The Liberty Bell of the Church
Text: Galatians 5:13-25
Proposition: The Liberty Bell of the church calls us to stand firm in our freedom in Christ, to let law yield to love, to walk in the Spirit.
Introduction: In November 1751 a letter was sent from the then Province of Pennsylvania to the Whitechapel Foundry in London England ordering the casting of a bell over 1000 kilograms in weight. It was to be inscribed with a passage from Leviticus 25:10, "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof,". The bell arrived in Philadelphia ten months later on September 1, 1752. The first time it was rung it cracked and two foundry workers, John Pass and John Stow, were commissioned to melt the bell down and add more copper to the metal and re cast it. But they added too much copper and the sound of the bell was so bad they top it down and broke it up and John Pass and John Stow recast it again. Their names were also cast in the bell, Pass and Stow. However, the bell still sounded off so the governor ordered yet another bell be sent from the foundry in England. Ten months later the new one arrived and it sounded no better so they left the original Pass and Stow bell in the state house. In October 1777, the British occupied Philadelphia. Weeks earlier all bells were removed from the city. It was well understood that if left, they would likely be melted down and used for making cannons and cannon balls. The bell was removed from the city and hidden in the floorboards of the Zion Reformed Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania. At that time, it was only referred to as the State House Bell. It wasn’t until 77 years later that the abolitionists fighting against the practice of slavery in 1837 began to refer to it as the Liberty Bell. It became an iconic symbol of freedom throughout the country. The call to liberty helped shaped many nations but long before they ever were, was another and far greater call to liberty. It rang out as both a call and a warning. It too had the words of Scripture as it’s directive and they were cast in ink by a man named Paul. Have a look at Galatians 5:13-25.
I. Liberty Means Keeping Our Eyes On the Captain, Our Hearts on Home.
In Galatian’s 5 Paul starts with this call, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” He’s speaking about the way that the Law of Moses pointed out the extent of sin and at the same time called for a sin bearer, a foreshadowing of the need for Christ. The law had done it’s job as a tutor but now Christ has come and the need to serve the Law as an effort to righteousness was entangling them. So he says ‘Stand fast’ in your faith in Jesus. The Life Application Bible says three things about ‘Standing Fast’. It means: 1. to keep our eyes on Christ; 2. to remember that this world is not our home; 3. to focus on the fact that Christ will bring everything under His control. To keep your eyes on Christ means to know what He said and did in the Scripture, it means to speak with Him daily. To remember that this world is not your home is to see it for what it is, imperfect, temporary. To focus on the sovereign control of Christ over all things invites a perspective of patience and trust. It is for freedom, for liberty that Christ has come, setting us free from the old master of sin that Satan is quick to accuse us with. D. L. Moody quoted an old woman in the South following the Civil War. Being a former slave, she was confused about her status and asked: Now is I free, or been I not? When I go to my old master he says I ain’t free, and when I go to my own people they say I is, and I don’t know whether I’m free or not. Some people told me that Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation, but master says he didn’t; and he says Lincoln didn’t have any right to.” Jesus Christ is our President, our Captain, our King. Jesus has every right to sign the proclamation of our freedom by writing in in His own blood on the cross and now He declares that through faith in Him liberty is yours.
II. The True Definition of Liberty Is Living As We Should Not As We Please.
Paul warns them about the foolishness of trying to live in your own righteousness and then he says this in verse 13, “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” So what would it look like to use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh? The short most non descriptive answer would be that you do what you please rather than doing what you should. So let’s ask the obvious question, ‘What’s wrong with doing as you please?’ Since to some degree we all do as we please which is why we have fashion, a spectrum of choice in music and in everything from vehicles to sports teams and even to the food we eat. As much as we can get away with it, we do as we please. So what’s wrong with using liberty as an opportunity for the flesh? I suppose the obvious answer is that what we want is not necessarily what others want and may not even be in our own best interests. We can create conflict when we use our liberty in Christ as an opportunity for the flesh. It’s Christians that Paul is speaking to in verse 15, “But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” The great problem is that when we get used to pleasing ourselves it’s hard to quit. If that’s in the way we speak to one another, if that’s in the way we secretly please ourselves from substance abuse to pornography or sexual promiscuity, once you establish that pattern of using your liberty in Christ as an opportunity for the flesh it can become really hard to simply change it. If it’s your thought life, your attitude, your beliefs about yourself or others that all really came from giving the flesh opportunity then effecting a change in course can be like trying to steer your way out of a deep rut. What’s the antidote to this, it’s almost too simple, “but through love serve one another.”. That is the antidote and it infers that what you have been doing is serving something or someone else instead of serving the one you should. What’s the way out of this, how can we change before it gets to the point of consuming each other with either apathy or antagonism? There’s good news ahead.
III. Let The Spirit Rings the Bell of Liberty, The Guarantee of Freedom.
There is a great promise here for every person who has experienced repeated defeat in sin. Look at verse 16, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” The simple truth is that you can’t walk in two different directions at the same moment. But the great promise is that “you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” For those who struggle with repetitive sin this is great news. For those who long for a better relationship, a better version of you or a better hope, this is the key. Look what Paul says in the very next verse, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” You can’t use the flesh to overcome the flesh. The only thing powerful enough to actually effect change is the Spirit of God, even the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ. To walk in the Spirit is to recognize that you need to the presence and power of God in you, working through you, transforming you for change to occur. Romans 12:1,2, says “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
What is the essence of walking in the Spirit? It’s you presenting your body a living sacrifice, something needs to die for this sacrifice to be effective, that something is your will, your fleshly choice to serve yourself. It’s what God longs for from you, it’s acceptable to Him and it’s within your capability, it’s your reasonable service of worship. It will redirect you from the conformity that has ensnared you to being transformed. It will renew your mind; it will prove to you and to the others around you what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. What will that proof look like, how can I really know that it’s true. The evident presence of the Holy Spirit is described in verse 22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” This is what liberty looks like, this is what you are called to stand fast in because this is what Jesus Christ looks like. The world can only conform you but Jesus Christ alone transforms you. This is the call of liberty!