“Being able to do whatever I want to do.” That’s how a young man at the mall replied to my friend who was randomly asking strangers to define “freedom.” Many of the other responses that day were similar. After later hearing all the descriptions, it struck me that I wasn’t sure I had a clear definition in my mind of this word we throw around so often. We Americans have traditionally prided ourselves in living in the “Land of the free.” So, what does that mean? And of course, it’s also an important word for Jesus followers. We’re told that “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1, ESV).
An online dictionary defines freedom as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” This sounds good for me personally. But when I think about others having this same ability, particularly those with below-average character, those with dark intentions, and those who just don’t like me, I’m uncomfortable. I want restraints put in place. I don’t want others doing whatever they want without hindrance because I don’t trust everyone’s heart motivations. Nor am I confident in everyone’s ability to think through all the long-term consequences of doing whatever they feel like. And thankfully, there are some restraints, such as social expectations and laws.
Freedom is a strange thing. That which I passionately protect for myself, I reluctantly release to others. After all, if freedom is not understood or used rightly, it’s dangerous.
What is the Bible talking about when it says, “So if the Son [Jesus] sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:26, ESV)? Free from what? What has tied up humanity and left us enslaved?
The short answer is sin.
But many of us don’t like to think of ourselves as having a sin problem. We instead look for other ways to explain our inner oppression. Sin, as I understand it, is seeking to resolve our issues, meet our needs, fulfill our desires on our own without the Creator’s oversight, resources, and direction. It’s basically you and me making ourselves the final authority–our own gods. (read post: Choosing to Recognize the Problem). The other explanations we prefer usually involve blaming circumstances, another person or group of people or even God Himself for our issues and the chains we feel wrapped around our souls.
Of course, the Bible indicates that there are other beings, spiritual entities, that take advantage of our estranged relationship with God. So, not only do we have sin issues, but there are dark, invisible, anti-God forces seeking to exploit our independence from Him. These demonic spirits work to bind us even more tightly into our pride, lusts, fears, hatred, blindness, and unforgiveness. Between sin and dark spiritual beings, humans are little more than slaves with invisible shackles chaining us to a hopeless future. And that’s why we need a Savior.
A Real Christmas Gift
We just passed through the season of celebrating God’s ultimate response to our bleak situation. Taking on flesh (incarnation) as a human baby, God Himself came down to be our Rescuer. We’re told that through His suffering as both a man and God, Jesus broke the power of sin and defeated the forces of darkness. The result is our freedom!
So, we ARE free to do whatever we want?
Well, yes. Sort of.
When we begin to understand divine love that has been expressed through the Incarnation and suffering on the cross, our desires change. We want to bring joy to the One who sacrificed so much to rescue us. Our freedom from the dominion of sin redirects us to connect into God and draw from Him all that we need for life. The powers of darkness and their influence can now be defied and resisted through the authority Jesus has given us. We are now free to choose a new pathway of walking as children of God. We’re free to not live for ourselves anymore. We’re free to spend ourselves pursuing all the righteous passions on our Heavenly Father’s heart. We’re free to love God and love others.
No Going Back!
However, without recognizing in faith what Jesus has done for us, the concept of freedom easily gets twisted. We long to be liberated, but it ends up becoming the pursuit of self-gratification. Like so many of those mall interviewees, we want to be free to do whatever our desires lead us to do! But it’s a paradox. Without hearts submitted to the Savior, our independent interpretation of “freedom” lures us deeper into slavery to our own lusts, pride, and self-centeredness. Sin and the forces of darkness are still seeking opportunities to reclaim their dominance. We must choose to not reassert independence from our Creator and must resist going back into bondage.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1, ESV).
You’ve been given the freedom to submit every part of your life to your Creator and His desires. It’s your choice what you do with it. In faith, take up your freedom to submit to Him, and never let go!
It’s one of the gifts that’s being offered to you year round!
(Edited and reposted from December 14, 2020)