His name was Hiroo Onoda. In 1944, at the age of 23, this young Japanese soldier began one of the strangest odysseys in all of history. For twenty-nine years he lived, dreamed, planned, and struggled under the illusion that he was at war – a war that had long ago ended. Living deep in the recesses of the jungle, bound by a pact of faithfulness to a dead cause, Hiroo lived a life of mental bondage to an erroneous belief. The liberty that was his for the immediate taking remained a distant goal.
As heartbreaking is the story of Hiroo Onoda, it is even more tragic to be spiritually bound to works and traditions that lead to emptiness, while not realizing the freedom in Christ that gives liberty. Paul, in his letter to the church in Rome, is continuing his efforts to warn the church of the delusions of legalism that would only lead to an unnecessary slavery. He wants them to take advantage of the freedom that is theirs.
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
Freedom, the common cry and desire that runs through all of humanity, is essential to who we are. With freedom, one has the ability to reach for the dream ahead with an expectation of achievement. With freedom one can live and love without the chains of hurt, pain, and bitterness. With freedom, one can become someone that could never be imagined while under slavery. Christ says “if ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32
Paul, who learned of freedom in Christ after his Damascus road experience, cannot bear to see the church diverted into the destructive path of earning salvation by their works. Paul had been there and done that, “circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” Philippians 3:5-6. He knew firsthand that there was something better.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:2-4
But just what is this freedom that Christ offers? Books have been and will continue to be written trying to put into words the greatest gift given to humanity. For sinners, wearied through vain efforts to please God and quiet a nagging conscience, they find in Christ the freedom to rely on someone bigger than themselves. The yoke of bondage which drains joy and happiness from the daily existence is replaced with a trusting peace that keeps the soul in the midst of all storms.
This freedom allows the soul to reach forward with the hand of faith and take the hand of God.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Romans 8:5-6
What would you and I attempt in life if we actually believed and accepted the freedom in Christ that is ours? Would we dare to be mighty men and women of God free from the chains of our past and no longer held captive by the sins that now keep us bound? Jesus points the way, “If the Son therefore shall make you free ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:36
“The only condition upon which the freedom of man is possible is that of becoming one with Christ. “The truth shall make you free;” and Christ is the truth. Sin can triumph only by enfeebling the mind, and destroying the liberty of the soul. Subjection to God is restoration to one’s self,—to the true glory and dignity of man.” Ellen White, Desire of Ages 466
Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:
- What does “freedom in Christ” mean to you?
- How does being free in Christ enable a person to be free from the bondage of sin?
- What does “no condemnation” mean to you?
- What does it mean to walk according to the spirit?
- Does freedom in Christ mean that you are no longer bound by rules and laws? Explain your answer.
- What role, if any, does the organized church play in enabling members to be free in Christ?
- Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: The more religious a person becomes, the more they are walking according to the spirt. Explain your answer.
We close this week’s lesson on No Condemnation, with a powerful set of promises about God’s commitment to us.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Romans 8:31-34