What is Christian freedom? People love to use Christian freedom in defense of their actions, but what does freedom in Christ mean?

Source: De Reformatie. 4 pages. Translated by Bram Vegter.

Christian Freedom

If there is one thing you should not touch, it is Christian freedom.
People claim that.
But what does it actually entail?

Which Freedom?🔗

When someone does not attend the worship services on Sunday because they do not see the need for it, a reference is quickly made to Christian freedom. Something like: “let me work that out myself, I am a believer”. When someone smokes or drinks a bit too much, the same thing happens. The same argument sounds in various ethical considerations, which can turn out differently for different folks. The one person does what the other person does not do, and all in the name of Christian freedom.

And yet, it does not have much to do with that. They are applications to what people are hearing. One hears the word “freedom” and fills in the blanks. While “Christian freedom” is something entirely different, namely: it is our freedom to go to God, in Christ, and furthermore with empty hands.

So you can, for example, invite someone for a meal when you know they have little time or money: “please join us, you do not have to bring anything.” Feel free. And after the meal you can leave when you want, you do not have to help with the dishes. Do not feel obligated.

Freedom, that is what this is about. That you know you are welcomed by the Father, in and with Jesus Christ. You do not have to bring anything, even more so: you are not allowed to bring anything. Because God’s own Son has accomplished that which was needed to bring us, as children of God, home. Whoever then also brings something to make their homecoming look better, has not understood Christ’s atonement. That person is outside and has wasted the grace of God.

You come through Christ to the Father, or you do not come. Read Galatians 5 where Paul, enlightened by the Spirit, has written very clearly of these things.

Even the law was never meant to provide access to God. Not the ten commandments, and not even all of the Mosaic law. Whoever treats the law that way and teaches that to others, must really fulfill 100% of all the law, with heart and soul, strength, and mind. An impossible demand is then placed on man, and life is being loosened from Christ. Such teachers should let themselves be castrated; Paul calls out in a supreme attempt for people to let them see their folly.

Freedom At Heart🔗

It is understandable that this faith is being attacked from all sides. For it seems so “‘free”.

It can hardly be true. Life with God is serious, is it not? You do not become a Christian just like that; then you are to keep certain rules, limitations, and requirements.

Because of this, the practice in the Christian church is often at odds with the teachings.

It is not without reason that Paul warns explicitly; do not let yourself be robbed of the freedom in Christ, let no one put the yoke of slaves on your shoulders! For that threat is always there.

Believers are quick to tell fellow believers what ought to be done. It makes for a less than free atmosphere in the church, like a climate where people are being judged.

Hardly anything is allowed, but criticism is often heard at the slightest diversion.

And yet we are called “Free Reformed” (in Holland), a free church: people are free here to go to God, without a pope or synod in between, or a church council or pastor.

The way to Christ is free for every person and all of us, big or small. This is a precious gift and something which cannot be revoked.

It is extremely important that this freedom is experienced in the heart. “Made our own” our Reformed brothers and sisters would say. For only talking about this does not really help much. That is why we sing:

The rich eternal God
Will bless us here and now
And gladness fills our hearts
In peace we pay our vows
Hymn 141:2.

That is it exactly: Christ has freed us, so that we can live in peace (Gal. 5:1).

To guard this confession is one thing, to live it is another. For our own heart continually condemns us as we have sinned against all God’s commandments and are prone to do so again. But do not therefore allow your freedom to be taken away! Christ is greater than your heart (1 John 3:20). Know that you have been accepted, and so accept each other. Do not surround each other with endless criticism, but with love, joy, and peace. This is how it will be in the house of God, the safest place on earth, where people are free from judgment.

In this also lies the answer when you are spiritually measured. There are always people who have experienced more of the Spirit compared to you. In principle that is fine. As long as you do not let yourself be judged and do not let them take away your freedom. In Christ you may go to God in your own way, by the same Spirit.

This way everyone’s own merit (and other people’s judgments about it) is placed very far away. Something which is hard to accomplish in social life and which is essential for children who, in the Son, go to their Father. You may feel free, just like the Son.

Use Freedom For What She Was Intended🔗

When we realize this, the next question is: what are you going to do with this freedom?

If you do not have to spend your time in earning an entrance to God, what will you do with all those hours?

Chances are good that we pay ample attention to satisfying the desires of the flesh, as Paul writes so well in Galatians 5:13, “do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.” This results in quick pleasures becoming central in our lives, to satisfy all needs which arise in us. In that frame of thought Paul brings up the law again. Not to fulfill her (not yet) but indeed to share in her fulfillment.

This may look the same, as if Paul gives with the one hand and takes back with the other. But that is not what it is, it is about something entirely different.

When you are, in Christ, free from every effort to approach God, how will you spend all your free time? Well, it is quite logical: then you go to God, with your whole life. For Christian freedom is free, completely, and she encompasses this explicitly: going to God. It is not a freedom to go somewhere else. It is certainly not a freedom to satisfy yourself. That is a term which has a strong sexual connotation nowadays, but Paul uses it in a broader sense. Whoever goes to God, and gets to know him, receives a joy that you will never find within yourself. We were never meant to be satisfied with just ourselves, we will never find that satisfaction in ourselves. So then do not use the freedom you received for that purpose.

Read all of Galatians 5. First Paul warns: do not let your freedom be taken away, you do not have to fulfill the law to be allowed to go to God. Then he warns: do not forsake the law, for such is life with God. Christ has fulfilled the law and wants to lead you by his Spirit in such a way that you share in that fulfillment.

By saying all of this, Paul clearly shows us that this is in line with each other. You may go to God, in your praying, your listening, your believing, your trusting, your standing in awe, your expecting. When you do this, his joy will more and more enter you, direct you, and will let you discover where true satisfaction may be found.

The law does not function as a condition, she is now talked about in the framework of bearing fruit by the Spirit. The word already explains it: fruit comes afterwards, because the Spirit of Christ brings you home to the Father and he fills you with his love. When you are filled with that, you share in the fulfillment of the law: the love for God and the love for all your neighbours.

The Fruit of the Spirit Grows in the Freedom of Christ🔗

Whoever claims Christian freedom to please himself, has not understood it. That should be very clear. However, when one speaks daily with one’s Father and listens to him and discovers what he is busy with and how intently, then one changes accordingly, to his image. This should also be clear.

In the freedom of the children to be close to the Father, the most beautiful things emerge, such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control. That is exactly what the law means, writes Paul.

This looks exactly like what we confess in the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 24: “our good works earn nothing, yet it is impossible that those grafted into Christ by true faith should not bring forth fruit of thankfulness” (Book of Praise, page 538). You may apply this to yourself, but surely also to all your brothers and sisters in the Lord. It becomes a new way of looking at each other. Not judgmental in the sense of “are you doing everything right?”, but more in expectation: “it is impossible for you not to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit, how do you do that, I am curious!” This enhances the mutual trust and climate in the congregation.

This is why God’s purpose is explained at length in the catechism. It is more than some lines from the original document, “you shall not kill” and so on. No, in this you will become like God, that is the point, in thought, words, and deeds, in his love for life. You will share in his disposition, through his Spirit. This is how the law in your life is being fulfilled (Rom. 8:4)!

So, do not throw away your confidence, we read in Hebrews 10:35. Nowadays it is translated with “boldness”. But I like “confidence” better, as it connotes freedom. What kind of confidence?

To go by the new and living way to enter the heavenly kingdom in Christ, to the Father (Heb. 10:19-20)!

Every day in your prayers, and later with your whole being. Do not give up! The temptation for that is continually there, from the outside and from the inside. But what would you want to trade this freedom for?

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