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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

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

The book of Galatians, one of two key New Testament books of the Reformation, was written to explain the nature of spiritual freedom in contrast to spiritual slavery. Understanding freedom in Christ liberates the lover of God in powerful, extraordinary ways.  Not surprisingly, misunderstanding this great doctrine leads to spiritual frustration, hardship, and slavery. 

It's worth focusing on two powerful implications of true freedom in Christ, and also two caveats, in order to avoid common misunderstandings.  First, the two implications:

Freedom in Christ means the preservation of your ethnic or cultural identity as you follow Christ. In Galatians 2:3, the apostle Paul reminds his listeners that his non-Jewish traveling companion was not required to adopt the Jewish cultural marker of circumcision to be Christian: "But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek." Some had been teaching that becoming culturally Jewish was necessary to become a follower of Jesus, which Paul flatly refutes.  Even today, missionaries must faithfully teach Jesus' ethics, but not conflate them with cultural practices, leaving new converts free to maintain their ethnic and cultural identity. 

Secondly, freedom in Christ means salvation is a free gift of God to those who have faith, and not earned.  Galatians 2:16 explains that "a person is not justified [seen as righteous in God's sight] by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ."  Furthermore, subsequent activity by the Christian may deepen or improve their relationship with God, but it still never merits salvation or anything else. There is freedom in humbly accepting salvation as an unearned gift, liberating the soul from the bondage of attempting to labor to merit God's forgiveness. Psychologically, this results in relief, confidence, and comfort.

Now the caveats:

Freedom in Christ does not mean freedom from obeying God in every regard, including doing things you really don't want to do.  Jesus remarked that our obedience to Him serves as the true test of our love for Him.  Galatians 5:13 says, "For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." Enabled by the Spirit, Christians are to deny themselves in order to take up their cross, love others as themselves, give sacrificially, exercise kindness and compassion, return good for evil, submit to authority, forgive wrongdoers, practice sexual integrity, refrain from gossip, and in every way live for God.  When you struggle in your heart over Jesus' commands, and we all struggle sometimes, the Christian repents of hardness of heart and follows the Lord.  Some have dangerously and mistakenly considered obedience to Christ as legalism, but to rebel against God's lordship is not freedom, and leads to spiritual bondage and slavery. 

Secondly, freedom in Christ does not mean freedom from exerting strenuous effort in your relationship with God.  Effort does not earn favor with God, but favor with God is often conditioned upon it.  Focused effort typically yields spiritual benefits.  For example, Galatians 6:1 says, "Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted." Expending effort to watch over yourself lessens the possibility of falling into temptation. Elsewhere in the Scriptures, Christians are urged to pray day and night, to be devoted to prayer, to draw near to God while resisting the devil, to struggle with all their energy, to strive to enter God's rest, to discipline their body, to repent, to fast and humble themselves, and more.   Putting energy into seeking God wholeheartedly blossoms into spiritual benefits including a rich, deep relationship with Him. Sadly, some misunderstand freedom in Christ as permission to pursue God lackadaisically, yielding spiritual weakness, fruitlessness, and bondage.

Praise God for the freedom we have in Christ!  We are free to fully identify with our culture, which, unsurprisingly, has contributed to Christianity thriving in a diverse collection of ethnicities and cultures in the world. Moreover, we have freedom from the anxiety of trying to measure up to standards we could never achieve.  The Sisyphean burden has been removed, so that we have full forgiveness through faith in Christ alone.
 
Matt Bennett
Founder and President
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