Enjoying Our Freedom in Christ

Enjoying Our Freedom in Christ

Study Guide, May 21, 2023

Pastor Clay Olsen

Once again, we had a great time in our Men’s Advance/Retreat. We advanced in our spiritual growth, our emotional peace, and probably in our physical stature…Oh yeah, we ate really well. But we wanted to share and expand a bit on some of the teachings that are so important for all of us followers of Christ to better understand, so that we can both better know and better serve our Savior, but also so that we can better enjoy and better share the freedoms that God has granted to us by way of our being united with Him.

And so we’re going to focus in on one particular aspect of the Christian life, and that is, ‘enjoying our freedom in Christ’. So many Christians forfeit the peace and the joy that God desires His children to experience and then to share with others simply because they rely on their own reasoning or rationale or habits, which spring from their own temperament or their own demeanor and such.

One thing we must realize about ourselves is that the human nature is a very stubborn entity. It does not give up its conceptions or its misconceptions or its beliefs or even its misbeliefs very easily. Even as God’s people, we still tend to be a stubborn lot. Just as God said this about His people in the Old Testament, His people in the New Testament are being described as well.

Deut 9:6- “Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people.” NASU

Stubborn, us? Yup! We are! Yes, times change, but human nature remains the same. That’s why in our salvation God had to give us a ‘new nature’…a new spiritual nature that was united to His own nature. But still, our old nature is still active and still stubbornly influences our mind, emotions, and will…if we let it…or, if we do not choose to let God the Holy Spirit guide our mind, our emotions, and will. Remember: Our default nature is still faulty! We must choose to believe, feel, and do what God is leading us to believe, feel, and do…and choose it daily, in order to effectively follow Christ and be effectively used by Him, as well as to then experientially enjoy the freedoms He wants us to enjoy. Also remember, this joy is not just an ‘add on’, like an accessory in a Christian’s ‘options package’ for following Christ. No, this ‘joy of the Lord’ is our very strength for following Christ in a rough and deceived world. Enjoying our freedom in Christ is not a luxury…it is a necessity!

So we are just going to get right to one of the least emphasized teachings in the Scriptures that God intends to be one of the most gratifying and motivating teachings in the Scriptures. And let’s give one caveat here, because these Biblical truths are intended to be gratifying and motivating for those followers of Christ who are seeking to honor and please and follow Christ more and more in their life. As the Psalmist declared: “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope (trust) in His mercy. Ps 147:11 NKJV In other words, these teachings are meant to bless ‘conscientious Christians’. They are not intended to pacify ‘calloused Christians’, or those children of God who are not seeking to be more and more obedient to the Will and the Words of God. Paul referred to these disobedient Christians as ‘carnal Christians’. Although, they had been ‘Born Again’ they had defaulted back to being self-centered and more concerned with doing their own will rather than doing God’s Will. God, too, has disobedient children, remember. So God’s comfort is to encourage conscientious Christians, not to excuse self-centered Christians. And that is very important to differentiate. Again, God’s comforting teachings are for conscientious Christians. God’s conviction is for calloused Christians…conviction so that they will repent of their self-focused, living to please themselves first attitudes, and commit to becoming more and more Christ focused and living more and more to please Christ first.

So, let’s get right to the amazing reality of what the Substitutionary life and death of Jesus Christ provided for us. Rightly so, we glory in the Cross of Christ. We rejoice in the awesome truth that Jesus voluntarily took our place in paying the sin penalty that our sins deserved. Note the great truth of 2 Cor 5:21- “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” NASU The word ‘behalf’ in the Greek is ‘huper’, and it means ‘in place of’ or ‘instead of’. This debt of our sin requires that we be forsaken by God…separated from God, because the holiness of God requires the justice of God. And the justice of a Holy God requires separation from God because sin is rebellion against the very Person and holy moral nature of God.

That’s why God in Christ had to become Jesus in humanity in order to bear that penalty of our sins on our behalf… ‘huper’…in our place…instead of us. Jesus was forsaken by God the Father and God the Holy Spirit when He was paying our debt of sin on our behalf on the Cross. And He paid it in full! And that’s why Jesus then said: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” “Heb 13:5 NKJV

So Jesus was forsaken on our behalf…in our place…instead of us! That’s why we call His death ‘His substitutionary death’. He died as our ‘Substitute’. But the other glorious reality, that we do not thank Jesus enough about and rejoice enough in, is that Jesus also lived a substitutionary life for us. For His gift to us was not only the forgiveness that comes from His substitutionary death for us…His gift includes the righteousness of His own life since He also lived a substitutionary life for us! Christ’s righteous life makes up part of the gift of salvation right along with Christ’s sacrificial death. Rom 5:17- “For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” NASU Again, in 1 Corinthians Paul points out being united to Christ includes being granted ‘His righteousness’. “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.” 1 Cor 1:30-31 NASU

Renown Bible Teacher, R.C. Sproul, who now lives in Heaven, put it this way: “We must see that the righteousness of Christ that is transferred to us is the righteousness He achieved by living under the Law for thirty-three years without once sinning. Jesus had to live a life of obedience…He had to acquire, if you will, merit at the bar of justice. Without His life of sinless obedience, Jesus’ atonement would have had no value at all. We need to see the crucial significance of this truth; we need to see that not only did Jesus die for us, He also lived for us.

The point of the Gospel is that ‘imputation’ is real—God really laid our sins on Christ and really transferred the righteousness of Christ to us. We really possess the righteousness of Jesus Christ by imputation. He is our Savior, not merely because He died, but because He lived a sinless life before He died, as only the Son of God could do. We must see that the righteousness of Christ that is transferred to us is the righteousness He achieved by living under the Law for thirty-three years without once sinning.”1

That is so well stated by Dr. Sproul. That is why we are declared righteous in Christ’s righteousness and not ours! The Prophet Isaiah reveals that we are to think of our salvation as a garment, and that in God’s eyes, we wear Christ’s righteousness as like a robe…a robe of righteousness. Isa 61:10- “I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness.” NASU

We have pointed this passage out many times, but we need to understand it more and more if we are to understand our Savior better and better. Think about it: This garment is made up of the obedient and sinless works of Jesus’ life on Earth. Every day that Jesus lived He loved the Lord with all His heart, all His mind, and all His strength. Every day that Jesus lived on Earth He loved His neighbor like they were Him. Every day that Jesus lived He was fulfilling every requirement of the perfect and righteous Law of God on our behalf. Every day Jesus lived, from His childhood to the Cross of Calvary, Jesus obeyed every commandment, every instruction, and performed every good work perfectly…sinlessly. Every day Jesus lived on earth, the words of His mouth and the meditations of His heart were fully pleasing in God’s eyes. Every motive He ever had, every thought, every work Jesus ever did, He did it on our behalf. He worked His works so that we could be saved by His sinless works, since we could not be saved by our sinful works. He did everything in our place, instead of us, as our Substitute. That’s why even though we cannot be saved by our works, we can, and can only be saved by Christ’s works. That’s why Salvation is a free gift to us because Jesus earned our place in Heaven for us…His righteous works are credited to us!

And every one of Jesus’ perfect and righteous works went into weaving this garment of Salvation that God would one day place upon you and me when we turned to God and repented of our sin and put our trust and faith in the life and death of Jesus Christ to be our Savior and God. The very threads of what makes up this robe of righteousness is every thought, every word, every deed, every motive, and every work of obedience from every day of Jesus’ life on earth. And that is the garment of Salvation and the robe of righteousness that we are now clothed in and will wear for all eternity. That is the righteousness that the Apostle Paul said he would stand before God wearing, not a righteousness of his own, made up of the works of His life, but that righteousness of Christ that comes from God on the basis of faith in Christ, which is made up from the sinless and perfect works of Christ’s life!

We could just pause here in astonishment at the love and gift of Christ to us, but we now need to connect something very crucial to this. What we need to know now is this: Since we are saved and secure through the substitutionary life and death of Jesus on our behalf, and we now wear His robe that represents a life of complete obedience and fulfillment of the laws of God, what then is God now looking for from us? What does God now expect of us, His children? And here it is: God is certainly now not expecting perfection in the performance of our works and obedience to Him. For that was fulfilled in Christ’s gift of His righteousness to us. So what God is certainly now expecting from us…expecting from His own children, is not perfection, but perseverance! God expects us to persevere and to press on in practicing the righteous works of obedience and service to God that Jesus performed in perfection for us. And since God knows that we still stumble in doing them, that we still fall short in perfect obedience, He is not expecting perfection, but He is expecting perseverance and improvement…improvement through our practicing following His instructions and living out His commandments for our lives.

However, even as we do seek to please God more and more, because we still have this presence of sin in our lives, we will come to understand more of what Charles Spurgeon wrote: “The saints are sinners still. Our best tears need to be wept over, the strongest faith is mixed with unbelief, our most flaming love is cold compared with what Jesus deserves, and our most intense zeal still lacks the full fervor which the bleeding wounds and pierced heart of the crucified might claim at our hands. Our best things need a sin offering, or they would condemn us.” 2

We not only fell short of the standard of God’s righteousness before we were saved, we still fall short of doing perfect righteousness after we are saved. Thankfully, God credits us with our practice of righteous, not our perfection of it. But as for our position in Christ, because of this gift of Christ’s righteousness that Jesus made for us and gave to us, we are now fully accepted, completely loved, and secure as a saved child of God’s.

And so this security and freedom we now have in Christ is not only what we are to know and understand, but also what we are to daily rejoice in, and what we are to also glory about. The awesome reality is that through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ we are delivered from the penalty of our sins, and it is through the sacrificial life of Jesus Christ that we are relieved of the guilt of our sins. Note that again: Christ’s sacrificial death removed the full penalty of our sins, past, present, and future…and Christ’s sacrificial life relieves us of the present guilt that we experience because of the presence of sin in our lives, even when we are seeking to do good!

Again, we are speaking to conscientious believers who are seeking to obey God, and yet experience guilt in not performing their works of obedience as they had planned or had hoped. Point being: We need not ever carry the guilt of our attempts at righteousness that still fall short because of mixed motives or not performing those works perfectly, or even over confessed sins that still trouble us. Why? Because God is not looking for perfection in us. He already found perfection in Christ, who perfectly performed righteousness for us. So now God can delight in showing mercy to us…to all His children who are seeking to please and obey Him, in spite of our imperfections.

Jesus did each of these works unto God perfectly in our place, on our behalf, and now we are free to simply persevere in them. We will never do them perfectly as Jesus did. And we will always need to confess where we fall short in our mixed motives or in our failures because of our selfishness and pride which still need our confession. But we can also know that this guilty conscience of conscientious believers is part of that from which Jesus came to also set us free! For as the Psalmist declared: Ps 130:3-4- “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You,That You may be feared.” NASU

God wants us to know that we can freely serve Him without guilt over our failings and our imperfections in our service. He wants us to know that He is not holding our confessed sins against us, rather, He delights in being merciful to us, and invites us to enjoy receiving it as much as He enjoys granting it! And this will set us free to fear and serve our God even more!

  1. R.C. Sproul, Jesus Not Only Died for Us, He Lived for Us, ligonier.org
  2. Charles H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon at His Best, p.131