False Freedoms And Freedom Indeed
You will hear words like liberty and freedom bandied about. But those words, more times than not, are sorely misunderstood in this age. They imply something that is impossible, which is that Man can be free to do as he wishes. But Man is not free. Life itself binds us. In the end, we are left with a choice between different sets of freedoms, all of them coming with their own set of snares and restraints.
Some years ago Kris Kristofferson penned the now famous words, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” And yes, the freedom he was referring to is a kind of freedom. Having nothing to lose, nothing to claim as your own, no one to love or to love you, or no material possessions that can be used as leverage against you, does provide for a sort of freedom. A homeless panhandler, for example, might have that kind of freedom. Since he has nothing to lose, no one can threaten to take anything away if he doesn’t abide by some kind of expectation. Yet, in many other ways, he’s still not free. He’s not free to go home, or to know the joy of providing for a family, for example.
And then there’s Marxism. It promises a sort of freedom. This is the freedom that comes with being a ward of someone or something much more powerful than yourself. It promises something much like the freedom you experienced growing up in my house. You were free from the worries of providing for yourself food, shelter, and clothing, but you had little say in how you would live. But Marxism is different than what you experienced under my roof and rule because Marxism doesn’t love you. That, and it never delivers on its promises because it can’t. It only enslaves people into a pipe-dream of some way-off Utopian paradise which never arrives.
For others hedonism is liberty. Our bodies want to sleep, be fed, be comfortable, and most of all to experience pleasure. But to run after these things without constraint is self-destructive. Our bodies—or as the Bible puts it, our flesh—is by its nature self-destructive. It can never be satisfied. It can never get enough of what it constantly craves. Eventually, the hedonistic pleasure-seekers begin to sedate themselves with drugs and alcohol to take away the pain brought on by purposelessness, which causes even more self-destruction. It’s a downward spiral. Yes, there is a kind of freedom in casting off all restraint, but unfortunately for those who choose this course, reality will not be cast off.
For others still, lots of money is freedom. They cast off the restraint of slothfulness that the body attempts to impose, and they work really hard in hopes of great reward. They are then free to have nice things. But they are not necessarily free to be satisfied with those nice things, or to stay home from work. There are a lot of freedoms that we can chase after, but in the end there is no real freedom. Sooner or later we will live out what Solomon called, the “vanity of vanities.”
“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun? ” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3 )
All freedoms have some merit. Who doesn’t want to be comfortable? Who desires to toil day and night only to be exploited by the lords of the marketplace? Who wants to be poor? Who loves suffering? But all of these “freedoms” involve a submission of some sort to a master of some sort, none of whom are righteous. But there is a righteous master to whom we can submit. His name is Jesus, and He is a ruler, make no mistake about that.
The Bible tells us that this Ruler came to set the captives free. This Ruler tells us that in him freedom can be found, and when we find that freedom, it will be “freedom indeed.” So the question is raised, what is this freedom that Jesus offers? To answer, why don’t we first take the scriptures on their face value. They too tell us that we are not free.
I’ll show you two examples of this. In the first one, Jesus asks us to throw off the heavy yoke. We must understand that that word, yoke, means that there is a master with reins, and to His will we must bend.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Jesus is pointing to a freedom here, but not in the sense that Man normally thinks of freedom. He is not saying that we are able to cast off everything that constrains; that would be impossible. He simply offers us an exchange for our heartless freedom-destroying masters. Beware, therefore, of anyone who preaches total freedom, for such does not exist, and an awful snare awaits those who believe it does.
The second example points to another kind of master, the Good Shepherd:
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:21)
Jesus is our shepherd, which means He is our authority. We are free to graze in His pastor, but we are not free to graze wherever our flesh demands. So what does His freedom entail? If Jesus came to “set the captives free,” then what captivity are we in that we need being set free from? The answer is, “sin.”
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (Jn 8:35-36)
In this passage, Jesus is in a discourse on the subject of slavery. Those who opposed him were claiming to be free. They rejected Jesus’ assertion that they were slaves. But the slavery of which Jesus spoke was worse than simply being a slave to an earthly master. One might hope to eventually break such bonds as those. But no man can break the bonds of sin. He is a slave to it for life unless he surrenders to the good master who alone has the keys to unlock those chains.
Dear children, I would that you not go chasing after the things of this world which make empty promises, but that you would chase after your heavenly Father. It is my desire for you that you seek the face of God, and that eternity would ever be in your sights. I pray that you would take on Jesus’ yoke and that you would answer to His commands so that you might experience joy in this life that cannot be stolen by circumstances. I pray that you would fix your eyes, not on what is seen but on what is unseen, for what is seen with your eyes is all temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal and will not pass away!
In our hearts, we want freedom. And I pray for you, dear children, that you would find the kind of freedom that will make you free indeed, that we may enjoy it forever. Amen.