Americans are all about freedom. The Revolutionary War was fought for the rights and liberties outlined in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and its amendments. Unfortunately, most people seem to think that freedom means the absence of restrictions. The ability to do whatever one wants without restraint is nothing more than license.
Parents do not give their child license to do whatever he/she wants. Why not? …Because they know a child lacks good judgement. They are not prudent. They cannot make wise decisions. When someone turns eighteen years of age they legally are considered an adult and therefore have the requisite character and judgement to make good decisions, right? If not at eighteen, surely by the time someone turns twenty one he/she is ready to take on the full responsibility of all of the “freedoms” available in our society and conduct him/herself like a mature adult, correct? Obviously not. Regardless of age, until an individual understands the true meaning of freedom, he or she remains incapable of wisely exercising that freedom.
Contrary to popular belief, freedom does not mean, “I can do whatever I want.” In fact, doing whatever one wants (i.e., acting as though satisfying one’s appetites is the meaning of life) is slavery. To a Christian, this common misconception of freedom is evil.
True freedom is the ability to pursue virtue and truth (i.e., God), unhindered. This being the case, it should be no surprise that the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom as many settlers left England to escape the limitations placed on religious freedom and even outright persecution.
The First Amendment states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. It is simple and to the point. There shall be no state religion (e.g., nothing similar to the king establishing the Church of England) and no state-imposed restrictions on the practice of religion. For a thinking Christian, true freedom and religion go hand-in-hand; one does not exist without the other. Thinking Christians understand that our “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is inextricably tied to the will of God.
For in him we live, and move, and are; (Acts 17:28).
Note: This verse also is translated: For in him we live, and move, and have our being.
In Him we have our being! Think about this. Our very existence depends on Him and therefore we are truly free only when we are in union with Him. Consequently, in pursuing our own will, if it is not united to the will of God, we become slaves.
Then Jesus said to those Jews, who believed him: If you continue in my word, you shall be my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him: We are the seed of Abraham, and we have never been slaves to any man: how sayest thou: you shall be free? Jesus answered them: Amen, amen I say unto you: that whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin (John 8:31-34).
Knowing the hearts of men, God reveals our weaknesses to us in Scripture. If we are honest we must acknowledge the tendency to lose sight of genuine freedom in favor of pursuing our own will and calling it freedom. Rather than serving God and one another, we serve ourselves and then justify ourselves by claiming our “freedom” to act according to our own will instead of the will of God.
For you, brethren, have been called unto liberty: only make not liberty an occasion to the flesh, but by charity of the spirit serve one another (Galatians 5:13).
For so is the will of God, that by doing well you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not as making liberty a cloak for malice, but as the servants of God (1 Peter 2:15-16).
For the average American or unthinking Christian who considers freedom to be the absence of restrictions, it is important to be aware of the difference between “lawful” and “right”. In common terms, “Just because we can do it doesn’t mean we should do it.”
All things are lawful to me, but all things are not expedient. All things are lawful to me, but I will not be brought under the power of any (1 Corinthians 6:12).
All things are lawful for me, but all things do not edify. Let no man seek his own, but that which is another’s (1 Corinthians 10:23-24).
If we embrace “freedom” to do what we want, we in fact place ourselves in bondage to sin because any act contrary to the will of God is contrary to freedom and thus slavery. Therefore, Christians must make a conscious decision to act according to faith. This is why the Book of James calls us to be doers of the Word and not just hearers of the Word. James also points out that Christians who consider themselves religious but do not act as such are self-deceiving and their religion is in vain. Therefore we are to do the will of God lest, in pursuing “freedom” we find ourselves in bondage.
For if a man be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he shall be compared to a man beholding his own countenance in a glass. For he beheld himself, and went his way, and presently forgot what manner of man he was. But he that hath looked into the perfect law of liberty, and hath continued therein, not becoming a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work; this man shall be blessed in his deed. And if any man think himself to be religious, not bridling his tongue, but deceiving his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. (James 1:23-26).
Stand fast, and be not held again under the yoke of bondage (Galatians 5:1).
As all have sinned and need God (Romans 3:23) we cannot deny what we are called to do. Combating our inclination to serve ourselves, however, is not always easy. As with all things worthwhile, true freedom (i.e., submitting to the will of God) takes effort and practice. Sanctity does not come in an instant and if we pray, “Lord, make me holy,” He is not going to make us holy without our cooperation. Rather, He will give us eyes to see the opportunities to be holy, everyday…opportunities to practice what we profess. As we proceed in our Christian walk, He will give us what we need—mainly the grace to live in accordance with His will—and in this true freedom we will find joy.
Being imperfect, we will fall but when we do, if we repent, get up and continue in our walk with Him, He will continue to forgive and bless us. We should not be afraid or discouraged even when we fail because His grace is sufficient for us.
And he said to me: My grace is sufficient for thee; for power is made perfect in infirmity. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. For which cause I please myself in my infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ. For when I am weak, then am I powerful (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
He perfects us through our faults and weaknesses and with His grace we must exercise self-control and choose His will. Though tempted, we must commit to Him and not waiver, going back and forth, between sin and righteousness.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear: but of power, and of love, and of sobriety (2 Timothy 1:7). Note: “Sobriety” also is translated as “self-control”.
But now, after that you have known God, or rather are known by God: how turn you again to the weak and needy elements, which you desire to serve again? (Galatians 4:9).
And Elias coming to all the people, said: How long do you halt between two sides? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him (1 Kings 18:21).
But if it seem evil to you to serve the Lord, you have your choice: choose this day that which pleaseth you, whom you would rather serve, whether the gods which your fathers served in Mesopotamia, or the gods of the Amorrhites, in whose land you dwell: but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).
In the simplest terms, the freedom that the world offers is corporeal. It is self-centered, self-indulgent, self-exalting and thus self-enslaving. This is evil called “freedom”.
That which is of this world has been corrupted by the father of lies and obscures the Truth. Therefore, the first step in embracing true freedom is to recognize and dispel the lie that is evil called “freedom”.
In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of unbelievers, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not shine unto them (2 Corinthians 4:4).
As we are made in the image and likeness of God, true freedom can be found only when our heart is united with the heart of Christ. He is the very definition of freedom and therefore freedom only exists in relationship to Him.
Now the Lord is a Spirit. And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17).
As stated in the verse from Acts, in Him we live and move and have our being. All that is good resides in Him and thus in Christ and Christ alone will we find true freedom.
For of him, and by him, and in him, are all things: to him be glory forever. Amen (Romans 11:36).