“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31b-32)
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)
[As we approach Independence Day 2021, with more and more people believing freedom is the right to do anything you want, I offer this column from seven years ago.]
Americans love to talk about freedom. Our Declaration of Independence declares freedom (“liberty”) to be our God-given right. Our Constitution’s stated purpose is to secure the blessing of liberty for ourselves and our posterity. Our national anthem sings of “the land of the free”. One of our favorite patriotic declarations is Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death.”
This national focus on freedom has sometimes been used to justify our involvement in wars to support people seeking freedom from tyranny. Our most recent examples are Iraq and Afghanistan.
How have those efforts worked out? Saddam Hussein was killed, and the Taliban were dislodged. Both nations made initial moves, with our help, toward a democratic form of government and the freedoms they hoped democracy would secure. Both nations are now in chaos while we simply try to find a way to “get out”.
The crucial lesson to be learned: freedom and independence are not the same.
At the political level, the lesson is that democracy is not enough. In the absence of faith-based moral principles that undergirded our nation in its birth, democracy can simply replace one form of tyranny with another – greed, corruption, the desire of the majority to control minorities, and the desire of the few to manipulate the many.
At the individual level, this lesson has been learned the hard way by many youths who rebelled against parental authority and ran away. Through independence from their parents, they sought freedom – the right to do what they want to do when they want to do it. Instead, they too often found bondage to drugs, poverty, or even a life of prostitution or other crime motivated by that poverty.
And at the ultimate level, the level that engages all humanity, this lesson was learned the hard way by our earliest ancestors: Adam and Eve. They were tempted to independence from God’s authority, so they could decide on their own what is good and evil, and led all of us into the worst tyrannies of all: Satan, sin, and death. (Genesis 3; 1 John 5:19; Romans 6:16-23)
God sent Jesus Christ to set men free. (Luke 4:17-21; Psalm 146:7) So it is essential we understand what freedom really is.
Freedom is both freedom from things and freedom to do things. But it is not freedom from authority or freedom to do whatever we want whenever we want. Although created in the image of God, we were never created to be God. Instead, we were created to live in intimacy with the Lord under His loving, wise and benevolent authority. We will never know freedom until we begin living as we were designed to live.
Jesus revealed this truth in His teachings and His life. The Son of God became one of us, emptied of His divinity, but remained in intimate communion with His Father through the Holy Spirit. He and the Father were “one” while He walked this earth. (John 10:30)
Likewise, Jesus prayed we will become “one” with Him. (John 17:21-23) The Holy Spirit was sent to live in us even as He lived in Jesus. (John 14:15-20, 16:7-15)
Jesus was also totally submitted to His Father’s authority, even when the Father asked Him to do the most difficult task anyone has ever done. Because Jesus became “last of all and servant of all”, the Father exalted Him to “first of all”, the name above every name. (Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 9:33-37)
Likewise, as disciples of Jesus, we are to abide in His word, learning and obeying all His teachings as we humbly walk like He walked into “the freedom of the glory of the children of God”. (Matthew 28:20; 1 John 2:3-6; Romans 8:16-21)
The scriptures at the outset of this column summarize this narrow path to true freedom. (Matthew 7:13-14) Learn and obey God’s Word – all of it! Be filled, led, and empowered by God’s Spirit! (Ephesians 5:18; Romans 8:14; Acts 1:4-8)
We can experience freedom from sin, death, fear and anxiety, anger and bitterness, hopelessness, deceptions, foolish decisions, loneliness, addictions, poverty, and lack of purpose.
We can experience freedom to intimacy with God, trusting obedience, everlasting life, loving and forgiving community, wisdom and understanding, awesome purpose with eternal significance, peace, joy, provision, rest, and unlimited hope in an unlimited God.
And as we walk this glorious path of freedom in our own lives, we will reveal that path to others in our nation, which is presently heading in the wrong direction.
God bless you, and God bless our community.