July 4th: Stand Fast!

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.-Galatians 5: 1 (NKJV)

freedom3In his commentary on this verse [endnote 1], Luther points out that to stand fast requires vigilance against the lies of the devil that by keeping the Law we can set ourselves free, for then Christ died to no purpose. In the Greek, the definite article precedes “liberty” and the divines of King James got it right in 1611: “The liberty”.  Liberty in Christ is as definite as His Cross.   The sign of the Cross is the sign of the eternal liberty. When we are lazy about our liberty in Christ Jesus, then we open ourselves to assaults of the evil one.  Luther wrote  that it as if the Apostle were saying:

“Vigilance and steadiness are necessary if you are to keep the freedom for which Christ has set us free.  Those who are smug and sleep are not able to keep it.”

We have fallen asleep as a nation and as His Church. When we get lazy about our liberty we think it is the freedom of the flesh to do as I please, then the “I” has once again dethroned Jesus Christ and we are again in the yoke of bondage.  He has set you free in the forgiveness He has won for you, and He did so not with silver or gold, bonds or stocks, but His precious, holy and innocent sufferings and blood.

Luther is also clear that there are two types of liberty: political and spiritual and that  spiritual freedom is assuredly the greater.  Luther wrote that the “Roman emperor” granted political freedom.  The founding fathers of the United States said political freedom is not granted by the state but by God. I think they were on to something. God grants the lesser political freedom based upon the greater freedom and liberty in Christ Jesus in which we are set free from, “…the wrath of God, from the Law, sin, death etc.” (Luther).  Luther wrote that these words are easy to say but hard to keep and Luther also taught us to sing, He fights by our side with weapons of the Spirit.

When we live as if political freedom is the license of the flesh, then we are again in bondage.  The new political enslavement was well described in a sermon by Abraham Joshua Heschel in 1938 in Germany [endnote 2]:

The conscience of the world was destroyed by those who were wont to blame others rather than themselves. Let us remember. We revered the instincts but distrusted the prophets. We labored to perfect engines and let our inner life go to wreck. We ridiculed superstition until we lost our ability to believe. We have helped to extinguish the light our fathers had kindled. We have bartered holiness for convenience, loyalty for success, love for power, wisdom for information, tradition for fashion. (emphasis my own)

The last sentence describes all together too closely the life of our nation and of our churches. Convenience, success, power, information and fashion is the program and the  false of promises of many a politician and too many pastors in the courts of public opinion and of the Lord’s House. Tyrants and tyranny over body and soul then step in to give us what we lust for and want more of and then we succumb to bondage.  Like Israel, we would rather be slaves in Egypt eating our fill of cucumbers and melons, than on the freedom road of Christ Jesus.

Simply put:  we have not stood fast.  We can, beloved in the Lord, as He stands fast and has for us and for our salvation.  There is the yoke of Christ or the yoke of the Law.  There is the yoke of bondage to the devil or the yoke of liberty in Christ.  Political freedom is enshrined in words of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  These documents do not grant freedom but point to it. Spiritual freedom is founded in the Word of God, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ and the Holy Bible forever points us to Him in the liberty wherewith He set us free.  Fellow of citizens of the kingdoms:  Stand Fast!

 

Endnotes —

[1] LW, volume 27, pages 3-9

[2] “The Meaning of This Hour”, Abraham Joshua Heschel

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