Freedom is not freedom that liberates us to do as we want but freedom to do as we should. It is not a freedom to live for ourselves but freedom from ourselves. It is not freedom to live to corrosively benefit ourselves but to continually bless others.
The world-at-large does not even think in those terms. The public-at-large, wrong-headedly, thinks that freedom is a license, which too often leads to self-imposed slavery. The Christian understands true freedom is freedom under the authority of the yoke of Christ. Two dimensions are discovered under this authority. There is the authority of truth understood and the authority of righteousness lived. Let us look at both of these divisions more closely.
The authority of truth understood: We have already realized that the opposite of truth is untruth or the lie. The mind that has not embraced the truth is living in the world of falsehood and deception. God’s authority is gracious and kind, benevolent and wise, for the purpose of what is not only good but what is beneficial to others and glorifying to Him. That is true freedom realized.
Ultimately, God’s authority in our lives makes dynamic development of our lives possible. It is not, as some claim, that this attitude is detrimental to personal development. He does not crush our creativity but channels it to honor Him and to bless others.
Let me give a brief glimpse into what I believe is the private thinking that goes on in the mind of a person living under the authority of Jesus Christ. Such a person says, “I am fully alive. I am the product of grace that makes me who I am. He has made me a liberated person. I am His and He has made me what I could never be without His love and Lordship. Yes! My belonging to Him has given me identity, God’s grace has made me who I am and taught me self-giving love. I am free under His gracious authority to be the person He intended me to be.” “What could be more liberating than that?” one has to ask.
So it is the authority of righteousness. Allow me then to quote a letter from a young woman in Eastern Europe that vividly illustrates this freedom in Christ. She wrote:
“I want to say Thank you! Thank you for giving me an answer for my question – I gave it to you two years ago. You probably do not remember I was one of the young people who could not find friends. I also did not know who I was and which way to go or even what was the meaning of life … I looked for real friends and I found none.
I could do it only when I drank much or pretended to be someone else.
But this year I came to be with you again, but all has changed. I have love. I know kindness. I experience help, and I play on the music team at my church – and I have a lot of friends. True friends ‘cause our foundation is Jesus Christ!
Today, I know who I am. I’m a Jesus follower. Thank you …”
Once, the Archbishop of the Church of England spoke at the University of Cambridge, saying of Christian freedom, “It frees you into the large room of the family of Christ’s followers across the ages. There is a timelessness about such a faith. It can free you from one of the most horrible of tyrannies, the dominance of the contemporary,” literally, an alliance to this world.
A Christian mind is not one of free thought—for that to be in control is simply to be in deep bondage to meaninglessness. To consider anything means sooner or later you believe lies, and that is to be a bondslave to falsehood. So then, what is freedom? It is to believe the truth wholeheartedly and then to live by it wholesomely. The truth sets you free!
And again, what is it to be free in Christ? It is to be freed from myself and from a continued focus on a life of self-centeredness. When a person is liberated from that, they can live loving God and others as well. Anything less lacks authenticity.
Our own self-centeredness is a dark prison with locked doors. We can escape, through Christ, from a life of self-centeredness to discover self-forgetfulness which leads to self-fulfillment in the greatest sense. We become the person God created us to be.
Here is a glorious truth: the freedom that Christ offers has nothing to do with freedom to live without moral guidelines; rather, it is freedom to live by moral guidelines with joy. Let’s just say it plainly. Not one person who is unforgiven by God is free! No matter what they claim in public defiance. “True freedom,” said John Stott, “is to be our true selves, as God made us and meant us to be. For the simple reason that, sin imprisons us in darkness and grace liberates us to His glorious light.
A Christian declares: God’s commandment in both the Old and New Testament does not destroy our freedom in life, rather it is a right authority that guarantees it. This comes into our life by a submission to Christ in all things. Jesus does not crush us by His discipline, not allowing us to be who we were meant to be; it is He who fully enables it. We must openly and often say that in Jesus Christ’s service we find ourselves. His Lordship gives us freedom that leads to total fulfillment. Even Christians, at least most of them, do not seem to understand this Biblical concept. In Christ, live in true freedom!