In high school I was a religious hypocrite, yet I had no idea how I was damaging the gospel. I grew up going to church, but the gospel I heard was you have to be a good and perfect Christian to get to heaven.
This was an impossible goal to reach. As hard as I tried, I could never be sinless. And so I lived in this cycle of addiction. I lived in bondage. I would try to be perfect, fail and turn back to sin.
The cycle went on and on.
Living in bondage was exhausting.
I was a religious Pharisee. I told people that I was a Christian and that I felt called to be a pastor, my church even let me preach on youth Sundays, yet I didn’t even know God. One day on the way to school, I was walking up from the parking lot with my boyfriend and he looked at me and said, “You’re a bad Christian.”
I had no idea what it meant to be a Christian. My church added to the gospel and because of this, I believed I needed to earn my salvation.
Maybe you, just like me, sometimes still think you have to be a good perfect Christian woman. Maybe you’ve lost sight of God’s grace. These desires actually make us slaves. We become slaves to our sin and lose our freedom. Why is it that we allow ourselves to be burdened again by slavery instead of living in the freedom that Christ has freely given?
You are I are living our lives like the Christians in Galatians.
In Galatians 5:1 Paul says “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
A little background on Galatians. Paul planted this church in Galatia, modern day Turkey, and the gospel was shared and Christians were born. Then sometime after that, men called Judaizers infiltrated the churches and began to preach a false gospel. The men told the people, you need to be like us to experience salvation and the way to do this is to be more religious and to be circumcised.
Paul was mad that the gospel that he gave his life to was being edited. If we are passionate about a truth and someone misrepresents that truth, we typically respond with intense emotion.
Out of this intense emotion, Paul writes the Galatians with the desire to restore the Gospel and to help the Galatians know the reality of their freedom in Christ.
So let’s break apart Paul’s message in Galatians 5:1 into 3 pieces: First, Let’s learn about how Christ sets us free, second, how to stand firm in Christ so we do not fall back into thinking we need to add to the gospel, and lastly, what it means to live in a yoke of slavery.
Together, let’s live in freedom and stand in Christ.
First, consider how Christ sets us free.
Jesus’ death on the cross set us free. If you are in Christ, you have freedom. Christ set the Galatians free and continues to set us free, from religious legalism. Following rules does not bring us into right relationship with God. This is religious bondage.
True freedom is not based on rules, but on a relationship – a loving personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
We are free because of Jesus, not because of anything else.
Paul grew up Jewish, so he knew the Jewish law and followed all the rules. Once he converted to Christianity, he gained freedom from the Jewish law. He would have known the burden of living under the law, and then he would have experienced the opposite by living free in Christ. He would have spent his whole life trying to be a good Jewish boy, trying to be perfect and sinless, much like I was trying to be a good Christian girl in high school. But this was impossible because we are sinful people who need a savior.
True freedom is not about being sinless, but is about Jesus.
Yet, even as believers, there are a lot of us living in chains.
This past Spring I had the opportunity to work for a ministry called Dirty Girls Ministry, a ministry providing help, hope and healing for women with pornography and sexual addiction. For ten weeks, I met with the same women online for a face to face support group.
All of the women loved Jesus and craved freedom, yet believed freedom was impossible. Their churches were adding to the gospel by telling the women to find freedom simply by praying more or doing more. The women were experiencing spiritual bondage, just like the Galatians.
But Paul tells us in Galatians 5:1 that we can’t earn freedom. We can’t do more to be free.
Look back to the verse, “For freedom Christ has set us free.”
Whatever you’re struggling with, if it’s addiction, perfectionism, anxiety, stress, know that you are NOT the one who provides freedom. You cannot gain freedom by working harder.
Let’s live in freedom, but to do this, we must stand firm in Christ.
So, how do we stand firm in Christ?
Standing firm is difficult. Persevering through life is difficult. Paul includes this in the verse because living out our freedom practically is really hard.
Think about the image of standing. Do you like to stand for long periods of time? Have you ever had a job where you had to stand on your feet all day? By the end of the day, you came home and sat on your couch, propped up your feet and rested. You were exhausted.
This is how we feel when trying to live in our freedom in a fallen world. Physically standing is hard. And spiritually standing is hard. This is why we must stand in Christ, by yoking ourselves with Him.
Let me unpack what it means to be yoked to Christ. In history, a yoke was a wooden bar placed over the neck of a pair of animals so they can work together. They would usually place a older, wiser animal with a younger one, and they were able to work more easily together than working alone.
When we yoke with Christ, He isn’t taking away our burdens, He is making them lighter, easier to pull. And this new partnership changes our identity.
When we yoke with Christ and stand firm in our relationship with Him, our identity becomes fixed as God’s daughters. That is who you are, your identity. Because of Christ, your identity is in freedom.
How freeing it is that our identity is not in if we are single or married, or in our daily struggles but that our identity is in Christ.
That is freedom.
Freedom is not a one time decision, but a decision we must consciously make every single day. The farmer makes the decision to yoke two animals together every single time there is work to be done.
That is how we will live in freedom and stand in Christ.
As Christians, we are now free from the law, but just because we are free, this doesn’t give us license to sin. In fact, if we sin we lose our freedom and become slaves to Satan and submit to a yoke of slavery.
Finally, what does it mean to live in a yoke of slavery?
If we continue to choose to live in bondage, we aren’t living out our Christian freedom. Instead, we are becoming slaves to our desires. That is why it is important to learn to stand firm in Christ.
Do you want to be yoked with slavery? Or do you want to be yoked with Christ?
For the Galatians – they thought you had to be circumcised to be saved. That was their yoke of slavery. For high school Joy, the belief that I had to be perfect to be saved was my yoke of slavery.
What is your yoke of slavery?
How are you adding to the gospel?
Are you trying to experience freedom on your own apart from Christ?
Even though we have been saved, and we can’t lose our salvation, we can lose our freedom. We must stand firm. We must be diligent to pursue freedom.
Right now, you might be living in slavery… you can experience freedom because of His death. You might feel chained… you can be free because of His blood. You have the decision. Will you make Jesus your treasure? Will you spend time with Him and grow in your love with Him? Or will you turn to law-keeping and check-lists?
Will you, in the difficulties of living in a sinful world, remember to live in freedom and stand in Christ? (Click to Tweet!)