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Series: Other Speakers
Sun am 4th May 2014 – Justus Swart
Gal. 4:1-3; (Gen. 2:16); (Rom. 6:18); Gal. 5:13; Heb. 6:2-1-2; James 1:22-25; Matt. 5:38-42
Freedom and responsibility seem to be two mutually exclusive ideas. Responsibility seems to be the absence of freedom, as it binds one to a task or duty of oversight. That may come in the form of nurturing, caring for, protecting or preserving something. Freedom is a word we associate with being without care or concern for anything or anyone. Actually these truths are irrevocably linked to one another. Many of us know and have experienced the gradual progression of freedom in our coming of age, and we were allowed to make decisions without having to consult our parents, teachers, pastors etc. In the same way, as we boldly go forth making decisions, we are expected to calculate the repercussions of our decisions. We are therefore held responsible for the outcome of our decisions. It is expected of us to be considerate, not only of ourselves but also those whom our decisions will affect. So as you get older, you are allowed to make bigger and bolder decisions, but you are also expected to work out what those decisions mean for everybody around you.
Only when you are willing to embrace responsibility can there be freedom. Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world (Gal. 4:1-3). How do we apply these principles to our faith? What does it mean to have freedom and what does it mean to take responsibility in our Christian journey? This takes us back to the Garden of Eden where we find Adam who had freedom, and God said to him, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden” (Gen. 2:16). That is the first idea of freedom that we see; “as long as you don’t touch the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:17). So from the beginning there was freedom for man to roam and freedom for man to live, to be and express. The only condition was not to eat from one specific tree. There was also the freedom to disobey and reject what God had told him. What we see from this picture is God’s desire for us to take responsibility for ourselves and make the choice to obey His commands. We cannot make the choice if the choice has not been given to us.
We must now recognize and take responsibility for the fact that we have heard God, He has spoken to us and said, “What I have for you is better, but you must choose it.” Mankind fell and was then captive to his own selfish desires. Christ came and restored our freedom. Humanity was brought back and elevated to the position of being able to respond to God’s Spirit. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness (Rom. 6:18). You were set free only to become, once again, a slave. So we are free from living a life unto ourselves, pursuing our own desires and being God unto ourselves. This is the destructive force of the fall that you are now being God unto yourself; you are now capable of choosing what is right. Our freedom invites us to become the righteousness of God, to stand with Him as an advocate of the worthy cause of reconciliation.
Without freedom we would never be able to be responsible because there would be no choice. You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love (Gal. 5:13). Freedom is not to be abused, to think it is carefree and has no concern for others; where you just do what you want without thinking of the consequences. Our freedom elevates us by giving us the task of being responsible for our faith. Freedom is not an end in itself, but forms a platform to walk as Christ did.
The writer of Hebrews tells us to push past the elementary teachings of Christ until you reach maturity. Maturity does not mean a higher more complex teaching of Christ, but it means we are becoming like Him. Knowledge can only take us so far but at some point we will be tested, and in that testing our character, our virtues, and our faith will be what carries us through it.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do (James 2:22-25). Simple! Do not just listen; go and do it! You are now responsible to make the choice to walk as Jesus walked.
Are you pushing past the elementary teachings of Christ? Are you maturing and becoming like Him? Are you showing love in all that you do? Are you considering others before yourself? Are you steadfastly devoted to God? These are questions we have to ask ourselves on our journey. We think we are doing fine, we are in church on Sundays and in home groups on Wednesday, but are we pushing the boundaries? Are we going further than is expected? Is our Christianity suitable for our life or is it disrupting our life and pushing us into new areas of experiencing God in fresh new ways? Is your Christianity something that has to fit into your schedule or is your Christianity something that defines you; blows your schedule and creates within you faith and a new desire to love people? Remember the words of Paul, do not indulge in your freedom or you will remain a child, and as long as you are a child you cannot inherit the things God has called you to. God wants to see His reflection in humanity, and it is our responsibility to make that happen, from your littlest choices to your great big decisions.
Let your faith be something that inspires you to push, to carry on digging, to carry on pressing deeper into God, to carry on giving to people. These are practical things. Give to those around you, do not pay wrong for wrong. These are wonderful things that push our faith into new areas; that keep our faith fresh; keep it from becoming a religion where we just come to church and sit and listen, and as James says, we look in a mirror but during the week forget everything. Find out what makes you think further and deeper, considering God from a new perspective. Do not stagnate. Take responsibility for your growth.