Dear Freedom Fighter,
“Let freedom ring, let the white dove sing. Let the whole world know there’s a day of reckoning. Let the weak be strong, let the ‘right’ be wrong. Roll the stone away; let the guilty pay. It’s Independence Day.”
So says Martina McBride in her song, Independence Day. I don’t know her religious persuasion, but the Word of God certainly echoes those sentiments. As we in the USA celebrate the founding of our historically unique nation this month, I think it is fitting that we examine some of what Scripture says about the hope of freedom, for since the dawn of mankind that hope has inspired and motivated both believers and unbelievers to persevere against great odds and achieve tremendous things. I assert that the passion to be free is intrinsic to the human heart, as per God’s design.
Celebrating the Fourth of July draws our attention to the political sphere, and, in that regard, the concept of freedom is an excellent baseline to determine whether a particular government program or policy is godly or ungodly. Given that freedom and prosperity usually go hand-in-hand, let us add the latter to our means of evaluating whether or not something is beneficial to our citizenry. If a law or program enhances our individual freedom and/or prosperity, the chances are it is godly, and beneficial. If it dilutes or lessens our freedom and/or prosperity, it is most likely ungodly, and harmful. We report, you decide.
As you probably know, WORDS HAVE MEANINGS, and defining and using words as God does is critical to our standing fast in the freedom Jesus Christ has given us in him. So what is “freedom”? Here are a few dictionary definitions, which do flow in line with the biblical word for freedom: “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint; the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved; the state of not being subject to or affected by (a particular undesirable thing).” Some have defined it simply as “the power to choose.”
As a Christian song said some years ago, “Hope has a name: ‘JESUS,’” and man’s hope of true freedom lies only in his personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Given that The Book is about The Man, true freedom comes only via an accurate knowledge of the Word of God, for without it our choices to think, speak, and act as God directs us are limited by ignorance or misunderstanding.
John 8:31 and 32
(31) To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.
(32) Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
If knowing spiritual truth makes one free, then, clearly, the converse is that if one believes error about the Bible, he is in bondage to some degree. The more important the particular truth is to the quality of one’s life, the greater the freedom or the bondage he will experience, and that is why it is so critical to “rightly divide” the Word of God. Let us also make the point that one could be in bondage and not know it. How so?
Suppose from birth you were restricted to living in the state of Indiana, but didn’t know it? Let’s say that for the first 40 years of your life you traveled all over the state with no need or desire to cross the border. But then you got a call from a lawyer in Chicago saying that your great aunt Tillie had died and left you $10 billion, and all you have to do to claim it is come there and sign for it. Try to imagine the disappointment, frustration, and anger you would feel when you were turned back at the Illinois border and then had to live without the $10 billion that is rightfully yours. Then you would know that you are in bondage, and that you do not have the choice to live your life in the most beneficial way.
Now let’s think about the above definition: “the state of not being subject to or affected by (a particular undesirable thing).” Hey, that’s NOT how things are now, is it? Not in this sick, perverse, insane, fallen, evil world. Every single day of our lives we have been, are being, and will be “subjected to and affected by” countless undesirable things, some annoying, some nerve-wracking, and too many devastating. Using the figure of speech Personification, God’s Word says that the whole world groans for freedom even as we ourselves do.
(19) The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
(20) For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in [yet always there was] hope
(21) that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
(22) We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
(23) Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
As 1 John 5:19 (ESV) tells us, “…the whole world lies in the power of the evil one,” which is why each day we live is a battle against his ever-encroaching influence. So how do we maintain our joy and peace and shine brightly in this darkness? I assert that a major key is to focus on our HOPE OF FREEDOM. And, as in Eugene Peterson’s rendering of 2 Corinthians 4:16–5:7 in The Message, we can choose to let life’s trials and tribulations remind us of our glorious future. As you read, let the words sink deep into your heart:[So we’re not giving up. How could we? Even though on the outside it looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.
For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little bit of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.
That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going.]
As you look around at the carnage in this dying world, and perhaps in your own life, remember the privilege you have to stand boldly for God and His truth, and to walk worthy of the Lord’s calling in your life, bolstered by his grace and mercy. As per Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free…,” and we now have the power to choose each thought, word, and deed, no matter the circumstances.
Not only is the creation figuratively groaning, and we literally groaning, but Romans 8:26 tells us that our Lord Jesus (“the Spirit himself”) is also groaning as he faithfully intercedes for us, longing for that glorious day when he comes for his own. Fix the eyes of your heart upon that HOPE of all hopes, the moment when Jesus gives us new bodies and gathers us together unto him—forever. That is our true hope of freedom from sin and death. It is also our hope of freedom from injustice, freedom from strife, stress, and anguish, freedom from grief and sorrow, freedom from danger, freedom from sickness and disease, and freedom from want and lack.
I think it is most fitting to end this letter with the encouragement that closes the great 15th chapter of First Corinthians (v. 58), for the more we adhere to it, the more we will experience freedom in our lives even now: “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Let’s do it.