In our society today, most people believe that freedom is the ability to do whatever one desires. This is true of both secular and religious people. We might call this type of freedom, “free will.” We believe that we are not limited in our activities; our freedom, our free will, is limited only by the choices we have. Hence, the more choices that exist, the more freedom we have. This is not true freedom.
True freedom does not mean having more choices but knowing the truth.
As an obvious example, the least free person is one addicted to drugs. They have total freedom to use drugs, yet they are actually in total bondage to drugs. In reality, they are not free.
Are you truly free if you are in bondage to that which you enjoy? Drugs, sex, work, television, technology, food – anything we get pleasure or pride from that obligates us to cling to it is not freedom but bondage, even if we believe we enjoy it. Enjoyment does not mean true freedom.
When everyone does whatever they want, we move from true freedom to chaos. Imagine if people took your possessions because they wanted to. They may believe they are acting in freedom, but there is no security or freedom for you. When freedom is only for some, it is no longer freedom; it is tyrannical.
Abuse of freedom is not only a secular problem. Think about the abuses of freedom in the ministry: pastors in adultery, in embezzlement, in sexual abuse. We know these are wrong but they exist because people have come to believe that we are free to do whatever we want. We have free will.
On the other hand, the Bible teaches that freedom is not doing whatever we want, but that this is a sign of sin. Judges 17:6, 21:25 – “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” The writer of Judges is not saying that this is a good thing. He is explaining why the Israelites were acting in such evil, despicable ways. (To understand what this type of “freedom” results in, read Judges 17-21)
All of these things that we want the freedom to do are, in fact, sins. Sin is bondage, not freedom. Sin most certainly is a choice, but it is not freedom. Galatians 5:1, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”
False teachers explain sin is freedom – 2 Peter 2:18, “For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error.” Sounds like the work of Satan, doesn’t it?
Jesus explains sin is slavery – John 8:25, “Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”
Even if Jesus did what he wanted, it would have been sin. Instead, he does the will of the Father.
- Mark 14:36 – “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
- John 5:19 – “Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
We have been set free by Jesus. John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” The question is not whether we have been set free, but how do we stay free?
Gal 5:23 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.” Self-control is part of the fruit of the spirit. Discipline is how we are to remain free.
Many people would think of being disciplined and living a self-controlled life as opposed to freedom; i.e. I cannot do what I want to do.
But God cannot sin and yet is the freest being.
If we think of freedom the way the world thinks of freedom, we will never truly know freedom. Freedom comes from knowing the truth. The truth is Jesus.
- John 14:6 – Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
- John 8:31-32 – “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Luther stated, “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” Augustine taught that true freedom is not choice or lack of constraint, but being what you are meant to be.
Every week in our church service, we read about the persecuted church. In these countries, you would think that being a Christian means you cannot be free. In reality, a Christian is still free, even if the country has laws barring the faith.
True freedom is based on love. 1 John 4:8, “God is love.” If something you do causes pain to anyone, then it is not love and therefore, it is not acting in freedom. The freedom you have from Jesus means you do not have to do that; self-control steps in and moves us in a direction of true freedom.
True freedom is who we are in Christ and any obstacle to that is not freedom but sin. True freedom is a disciplined, self-controlled life. How can we live this disciplined life?
- Galatians 5:16-17 – “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”
It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can live a disciplined life. It is the fruit of the Spirit that we live a self-controlled life.
God, it turns out, recognizes the difference between true freedom and having free will. Free will is not a bad thing; it’s simply not true freedom. True freedom, the scriptures tell us, comes from Jesus, from knowing the truth, from being obedient to the Father as Jesus was, from living a disciplined life in the power of the Holy Spirit, and from a place of love.
This may not be what the world wants us to believe freedom is, but it is what God tells us freedom is. Who are you going to believe: the world or God?
So go live a life of freedom. It is God’s will for you.