Since this week we in the United States of America celebrate our freedom as a nation, I’ve been thinking about what it really means to be free. For the thirteen colonies in America it meant to be free from the limitations placed upon them by the Crown (England). They soon adopted that now-famous document known as The Declaration of Independence which includes this statement: “…these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.” But, just what does it mean to us, individually, to be free? I recall a story about a boy named Bobby who wanted to go swimming in a nearby water-filled gravel pit, but his mother said he couldn’t because it was too dangerous. Bobby raised a ruckus in protest, so his mother 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 do?” Bobby’s mother replied, “Yes, Bobby, He can.” Again he was quiet. Then he said, “God doesn’t have parents, does He?”
Bobby thought he would be perfectly free if it were not for his mother. He didn’t realize that what he wanted to do was foolish. Nor did he understand that when he became an adult he still wouldn’t be able to do everything he desired. There would always be someone in authority over him putting restrictions upon him. He would always need people and laws to keep him from doing something wrong or dangerous.
Many people think that freedom is being able to do whatever they please whenever they please how ever they please—having no restrictions placed upon them. Unfortunately that sort of describes our society today that has decided to remove all restraints to really experience true freedom. I’m reminded that God placed Adam and Eve in a perfect environment where they experienced the beauty of God’s freshly created earth. They had access to all the fruit in the garden—except for the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16,17). God warned them that if they ate of that tree they would “surely die.” God tested their obedience to Him by placing that one restriction upon them. Along comes Satan (the fallen angel Lucifer) to suggest to them that God couldn’t have really meant what He said. Satan, speaking through the serpent, said, “You surely shall not die” (Gen. 3:4). If He’s a good God, surely He wouldn’t withhold anything from you.
If Bobby’s mother were a good mother, surely she wouldn’t put restrictions upon him! Satan continues to whisper his lies to people who think that to really be free means to have no restrictions regarding marriage, sex, abortion, gender, etc. In other words, there are no absolutes and “everyone can do that which is right in their own eyes.” Well, guess what, that is nothing new. There’s a whole book in the Bible that describes a 350-year period of time in the history of Israel when they did that very thing, ignoring the commands from God and ended up being subjugated by an enemy nation and then crying out to God for help. God would send a judge to help them return to following God’s laws and things would be okay for a short time and then the pattern would repeat. They went through that cycle of Disobedience, Discipline, Desperation, and Deliverance some seven times! (After all, seven is the perfect number!)
Bobby’s mom knew, better that he did, what was best for him and her restrictions were for his good. God, the perfect parent, knows what is best for His children. After all, He made us (Psa. 100: 3). True freedom doesn’t mean living without restraints or rules or limitations. True freedom comes from living obediently within them. Freedom has fences. They are there for our protection. We have unchanging truths and principles given to us in the Word of God, the Bible. We have guidelines for marriage, for example, which is to be between one man and one woman (Gen. 2:18-24 cf Mt. 19:5). Any who go outside of that absolute are “abandoning the natural function” and will “receive in their own persons the due penalty of their error” (Ro. 1:26,27). And God will “Give them over to a depraved mind to do those things which are not proper” (v. 28).
To justify the things which go contrary to the Word of God, many say those things are “outdated” and no longer apply to a “progressive” society, that is one that is “freeing” itself from old, archaic traditions and customs. This is the “enlightened age” when we don’t go by these old, rigid guidelines. Hey, that sounds just like what happen to Israel. Obviously we don’t learn from history! Today we have political leaders who are crying out for free borders, free education for all, free health care for all, free sex with anyone you wish, woman’s freedom to chose whether or not to give birth to her child.
I guess what we are experiencing, just like every other nation in history, is that freedom is hard to handle, because our old, sinful natures demand to be free to do as we please and then we forget that God’s guidelines are for our good. Our founding fathers understood that and tried to incorporate protections in the Constitution and the first ten amendments to the constitution, collectively known as the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and the checks and balances of our governing structure. But we have many now declaring these documents, just like the Bible, are obsolete and need to be revised. How scary is that! No wonder our nation is in political chaos. Our nation claims to be a “free nation,” yet we find ourselves in tremendous bondage, bondage to the sinful nature of man which is in rebellion against God.
Real freedom comes from being obedient to the truths of God’s Word, from making them the standard for our beliefs and behavior. Jesus said, “and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32...and not just from knowing it, from doing it!). Jesus Himself, being God incarnate, is “The Truth.” He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (Jn. 14:6). He also said, “If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (Jn. 8:36).
Real freedom is not the right to do as you please, but the liberty to do as you ought. That comes through a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ and what He has done for us, and through obedience to the truths of His Word. So, while we celebrate this Fourth of July and the independence our country, let us especially thank God for the freedom from sin and Satan and self (our old nature) that we have in Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Freedom is following Jesus.
P.S. I would appreciate your prayers as I have shoulder (rotator cuff) surgery early Wednesday morning and for the weeks that follow to allow it to heal.
(I am a “doer” so it will be a lesson in patience).