Charles Stanley - The Gift of Freedom
If somebody should ask you, "Are you a free person?" what would you say? More than likely you would say, "Why, sure I am"! And if I should ask you, "Well, what's the basis of saying that you're free"? You more than likely would say, "Well, you know, I can sort of go where I choose for the most part. I can do sort of most of what I want to do in life and I don't have anybody restraining me or telling me what I can and cannot do, so therefore I'm free". Well, let me ask you this. Are you free on the inside? You see, a person's never really and truly free until they're free on the inside. And many people would tell you they're free, and at the same time, they're enslaved by all kinds of bondage. Sometimes they're almost like they're in a prison, and yet on the outside they can go sorta where they want to go, do sorta what they want to do, but somehow on the inside they're enslaved, enslaved by all kinds of things.
And the truth is you'll never really be free until you are set free by the person of Jesus Christ. A nation of people can be free in their boundaries geographically, in their relationship to other nations, but at the same time caught up in all kind of bondage and in slavery on the inside. No nation is free until the people are free. No person is free until he or she is free on the inside. The most important freedom of all is freedom from within, and that's what I want to talk about in this message entitled "The Gift of Freedom". And while freedom is a gift, freedom is never cheap. Freedom has always been expensive. There've been thousands and thousands of American boys and young women who have died on the shores of other nations. Some of them coming down in flames from airplanes sunk in the sea, dying on the land, protecting their nation, setting free other nations.
Freedom is always a very expensive proposition. It's not only expensive to keep a nation free, it's expensive for an individual to be free. And I want you to turn, if you will, to Galatians chapter five. I want us to read one verse primarily, and then we'll turn to several others. The gift of freedom. And I want to ask you again: Would you consider yourself a free person? And then ask yourself this question: Is there anything on the inside of me that hinders me, restrains me, keeps me from being the person I really want to be, from achieving the things that I really want to achieve in life? Do I have some hindrance on the inside? Can I honestly and truly say that I'm a free spirit? Or would I have to say it's like somehow there's a cloud that seems to hover over me all the time?
Listen to what Paul said in this fifth chapter of Galatians, verse one. He says, "It was for freedom that Christ set us free, therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery". Look at that. It was for freedom that Christ set us free. That is, He had a very specific idea in mind, an objective to set free those of His creation. I want to give you a little background of what Paul is dealing with in this whole book of Galatians because he is probably as stern here as he is in any other of all of his epistles. And here's what was happening. He had spent his time in the area of Galatia establishing churches. Those people had been saved, their lives had been changed, and yet in some of those churches, there were many people who were not saved. They had come from pagan religions, and so there was a mixture of people.
Likewise, Judaizers had infiltrated the churches of Galatia, and this was their message. Their message was: yes, you can believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah. You can trust Him to be the Messiah, but you must also fulfill the law given by Moses. And with that law oftentimes came many additional rules and regulations set out by the rabbis over the years. And so, the challenge that he has is this: here are people who had been taught by the Apostle Paul: you're saved by the grace of God through faith in the atoning, sacrificial, all-sufficient, substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. And now these come along and say, "Oh, well, that's fine, but that's not enough to be fully saved. Truly saved, you must be circumcised. Truly saved, you must follow the law". And so what they were doing was putting the yoke of bondage of law on these people who had experienced freedom or those who were in the pursuit of it and those who were coming close to it.
And so the Apostle Paul has written this very strong letter. And Galatians is sorta the Magna Carta. It is the believer's Declaration of Independence. Independence of what? Independence of having to work for our salvation, having to measure up to standards and rules and regulations. And so, the issue here is the issue of works, that is, righteousness by works or righteousness by the grace of God. And so he says here, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free". Now, with that in mind, let's think about something. There are two groups of people in the church. Look, if you will, in the fourth chapter for a moment, and Paul refers to one group here, beginning in verse eight. These were those who had come out of pagan religions. They already had been yoked with rules and regulations and what you must do, what you must not do, and how much you must give and how much sacrifice and fasting and all of these regulations that made them acceptable to their idol gods, who of course, were not gods at all.
So he says in verse seven of chapter four, "Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God," when we've trusted Christ as our Savior. "However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods anyway. But now that you've come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things to which you desire to be enslaved all over again"? And so, what was happening was these people who were coming in the process of knowing the truth, they got right to the door, and what happened? The Judaizers said, "Oh no, you can believe in Jesus. That's not enough. What you need to do is you need to add all these rules and regulations and law and circumcision, do everything else".
And so what Paul is saying here, he's saying, "Now you are reverting back to rules, regulations in order to be acceptable in the eyes of God, and that won't work". The other group of people who were in the church were those who had trusted Jesus Christ for certain, and because of this erroneous doctrine and very evil theology, what was happening was they were being told, "You can believe Jesus is the Messiah, but that's not enough. To be fully saved, a true Christian, men must be circumcised, must keep the law, the Mosaic law, all those rules and regulations, to be really and truly saved". And so, there was much confusion. This is why Paul begins this book. Look in chapter one. This is why he begins in verse six by saying, he says, "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel".
And what was this different gospel? The gospel was: you're not saved by the grace of God, His goodness and love and mercy toward us, without regard to merit and worth on our part, but simply by His love. And then again in the third chapter, if you'll notice again what he says to them. He says, "You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: Did you receive the Spirit," that is, did you receive salvation, the Spirit of God coming inside of you, "by the works of the Law," by keeping the law, "or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by," your own efforts, that is by your, "flesh"? Did you suffer so many things if indeed it was in vain? "So then does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith"? And so they were being misguided, misled. And Paul is writing this letter to deal with a problem that still exists today.
Now, somebody says, "Well, we don't have Judaizers today telling us this". No, but we have some other folks who are doing the same thing. So, what I want you to do is to look at this for a moment, because what he's saying here is he's making a contrast between works and grace, between works and faith. He says in this third chapter, look at this third chapter, verse ten, "For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse," that is, if you, if you're trying to be saved by living up to the Ten Commandments or any other part of the Scripture like that, laws and rules and regulations, he says you're under the curse. "For it is written, 'CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.'" And we can't. "Now that no one," he says, "Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident, for 'THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.' However, the Law is not of faith, on the contrary, 'HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM.' Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for it is written, 'CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE.'"
Look in verse twenty-one, same chapter, "Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God"? No, "May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. But the Scripture has shut up everyone under the sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe". It is crystal clear in the Scripture, you cannot add one single thing to grace. And it all came through the death of Jesus Christ, that is the payment. Now, the question is: What's the purpose? That is, why did God set us free? Somebody says, "Well, He set us free so we can go to heaven, wouldn't die and go to hell". Well, that's not an afterthought, but that's a by-product of His real purpose. He says He predestined you and me to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. He wants to fellowship with us.
So, let's think for a moment. In this life and our earthly life, why does God set us free from this bondage? Why does He set us free to live a godly life? Well, first of all, He wants us to become the persons He wants us to be, that He desires for us to be. Now, you watch this. You and I cannot become the persons God wants us to be as long as we're under the yoke of bondage to anything. For example, let's say that you are a very bitter person. You're in bondage. Let's say that you have a very critical spirit. You're in bondage. Let's say, for example, that, when you think about your life, you feel so inadequate, so insecure, so unacceptable by God. You're in bondage. You're addicted to some habit. You're in bondage. We could just go down the list of all kinds of things.
Anything, listen, anything that puts us in bondage, that, listen, that hinders the flow of God in our life is a form of bondage. It is a yoke. God has come to set us free from all of that, and as long as that's in your life and mine, we'll never be able to be the persons God wants us to be. You, listen, you can't be the godly person God wants you to be as long as you are trusting in anything other than Him. And secondly, as long as you are, listen, as long as you're yoked with something that's fragmenting your thinking, dividing your mind, hindering you in your relationship to God and to other people. Secondly, He set us free in order that you and I might accomplish the things that God set up to accomplish in our lives.
If we're going to accomplish what God has set up for us to accomplish, we must be free. That is, we can't live in anger and bitterness and hostility. We can't live in lust. We can't live with a poor self-image. We can't live with these attitudes in our life that hinder us and keep us from applying the gifts and the skills and the qualities that God has given us and a mind focused on what He wants us to accomplish. We can't be the persons and we can't do the things God wants us to do. And so, whatever is there, you have to ask yourself the question: What is there in my life that's keeping God from flowing freely? What am I bound by? What is it that seems to corrupt me on the inside? What is it that seems to hinder my... where is my joy, where's my peace, where is my happiness, what is it on the inside of me?
There's something there. You can't be free as long as there's bondage in your heart. You have to identify what it is. You have to decide what it is. If it's some habit in your life, some addiction in your life. If you're addicted to anything and anybody but Jesus, you're addicted. But listen, here's the paradox of the Christian life. The paradox of the Christian life is this. Paul began the book of Romans by saying, "Paul, a bondslave of Jesus Christ". You say, "Well, wasn't he a slave"? Oh yes. What kind of slave was he? A slave to Jesus, which simply meant he had surrendered his life totally and fully and completely to the Son of God. And listen, he said, "Wherever He leads, I'll go. Whatever He wants me to do, I'll do. I am His servant to the very end with no exception. I am the child of the living God, committed to His will, committed to His way. I'm a servant of God". And he could never have been freer.
You really want to be free? Then you become a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. Why does He want to free us? I'll tell you why. Look in the fifth chapter of Galatians and look at these very familiar verses. Beginning in verse, if you will, verse nineteen, listen to what Paul says. He says, "Now the deeds of the flesh," he says now this is what, this is how we can live apart from God. This is how we live apart from God, "The deeds of the flesh," that is our naturalness, "are evident," that's very evident, "immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envyings, drunkenness, carousings, and things like these, of which I forewarn you," and do forewarn you, "that those who practice such things not inherit the kingdom". And so the world says, "I'll do what I please. Nobody's gonna tell me what to do. Nobody's gonna control my life. I'm a free individual".
Listen to this, freed to obey Satan, not free to live a godly life, free to obey Satan. Is that freedom? That's not freedom at all. My friend, if you took a good look at yourself, if you've never trusted Jesus Christ, you've got bondage. You are bound. You see, you say, "Well, I can do what I want to do". Not really. "Well, I could live a good life if I chose to". No, you couldn't, because you see, you can't. It's not a matter of can... you can't, you have naturalness. That is, it's a part of you, that's your nature. That's why Jesus came. If you could improve, if you could change, listen, what you must remember is that your nature is corrupted. You can't, listen, you can't heal a corrupted nature that has been infected by a virus from your very beginning that has corrupted your whole thinking. It takes the grace and power of God.
And so, what happens? Look beginning now in verse twenty-two. When we are set free, what are the qualities that flow through our life? "Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such there is no law". This is why He said the Holy Spirit came, that you and I, look, not that we would live it, but that the Spirit of God would live through us, what? He would love through us, He'd be patient through us. He would practice self-control through us. This is the work of God in our heart. None of us are capable in ourselves. One of the reasons He came to set us free, listen, is so that you and I could relate to each other in a godly fashion, in a loving fashion. For example, no one who is bound up in bondage, for example, of feeling rejected or angry, hostile, bitter, resentful, lustful, whatever it might be.
Anyone who's bound up with any form of emotional bondage such as that, you're not free. A person who is greedy, for example. A greedy person is never free. A person who is greedy is in bondage. And the tragedy is that many people are living in bondage. They're enslaved to emotions. They don't even realize how enslaved they are. They wonder what's wrong. They wonder why there's no real joy, no real peace, no real happiness, no real delight in life. Oh, it may come for a brief moment, but then you go to bed at night, you look up in the darkness and it's not there. Where's the joy? Where's the peace? Where's the happiness? Where is this gentleness? Something's missing in the life. You cannot be the person, you cannot live the godly life, you can't relate to other people in a godly fashion unless you are free, listen, the Bible says that God is love.
You want to love somebody? You, listen, you understand the love of God and let the love of God flow through you and the other person will understand what true love is all about coming from your heart. And when they, listen, and when they cannot love you in return, it's because something's bound them on the inside. You cannot, we cannot, no one cannot be free apart from the freedom and the liberty that comes in surrender, total surrender to the person of Jesus Christ as Lord, Master, Savior, listen, loving Father but the boss of our life. Now, when you think about what the Apostle Paul said, he said we have to protect our freedom. Now, I want you to go back to verse one of chapter five. Look at this. He says now, we must protect our freedom. That's really what he's saying. He says God sets you free but you got to protect it.
Watch this, "It was for freedom that Christ set us free, therefore," that is, on the basis of the fact, on the basis of the truth that God has set you free through the cross and your faith in Him, "keep standing firm". That means, listen, that means stand stalwart, persevere, steadfast, be cautious, take a strong stand with your conviction about living a godly life and not reverting back to works salvation. He says, "Keep standing firm and do not be subject to," that is, don't let somebody else load you down again with those rules and regulations, what you can and cannot do in order to be made acceptable before God. He says because that's not what it's all about. So he says, "We have to be careful in taking a stand".
Now, when he says stand firm, he says stand firm, say, for example in Corinthians and Philippians, stand firm, he says, for example, of stand firm in your faith, stand firm in the Lord, stand firm in the Spirit. And three times in the book of Ephesians, that's the sixth chapter, if you want to look there for a moment. Three times in the book of Ephesians when he's talking about our warfare, here's what he says. "Put on the full armor of God, so that you'll be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil". That is, take a stand against the devil. Verse thirteen, "Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that you'll be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, stand firm". Verse fourteen, "Stand firm therefore". And so, what he's simply saying is this. You have to be on guard lest somebody steal your freedom in Christ.
Now, somebody says, "Well, how do I protect my freedom in Christ"? It's just real simple. There's only one thing you can do to protect your freedom in Christ. I protect my faith, listen, I protect my relationship to God, I protect my freedom by one simple word: faith. I keep believing what I believed the moment I was saved, that He who saved me will keep me, and I don't have to add anything to what He's done. That's all. Don't add anything to what He's done. So, I want to say to you, you have listened and you've said, "Well, I don't think I've ever given my life to Christ. What shall I do"? It's just this simple.
Now, it's simple for the moment, but remember, you have to go back to the cross, and that wasn't simple. You're saved the moment you recognize that you're a sinner, your sins have separated you from God and, friend, you are in bondage to sin. There is no such thing as, listen, being without God and being without bondage at the same time. There's no such thing. If you're without God, you've got bondage. You ask Him to forgive you of your sins and you base your acceptance of that forgiveness on what Christ did at Calvary.
So what you're doing is you're expressing faith in the Word of God. You're expressing faith in the person of Jesus Christ, that when He died, He paid your sin-debt in full. And when you ask Him to forgive you of your sins, you can believe just that quick, I am forgiven based on what? Based on what He did and what He promised if I would confess my sins and surrender my life to Him. It's that simple, but it's life-transforming, life-changing, what one person did two thousand years ago. I think about how many men died, how many women died on the shores of many countries of this world to protect our nation, to give us freedom. And then I think most of all about one Man who died who really set me free. And He'll set you free if you'll trust Him.
Father, how very grateful we are for freedom that is beyond our comprehension. I pray the Holy Spirit will use this message to save multitudes of people. I pray that everyone seated here has either been reassured of their salvation or brought to the realization they need to be saved. Not one person would leave this place without settling once and for all their personal relationship with You. And those who have doubted and tried to measure up and striving with You, would lay it all down and be reminded today, Father, I'm trusting You to keep me with the same faith I trusted You to save me. For we ask it in Christ's name, amen.