(From the July 2015 Challenger article for Arapahoe Road Baptist Church)
Freedom. My goodness, what does this word mean? It depends on your perspective. John Green in his book The Fault in our Stars, gives an interesting insight into how folks see freedom. “Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.” So, for some, freedom is the right to pursue whatever desires you have, whether it’s education, jobs, hobbies, or other practices that the Bible calls ‘sin.’ Think about it: many folks want their ‘rights’ in this land of freedom, but what they really want is affirmation in what the culture has previously determined as sin. Now those barriers and boundaries are falling. Freedom now means that anything goes.
As far as freedom is concerned in previous decades in America, it meant freedom from foreign coercion (we’re looking at you, King George II of Britain, Mr. Taxation-Without-Representation). In the 19th century leading up to our Civil War, the North and the South defined freedom very differently—at least the white people defined freedom in various ways, for the slaves saw freedom entirely differently. Even some of my ancestors wanted the freedom to keep others in slavery.
In January 6, 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt, in reflecting on the escalating Second World War taking place in Europe, outlined four freedoms: the freedom of speech, the freedom of worship, the freedom from want, and the freedom from fear.
In the Scriptures, only one type of freedom exists, and that’s freedom in Christ. It’s a freedom that far surpasses any other freedom this world provides. The Bible does not give us freedom to do whatever we want, and still call ourselves believers. No, the freedom we have in Christ is a freedom from sin and a freedom from self-direction and self-preservation. What does this mean?
In Romans 6, Paul tells us that we are “free from sin,” (v. 6) no longer under its dominion (v. 9). But in our freedom, we are still “slaves of righteousness” (v 18). Scripture makes it clear that we stay enslaved to something, whether it’s to sin or to slavery.
I’m reminded of two books written about 200 years apart. One book, written by Martin Luther (1483-1546) is entitled The Bondage of the Will. In Colonial America, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) wrote The Freedom of the Will. Well, which is it? The bondage of the will or the freedom of the will. Yes! When Christ saves us, our will comes in bondage to Christ’s will. At the same time, when Christ saves us, our will is free to obey Christ and His will. In essence, these books deal with the exact same topic, even though their titles on the surface look diametrically opposed to one another.
With the words freedom and liberty so prevalent in our founding documents (The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights), we as Americans see these words in the Scriptures and automatically works to find parallels. Granted, they exist—but only on the smallest of scales. While cultures may provide freedoms in all their varying perspectives and definitions, no culture, no man-made law, no king’s (with a small k) edict, no unspoken rules or traditions provide one molecule of freedom in the heart of any person on the planet.
You see, that freedom from sin was so elusive to human beings that the Father had to send His Son, Jesus Christ, to purchase our freedom on our behalf. Christ came as Holy God to fulfill the law that we disobeyed (which reflected the inclinations of our heart), but He also came as a human being to stand as a substitute for our atonement and redemption for our sin. No other act of love in the history of anything comes as close to this act of love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and redemption. And again, no political freedom provided can free our hearts from that sin which enslaves us.
Independence Day? My goodness, dear Christian, every day in Christ is independence day, free in Christ under His Lordship! No other type of independence comes close!