People have told me much about freedom over the years. They say that it means to “live your life – it’s yours!” That it’s to “just try to be a good person and do what makes you happy.” They say that I’m too tied up in focusing on God. “It just seems like there are so many restrictions in your life,” they worry. “Doesn’t God hold you back from living your life?”
And from their perspective, I get it. I can see where they’re coming from. They see us living in devotion to a God who demands that we live in a way that seems difficult, crazy, and unlike the way of the rest of the world. And they’re right about that. This is indeed how we live, and there’s no getting around it. But now that I stand on the opposite side of them, gifted with a brand new perspective, I can see that they’ve still got it twisted. Serving God doesn’t hold us in shackles; it sets us free.
Ironically, many who don’t believe in Jesus – or in any God at all, at that – think that they have true freedom. They’d say that liberty is chasing your own desires; everything that your flesh groans for. They seek life and satisfaction purely for themselves and from what’s in the world. “Be your own god” and “do what you want” and “YOLO – that’s the motto.”
The truth is that this motto is a grand, fatal deception. It’s a distorted illusion of real freedom. Rather, these are true chains, and they surely lead to death.
Burdened with the heaviness of reality, the fear of losing my freedom delayed my surrender to Christ. I too had this understanding of freedom for a long time. Although it was clear by then that it left me feeling anything but fulfilled, I was scared of a boring life controlled by a controlling God. I was hesitant at the thought of all my fun and freedom being taken away and traded in for boredom and rules, even if it filled me up for only a night. However, as I am in my fifth year of loving and serving Jesus, I’ve learned through experience that this true slavery is life apart from Jesus; life for myself.
These are the things that one seeks when they live in the false freedom of living for themselves:
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Some of these things are quite clearly not things one would want to pursue, and are not things that leave one feeling liberated. In all honesty, who wants to constantly pursue jealousy, strife, envy, dissentions, anger, divisions, and enmity? I truly don’t know one person who desires these things, and even much less would dare to call them a source of freedom.
But some of these things seem pleasurable, so why not chase them?
It will leave the soul empty and even parched. It will leave the one needing to run back to it over and over again because of its insufficient substance. All of these things will run out – of stock and of their temporary pleasure; eventually, they’ll even cease to provide you with the moment of satisfaction that you’re itching for.
However, the worst, most terrible defect in these things is the last mentioned: one who chases these things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Eternal life is not extended to those whose gods are themselves and their worldly treasures. One may experience the hallucination of freedom on earth in this life and never wake up to the lie that they’re living, but one day we’ll all die. And then what? What did your fraud freedom do for you now?
In chasing after this freedom, we chase our own destruction.
“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.
On the contrary, this is only a sliver of what is won by those who live in the true freedom of living for Jesus:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Now that’s more like it. These are the results – both immediate, future, and eternal – that one will receive as a slave of Christ, not as a slave to oneself.
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”
Now unfortunately, Christians aren’t the only ones who struggle to understand what true freedom is. Even as believers, we often fall into the trap of living for ourselves, forgetting the whole purpose of Jesus setting us free in His death on the Cross, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. But the good news is that God knew this would happen, and He sent Christ to cover our inadequacies, in order to free us from the violent grasp of the world’s doom. Because of this, we are able to live upright, in a way that is pleasing to Him, and this only leads to even more blessings from our Father.
We have literally been freed from slavery to sin into slavery to Christ.
“But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”
As we live for Christ and Christ alone, we now have only one Master. We don’t have to cave in to people-pleasing. We don’t have to be insecure about what everyone thinks of us. We don’t have to strive to fit the world’s blemished idea of beauty. We don’t have to seek others’ approval. We don’t have to be mean, or selfish, or jealous, or angry. We don’t have anything to fear, and we needn’t worry. We don’t have to know our future. We don’t have to be our own god, in control of where we go and what happens to us. We are free to live as His servants and as God’s children.
We also must remember that we are not free to sin relentlessly without the fear of judgment. No – we are free not to sin, and freed – even empowered by the Holy Spirit – to live fully and recklessly for our Savior. We are free to lose ourselves completely in the pursuit of our Abba, running after what is pleasing to Him, enjoying His blessings along the way.
Yes, we can trust that when we do fall short, there is a net made of the abounding grace of God to catch us every time. But we now have His strength through the Holy Spirit that enables us not to cave into the deathly beckon of the world.
Living apart from Christ isn’t freedom. Being your own god is only the path to your own demise. But freedom in reality is surrendering every inch of your soul to Jesus. It is bowing down at His feet and giving up all control over your life. It is obeying the glorious and satisfactory commandments of Yahweh written in His Word. It is subjecting our desires to the will of the Lord. It is being led by His right hand that He’s promised never to take away. It is serving Jesus.
Now, having been released from the chains of sin, we are free to be slaves of Christ. Let’s start living this way, surrendering all of the sin that we’ve already been freed from the moment we accepted Jesus as Savior, and live as we’re meant to. Let’s stop walking in circles with imaginary cuffs on our wrists and serve our Lord, Who will surely bless us with eternal life, every fruit of the Spirit, and all heavenly treasures.
For we are slaves to Freedom, and He has no end.
“For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men.”
1 Corinthians 7:22-23