BOGOF! (That’s Buy-One-Get-One-Free to you!!)
There’s no such thing as a free lunch!
This week’s free, no obligation offer!
We’re bombarded with attractive offers that make great play of something that is free.
And in the New Testament, and most especially in the Letter to the Galatians, Paul tells us that “It was for freedom that Christ has set us free” Galatians was called by Martin Luther the greatest book of the Bible. It is called the Christians’ Magna Carta of liberty. If someone like Luther thinks a book based on Christian freedom is the greatest book of the whole Bible, then we should be at least curious about it.
What do you have to do to be a real Christian? What makes real Christians different from those who are just acting religiously? In this world if you want to get into a club, you have to pay to get in. If you want to be known as a helpful volunteer, you have to work at it. So what do you have to do to be a Christian?
Over the centuries a lot of different people have come up with a lot of different ways for being a Christian. If you want to become a Christian (they say), you must belong to a particular church, or must give a certain amount of money, or must live your life in a certain way or follow a particular leader or must do a number of good things to please God.
But the Bible gives a different answer to the question, "what can you do to be a Christian?" The Bible's answer is: absolutely nothing! You don't make yourself a Christian. Christ makes you a Christian. You don't have to jump through hoops to become a follower of Christ. God does everything to make you one. Rather, Paul tells us that Christ has set us free, free from sin, from death, and from any requirements to earn God's love.
The trouble is that ordinary human beings like you and me don’t handle freedom well.
If you are like most other Christians who have ever lived then you will run into one of two problems with regard to the freedom we have in Christ.
- We abuse that freedom. Until Christ frees us, we live lives addicted to sin. We are set free from addiction to sin in order to choose the way of Christ. It’s the freedom to make a choice to follow His way for us. We accept the freedom from the penalty from our sins that Christ offers but then we use the freedom to choose to behave selfishly. We ignore the fact that we can only be slaves to sin or slaves to doing it his way.
- We run away from freedom. The idea of being free to is too big; too scary. So we want something that takes the choices away from us. We want someone else to set out some firm boundaries for our lives. And so, like virtually every other human being since time began, we become religious. To be religious is to live according to laws and rules which bind and rob us of the choice. The word religion comes from a root word meaning to bind - and all religion binds. It is the opposite of the freedom that Christ offers.
It was for freedom that Christ has set us free. The freedom is not something to long for. If you truly belong to Christ then you have it already. It’s what we do with the freedom He gives that is our business for today.
Paul wrote his letter to the Galatian Christians for a specific purpose - because someone had heard Paul’s teaching about the freedom that Christ offers and was now trying to undo that and make them slaves to religion once again.
Paul had visited Galatia during his first missionary journey, somewhere around 55AD. Galatia wasn't a town but a whole region in the south part of what is (today) the country of Turkey. Paul visited various towns in Galatia and started Christian churches there.
But after Paul had left Galatia, someone else had come into the area and had started stirring up trouble.
It happens all the time. Christians are faithful to God and trust his good news and believe his Word and then someone will come and start putting wrong ideas and doubt in their heads.
The doubt which the Galatians had is a common one among Christians: Doesn't God really ask us to do something for his forgiveness? Don’t we have to persuade God we are worth it? God can't really forgive our sins for free, can he?
The freedom we have in Christ cost Him his life, his reputation, his dignity……everything. What will you do with the freedom he offers you today?