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The Freedom of Christ, Pentecost VI: July 16,1995

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Pentecost VI: July 16,1995

1 Kings 19: 14-21 Psalm 16 Galatians 5:1, 13-25 Luke 9: 51-62

Receiving a Shiny, Brand New Person:

In the Freedom of Christ

St. Paul presents us with the Magna Charta of Christian Freedom. “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand fast, therefore, and do not submit to the yoke of slavery again.” You know about how the nobles of King John gathered around him and made him share some freedom. That is what the Magna Charta is about. Also notice how St. Paul immediately bids us to become slaves as well. This freedom gives the power of love which turns us into slaves for one another. That’s why Luther in his treatise on the Freedom of the Christian Person spoke of the two sentences: “The Christian person is the free sovereign of all subject to no one. And the Christian Person is the dutiful servant of all, subject to everyone.”

Luther feels that the freedom of a Christian is more precious than political freedom or any freedom of the flesh. What St. Paul calls the “freedom of the flesh,” we might refer to as “material freedom.” An example of an experience of material freedom: when a teenager gets a car, a new freedom is experienced, an ability to get where you are going. It feels like almost anywhere. And that is freedom. But that freedom cannot hold a candle to the freedom we receive from Christ. Political freedom is an important value; it is a downright need, and countries that are controlled by others politically and economically, find that the dominating country fills the needs of its people first, and usually at the oppressed country’s expense. Political and economic freedoms are very important, but again, they cannot hold a candle to the freedom we receive from Christ. “If the Son sets you free, then you are free indeed.”[1] Thus whomever Christ sets free is truly free. “When you continue in God’s Word, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”[2] The truth is the person, Jesus Christ. A life in Christ is a life in truth. Thus it is Christ, the Truth, who sets you free.

Mostly in our day and age material freedom is valued over the freedom of Christ. But reading Luther’s commentary on Galatians can change one’s mind. For Luther one drop of the freedom of Christ is worth more than an ocean of material freedoms. One needs to see this freedom with spiritual eyes. Common sense pretty much will let us down here. According to Luther, the “freedom for which Christ has set us free” is enormous and infinite. Not even speaking in the tongues of men and of angels, or of women and of angels, for that matter, gives us a language adequate to its description. Eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor can we at all imagine the beauty of that freedom. For Luther that gift of freedom means instead of law and sin, instead of death, and facing the wrath of God – forgiveness of sins, righteousness, eternal life, and a God who is forever gracious and kind to us.

From Luther one can get the conception of “a heaven full of grace.” He writes that “God stretches an immense heaven of grace over us….” and does not count the sins against us, that we committed.[3] Because we take hold of Christ in our hearts by faith, Christ opens this heaven full of grace to us. That is having much more than a new car and the experience of freedom it gives us. Or a new house with a swimming pool, with the freedom to go and take a dip. Or having a thriving business with the money you can roll in. And that is having much more than a free country. The freedom of Christ is that freedom out of which any country can have a new birth of freedom. But what’s more, it is more than just the freedom a new possession can give us with its powers, but it is the world given to us in a fresh creation, our lives, our relationships with those we love, and it is all we are, but under the smiling promises of God – with the immense heaven of grace stretching out over us, knowing that God’s full heart of compassion is beating with love for you and for me, not because we are such “cool people” or nice guys, or so wonderfully creative. Not at all. But because we are sinners. Christ loves us even though we are still the sinners that we are. Even though we are the ones who have fallen short, we are the ones who have fallen on our faces, or just in short, we are a fallen people – Jesus died for us – and paid the precious drops of his blood for us, for you and for me. Those precious drops of blood put us into God’s precious presence, and together we live in a little bit of God’s precious time, with God with us, and the freedom that spells for us.

Just think! The freedom we enter by faith is really Christ entering us – and Christ being ours, our very own. We are speaking about the very Lord of the Universe. Christ in us and that precious life is ours. Christ here in worship in a little Oakland church. What matter that it is a small congregation in a large building! Christ comes and gives christself to you – and you grasp and take hold of this Christ in faith – and yours is the freedom for which Christ has set you free.

Now this is radical freedom. We are no longer under the law. But then Paul says: Do not use this freedom as license, as an opportunity to gratify the desires of the flesh. When we hear that the law is no longer over us, we figure that anything goes. And in come the powerful desires of the flesh. But not so is it to be understood.

We are therefore to walk in the Spirit and not give in to the desires of the flesh. As soon as we give in to the desires of the flesh, we go back under the law and our freedom is lost.

Oftentimes people want to maintain that Paul is speaking only about sex by the term, “desires of the flesh.” And certainly the latter can be one example of gratifying the desires of the flesh. But when you look at Paul’s catalogue of these desires, only the first three refer to sexual matters, then he lists idolatry, sorcery, making enemies, fighting, anger, quarrels, factions, envy, etc.. The flesh to Paul means the whole person turned away from God and neighbor. Spirit means the whole person turned toward God and neighbor. Thus a person in worship for purely selfish reasons is gratifying a desire of the flesh, and sexual intimacy communicating the wonderful love of God can be pure in the Spirit.

One of the favorite tricks people like to play is acting as if sexual sins are the only ones in order to divert people from seeing sins related to power and greed, as well as sins that relate to false and unloving spirits. According to Luther the young are more tempted with sexual sins, the middle ages with those of power and property, and the elderly with spiritual sins. Now in reality the latter are the very worst. After spiritual sins, those of power and greed come next, and sexual sins are the least evil. Here a caveat is necessary. It is now possible to spread AIDS and therefore sexuality can now inflict a slow but inevitable death upon a partner. Luther did not know about AIDS, but syphilis was rampant in his day. People were dying of it. One thinks of Ulrich von Hutten, who was a leader of the Knights’ Rebellion, and later died of this disease. But just how many more people get a slow death because others devour them economically and use them for their purposes politically. “If you devour one another, take care you are not consumed by one another.” And when we contemplate spiritual sins, such as the false spirits of nationalism, militarism, racism, patriarchy, and capitalism, then we are speaking about millions upon millions of people lost.

The so-called “Christian Serbs” are falling upon the U.N. designated safe-areas, cutting men’s throats, even those of boys and youth, and raping women, even twelve and fourteen year olds, in one case, and doing this because they hate Moslems! They speak of “ethnic cleansing!” Their false spirits are as dirty as those of the NAZIS. That evil there has to be stopped. And we Christians have to speak up for those Moslems, because Christ loves them too, and died for them. Serbia is flouting the U.N. and is not only taking us into the time before the Cold War, but could well be opening the refrigerator door to an ugly future filled with religious and ethnic wars, that will make the capitalistic-communistic confrontation that has just closed look like child’s play. Let us Christians stand up for those Moslems and say, “No more!”

So racism, religious hatred, and religiously inspired violence are spiritual sins far worse than the other categories, and often the perpetrators of these sins along with those who perpetrate the ones revolving around greed, try to hide them by acting as if sexual sins were the only ones. In our ignorance we are easily fooled.

Notice how a brand of fascism is growing in our country with the militia Movement, the conspiracy theories, and bigots who are planning race wars in our country. Read the Turner Diaries which are being used as a guide for these false spirits. It even describes how a government building can be blown up by a manure bomb. The suspect in the Oklahoma City bombing had been selling this book for $5.00 each.

Today the sins looked at are pornography, abortions, homosexuality.[4] In the attack on sexual sins is hidden some much more evil spiritual and power sins, sins that could set our country back, and rob our country of its integrity and the little soul it had.

Luther felt gratifying the desires of the flesh were to forget the poor and not open up opportunities for them, not give and share from what we have in abundance so they can live.

Pornography means evil. In that sense, that war over there in Bosnia and Serbia is pornographic and has to be stopped. The mean spirit against the poor and the immigrants in this country is pornographic and has to be stopped. So is the militia movement, and the ugly face of fascism. And the demeaning and depersonalizing illustration of human bodies as well, in sexual relations for the sake of profit, where men and women become completely dehumanized, give away or are robbed of all their dignity: that pornography has to be stopped. Human love and the bond holding together families and the community becomes lost when the most intimate expression of love becomes images sold on the market for profit.

When freedom is used for license to satisfy the desires of the flesh, the freedom of Christ is lost. That means we go back under the law, and get the wages of sin, which are paid out in death. But for all who take hold of Christ in faith, receive the freedom for which Christ has set us free, and with it the forgiveness of all our sins. With the immense heaven of grace stretched out over us, God will pardon us, because we accept Jesus Christ, who died for our sins. Now no longer do we live, but Christ loves in us. No longer are we the world, but the Kingdom. We can even be God’s own most favored nation. But right now we really need to pray against very evil spiritual clouds threatening us as they race across our sky, clouds full of hate moving over us. God help us! Amen!

Communion Blessing:

For freedom Christ has set us free. No longer do we live, but Christ lives us.

[1]John 8:36.

[2]John 8:31-32.

[3]Jeroslav Pelikan, editor, and Walter Hansen, Associate editor, Luther’s Works Vol. 27″ Lectures on Galatians 1535 Chapters 5-6 and Lectures on Galatians 1519 Chapters 1-6, (Saint Louis: Concordia publishing House, 1964), p. 86.

[4]Homosexuality per se is no sin, because it seems God created us more diverse than we thought. But sins can be committed in homosexuality as in heterosexuality.


Written by peterkrey

June 20, 2007 at 7:22 pm

Posted in Before Old Zion

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