Read: Galatians 5 and Exodus 20: 1 - 20
Some people believe that salvation can be achieved through the justification of works alone though, in that belief lies foolishness. Equally, we cannot be justified purely by faith, for Scripture teaches that " ... faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead!" (James 2: 17). Faith that's content merely to declare itself and go no further is not real faith at all. Simply declaring a basic belief in the existence of God is quite insufficient in salvation terms! Faith is only proved and developed when we act upon it. Works without the background of faith are empty works, and on their own they're spiritually meaningless. Equally, if faith alone is relied upon to achieve heaven's rewards then disappointment must surely follow. It's the combination of the two that is important. If, because of our faith, we do good works, then we shall see the Kingdom of God. Through faith we believe in the existence of the Triune God, the Three-in-One, Father - Son - Holy Spirit. It's because of our belief that we cherish the desire to do as Jesus taught us, in order that we can please God through our unfailing faith and belief in Him.
At Capernaum the people asked Jesus, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him who he has sent." (John 6 : 28/29) The only "work" that a man can do that is acceptable to God is to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, accepting the purpose for which He came. This neither excludes nor exempts us from doing good work in His Name, for Christ teaches that we should care for others as for ourselves, looking after the needs of those who are more vulnerable, whatever the reason, because everyone is precious in God's sight. But we do these things because of the faith that we have in Christ Jesus, out of obedience both to His wishes and the wishes of our Father, God.
Many people in the world are bound by it's temptations and attractions. Speaking to people about the things they consider to be important often results in some pretty selfish answers. Bigger houses, better holidays, winning the lottery, more luxurious cars, and so on! Surely the top of our list should be freedom, though freedom means different things to different people. To some simply means the freedom that can be expressed through personal choice, to others the freedom to go where they want when they want. If you were locked up then I'm quite sure that the latter would fit your own wants! Note that I say "if you were locked up", but so many people are locked up in the goal that sin provides for them. Yet everyone has access to the key to freedom within their grasp, for .__ it was for freedom that Christ set us free ...(Galatians 5:1). When Jesus gave His life upon the cross He did it for everyone, so that by believing on Him they might be freed from the yoke and burden of sin. More than that, we are freed from the Law, for once we have accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour then our lives will be led by the Holy Spirit who is given to us as Comforter and Guide, so that we might follow the Way in all things. If you are ... led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. (Galatians 5:18). The Law was given by God through Moses so that people might have a godly direction to guide their lifestyle, but once we have accepted Christ then we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and we should walk by the Spirit, and take notice of the Spirit's guidance in all that we do and say. And if we are truly led by the Holy Spirit then we will no longer carry out the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16), and we will no longer need to be under the Law. The prompting of the Spirit in our lives and our obedience, recognising it as the Will of God, will be all that we need. This is real freedom!
Look through any newspaper and you will see report after report detailing offences committed by people who follow their fleshly desires. We find the horror of child abuse, murder, rape and immorality of all kinds, reported so often that it has become commonplace, only the more bizarre cases warranting headlines. The really frightening thing is perhaps the very ordinariness of the perpetrators of so many of these crimes. Looking at Galatians 5: 19-21 we see such a variety of sin that it's easy to see just why people get deeper and deeper into it, one thing often leading to another. Scripture is quite clear, that those who practice sin will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Quite bluntly, it means that people bound by the flesh, no matter how many `good works' they may appear to do, will not go to heaven when they die. It's strange how even the most ardent non-believer will talk quite glibly about people having `gone to a better place' when they've been bereaved, speaking of someone who spent much of their lives in a drunken stupor or immoral behaviour. All these people have remained locked up by their commitment to the flesh, remaining under the Law, and yet constantly and deliberately turning their backs on it. How can they expect to find themselves with their passage booked to Heaven! What they can expect, however, is to face the Day of Judgment on their own, with no one to speak up for them except themselves. What an unbearable and awful thought that must be!
By contrast, living a Spirit-led life and getting to know God in an intimate and glorious way through Christ's grace, must be a most wonderful thing. To know with the utmost surety, because of the certainty of our faith in His Saving Grace, that we will have Christ as mediator to intercede for us on that Day of Judgement. How wonderful that will be!
Look at the benefits of a life lived through the Spirit's leading. We see from Scripture that `the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...' (Gal. 5: 22-23). Once we surrender ourselves to Jesus then we walk with Him, led by the Holy Spirit. No longer are we left to find our own way through life with all it's pitfalls and snares. Instead of fearing death we can look beyond it in glorious hope, knowing that death itself has been conquered. The glory of a hope that will never fade, will never diminish, that is the hope that we have in Christ Jesus! This is true freedom!
When we are experiencing the joys of the fruits of the Spirit then we'll have no need to boast of our cleverness or our prowess in this or that. As Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians, if we must boast then let us boast in the Lord.
Let us understand the freedom that Christ has given to us, the freedom that frees us from the world, the freedom that leads us on a direct path to our Heavenly Father. Once we can understand it, once we can appreciate it, once we can embrace it, then we shall surely shout out loudly: Yes, this is freedom indeed!
To God be all glory, honour and praise! Amen.