Everyone wants to be free, and we all should be free. No argument in that, I don’t think. We in the United States live in “the land of the free”, and we cherish our freedom. The problems arise in how different people define freedom. Some cults believe freedom is there right to practice their form of religion, and everybody else should follow suit. In the late 1960s through the early ’70s, the hippies thought that being free meant dropping out from the “straight” society and doing their own thing, whatever that was. “Tune in, turn on, and drop out” was the slogan. But they were as dependent on the straight society as anyone else to panhandle money, or sell arts and crafts, or sell drugs or however they obtained their money. Today’s popular world view claims that there are no absolute values, and one can do whatever he or she wants to do as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. However, doing whatever one wants to do without regard to the consequences invariably does harm others, and often one’s self. Everyone doing their own thing would result in chaos and the breakdown of society. We’d all be back to living in caves. Society requires cooperation between individuals so that we can all live better than we could in caves. No central heat or air conditioning, hot water or electricity in caves. No automobiles or airplanes either. No TV, smart phones or video games.
So, cooperation is required whether we like it or not. If you go to work for a company, you’re expected to do the job assigned to you by your boss, because that’s what the company needs done in order to stay in business. That impinges on your freedom to do what you want when you want to do it. You can’t tell your boss you’d rather go to the zoo today than do the necessary paperwork in the office. You wouldn’t have a job very long.
So doing your job when you want to do something else isn’t freedom, or is it? In most countries people work at jobs for others not because they are forced to do the work, but because they chose to work for that company doing work they like to do, or at least work that they can do well. And they are free to quit any time they wish. They are free to work or not to work as they see fit if they are willing to accept the consequences of not working. And, there are thousands of people in the US that do that. Often though, they don’t work because they are incapable of working due to physical or mental limitations. In those cases some are not as free as they would like to be because they cannot exercise their choice to work.
So, what exactly is freedom? Is there really such a thing as freedom? And in the Christian context, what did Christ mean when He said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32)? Certainly Christianity doesn’t seem at first glance to be freedom. It seems to be more like slavery, and the apostle Paul said he was a slave for Christ, which doesn’t sound like freedom at all. There is the Great Commandment, the Great Commission and in Matthew 25 a list of things Jesus said His followers are to do. That sounds more like slavery than freedom. But the Greek word Paul used to mean being a slave actually meant a voluntary bondservant, a person who served another because it was his choice to do so, not because he was forced to serve. God never forces anyone to serve Him. He didn’t force Adam and Eve to serve Him, though mankind has been suffering the consequences of their not doing so ever since then. John wrote, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16; emphasis added). The key word is whosoever. Another way of saying this is whoever chooses to follow Christ has everlasting life. You don’t have to follow Him-if you are willing to accept the consequences of not doing so.
Christianity obviously doesn’t mean being free is being able to do anything you want. It means voluntarily following Christ because you truly believe Jesus is the one and only Savior, that there is no salvation in any other. And, you are willing to follow His commandments as a result of becoming a Christian. You become a voluntary bondservant of Christ. Paul said you were bought with a price. Jesus paid your price for freedom on the cross.
Freedom is being free from the things that keep you from reaching your true potential in life, the things standing between you and those you love. It means being free from the internal conflicts and tribulations that we all have, or at least being master over our emotional and mental restrictions that really are self-imposed restrictions, whether or not they are consciously imposed. What Jesus meant is that He is truth, and He will set you free from yourself.
The one letter in the alphabet that keeps you from being free is “I”. I want this, I want to do that. I believe one thing or another is what I want to do right now because I want instant gratification and will worry about the consequences later.
One TV commercial showed people screaming from roof tops and out of windows, “It’s my money and I want it now”. The consequence, of course, is that the finance company that pays your tax refund keeps a substantial percentage of your money, because you are unwilling to wait for it to arrive. We are enslaved by “I”. Top be truly free you have to get I out of your vocabulary. I only holds you back.
Jesus tells you that in order to follow Him you must “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me”. Denying I is the first step after accepting Christ as your Savior, because God doesn’t force His will on you. There are, of course, consequences for yourself and others for your not following Christ, but He won’t force you. He can’t work through you if you want to do everything on your own. His strength is made perfect in your weakness because in sublimating your desires to what He has planned for you to do is infinitely more powerful than anything you could dream of doing by yourself. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Billy Graham and others did amazing amounts of good for this world because they gave themselves to Christ and did what He had planned for them to do rather than what they wanted to do. God made the heavens, the earth and everything in it-including you. You can’t possibly do better by yourself than He can do through you.
True freedom is allowing Christ to help you overcome the mental and physical restrictions placed on you and that you have placed on yourself. “By grace are you saved (from I) through faith, not of yourself, it is the gift of God. And not of yourself, because that leads to pride. Christians are reborn in Christ by His work on the Cross in order that you can do the works He has planned for you to do since eternity past (Ephesians 2:8-10). If you are not a Christian, you have absolutely no idea what fantastic things are waiting for you in this life through Christ. Cut I out of your vocabulary and throw it out the window. I only gets in your way and keeps you chained to worldly limitations. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you if you freely chose to allow Him to do work through you.