Most, if not all, Americans just celebrated the Fourth of July, also known as Independence Day. The history of Independence Day is in connection to the American Revolution when the thirteen colonies rejected the British Monarchy. It was through political upheaval and war that the thirteen colonies were able to declare their independence from Great Britain and form a new nation—the United States of America. So we as Americans annually celebrate our independence and freedom on July 4th.
Living in the 21st century, we have reaped the benefits of freedom that those who lived in the late 1700s fought for our nation to have. When it comes to one’s own personal freedom, the Supreme Court stated in a 1992 ruling, “The heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of the meaning of the universe.” In other words, an individual’s freedom is determined by one’s own understanding of the meaning of life.
I would like to put before you two things for your consideration:
—Freedom is more complex than we realize.
—Jesus is more liberating than we think.
We live in a society and culture that believes compliance to the truth is what causes a lack of freedom. You don’t have to look far to find someone who says truth claims are power plays, a way to gain control and cause constraint. With that in mind, let me ask you: are the truth claims of Christianity (Jesus is God; Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; or even that God created the world in six days) a means for Christians to be seen as superior to those who are not Christians, or is the truth of Christianity meant to set people free? I would submit to you the latter. Freedom comes from the truth (John 8:32).
I believe I can say without contradiction that the content of a truth claim is what makes it either oppressive or liberating. So how does being in touch with the truth set you free? Well, when you hold to the truth that God has done everything that was needed for a person to be forgiven and accepted by God—and that there is no amount of good deeds, praying, going to church, or feeling sorry for your sin that could ever make God forgive you or accept you—then you will be able to experience a life of freedom to enjoy and love God. You won’t have to live under the pressure of trying to earn God’s grace or even serve God out of fear that He will punish you if you don’t do those things.
In Galatians 2:4 Paul says we have freedom in Christ, but in just a few chapters later Paul writes that we are not use our freedom as an opportunity for the flesh (Gal.5:13). Peter also says something similar in 1 Peter 2:16, “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.”
Many believe that the more there is an absence of restraint, the more freedom one has. Well I propose that freedom is more complex then we might realize. Think about this, as we get older our body systems (brain, cardiac/pulmonary system, liver and kidney systems, digestion, and metabolism) slow down. So as we age we can’t eat anything and everything we once could when we were younger. We have to restrict ourselves to what we can eat, and by restricting ourselves to not eating all the sweets and fatty foods that we might like to, we will be able to enjoy the richer freedom of good health. However with that said, freedom is not even the presence of discipline or restraint. Imagine you have a friend and his dream has been to play in the NFL as a lineman. His whole life he has been told he can be anything he wants, however your friend is only 5’ 2” tall and weighs 110lbs (as an adult). No matter how hard your friend practices or how disciplined he is in working out nor even how much he restricts himself to the best diet, it’s going to be close to impossible for him to be a lineman in the NFL.
So freedom is not simply the absence of restrictions or even the presence of restrictions, but freedom is the presence of the right restrictions, the ones that fit in with your nature; the restrictions that are in accord with who God made you to be. So when we find and surrender ourselves to the right restrictions, we will experience the deep and rich freedom God purposed for our lives. Think about a fish that is out of the water and is on dry land—it’s not free. That fish has lost its freedom to move and even to live. That fish has to be restricted to the water to experience the freedom that is fitting with its nature. So that begs the question: what were we created for? As the human race, the pinnacle of God’s creation, why are we here on earth? Just like the fish is obviously created to be in the water and that is where it gets to experience the freedom of life, so it is then, that when we find our purpose for living we will experience the rich, deep freedom God purposed for us. For the bible says, “For by Him [Jesus Christ] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Col.1:16).
That little phrase “created…for Him” includes us; we were created for Jesus Christ, to love, to serve, to know, to enjoy, and to have faith in Jesus Christ. So freedom may be more complex then we might have realized, but faith in Jesus Christ is the reason for our liberty and freedom.