What does “Set Free in Christ” really mean?
This phrase has slowly been creeping into the Christian arena with the sense that we have been set free for freedom’s sake. Added to that are other variations I’ve heard: “free in Christ”; “freedom in Christ”; “I’m free”; “Set free to be me.” But what does all of this really mean? Can I live how I want to and have my own agenda as to how my life proceeds because after all, I’m a Christian and I’ve been set free!? Am I free to operate purely in a mode of my choosing filled with love, justice, creativity, and happiness? Am I free to listen to the beat of my own drum and declare my individuality to the world because I’ve been set free?
Before we go any further, let’s start at the most important place to see where we need to be headed….God’s Word!
Romans 8:1-2(ESV) establishes, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”
A few chapters later we are reminded in Romans 6:23(ESV) “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I don’t really have to go on here ~ God’s Word is very clear regarding what kind of “freedom” God is talking about. The freedom that we live in as Christians is a free gift from the Lord who died on the cross to save us from certain eternal death due to our sin and bring us back to complete and whole restoration and relationship with Him! We did nothing to earn or deserve this privilege. We are given this gift simply because we are loved by the amazing Creator of the Universe, who desires to have us restored to Him.
Take a moment and let that truly sink in deep to your heart and your mind.
The salvation that comes when we acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and Savior does not, in any way, open the flood gates of individual personification of who we think we are and the ability or even the right, to do what we want to do.
I’ll admit, I’ve laughed at the old saying, “Sometimes it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.”, however, in light of my relationship with the Lord, it’s not that funny. Too often, this is our mentality. What this statement is communicating is how we still at times function with a selfish nature, from which we make our life decisions. When we do not maintain an established connection with how Christ desires for us to live, the “I want what I want and I want it right now” attitude rears its ugly head. That path, my friend, is a dangerous one ~ one that I’ve stumbled down on more than one occasion; one that you can come back from but with more wounds that need to healing.
To be free in Christ means ~ we are free from sin and death; and that we can be restored to relationship with God.
To be free in Christ does not mean ~ we can take Scripture out of context; we can act according to our personal will and convictions; we can interpret Scripture to our own sensibilities to justify our lifestyle/attitudes as acceptable behavior.
John 1:1(ESV) begins with one of the most profound truth statements of the New Testament, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
If we take scripture out of context to use for our own purposes, we are essentially taking Jesus out of context from who He is within the Trinity. Jesus cannot be separated from God the Father or from the Holy Spirit. They are inseparable! Just as every verse recorded in the Word (the Holy Bible) cannot be extracted from the intent with which it was originally written.
I’ve recently been reading a fantastic book by Jen Wilkin1 called, “Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both our Hearts and our Minds.” It’s been refreshing to remind myself that God’s Word is presented to us in its entirety ~ not in pieces. One of my favorite teaching moments from this book is found at the bottom of p. 27, “Any study of the Bible that seeks to establish our identity without first proclaiming God’s identity will render partial and limited help. We must turn around our habit of asking “Who am I?” We must first ask, “What does this passage teach me about God?” before we ask it to teach us anything about ourselves. We must acknowledge that the Bible is a book about God.”
Such a great reminder of what our perspective must be when we read God’s Word. For when we know WHO God is, and how we are to follow Him and become more like Him, that is when we genuinely discover WHO we were created to be.
2 Corinthians 4:2(ESV) admonishes us to remember this very thing, “But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” Other translations use the phrasing, “nor handling the word of God deceitfully;” instead of the word ‘tamper.’ I hope that you are getting my heart here ~ we are to mindful of honoring the purity of the Scriptures. They are not there for us to reinterpret or conform in order to make us comfortable in our life.
The finest examples of following God’s will (in my humble opinion) are found in John 5:30(ESV) “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” ; and John 6:38(ESV), “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” These are Jesus’ words to the crowds as He told them in no uncertain terms that He had authority as the Son of God because God the Father had given it to Him. Jesus was giving them a peek into the fact that He had come to earth to fulfill the prophecy’s of the Old Testament. These two verses undoubtedly show how the foremost factor in all the decisions Jesus made was to be determined by the fact that He was firmly connected with His Father, confident that His Father’s will was accomplished. Jesus’ primary motive was to follow God’s will, in that He should become the Savior and be able to offer us eternal life. To gift us with true freedom.
Jesus is fully God and was fully man ~ yet He humbled Himself to give us the perfect portrait of what following God’s will must look like.
When King David (of the Old Testament) was in the deserts of Judah, he penned what we read in Psalm 63:1-5 (NIV) , “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.” If we are to engage in this manner of thinking, in this style of praise, we would not have room in our life to exalt our own selves or decide that we could be “free” to live how we pleased.
I Peter 2:16 (ESV) encourages us ~ “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” These are incredibly powerful words written to embolden us to be subject to the authority of Jesus Christ in order to experience true freedom IN Christ. Preceding this verse, the writer expresses the joy in the truth that “…you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (vs. 9)
There are many verses in God’s Word that speak to freedom, submission, honor, and delight in the salvation we have in Jesus ~ after all, the Bible is a book about God; who He is and why He sent His Son to rescue us from the depths of hell. There are not, however, verses in God’s Word that convey any notion that we are (in today’s lingo) “free to be me.”
What a celebration of Freedom we can participate in with Christ!
~ we are set free from Satan’s rule and earthly dominion
~ we are set free from the laws of the Old Testament
~ we are set free from the wrath of God we were due because of our sin nature
~ we are set free from the terror of death and eternal separation from our Heavenly Father
~ we are set free to live within the boundaries of spiritual liberties gifted to us by Jesus
~ we are set free to live in holy communion with the Trinity
~ we are set free to live fully into the person we are created to be!
Thank you my friends for walking down this road with me. My prayers are with you as you discover in a fresh new way (I hope!) what it truly means to have Freedom in Christ!
- Wilkin, Jen (2014). Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and our Minds. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.