America is well-known as the “land of the free”. Our military fights to preserve it, our government legislates to protect it and people from around the world come to savor its sweetness. It is precious, indeed.
Never should we take for granted our liberties to vote for our preferred political candidates, to believe and worship as we choose, to read non-government controlled press and to move freely within our nation. These rights form the very foundation of United States. Yet, sometimes when we taste these freedoms, we still salivate for more (because if some is good, isn’t more better?)
But more freedom also offers more choices. And with choices, come inescapable consequences. Our flesh wants what it wants…frequently to our own demise. In our humanity, we simply can’t help ourselves.
I know when I’m watching what I eat (because I may or may not have gained a few Covid pounds – anyone relate?), I can’t give myself the freedom to stock my pantry with my favorite sweets and junk foods. Having them in that close proximity is too big of a temptation, and I would assuredly reach for a treat. My success is dependent on the boundary I set to not purchase these items in the store.
Similarly, look at the iPhone settings now offered by Apple. They include limits that we can impose upon ourselves, automatically shutting down functionality…because we just can’t seem to choose to disconnect on our own. Or how about support groups or Bible study groups? Their primary method of support and encouragement is rooted in accountability. Why? Because left to ourselves, we won’t automatically DO the things we KNOW are right (see also, the apostle, Paul and his admission to this same reality we all face: Romans 7:15-20).
The truth is that boundaries are good, because our human flesh and desires lead us to momentary pleasures with perpetual problems.
If any nation offered total freedom, it would be complete chaos – void of morality, order and safety. As with anything, too much of a good thing isn’t actually a good thing. Except when it comes to God. We can never have enough of Him. He and His ways are our wisest boundaries. Yes, He has given us free will to make our choices, but He has also offered us pathways to life through scripture and the Holy Spirit.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8)
Although the Bible is full of counsel and direction, it’s often mislabeled as an instruction book of what to do and what not to do. In fact, Jesus specifically responded to the apostles’ request for a more specific “to-do” list.
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)
God isn’t looking to exchange our freedom for a burdensome list of works and rules. Jesus has already done the work to make us righteous in His sight. Through faith, we are freed from God’s judgment of our sin…but, we are not free from the natural consequences that result from bad choices. That’s why God offers so much wisdom in scripture. Like a good Father does, He provides wisdom and guidance, counseling us away from folly that causes unnecessary suffering and pain.
I can personally recall during my (stubborn) teen years when I didn’t understand this truth. Although I knew who Jesus was, I hadn’t yet developed a personal relationship with Him, nor was I following Him. I thought, “there are so many rules in the Bible, and I won’t be able to follow them all, so why worry about following any?” I thought I would just enjoy fun and freedom without the constraints of Christianity. What I had clearly missed was the value of scripture for pointing us to the best life.
God’s ways don’t diminish freedom. They deliver freedom.
Freedom in Christ, who saves us from our ourselves (our sin patterns, pride, addictions) and anything other evils that enslave us. Freedom from hopelessness (because we will never be good enough on our own), so He clothes us in His righteousness. Freedom from death (inevitable for us all), because He offers us eternal life.
My personal relationship with Jesus redefined me and my identity. No longer was my priority placed on perfection and performance (oh, the burden of that!) but it was replaced with an understanding that I don’t need to prove my worthiness or earn His love. I am loved just as I am…and it’s not possible for Him to love me any more, nor will He ever love me any less.
I even discovered that the more I followed God, the more fun life became for me. He lifted so much burden from my shoulders. (He tells us His yoke is easy and burden is light.) He gave me fullness in Him, so I no longer craved the validation from work, others’ opinions, appearance or any of the other faulty measures the world uses. I found myself wanting more and more of His guidance and protection – I needed Him (and still do today) to protect me from myself and from an enemy who stands on my shoulder and whispers lies into my ear!
Here’s what I’ve learned, friends. I’ve lived my whole life in the “land of the free”, but true freedom can never be delivered by our government. It can only come from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Perhaps we shouldn’t lobby our leaders for fleeting freedoms that only serve our immediate satisfaction. Instead, let’s seek the full and everlasting freedom that God wants to give us. Because, truly, the “land of free” isn’t in any particular place – it’s wherever we plant our feet on the firm foundation of Jesus.
Lord, God, we ask you today to release our minds of any idea that freedom can be found outside of You. We invite you, Lord – May Your Kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Open our eyes to see the goodness of Your ways. Free us, in Jesus’ name.