It’s often a struggle to understand, let alone teach, the freedom that we have in Christ. In the United States we enjoy a standard of living and degree of freedom unmatched in human history and unparalleled in the modern world. When one can enter a grocery store and find an entire aisle devoted to nothing but breakfast cereal, how can it be impossible to choose Jesus as my Savior? When I am free to live in any of the fifty states, pursue education, career and family according to effort and God-given ability, how can I be (without Christ) under the power of the devil and unable to see Jesus in the Holy Bible?
Christian teachers do well to understand the distinction between spiritual freedom and what we might call civic or worldly freedom. Worldly freedom is the liberty to choose in regard to the everyday, the mundane. A man chooses which color of socks to where (hopefully they match). A woman chooses whether or not to apply perfume. A high school senior selects an area of study at university. A little girl chooses chocolate over vanilla at the ice cream store. No one would deny that people have liberty in these areas of life. Why, then, am I bound spiritually?
Consider the following verse from Romans:
“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Roman 5:10 ESV)
Because human beings consider themselves neutral in most every area of life, we assume we are so in relation to God. As Paul explains, we are by nature not indifferent to God, but in fact His enemies. It’s not merely that we are unable to choose Jesus Christ as Savior; we are inclined against doing so.
Further, we understand our inability to recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior without the work of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians, we read,
“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV)
This verse explains why so many learned and intelligent people have read the Bible and yet do not trust in Christ for salvation. Such individuals understand the content of the Bible, but do not recognize Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Why the fuss over such a seemingly trivial point? It’s essential that teachers of the faith convey this point accurately to their students (regardless of their age or grade level) because freedom in Christ, or lack thereof, informs how we behave in the world. More specifically, when I understand that no one comes to trust in Christ except by the work of the Holy Spirit through the Means of Grace, then I recognize that it is imperative to connect unbelievers to God’s Word and Holy Baptism. Evangelism is about bringing unbelievers to a place where they will receive the work of the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, namely: worship, Bible study, Sunday School, VBS, and the like.
Independence is a large part of the cultural understanding of the United States. On one hand, this makes the reality of the sinful nature harder for the average American to accept. “Don’t tell me I’m under the power of the devil! I live in a free country!” On the other hand, the prevalence of freedom in our country provides many natural opportunities to connect the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our history and heritage. Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day are times to remember and be grateful for those who have sacrificed, and still do sacrifice, so much for our security and freedom. As these days occur in the calendar, why not connect them to Jesus Christ and His sacrifice to earn our security and freedom? On Memorial Day we remember those who have given their lives in the defense of our nation. Help students to see that Jesus gave up His life to set us free from sin and to provide our eternal home. On Armed Forces Day we thank those who currently serve. Connect this present service with the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in creating and maintaining Christian faith through the Means of Grace.
Verses for teaching Christian freedom
- Romans 8:21: freedom in Christ
- 2 Corinthians 3:17: with the Spirit there is freedom
- Galatians 2:4: the work of the devil to bind us once again
- Galatians 5:1: standing firm in Christ’s freedom
- Galatians 5:13: using freedom for the Lord
- 1 Peter 2:16: freedom as servant of the Lord
When teaching this important and exciting topic, keep these themes in mind: Armed conflict in the world is a result of sin, sin which Jesus freed us from on the cross. There is freedom in Christ completely, but only through faith in Jesus Christ. God calls us to live for Him in this freedom, not to return to disobedience. The freedom we have in Christ is greater than any bondage this world may place upon us.