Independence comes at a price

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1, NKJV).

On March 26 Bangladesh celebrates its independence as a nation. From the establishment of the British Raj in the mid-18th century until its end in 1947, the land now known as Bangladesh was the East Bengal state of India. With the withdrawal of British control, the entire subcontinent of India was partitioned to form two nations with different religious majorities: India (Hindu) and Pakistan (Islamic). Pakistan was comprised of two widely separated territories, West Pakistan (now simply Pakistan) and East Pakistan (formerly East Bengal).

There were significant differences in the populations of the two areas, leading to disputes and eventual war. Bangladesh gained its independence following a brief but intense war against West Pakistan in 1971. After more than two centuries of domination by others, the people of Bangladesh now are independent. Their celebration of this day is justified.

Many nations have comparable holidays, of which none is more sincerely celebrated than July 4 in the U.S. Though no current Americans have lived under foreign rule in our own land, we understand both from our own history as a nation and the experiences of others whom we have witnessed, how great a blessing liberty is. We live in a free land, and thank God devoutly because of it.

Those who are in Christ have another freedom that is even more to be celebrated and given thanks for — freedom from sin and its punishment. All have been yoked under bondage to temptation and sin (Romans 3:23). All have struggled to gain control of their lives and bodies (Romans 7:14ff). All know what misery sin’s bonds can produce (Romans 7:24).

But Jesus has set mankind free from sin. They are not slaves of unrighteousness any longer who have put on Christ through obedience to the gospel (Romans 6:16-17). “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). After many thousands of years of bondage without hope (Ephesians 2:12), Christians are free at last.

But liberty comes at a price. As noted often in terms of this world, freedom will not long remain without constant watchfulness. This is just as true in the spiritual realm. That is the reason for the Spirit’s warning to “stand fast” in the liberty which Christ has given (Galatians 5:1). A nation which fails to protect its people, territory, and resources will find that others desire and will seek to take them. The redeemed sinner who is not constantly on guard will find himself overcome by temptation and once again enslaved.

Jesus warned of this danger in his parable of the man from whom an evil spirit was removed (Matthew 12:43-45). The spirit wandered through dry places seeking rest unsuccessfully. He finally returned to the man from whom he had been cast, and found him like an empty house, swept and clean. He then invited seven other spirits to join him and they all entered the man, making his latter state worse than the first.

The Lord’s lesson is plain. The victim of evil spirits failed to fill his life and soul with positive characteristics and actions. He was empty and vulnerable when revisited. Simply abandoning sin is not enough. One must replace sinful practices with those that are righteous. Likewise, sinful attitudes, desires, and speech must be done away with and positive spiritual replacements must be found.

Liberty is a wonderful blessing, whether it is of our physical lives or of freedom from sin. In both cases liberty must be guarded carefully, with constant watch against threats and danger, or it will soon be lost.

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