Last night we looked at what, for Americans, is an all-important thing–freedom. Here are the notes:
How do we define Freedom? If you asked the average person on the street, you’d probably get a definition something like, “The right and power to be able to choose to do whatever you want,” or maybe, “Being able to live out your deepest desires, whatever they may be” (and some might add…”as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody”).
So…what is Freedom? First, look at John 8:31-36.
The argument here is over the meaning of the word “freedom.” The crowd says freedom is defined by some outward circumstance (“bondage to no one!”) or by their national heritage. (“We’re Abraham’s descendants!”). They took offense when Jesus said that they needed to be free. And they took offense when he said they needed him to be free
First, notice: Jesus is all about people being truly free. But he claims the right to define what freedom is and is not.
verse 32 and 34 – What Jesus says about Freedom:
- It comes from being rightly related to him. How you’re oriented towards Jesus, what your stance is towards him, determines if you’re free or not.
- The only status that is considered “free” is that of “disciple” aka “learner.”
- The only way to be related to Jesus as a learner is to “abide in his word.” That means to carefully, whole-heartedly learn and keep his commands for a lifetime. It means to want to have Jesus define everything and evaluate everything in your life. It means you want to be doing the things he wants done, and not doing the things he wants to destroy. This is the only way to actually be free.
- Freedom is not being enjoyed when people commit sin. A human being who commits sin—and that’s their life—is a slave. Jesus says there’s no other way. Human beings weren’t meant to love and do evil. They are in slavery when they commit sin. Two points here:
- Jesus gets to define what sin is. That’s what it means to have him as your lord, your teacher, and your savior. If someone’s not interested in having him define sin for them, then they don’t have to have him as lord, teacher or savior. So we can only be free if we’re willing to learn from Jesus what sin and evil is, and what it’s not.
- What if someone wants to do evil? What if they love it? See John 3:16-21. What we want and love is exactly the question. If we insist on loving what God calls darkness, than we reject Jesus. This means that freedom cannot simply be “getting to do whatever we want” or “getting to live out your deepest feelings, whatever they are.” It must be something more like not being enslaved to sin. Because here we see that even if we are able to choose sin, if we do choose sin, we are not choosing freedom, we are choosing slavery.
So freedom is more than simply the ability to choose to do what we want. Freedom is the freedom to choose against slavery, and to live outside of the power of sin and all its consequences. It must be the freedom to know Jesus and live according to his teachings—which set you truly free.
See also Romans 6:1-23
Notice many of the same themes in this passage as in John 8. To truly follow Christ is to be united to his death in a real living way, so that it becomes your death. Sins sin is not Jesus’ master, it is no longer your master either. Show your master by what you give the parts of your body to obey. (Do your hands obey righteousness or sin? Do your eyes obey God or sin? Does your tongue obey life or sin?)
In verse 18 Paul makes a statement that might strike us as almost contradictory at first: “Having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” To many people, this sounds absurd. If you’re a slave than you’re not free. Is this the freedom Jesus is offering? Well, consider what Paul says we become slaves to (“servants of”). “Righteousness” is a huge term in the scriptures. I recommend you do a bible word search on it. Especially as you trace it through the Old Testament, it ends up meaning something like… When justice is done and everyone is taken care of. Or, for a longer definition: It is when God, who is the source of all righteousness, is known and worshiped by everyone, so everywhere you go is full of his life-giving, personal presence, so no one oppresses anyone, everyone has everything they need, children are raised to flourish and everyone is nurtured to health and strength and no one ever conquers or oppresses or invades or steals and everyone is safe and everywhere is safe.
If you are free from sin, you become a slave of that righteousness, God’s righteousness, which fills the earth with holiness and a life that can never be snuffed out.
A Christian learns to hate the slavery to sin which makes everything break and wither and die and instead we start always wanting to serve righteousness—so that we know how to fix things and not just break things. We know how to build things and not just watch things. We know how to nurture things and not just poison them. We serve righteousness and life, and not sin and death.
Any sane human being wants to be free to be able to live in that world where God is fully present to everyone and everyone . Any follower of Christ wants to be able to actively participate in that world. We live our lives now to witness to God’s righteousness and the coming world he’s making. Paul calls this being “slaves to righteousness” and “slaves to God.”
So true freedom is not doing whatever we want, or getting live out all our desires. True freedom is being able to escape the power of sin, to know Jesus, and then to be free to do what we were always meant to do—know God and cultivate a blessed world.
That’s why some people say freedom is not the freedom to do what you want to do, but the freedom to be what you were meant to be.