In 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. exercised his American civil liberty by delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Yet, this same civil liberty was exercised by a woman – allegedly from Philadelphia – last week when she posted a video of herself urinating on the flag of the United States of America. Just because you can do something does not mean you should.
Though Christian liberty differs from American civil liberty, it too can be used for good or for evil. The Apostle Paul exhorted the Christians in Galatia to use their Christian freedom in a fitting manner. “Now you have been called to freedom,” said Paul. “However, do not use this freedom to give opportunity to the sinful nature. Rather, serve each other in love.” (Galatians 5:13-15)
In every Christian, there is a conflict. Our sinful nature tempts us to use our freedom to gratify sinful desires; the Holy Spirit leads us to use our freedom to live godly lives. Christian freedom is not an autonomous freedom that frees us to do whatever we want. Rather, it is true freedom, a freedom that allows us to truly love. (Galatians 5:16-18)
When we follow the leading of the Spirit, instead of our sinful desires, we are drawn closer to God’s provision in Christ. When we are drawn closer to God’s supreme act of love, our longings begin to change. Let me give you an illustration.
When I was about ten, I was in the hospital for many days. The hospital was an hour’s drive from home, but my dad visited every day after he got out of work. He would take me down to the hospital atrium and purchase from the vending machine a package of Goldberg Peanut Chews to share. They were one of my dad’s favorite candies, and he was very happy to share them with me. But, I hated those Goldberg Peanut Chews. To me, they tasted awful. I did not have the heart to tell him; I swallowed them down. But, then, something changed. I started to like those Goldberg Peanut Chews. Not because I liked the flavor, but because they represented my father’s love for me. Even now, I seek them out. Do you see what happened? My father’s love changed my longings. That is what the Spirit does. The Holy Spirit draws us to Christ and his supreme act of love, so that we begin to long for the things our Father in heaven longs for.
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