As a little girl, my sisters and I would go shopping in downtown Pittsburgh with my mom. During this time, Pittsburgh had big department stores which were really popular. Besides that, most, if not all of them had nice restaurants to eat lunch or dinner. Our day would consist of taking the public bus downtown, spend all day shopping, have dinner and then return home. For a preteen, this was exciting stuff!
On one particular trip, after shopping, we made our way to the restaurant in the department store and enjoyed a nice dinner, which for me meant a cheeseburger, french fries, and a coke. Preparing to leave, my mom paid the bill at the counter as we stood next to her. On the counter, beside the cash register, was a glass jar filled with peppermint patties. I remember asking my mom how much they cost and I thought I heard her say “free,” so I took one and put it in my mouth. Well, they were not free! As I was enjoying the small peppermint patty, the woman behind the counter informed my mom that I had taken one, and she owed a penny. A penny! I was so embarrassed that I had “stolen” this piece of candy! My mom paid the penny and off we went. In my black and white world, I had committed a terrible sin. The scene stayed with me for a long time, and probably formed some of my “black and white” boundaries of right and wrong. I can be pretty rigid! So really, what is free? Is anything really free? Thinking about this and July 4th causes me to take a closer look at the meaning of being free.
This week, we celebrate our country’s freedom on July 4th with lots of picnics, fireworks, and hopefully some time with friends and family. We are a free people. However, it cost some people their lives so we could experience this freedom. Today, immigrants come to our country searching for freedom or a better way of life. The United States of America is a shining light to the world. If you physically live in this country, you have so much for which to be grateful. We are free, but freedom has a cost. We should never forget to be grateful for our country, the United States of America.
In the same way, you and I were granted a different type of freedom the day that Jesus died on the cross and rose again. Spiritual freedom. This freedom is not physical, but it’s so much more important.
Death to life.
Bound to free.
Simple, and yet so profound.
Our Savior gave the ultimate price, His life, so we could live spiritually free, and yet so many times we live in bondage. Anger, bitterness, hidden sins, all wrap their tentacles around our lives, keeping us from real freedom. We try to follow all the “rules” but elude real freedom. Why?
The book of Galatians in the New Testament shows us how this can happen. Paul writes this letter to Jews, who had now believed that Jesus was the Messiah and had become disciples. However, they were so used to following “the law” that there was a disconnect for them. When you read the Old Testament, there were many, many rules to follow, 613 to be exact. Whey they messed up, which they did, there was a prescribed sacrifice or sacrifices needed to be made, to get back into right relationship with God. This ‘freedom’ was a never-ending process.
Then Jesus entered the world and became Emmanuel, God with us. He died on the cross, raised back to life, and conquered death, hell, and the grave. Because of his sacrificial death EVERYTHING changed when it comes to freedom. Freedom was no longer about what we do, but now about what HE DID. All that is needed is for us to accept His sacrifice. Once we do that, we begin to live differently out of a “love” relationship, not a “rules” relationship.
Paul wrote to the Galatians about this struggle . . .
So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace. Galatians 5:1-5 (NLT)
This brings me to my second vivid memory as a child. I was in a candy shop and Mr. Manning, who was dating my widowed mother, told me that I could fill my white paper bag with all the candy I wanted. Exciting and amazing to a preteen. Was it free? Not exactly. Once the bag was filled, Mr. Manning took it to the lady at the cash register, paid for it and then handed it to me. It was free to me! I wasn’t embarrassed at all, and gladly accepted the candy because I knew it had been paid for. It was now mine to do with it what I wanted. I could have left the candy in the store, refused to eat it, or give it away… all would have been my choice. For the record, I enjoyed every piece of that candy. There was no guilt. The only difference from my first experience with candy was that I knew a price had been paid for my candy BEFORE I took it. Both were paid for, but the first experience left me with guilt, the second experience left me with freedom.
Sometimes in my Christian life, I don’t enjoy what has already been paid for me in a spiritual sense. I live without freedom by forgetting who I am in Christ and what He has purchased by his blood. You can’t pay for what is already free. You can only be grateful and enjoy the gift. When you have a relationship with Jesus Christ and believe He wants the best life for you, you conduct your daily life as a daughter of the King. You see the world differently because you know who you belong to.
“For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26. (NLT)
As you celebrate freedom this year, take a moment and ask God to show you what spiritual freedom looks like in your life. Possibly, you will see God handing you a bag filled with His promises. He has paid for your freedom and you have much to celebrate.