Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Freedom or Bondage?

When we think of the word freedom, what instantly comes to mind?  Voting rights?  Having personal choices?  Do we see the American flag waving and remember our men and women in uniform who died for our freedom?  Those images are strong and beautiful and such worthwhile memories to treasure.

But I want to talk about freedom from another perspective.  God's... What does He have to say on the topic? For me and others who choose to live according to God's will it is important to go to the Scriptures.  That's where He reveals Truth on all matters of life.

The somewhat limited concordance in my study Bible has 4 New Testament scriptures that have the word, freedom, in them.  No doubt there is much more God has to say on this topic but study Bibles can present just so much extra information.  Those 4 verses should give us some clues. (I took the liberty of putting the word, freedom, in italics where I quote scripture.)

Romans 8: 20, 21: "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God." 

I could probably spend all sorts of time trying to figure this out but what I glean from this verse is.. a lack of freedom is associated with sin (the "bondage to corruption" phrase).  When I choose to behave apart from the plans and guidelines of God, I am actually in bondage rather than free.  God's plan for my life involves blessing and joy; when I step away from His plan, I give up my freedom.

The best personal application I can come up with is this: there was a time in my life, as a believer, that I strayed from God's plan.  I made choices contrary to His will consistently in a specific area of my life.  As a result I had to constantly justify myself, question Truth, struggle with inner turmoil and later, after repentance, deal with the terrible example I had set for my children as well as others.  It was a time of bondage, not a time of freedom.

2 Corinthians 3:17: "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

There is a wonderful contemporary worship song written around this verse and, like the Romans verse, I understand this in light of the freedom we have when we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  It is He Who equips and enables us to walk through life unshackled by the chains of habitual sin.  I LOVE living in that kind of freedom!  It's the kind of freedom that, because of Christ, every new day offers me a fresh start.

Galatians 5:1: "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery."

This verse is read in the context of the early church and people wanting the new Christians to continue to follow the old ceremonial laws.  Jesus' entry into the world, His death and resurrection provided a new covenant that involved changed hearts. We still  have to be obedient to God's moral standards but Jesus provided a new freedom to live out our faith in the light of HIS sacrifice, the "once and for all" sacrifice.  No more endless rules; instead God gives us brand new hearts when we make Jesus our Lord.  I now want what God wants.  My life is so rich and filled with adventures; for example, I no longer want to indulge in the books, movies, games, etc. that undermine the kind of life available through Christ.  He has given me a direction in life that has purpose and hope.

2 Peter 2:19: "They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved." 

This was in reference to false teachers of that time, but the phrase "whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved" is key to understanding freedom vs. bondage.  If I have to eat 5 hamburgers a day...I am enslaved to hamburgers! (plus I will gain a lot of weight!).  If alcohol is a necessity to get me through the day, I am enslaved to alcohol.  It can be anything!  It can even be something that seems good and healthy...like exercise.  If exercise consumes my life and I cut off service to God and time with my family, it has enslaved me.  Again, true freedom comes when we put Jesus on the throne of our hearts and live out the Truths in God's Word.

Friends, we can have freedom in any situation, no matter how difficult.  Our freedom comes from focusing on Truth, giving Jesus our lives, allowing the Holy Spirit to speak Truth love and direction to us.  Even if we experience persecution, illness, poverty, loneliness, marital issues, famiy problems (the list is endless), we choose our thoughts and our actions.  Not easy.... but do-able.  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  (Phil. 4:13).

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