True Freedom

Freedom.  One simple word wrought with so much meaning.  As Americans we enjoy the freest society on the face of this earth, a fact for which we should be thankful.  I have spent much time over the years speaking about America and its Christian heritage and my appreciation for both has not diminished in any way.  However, this July I feel led to speak about a freedom that is above national and political, one that is spiritual.  Something which no man nor nation, no threat foreign nor domestic, no devil in hell or Satan himself can take away from the one who has it; the freedom that is in Jesus Christ.  We spoke on three key elements of this spiritual freedom during our 4th of July service this year and I wanted to give them in brief in this month’s newsletter.

WE ALL NEED TO BE FREE, OR AT LEAST MORE FREE.  John 8:32 records one of the most famous phrases uttered from the lips of Jesus.  He told a group of religious Jewish folks that if they chose, they could “know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”  To which their immediate response was, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone!”  Many of those Jesus was speaking to were alleged authorities on Scripture.  Yet, anyone with even a scant knowledge of the Old Testament would know that the Jewish race (the descendants of Abraham) had in fact been in bondage for a great deal of their history.  They had been in bondage to Egypt for 400 years before being led out by Moses, they were in bondage to various foreign nations during the subsequent 400 year period of the Judges, the ten Northern tribes were in bondage to/conquered by the Assyrians in 721 BC, the two Southern tribes were in bondage to/conquered by the Babylonians in 586 BC, and at the very time when Jesus spoke these words in John’s gospel the Jews were in bondage to the Roman Empire.  How could these religious leaders be so ignorant, so misguided, so oblivious to known facts as to make the blatantly false statement that they had never been in bondage?  Well, before we judge them too harshly, haven’t we done the same?  How many of us, before knowing Christ, spent all week earning money, wasted it all on Friday and Saturday nights (just to earn the privilege of being sick all day Sunday), turned around and did the same thing the next week, and told everybody “we’re having a wonderful time!”?  Have we (perhaps even after becoming a Christian) been hateful to our spouses, hurtful to our children, depressed at our workplaces, worried in our thought life, hopeless in our spirits, and yet when someone asks us how we’re doing we say “fine” or “good” or even “blessed”?  Why do we deny our bondage?  Because to admit to the truth of our bondage would destroy the façade of our pride; and that’s a price for freedom that we deem, perhaps subconsciously, too high to pay.  Jesus, the glorious emancipator, the only liberator capable to unshackle the soul, stood before the crowd 2,000 years ago offering freedom.  Yet, they chose lies over truth, pride over humility, and thus bondage over freedom.  Let’s not be like them.  Let’s receive the truth, admit that we’re bound, run to the Savior, and walk in the freedom Jesus so graciously affords!

AS CHRISTIANS WE ARE FREE FROM SIN AND CONDEMNATION.  A famous comedian used to say, “the devil made me do it!”  As many laughs as he may have garnered, his statement has no validity for the Christian.  Sin is a power, the devil is powerful, but compared to our God neither would even show up as a blimp on the screen.  Romans 6:18 tells us that born again believers who have received Christ as Savior and have the Holy Spirit resident in their lives have been “freed from sin.”  That means that the wrong behaviors that we could not change, the lying tongue we couldn’t tame, the foul mind we couldn’t control, the mean spirit we could not transform, and all other various and sundry manifestations of the power of sin have been broken by the power of Christ.  We may still find ourselves in sin’s prison, but it’s because we have walked back into the cell, not because Christ didn’t unlock the door.  That being said, when we do sin, when we do fall short, we must never forget that our salvation didn’t rest in our good works when we first received Christ and the ability to be forgiven after we received Him doesn’t have to be earned either.  In the words of John the Apostle, when we do sin (and if we say we haven’t sinned, then we’re a liar!), we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous, and if we confess our sins He is faithful to forgive us and to cleanse us from all our guilty stains (1 John 1:9-2:1).  As Paul would state in Romans 8:1-2, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”  Christians have been set free from sin, but when we do sin, if we repent we are made free from condemnation.  That sounds like a whole lot of freedom to me!!!

AS CHRISTIANS WE ARE FREE TO LOVE AND TO SERVE.  Jesus Christ certainly paid the price for us to be free FROM all the bondages of sin.  However, as great as that is, it is a negative blessing.  By that I do not mean that it is bad, I simply mean that all the freedoms FROM this, that, and the other thing, bring us from being in spiritual deficit (the negative) up to a zero point.  But Jesus didn’t die just to bring us to a zero point, He died to bring us into the spiritual black a million times over.  That’s where the freedom TO’S come in.  There are many freedom TO’S verses we could have discussed during our 4th of July message, but I chose Galatians 5:13 because here Paul deals with perhaps the most important freedom TO’S we could enjoy, those of loving and serving.  You may say, “Well, I had freedom to love and to serve before coming to know Christ.”  Oh really!  You may have had a desire to love and serve every now and then, but just as you lacked a freedom FROM sin before knowing Jesus you lacked the freedom TO genuinely love and serve with the right heart, motivation, attitude, and spirit.  If you are in Christ, you now have the freedom TO really and truly love and serve.  So let’s get out there.  Let’s use our God given freedom.  Find people to love, find people to serve.  And if we’re not doing those two things for the glory of God, let’s at least be honest enough to admit that we’re not as free as we need to be, that we’re at the zero point instead of in the black.

Let me close with the lyrics of an old spiritual.  “O freedom, O freedom, O freedom over me.  And before I’d be a slave, I’d be buried in my grave, and go home to my Lord and be free!”  These words express the kind of determination and drive that we need to have as believers to be free.  Don’t live in bondage, and the first step is to admit that we need to be free, or at least we need to be more free!  Don’t live as the slave to sin; and when we do sin don’t live as the slave to condemnation!  Don’t be satisfied with living in the freedom FROM’S, live in the most glorious freedom of all, the freedom TO’S!