The Freedom We Crave
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 8:32 (Holman) AYou will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.@
Freedom has ever been the quest of mankind. Many of history=s finest hours have been spent seeking it.
We thrill to think of 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, King John of England being forced to sign the Magna Carta in 1215, 182 Texans at the Alamo, and the Statue of Liberty=s promise, AGive me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.@
The USA is the land of the free, the dream of the world. Yet as individuals, we too often languish in bondage, having something wrong inside us. We have become a nervous, depressed, discontent, cynical, spoiled society.
Most of us have not learned the true meaning of freedom. As a result, in the midst of political, social, and religious freedom we too rarely find personal freedom. Jesus came to earth from Heaven to bring us the freedom we instinctively yearn for.
AThe truth will set you free@ is not abstract truth, but rather ultimate reality. Jesus Himself is the Truth (John 14:6). By knowing Jesus we find personal freedom in several ways.
First, knowing Jesus brings freedom from the fear of tomorrow. We are a society afraid, ridden with fears about living life. AFacing the world@ each day is a formidable task for some.
But all who know Christ never walk alone. Wrath to come is averted. Condemnation is removed. Death no longer forebodes, but promises better things to come.
Second, knowing Jesus brings freedom from the guilt of the past. Without forgiveness, our sin-stained past hangs around our necks like a noose. Memory can be one of the conscience=s sharpest swords. Jesus gives freedom from the past. He wipes away sin, remembering it no more. For the unforgiven, the haunting burden is ASon, remember . . .@ (Luke 16:25) now and forevermore.
Third, knowing Jesus brings freedom from self. Many of us know we are our own worst handicap and enemy. We are enslaved by our own cravings.
Even the pagans realized self-control is essential to true freedom: Socrates said, AVice is ignorance.@ Plato claimed, ALusts are the hardest tyrants.@ Seneca believed, APassion is the worst slavery.@ Epictetus said, ALiberty is the name of virtue.@ Cicero realized, AThe wise man alone is free.@
We have no freedom until we master ourselves, but often find it impossible to change ourselves. We do not have in us a solid foundation on which to build. We need outside help, the kind Jesus gives. We echo the cry in Tennyson=s poem AMaud@: AAnd ah for a man to arise in me, That the man I am may cease to be!@ This is exactly what Jesus wants to do in us.
Fourth, knowing Jesus brings freedom from compulsion. Without Jesus, there is no true freedom of choice, only the choice of sin. Apart from Christ our corrupt natures are shackled to choosing evil. Our true liberty is found when we begin to make headway against the current of evil, and progress toward God.
True liberty is secured when our will moves freely within its true element, which is righteousness. Moral good is to us what air is to a bird and water is to a fish. Birds and fish have freedom in their respective element, but a bird in water will drown and a fish on land will soon die. They find true liberty by staying in their element. Adding a capacity for self-destruction does not add to their liberty.
The same is true for us. Our healthy, invigorating element is moral good. This is what our minds and bodies were made for. When we decide freedom includes the right to sin at will, we move into an area of self-destruction. Like a fish on the creek bank, we flop every direction, not knowing where our element is, but still seeking for it. This is bondage in its worst form.
Sin, the suicidal action of human will, cripples our ability to find true freedom. When Jesus indwells us, we have true freedom of choice for the first time.
John 8:33 AWe are the descendants of Abraham,@ they answered Him, Aand we have never been enslaved to anyone. How can You say, >You will become free=?@
Jesus taught that continuing in His word would result in knowing truth that sets people free. The obvious implication was, the listeners were not free at that moment.
This raised the ire of these proud leaders. They immediately claimed they had never been in bondage to anyone. They evidently forgot Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Greece; and at this moment a Roman garrison was looking down from a fortress into the Temple courts.
The leaders evidently viewed these as coincidental accidents, nothing of substance. To admit servitude to a heathen nation would tarnish their reputation as God=s people, but the truth was, they had been in bondage before, were in bondage then, and were on the verge of a bondage that would scatter them throughout the earth.
What was true of them politically and physically was also true spiritually. Bound by their own superstitions and legal burdens, they were not free to worship God. They could not see their own spiritual slavery.
The leaders were no more unreasonable than people today who boast of freedom while their lives bespeak otherwise. Our power of self-deception is infinite.
Spurgeon said, in nothing do people err more grievously than in self-analysis. We have a strange propensity to ignore disagreeable facts about ourselves, and by ingenious manipulation take the wrinkles out of our bad practices.
People often blind themselves to the truth about themselves, refusing to confess and forsake their sins. They fail to see the full extent of their own guilt. Our greatest need is to know what our greatest need is B deliverance from sin.
We imagine in vain that we can be right with God, yet at the same time be living in contradiction to God=s rules. Sinners commit evil without remorse, expecting religion, rites, ceremony, or good deeds of compensation to bail them out of trouble. They sometimes act as if intellectual belief in God is enough, but even the devils believe, and they at least have the decency to tremble.
Some sinners commit evil, go through a Amagical@ notion of penance, and then feel all is well. They live as if God does not care how we live as long as we go through the right religious motions.
These religious leaders were feasting, sacrificing, and worshiping, but living in sin. They had no consciousness of spiritual bondage and hence had no attraction to Christ=s promise of freedom.
This problem still haunts us. Ignoring or minimizing the fact of sin makes it impossible to appreciate fully Christ and His sacrifice. Churches which downplay sin are ineffective because they ignore the very reality that makes Christ worthwhile.
Jesus is mainly not a teacher or moral example, but a deliverer from sin. He died for the sin of the world. This is the central fact of Christianity. Without it we have no Gospel to preach.
Our first step toward freedom is to recognize our slavery to sin. The second step is to realize we have no power to liberate ourselves. As long as people ignore their spiritual bondage, they will be indifferent to Christ=s offer of liberty.
When we realize the power, treachery, and pervasiveness of sin, we will cling to Jesus with a life-and-death grip. There will be no lackadaisical praying and easy-going Christianity. When we see sin as the tyrant it truly is, we hide deep in the cross.