“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery… You, my brothers were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge in the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love.” Gal. 5:1, 13
This is the 4th of July weekend; a time we celebrate our “freedom;” we have so many freedoms living in the United States: Freedom of religion, speech, the press, to bear arms, to vote and elect our leaders. We celebrate these “freedoms” as we thank and praise God that we live in a land of “liberty and justice for all.”
Most of us are third, fourth, fifth generation citizens and it’s easy to take our freedoms for granted. But listen to the story of Eileen Ritter, the granddaughter of a first generation man from Poland – Mr. Schlutski, who operated a delicatessen in a small town:
Eileen writes: “I loved to go to Papa’s store because I knew I would always find him there. If I stopped in early on my way to school, I knew Papa and Grandma would already be busy stuffing the fragrant meat into casings in the back room of the shop. While I spent the morning studying at school, Papa swept and cleaned and ordered groceries. In the afternoon, Grandma went to her other job, cleaning at the hospital, while Papa waited on customers. And late at night I could always find Papa restocking shelves for the next day’s work.
“You must hate working all day and all night,” I told Papa one day. “You’re just a slave here in this store!”
Papa suddenly became very serious. “A slave?” he said. “No, no, it’s just the opposite. I work because I’m free. In Poland I was a slave. I started working before it was daylight. My wife and I worked hard all day long and far into the night. In Poland we were slaves.”
“But, Papa,” I said, “that’s exactly what you do here!”
“It looks the same,” Papa explained, “but here we work because we’re free. In Poland, no matter how hard we worked, the government owned the shop, and our work made no difference. We could not raise our children the way we wanted; we could not worship in our own church. But here we have worked and saved our earnings. We bought our own store, which we manage as we please. Our sons attended college and found good jobs. And we close the store on Sundays and go to church together.”
Mr. Schlutski felt like a “slave” working in Poland because he was under the “yoke” of an oppressive government. He rejoiced in being “free” because he was serving others in love – not political oppression / not fear and obligation.
But freedom can be abused. There is a vast difference between “freedom” and “license” (do as you please, whenever and wherever: “indulge in the sinful nature.”) Independence Day did not happen in the Garden of Eden – rather just the opposite! When Adam and Eve declared their “freedom” – they were enslaved to sin, shame, guilt, death and brokenness between God and each other!
All of us, when caught up in self-indulgences / favorite sins / maybe even addictions, are “enslaved” and need to be “freed.” One of the best-known of Jesus’ parables, the Prodigal Son is a good example of “license” rather than “freedom:” the son wanted to be free FROM his dad; but in his selfish independence he found out that he was NOT free at all; not until he returned in humble repentance to his loving father was he really “free.” The prodigal son had “misused his freedom to indulge the sinful nature” and had found how “enslaved” he was. It was finally in humble, loving service IN HIS FATHER’S HOUSE that he found true freedom.
True freedom is ours ONLY THROUGH a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s what Jesus is telling His disciples (and us) as He invites: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened (enslaved), and I will give you rest (freedom). Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
All of us were born into this world with an impossible yoke – the yoke of original sin / inherited at conception. And to this unbearable burden is added the actual sins that we do – piling on the weight so that there is no possible way that we can bear the yoke. The “yoke of legalism” often is added by others. Those who say “you must do this or that” in order to be saved, prescribing prayers to be said, etc., only add to the already overwhelming burden of sin and guilt and shame.
Do you feel the terrible weight of the “slavery” of your sins? Today, Jesus comes and invites: “Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (real freedom!). Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (v.28-30)
Jesus’ yoke is so very different: First of all, Jesus takes away our yoke of sin, totally removing it, “as far as the East is from the West.” (Psalm 103:12) Jesus ALSO takes away the yoke of legalism: having to keep the Law in order to be saved. He DID this by His perfect life of total obedience to His heavenly Father; His willing suffering and death on the cross – and IN EXCHANGE, gives to us HIS YOKE OF REST.
Jesus assures us: “My yoke is easy” / “My burden is light.” The “burden” that Christians now bear are the GOSPEL commands such as:
– Trust in the Lord with all your heart.
– Grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
– Pray at all times.
– Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
– Take eat, take drink this is My body and blood given and shed for you!
– In freedom – serve one another in love.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and … do not use your freedom to indulge in the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love.” Gal. 5:1, 13
See you in church next weekend!