“And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
1 Peter 1:17-19
In 2008 we visited New York City, and while we were there we took a mini cruise around Liberty Island and got to see some amazing views of the Statue of Liberty. It is an incredible sight and a powerful monument to honour the independence and freedom that is enjoyed in America. I did some minimal research and discovered that Lady Liberty is actually fashioned after Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, who was widely worshipped in ancient Rome. Now I realize that no one is bowing the knee to worship the Statue of Liberty now, and they never have, but I do find it very interesting that there was a time when people did worship a graven image of her because they idolized and so desired the idea she represents…. which is liberty.
Liberty is desirable, but liberty from what? Well, slavery of course. The greatest number of worshipers of the goddess Libertas in ancient Rome were emancipated slaves. Freedom from physical slavery was their god. It is, in one sense, understandable. Human slavery is abominable, in the sight of the Lord and also I’m sure in the sight of everyone who would read this article. However, I believe that liberty is still placed on an altar of worship today, in modern times, in a different way, and sometimes within the church walls.
In every way as followers of Christ should we celebrate and rejoice in our liberty from sin and death that was won for us by the work Jesus accomplished on the cross. Our freedom from the captivity that we were held in under the guardian of the Law is cause to be overjoyed. We have all sinned in ways that deserve the punishment that Jesus took for us and by all just rights should have suffered the consequences ourselves, but by amazing grace we have been liberated through a high cost….. the precious blood of Christ.
The liberty we should adore is the liberty we have as emancipated slaves in Christ, the freedom to no longer be in bondage to sin and its demands, but to walk in holiness. “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” Romans 6:17-18 ESV
The liberty that we need to be wary of is the idol of liberty, which rises when we try to take advantage of the grace we have been granted, and to use it to take part in something that mimics the world’s way rather than God’s way. These things may even seem insignificant or trivial, but they are the “futile ways inherited from your forefathers” that Peter refers to in the text above.
I want to be careful not to zone in on one particular example because I know how easy it is to say, “Oh, I don’t struggle with that so this is not for me.” However, I am going to throw some ideas out there, not to nit pick but rather to illuminate the point. So maybe you think you have liberty to watch a movie that has more profanity than regular words, or maybe you are downloading the most popular songs regardless of the lyrics because you like the tune, or you possibly spend more time on the internet/social media/video games/shopping/etc. than in real relationships with people…. I don’t know, these are just hypothetical ideas, but if you start thinking along these lines, are there any areas in your life where you are spending your time in vain, or participating in useless activities that have zero merit in eternity?
“Wherever God pardons sin, he subdues it… If the fetters of sin be broken off, and we walk at liberty in the ways of God, this is a blessed sign we are pardoned.”
~ Thomas Watson
You USED to live a worthless life…. JESUS is the One who gave you worth and your life meaning. You were ransomed, which means the PRICE has been PAID to deliver you from FUTILE, fruitless, hollow, empty, idle ways. Sometimes the things we claim we have liberty to take part in are things that we need to leave behind us. The question isn’t whether or not they are acceptable, or even if it’s a sin or not, the question is are we conducting ourselves with fear (as the passage states)? Are we living in a way that bows low before the One we call Father and esteems the precious blood of His son the Christ? Do we understand that He is an “impartial judge”; that He doesn’t play favourites and that He looks at our obedience to His word?
He is a loving and tender God who would allow us to come to Him broken and battered by our sin and to ask for forgiveness. He is also a Holy and Powerful God who created the world by words alone and who holds my next breath in the palm of His hand. He is to be adored and feared. (“Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” Psalm 2:11 ESV) Ask Him today to change your heart to care more about things that are of eternal consequence and to care less about things that are perishable. And be on guard that the idol of liberty doesn’t sneak into your heart to be used as an excuse to sin.
Grace and Peace,