation for eternal life in heaven “someday”.  But here Paul hints at something available to us right now, today – freedom.  But what does this mean?  Let me define the kind of freedom I think Paul is referring to here.  It is not the ability to do whatever we want or live however we want, but freedom, true Christian freedom, is “the unobstructed pursuit of God.”

Life, satan, sin, the world throw up all kinds of obstacles to our ability to pursue the kind of relationship with God that we long for.  It sometimes seems we have to slog through life just to get by, just to get a moment to pray or worship.  That is not how God intended our life to be.  When Jesus walked out of that tomb, He cleared the way of all the obstacles that impeded our ability to know and connect with God.  Here are Scriptures references that describe ways in which Jesus removed the obstacles to our pursuit of God.

Romans 8:31-35 describes the kind of life we can experience with Jesus.  A life free of accusation, want, aloneness and condemnation.  Instead we can experience a life of support and encouragement, supply and resources, connection with the Father who loves us, knowing that we will never experience any kind of emotional, spiritual, relational or physical abandonment.

In Romans 6:6-7 Paul talks about being free from being mastered by sin – having to do what it says.  By ourselves, we have no power or authority to say no to the demands of sin operating in our life.  We can’t escape and we can’t rebel and we can’t fight.  But Christ literally and actually took bolt cutters to those chains so that we could escape and no longer be under sin’s thumb.  Think of the story in Acts where an angel releases the imprisoned Peter from the chains that held him and opened the prison doors to allow Peter to walk free.  This is what Jesus has done.  We are able to walk free through our life.

Romans 8:2-3 refers to the “law” of sin and death – this would imply that sin and death have (or had) the power to dictate how you live, what you can and cannot do.  This “law” constrains the kind of life God meant us to live.  Jesus freed us from that law.  It’s like no longer being subject to the repressive laws of a dictatorial nation.  Instead we now live in a country ruled by the Spirit with His life-giving laws – not repression but liberation.

Hebrews 2:14-15 refers to the “fear of death.”  I have always thought that this referred to fear of physical death, and that may be true, but I think it can also refer to the emotional and relational death that the devil tries to impose upon people. Are we not freed from the devastation of fear of loneliness, anger, shame, guilt, depression, worthlessness, hopelessness, worry?  Jesus came to destroy those very works of the devil and allow us live free of the effects of fear.

There is more to learn about freedom in Christ later in Galatians.  For now if we accept the definition of freedom I gave earlier – unobstructed pursuit of God – then these verses tell me that to live unobstructed means being set free from:

  1. The overbearing domination of sin – I don’t have to do it. I can choose a different way.
  2. The repressive laws of sin and death – I don’t have to live with my head down fearful that I stepped over the line one too many times or that I just need to work harder.
  3. The fear of being stuck in this death spiral. There are literally no chains, no nets holding me down.  I walk away a free man.
  4. The hopelessness that my life can be different or better.
  5. The fear that I will always live broken and will die broken

This fear, death and sin is replaced with an assurance of the Father’s positive favor towards me.  In all things and in all circumstance and in all my blunders, I still experience His smile.  This is what Christ’s sacrifice– the true gospel – has made possible.

Dealing with Despair

Humans are generally terrible at dealing with difficulties, adversity, sorrow, trials or illness. We tend to whine, mope and feel sorry for ourselves when things don’t seem to be going our way. But God understands and He has placed in Scripture a fail-safe way for us to transcend difficult circumstances, rise above the adversity and refocus on what is truly important. He doesn’t ask us to grit our teeth and go on. He doesn’t ask us to pull ourselves up. He doesn’t even ask us to put on a smile and pretend it doesn’t hurt. In Psalm 13: 1-6, He gives us a template for dealing with difficult times.

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?    How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Like David, we are an impatient people! We could endure almost anything if we knew how long it would last, but not knowing the future leads us into despair and our entire perspective on life goes dark.

We accuse God of forgetting us. He doesn’t, of course, but it feels to us like he does. We accuse God of turning His back to us. “He has abandoned me (and we add the melodramatic) – FOREVER!” “Where are You?” we cry. So we “take counsel” in our souls. In other words, we get inside our own heads, park there and go around and round and round which only leads to more depression and anxiety. We are convinced that we have been left on our own and we start to try to figure out our own solutions.

But David knows better, even though he feels alone and abandoned he reaches out to the God he knows is there and the turnaround begins.  David starts to realize that He needs God’s wisdom and perspective. He understands that “taking counsel with himself”, staying inside his own head, will never get him out of his doldrums. He understands that without God’s insight, without God showing up, he will likely just give up either emotionally, physically or spiritually.

Here is where David shows us how to win the victory over despair. “But” is a powerful word. It is a declaration that we will not be held captive by our situation; a declaration that we are choosing a different reality, that we will not be defined by our circumstances. David makes the declaration that he will ground his life, not on his own feelings or self-counsel, but on the foundational, unmovable truths of God’s character. “But I have trusted in your steadfast love.”

This is God’s basic character – Love. I can trust that God will always be true to Himself in His dealings with me. I can expect that God will continue to act according to His Love towards me expressed in Christ Jesus. Trust is a choice, a deposit of faith into the treasury of God’s love. The present circumstances do not change who God is nor do they block the eternal flow of His love, mercy, goodness, compassion, patience toward me. I can bank on that.

And while trust is a function of the mind, rejoicing is an act of the heart. Rejoicing isn’t about being happy. It isn’t putting a good face on and going around saying “Praise the Lord.” Rejoicing is grounding our heart, our deep down core, firmly on God’s present and future deliverance. Not only can we be sure and rejoice in our eventual heavenly home, but we can know that God will not abandon us to the present troubles – He rescues us here and now.

When our focus is on God’s eternal Love and his saving work, we can’t help but express that outwardly through our mouths or body. Our whole being rises up and overflows in worship to Him. Some of might even sing out loud. We remember how He has dealt with us. We look at our lives and see His hand guiding our moments. We recognize that what we thought were seemingly insignificant moments or random happenings were actually His acting to bring us closer to Him.

And we are breathless, humbled and joyful.

This Psalm reflects the arc that our life takes as we live our lives through any troubles. We move from complaining and despair, to crying to God in prayer for help, to a reaffirmation of our relationship with the Father; a relationship not based on trusting our own strength or wisdom, not based on our own goodness or righteousness but a relationship wholly grounded on His love and grace. As we move through the difficulties of life, if we will remember to Trust, Rejoice and Sing, we will be able to say with absolute confidence: It is well with my soul.

Maintaining our Freedom

In a previous post, I wrote about the freedom that Christ has won for us through His life, death and resurrection (read “True Freedom” here). In the post, I said that in Christ we have been set free in some very significant way.

First, we have been set free from the power of Sin (Romans 6:6).   “Sin is no longer our master. In Christ we are no longer beholden to Sin; we are no longer compelled to carry out those desires and practices of our natural self that are so destructive and demoralizing. We have been unchained from Sin’s power to dictate our life course. This freedom allows us as Christians to choose to obey God, to live godly, righteous lives, to pursue purity.”

Second, Christ freed us from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:15). We are no longer required to earn or maintain our salvation through self-effort or man-made rules. This freedom allows us to freely pursue an open, joyous relationship with Him.   We are no longer trying to “prove” how good we are or how worthy we are to have been saved.

But Paul goes on in his letter to the Galatians and says something that is truly remarkable and should cause us to pause to consider.  He says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Did you notice that? “Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery!” Paul is saying that even though Christ has blessed us with this freedom, it is possible for us to revert back into slavery – voluntarily! Why? Why – and how – would we do that? Paul answers that question. Because our flesh – the remnants of our old sinful nature – still tries to pull us back. And unfortunately it is too easy to simply go with the flow and go right back into our old habits, practices and attitudes. In other words, we put the yoke of slavery to Sin or Law on our own shoulders. But Paul says it doesn’t have to be that way. There is a way to maintain our freedom.

 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh…If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Gal 5:16, 25)

 Walking in the Spirit sounds mysterious, weird or super-spiritual, but is simply another way of saying “hanging out” with Christ – abiding – staying connected. This is the stuff of our daily Christian life. We walk in freedom by maintaining a close, open relationship with the Spirit. It is a walk – together – side by side. He does His part – instructs, guides, teaches, convicts – and you do yours – respond. You see, the flesh causes us to try to hide from Him (like Adam), but walking in the Spirit means we deliberately approach Him even, especially, in the most dark moments.

I want to suggest to you three tools, three weapons in our battle against the flesh that will help us stay connected with the Spirit. These three tools, when appropriately deployed maintain our freedom in Christ. These three tools are: Renounce, Repent and Forgive.

The flesh is informed and empowered from the past – all the things we have done or said or all the things that have been done or said to us. This does not mean that everything in our past is bad, there may be much to be thankful for and bless, but we simply acknowledge those areas where damage was done or sin embraced and close the door. That is where “renouncing” comes in. Renouncing is closing the door, disowning, disavowing or rejecting the “deeds of the flesh” in our past and not allowing them to influence our lives today.

I have written about repentance before (Rebellion and Repentance – Part 1, Rebellion and Repentance – Part 2). Repentance keeps our account current with the Lord. It is focused solely on our actions today and doesn’t let things “stack up.” Repentance is not feeling sorry or sad. Instead, it is a decision of the will to make different decisions. Repentance is about changing one’s mind or attitude, not about “mucking about” in our soul looking for junk. It is being open to the Holy Spirit spotlighting areas that grieve Him and agreeing with Him.

Finally, we have the tool of forgiveness. Again I have written about it before (The Hardest Person To Forgive). It is such an important and powerful weapon against the flesh because it short-circuits the flesh’s desire to hate, judge, condemn and seek revenge.  Forgiveness “unhooks” yourself from the effects of the other person’s actions or words by not allowing the other person to control or influence you today. Forgiveness releases the person who hurt you to God’s justice and mercy. It doesn’t mean we excuse or approve the other’s action, it simply means we no longer hold on to the pain. And don’t forget that forgiving yourself is just as important as forgiving others.

So there you have it. Maintaining our freedom in Christ comes from staying close and connected to Him. And He has given us some magnificent tools to help us do just that – to clear the emotional and spiritual clutter – that could hinder our walk with Him. Continue your walk in freedom. He is keeping stride with you each step along the way.