The Balance of Freedom

 

Have you ever read (or heard read) the entire “Declaration of  Independence”?  We attended a Sunday service yesterday at Elohim Bible Camp  and Retreat Center and people shared various stories or poems regarding freedom  and our independence as a nation.  It was the first time we had heard the  entire “Declaration of Independence” read. It was very moving. We also heard an  exciting and humorous rendition of the battle at Baltimore harbor and the  writing of our national anthem.  Today we celebrate our 235th birthday as a  free nation. On July 4, 1776, the 13 English colonies in America, protesting the  limitation placed upon them by England, engaged in a revolutionary struggle  which resulted in the establishment of a brand new nation. Soon this infant  nation adopted the now famous document known as the “Declaration of  Independence,” formulated by Thomas Jefferson. It included this statement with  respect to their newly won freedom: “That these united colonies are, and of  right ought to be, free and independent colonies.”

But what,  really, is freedom? It is defined as “personal liberty as opposed to bondage or  slavery; unrestrained, exempt from external control; independence, lack of  restrictions; ability to stand alone, unrestrained by anything else; without  obligations.”   We live in a land of “freedom” but are we free in the  ultimate sense of the word?  Wordsworth spoke of being “free as a bird,”  but is a bird really free? Actually it lives its entire life in a cage made of  fears, hungers and instincts. It is limited by weather conditions, local food  supply, predatory beasts and even the strange, irresistible compulsion to stay  within the confines of the small plot of land and air assigned it by the bird  community.

We see that by  the definition of freedom, only God is ultimately and completely  free. God’s sovereignty is the attribute by which He rules His entire  creation, and to be sovereign, God must be all-knowing, all-powerful, and  absolutely free. God is totally free to do whatever He wills to do anywhere and  at any time to carry out His eternal purposes in every single detail without  interference. No one and nothing can hinder Him or stop Him. He is able to do as  He pleases–always, everywhere, forever, as we read in Scripture: “Even  from eternity, I am He; and there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act  and who can reverse it?” (Isa. 43:13); “My purpose will be established; and I  will accomplish all My good pleasure…Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring  it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it” (Isa. 46:10,11); “But He is  unique and who can turn Him? And what His soul desires, that He does” (Job  23:13); “Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas  and in all the deeps” (Psa. 135:6).

We cannot really fathom complete freedom, for our concepts of freedom  have been shaped in a world where no absolute freedom exists. For example, Bobby  wanted to play in a nearby abandoned mineshaft, but his mother said he couldn’t  because it was too dangerous. Bobby raised a terrible fuss, so she punished him  by making him sit on a chair in the kitchen. After a long period of silence he  asked: “Mommy, can God do anything He wants to?”  The mother replied, “Yes,  Bobby, He can.” Again, he was quiet. Then he said, “God doesn’t have parents  does He?”  You see Bobby was thinking that he would be perfectly free if it  were not for his mother. He was associating freedom with having no authorities  over him–no restrictions–exempt from external control–unrestrained by  anything.

Hey!   That’s the definition above for freedom. Bobby wasn’t so dumb!  But, what  Bobby didn’t realize was that what he wanted to do was foolish and could cause  him harm. Nor did he realize that when he became an adult he still wouldn’t be  able to do everything he desired and if he did, he would have to live with the  consequences if he did. The lesson that Bobby’s mother was teaching him was that  he could enjoy freedom only to the extent he wants to do what is right; but  since he was born with a sinful nature, he’ll never be perfect in his “wants”  here on earth. He’ll always need people and laws to keep him from doing  something dangerous or wrong. But, if he’s a Christian, he can look forward to a  time of perfect freedom in heaven, for then he’ll always want to do what’s right  and good.

So, what did  Jesus mean by His statement recorded in John 8:31,32,36… “…and you  shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…free indeed”  ?

From what is a Christian free? Three  things: sin, self, Satan.

1)   Sin: We are free from the penalty of sin (II Cor. 5:21; I Pet.  2:24; Ro. 8:1), from the power of sin (Ro. 6:6,7,11,14) and one day will be free  from its presence (I Cor. 15: 44).  When  Jesus cried out from the cross, “It is finished,” He uttered the believer’s  “Declaration of Independence.” All who receive Christ as personal Savior appropriate  that freedom from guilt and the penalty of sin, for “In Him we have  redemption, even the forgiveness of sin” Col. 1:14).

2) Self:  Man without Christ is self-centered, in a  self-prison, ruled by the old sinful flesh. But Ro. 6:3-6 tells us we have been  crucified with Christ (cf Gal. 2:20), the old self is rendered inoperative in Christ, and we are no longer in bondage to  it.

3)  Satan: Finally, we are also set free from the dominance of Satan and  his kingdom of darkness and are transferred to the kingdom of God (Col.  1:13).  If you have invited Christ into your life, then, “Greater  is He that is in you than He that is in the world” (I Jn. 4:4), for  “Jesus took on human flesh that He might, through death, render  powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might deliver  those who were in bondage to him” (Heb. 2:14,15).

Why is it then  that we Christians still struggle with sin and self and Satan?  And how can  we experience the freedom Jesus provided at the cross and through the  resurrection? One reason is that we abuse our freedom by seeing it as a “license  to sin.” But, according to Gal. 5:13-18, I Pet. 2:16 and Tit. 2:12,13, our  Christ-bought liberty is not to be used as an opportunity for fleshly indulgence  or as a covering for sin, but for love manifested in service. We are free, not  to do what we want to do, but what we ought to do. We are freed from sin so that  we can walk in newness of life (Ro. 5:1,19-21; 6:1,2,10-18). Freedom is not  cheap. It meant our Redeemer giving His very life . Let’s not abuse it. The  freedom of our nation was also costly and we must not take it for granted or  abuse it. As Woodrow Wilson put it, “Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence  is a practical document for the use of practical men–it is more than a  theory of government, it is a program for action!” The warning of abolitionist  Wendell Phillips is still a challenge to every American: “Eternal  vigilance is the price of liberty.”

Another reason we often do not experience freedom from sin, self and  Satan is that we fail to live in the grace by which we are saved (Gal. 3:1-5;  5:1-8).  We put ourselves back under the law and the bondage of sin. Christ  fulfilled the Law. We are no longer under the Law but under grace (Ro. 6:14;  8:1-8). To  continue expecting our eternal destiny to be based on our works  or performance is to discredit the finality of Christ’s death on the cross. It  is to discredit what Christ accomplished.  It’s blasphemy. Let’s accept  what Christ did as being sufficient and our position as being secure and use  that freedom to serve Christ, not self.

The Christian  is indeed free from the guilt and power of sin, free from the old sinful self,  and free from the wiles of Satan; but we are not to abuse that freedom by using  it as a license to sin or by placing ourselves back under the law instead of  living by grace. To bring our freedom into balance, we must remember what a  statesman said about our political freedom: “Those who expect to reap  the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”    Along with Christian freedom comes responsibility to God (I Cor.  6:19,20; II Cor. 5:15), to the unsaved (Acts 1:8; II Cor. 5:18-20; I Cor.  9:19-23), and to our weaker brother in Christ (Ro. 14:13,19,21).  But, I  thought freedom meant independence, lack of restrictions and obligations, exempt  from control?  Well, herein lies a paradox–it is only as we become a slave  of God that we are really free!  You see, we have a sinful nature and when  we are free to do as we please, we end up in bondage to sin, self and Satan.  True freedom comes only when, first of all we trust Christ as Savior, and then  moment by moment abide in Him and in His Word to do His will. It is then that  the power of the Holy Spirit enables us to carry out its principles and  commands–and experience true freedom as it says in Jn. 8:31-36. Only as we  make a “Declaration of Dependence” do we experience freedom to become what God  wants us to be. “Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free.”

Forever His,

Pastor Dave

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About Pastor Dave

Until my retirement 2 years ago, I pastored an independent Bible church in Northwest Montana for nearly 38 years. During that time I also helped establish a Christian school, and a Bible Camp. I am married and have children and grandchildren. The Wisdom of the Week devotional is an outgrowth of my desire to share what God is doing in my life and in our world, and to challenge you to be a part.
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