I really enjoy the game of tennis and have coached and taught lessons for many years. It is easy to get frustrated in the sport because it isn’t always easy to get the ball over the net or to keep it within the lines to win a point. In our mind we think, “Oh, if only the net were a little lower, or the boundaries a little farther apart, then I could really be successful! Well, this summer we had three of our six community courts re-surfaced. They took down the net and net posts, patched the cracks and then covered the whole area with a dark brown material before re-doing the final colored surface areas and re-painting the lines. So, for a while, if you were to have played on it, there was no net to get in the way and no lines to worry about! But would that have been the game of tennis? How would you know if your serve was in or the ball made it over the net or if your groundstroke was within the boundaries? You wouldn’t and the whole purpose of the game would have been destroyed.
As ridiculous as the illustration, that is just what some (including five judges on our Supreme Court) in our nation are trying to do—remove all the obstacles, boundaries and restraints so people can be “free” to do as they please. Is that really the “liberty” our founding fathers had in mind for our nation, or is it “license” for the selfish desires of our old, sinful natures? I’m afraid it is the latter. It seems that many don’t understand that because of the nature of man, we need boundaries, limitations, and guidelines in order to experience true freedom. In other words, “freedom has fences.” That’s why the phrase in America the Beautiful (which many of us probably sang at church services yesterday) says “liberty in law.”
In the epistle of James in the New Testament, we read: “So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty” (Jas. 2:12). The essence of the “American system is liberty under law—the laws of nature placed there by our Creator and the revealed laws of God’s Word. Within that framework we do have liberty—but not liberty to defy either the physical laws of God’s World (like gravity) or the spiritual laws of God’s Word. English common law and our system of constitutional law are both based on Scripture. Some today, seeking license rather than liberty, recoil at the very idea of “the law of liberty.” They may even consider it an oxymoron or a contradiction in terms. But Jesus said that only “the truth shall make you free!” (Jn. 8:32). The foundation of freedom is truth—the truth of God’s Word, and Christ Himself, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6). We are only really free when we have “the Truth” (Christ) living in us and we are living according to the truths of God’s Word. Then we are “free indeed” (Jn. 8:36).
By our natural birth, we were under the Law (Ro. 3:19), sinners (Ro. 3:23), condemned (Ro. 5:12,18), in bondage to sin (Ro. 6:17), separated from God (Ro. 6:23a), dead in sin (Eph. 2:1), separated from Christ (Eph. 2:12). without hope and without God (Eph. 2:12). But, through faith in Christ as our Savior, we died with Him to sin, and to Satan and self. We are no longer under the condemnation of the Law because He was condemned on our behalf. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness…” (I Pet. 2:24). “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-6). Praise the Lord, in Him (Christ) we have been set free. The words of an old hymn by Philip Bliss, Once for All! say: “Free from the Law, O happy condition, Jesus hath bled, and there is remission. Cursed by the Law and bruised by the fall, Christ hath redeemed us once for all.”
We are free—free from the Law, from sin and self and Satan, free from condemnation—but free to do what we ought to do, not what we want to do! Liberty is not license. True freedom is not found by choosing our own way but by yielding to God’s way—in submission (bondage) to Christ. Liberty is not license. Peter wrote: “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God” (I Pet 2:16). The Apostle Paul wrote: “For you were called to freedom, brethren, only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13). While we are no longer under Law, but under grace (Ro. 6:14), we are under a new law, the “law of love.” Note what Paul wrote in II Cor. 5:14,15: “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live (those who have trusted Christ for eternal life) should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” God doesn’t save us by grace that we might live in disgrace! “After all He’s done for me, how can I do less that give Him my best and live for Him completely?” You will notice that Paul begins most of his letters with: “I Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus….” (Ro. 1:1 cf Phil. 1:1; Tit. 1:1; Philemon 1:1).
Even though Christ died to set us free from sin, and self and Satan, God has not yet eliminated sin or our old sinful self, or Satan. So, He put guidelines in place within which we have freedom to be all God wants us to be and to have a purposeful, significant and fulfilling life—providing we allow Him to be Lord and the Holy Spirit to be in control. That may sound paradoxical, but it happens to be how God works. So, whether it has to do with marriage, or sanctity of life or any other feature of our society, only within the confines of God’s parameters can we experience His blessing in our life and sense our freedom in Christ. When we start ignoring, or trying to tear down those fences, we lose the freedom He offers, because we are right back in bondage to sin, self and Satan. We experience chaos and frustration—all the while thinking we are really free.
Interestingly, the Psalmist, who wrote about 3,000 years ago, observed the same scenario. He wrote: “Why are the nations in an uproar, and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and His Anointed: ‘Let us tear their fetters apart, and cast away their cords from us!” (Ps. 2:1-3). Does that sound like our day or what! But notice what the next verse says: “He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them” (v. 4). God is not in heaven wringing his hands over the decisions of our Supreme Court or Administration (or the actions of any government in the world) saying, “Oh, my, what should I do now?” No amount of unbelief or anti-biblical/Christian legislation can defeat the purposes of our sovereign God. He says: “Remember, I am God and there is no other…there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning…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. 46:9-11).
I’m so glad I belong to a God like that in a day and age like this! As believers, let’s continue to demonstrate to the world around us the true freedom we have in Christ that provides the purpose, significance and meaning others are desperately looking for in life, thinking they will find it by removing the fences. When those around you are “losing their heads…and hearts,” don’t lose yours. Stay focused on Christ and His Word—that’s the foundation of freedom.