Live Free: Our Liberty to Obey

In the historical drama about the American Revolutionary War, The Patriot, a slave named Occam is signed up for the militia in place of his enslaver, who is too cowardly to fight himself. Occam goes to war because he has been forced to. He is thrust into duty. But the sub-plot thickens.

Occam later discovers that General George Washington has issued a declaration that promises freedom to any man who fights in the militia for one year. As soon as he discovers this, his attitude changes to one of determination and hope for freedom. His racist comrades assume that as a reluctant conscript Occam will quit fighting for the cause as soon as he gains his freedom. However, after fighting for a full year, the warrior is granted his freedom, and for the first time, he has the choice to do as he pleases. His shows his mettle when he chooses to remain in his fighting unit, of his own volition, fighting for the cause as a compatriot, not as a slave.

In a similar way, Christians choose to submit to governing authorities, but not because we are forced to. Our volition is driven by a deeper motive.

Previously, we saw that all human authority is actually delegated divine authority and that when we submit to governance, we acknowledge God’s prerogative to place them over us. We trust God to do his will for us, through them, and that God will bring about his justice in the end. Today we will consider…

3 Principles So that You Can Enjoy Freedom to God’s Glory

1. Practice of Freedom

1 Peter 2:13–17 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, … For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

In the context this verse is saying that we are to subject ourselves to every human institution as free people. “Live as people who are free” is talking about how to be a good witness to unbelievers by the way in which we submit to the human institutions God has placed over us.

Christians do not obey because we are forced to obey, we obey from a position of freedom. Christians are free people. Free from sin, Satan, and self. Christians are free because they are free to stop sinning.

Unbelievers are not free. They are like puppets dangling from Satan’s strings. They are bound to their sin. Sin makes us foolish. We do foolish things with our money, our relationships, our life, and it brings terrible consequences, and we can’t escape that grip.

Unless we are set free by Jesus.

John 8: 31 …”If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” … 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. … 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Jesus came to earth for the ultimate prison break. He came to bust you out of the jail of your sinful nature. He shattered the fetters which bound you to evil and he infused you with the strength to run from evil. He ripped the leash out of Satan’s hands and broke the yoke of the law off your neck.

Jesus bought your freedom with his blood.

Now you obey him, not only because you must, but because, for the first time, you can.

That’s why Peter says live as people who are free…

2. Pitfalls of Freedom

1 Peter 2:16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

The pitfall of freedom is that freedom can, like any other good gift of God, be abused by Christians who wave the liberty banner, in order to hide their sin.

The word “cover-up” is the word for a cloak, a cloth cover.

My garage is pretty tidy. But there is a corner that has a big sheet covering it. So the place looks tidy, but if you lift the sheet, there are paint cans and garden tools and bags of charcoal and a host of spiders. I use the cover to hide the reality from sight.

That is the word used here. The sheet is the freedom we use to cover-up wickedness in our heart.

A person might go into debt to drive an expensive car and says “where in the Bible does it say I can’t drive a nice car?” And Christians are free to drive nice cars – but we are not free to be irresponsible with our money, to go into unnecessary debt, not to give generously to church, and to give in to pride, rivalry and materialism.

One might revel in the Christian’s freedom to attend a venue or drink a beverage that is not prohibited in Scripture when this is really just an opportunity to indulge in desires and motives that people can’t see, but that Scripture does prohibit.

In the Bible, freedom in Christ is always tempered with the warning against abuse.

Paul’s epistle to the Galatians is an inspired treatise on the wonders of freedom. But then he warns…

Gal 5: 13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

God knows our hearts. The solution isn’t for the church to make rules and take away freedom, but to exhort you to live like free people but not use it for a cover for evil.

3. Purpose of Freedom

1 Peter 2:16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

The real purpose of freedom is to serve God. How? because when you obey out of freedom, instead of compulsion it glorifies God.

It’s like one husband buying an anniversary present for his wife so that she doesn’t complain, versus another husband buying his wife a present because he gets joy out of planning, choosing, and surprising her with something that makes her happy. Same gift, same activity, different attitude – which makes all the difference in the world.

Christianity is not about rules and regulations, it’s about our relationship with Jesus. You cannot reduce it to rules.

Being a servant of God means we have a relationship with God, through Jesus, that transcends laws. We have a higher authority than human institutions. But that is no reason to be unsubmissive to them.

Do the right thing, not because you must, but because you can. Not because the man-made rules force you to, but because your relationship with God as his servant leads you to. You might feel strongly that no one should have the power to tell you when and where to wear a mask; you might not believe the mask has any effect. But you can submit joyfully, giving up your precious freedom, in order to do what is best for your witness of the gospel. Not because you must, but because you can.

How much more inspiring is Occam’s dedication to the cause when he becomes free to abandon it, but chooses not to?

How much more worshipful is your dedication to keeping the law when you feel free to break it, but you choose not to?

Reposted from The Cripplegate. Photo: Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash.

Clint Archer bio


Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.

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