“But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.” –Romans 7:6. Praise the Lord! The freedom that was once lost, as stated in part one, has now been regained for us through faith in Christ Jesus.
Paul further states in 2 Corinthians 3:4-6, “And such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also makes us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
The “letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” The written commandments lead to death, but the Spirit of the commandments leads to life! I will get into that a little later on, but suffice it to say, this is what Jesus came to proclaim!
Romans 8: 1-2 states, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” We now have the freedom of choice; we can choose to be obedient to God, allowing our spiritual man to have dominance over our carnal nature. We no longer have to choose the bondage of disobedience, thanks to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Lord!
Paul writes in Romans 8:5-10, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” Notice that in verse 9, Paul states that you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 the Apostle writes, “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
Paul is saying to us that while we are in Christ, or Christ is abiding in us, we are a new creation. The word used in the Greek for our English word new, as used with new creature, means fresh, alive, no “oldness” but brand new. You have become fresh and alive, as compared to the old nature, stale and deathly, as Christ dwells in you. You are literally changed, metamorphosed, just as a caterpillar changes to a moth or butterfly, from your old sinful, fleshly nature into one that is spiritually fresh. The key words in this scripture are in Christ. In Christ the old standards of judgement are passed away, and in Christ new things have come! The freedom to make the right choices is part of the new things that weren’t there in the old nature!
At this point you might be asking the importance and application of this ability that we have been discussing, the ability to choose. In Galatians 5:1 Paul tells us, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” Notice that Paul is letting us know that we do have a choice, as we are in Christ; freedom IN Christ or, subjecting ourselves again to bondage, just as our human ancestor, Adam had. He tells us to keep standing firm. Think about that. If Eve, and then Adam had stood firm in their freedom, they would not have forfeited the liberty that was first given to them. Understand also, that standing firm is not just resting in an upright position. Standing firm is very much an action. In the original Greek, it means to persevere. Our English dictionary defines persevere as: to try hard and continuously in spite of obstacles and difficulties. We are to keep fighting for this freedom by acting upon it. Do not under any circumstances relinquish it. In practice, you continue to make the choices that gives you continued liberty. Remember in part one the scripture in 2 Corinthians 3:17, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
You now have the ability to continue to choose the Spirit over the flesh. In Galatians 5:16-18, Paul continues to declare the advantages of this freedom of choice. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.”
When we were in bondage to sin, sin was our master, and in turn we were it’s slaves. We could only do what our master, the flesh, dictated to us; like automatons, or robots, something created for only one purpose, to obey. Galatians 5:19-21 describes what our lifestyle was. “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Paul was tell us that those deeds of the flesh WERE our legacy! Thank God, that now that we have a choice, our new Master, the Holy Spirit, provides us with not only a new lifestyle, but also an abundant life, as described in verses 22-23. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Think on these scriptures a minute. Take time to meditate on them. As you read Galatians 5:19-23, what are the feelings that are stirred up when reading about the deeds of the flesh as compared to the fruit of the Spirit? If you’re a Christian, the deeds described in verses 19-21 should bring about a sense of revulsion; whereas the attributes listed in verses 22-23 should bring about a longing, a desire to attain them.
Now I want to point out another aspect of your choices. Paul makes a significant distinction between the deeds, or works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. Works are produced by human or natural energy. Fruit is produced as we follow Jesus’ teaching as written in the Gospel of John 15:4-5, “Abide in Me, and l in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself; unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
Okay; apart from Christ we can do nothing. Not work, not produce; there is then no such thing as “good works” because no work truly exists, apart from Christ. So what is it, that I, as a Christian, am supposed to DO? This is the question that plaques all men. Man feels he has to DO something. We forget that aside from Christ, again, we can do nothing. The answer is that apart from the specifics that God has called you as an individual to perform, there are things that are common to all of us as Christians that are pleasing to God as our Father. Galatians 5:6, 13 says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” In other words, just as Hebrews 11:6 states, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, …” God is looking for people who’s faith is working through love. Faith is an active attribute; it is not idle or abstract as some people think or surmise. You only have to read the Epistle of James to see that. Faith manifests itself in unselfish service to God and to man. Service that is motivated by love. Love that is based on complete dependence in God. God is not interested in ritual obedience based on obligation, but in the reality of a godly life based on love.
I like to use the example of the wind, in the natural. You can have a beautiful day admiring all that God has created. The laws and sciences that keep our world and universe in top order are many times unseen. You can’t SEE the wind, but you know it is real, you can hypothesize why it is real and what causes it, but you can only SEE it’s effects! So it is with faith, love and so many other attributes of a Christian’s walk with the Lord. Faith and Love is not tangible EXCEPT in it’s manifestations, it’s results!
In Galatians 6:2, Paul says to, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfil the law of Christ.” Because of our freedom in Christ, we can now fulfil the law of Christ. The Pharisees were always wanting to test Jesus to trip Him up, and at one point they asked Him what the greatest commandment in the Law was, and in Matthew 22:37 -40 Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. And a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” But in John 13:34-35, this is what Jesus told His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Again when teaching His disciples about fruitfulness, Jesus commanded His disciples, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. This I command you, that you love one another.” –John 15:12, 17.
We now know the commands of Jesus and hence, of God, for Jesus Himself stated in John 12:49-50, “For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me, has given Me commandment, what to say, and what to speak. And I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told me.” This is true liberty; liberty that was once ours, then squandered and is now ours again. If you ever desired to hear God or to know His will, the choice is now open to you.
Under the Law, proper behavior was motivated by fear of punishment. In Christ, however, love is the motive of all. True liberty does not permit sin, but rather encourages loving service. I John is one of the greatest letters written on love. I want to examine a few of the scriptures that this spiritual liberty has made open to us in practical ways. In chapter 3, verse 11, John writes, “For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” In chapter 4:7, 11, 21, he writes, “Beloved, let us love one another ,for love is from God; and every one who loves is born of God and knows God. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” Furthermore, in I John 5:2-3, he also writes, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”
John makes a bold statement that applies to not only these scriptures but every one that God has set before us; and he speaks to us as God, our heavenly Father, would speak to each one of us. I John 3: 18 says, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” We are children of God, heirs through Jesus Christ, by the grace and mercies of God. Try to fathom the importance of this truth. This is exactly why we need to persevere in our liberty; and that liberty manifests itself in deeds, not just words or “feelings.” John said, “In deed and truth!” Good deeds won’t cut it, but loving deeds done in faith WILL! Hopefully your are beginning to see, heart motive, but that is another lesson.
The choices are ours; we still have our wills; the choices are clear. We can line up our wills with that of the Lord’s if He is Lord to us, or we can choose willfulness. I have heard it said, “You don’t seek the will of God in prayer to determine if you want to do something, you seek the will of God in prayer to know what He wants you to do.” This couldn’t be any more the truth. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we have the freedom to choose; continue to choose the Spirit, where therein lies our liberty. “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” –2 Corinthians 3:17.
In colonial America, the statesman, Patrick Henry spoke out for American freedom and liberty when he uttered the famous words, “Give me liberty or give me death.” He may or may not have understood the spiritual significance but in the scheme of eternity, those are the only two choices available.