January 28, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
That single word invokes all sorts of ideas, memories, dreams, and, even, pain. Perhaps your mind recalls an epic scene from Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, where William Wallace loses his life in an effort to gain freedom for Scotland. Or you hear the words “Let freedom ring…” from Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous I Have a Dream speech. Or you sympathize with those who are still fighting for freedom.
But does Jesus come to mind when you think of freedom?
In all four Gospels, there is only one place where Jesus speaks about freedom. In fact, his words on freedom are some of the most important for our understanding. We hear from Jesus in John 8, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (v. 31-32, 34-36).
Jesus seems to be saying that true freedom only comes through knowing and abiding in him. How does Jesus’ freedom compare with the freedom for which so many others have struggled, and continue to struggle? I think a definition would be helpful here.
John Piper, preaching on this text, defines freedom as “You are fully free – completely free, free indeed – when you have the desire, the ability, and the opportunity to do what will make you happy in a thousand years (or do what will leave you no regrets forever).” You’ll notice that there are four components to freedom: desire, ability, opportunity, and enjoyment. For example, if you have the desire and opportunity to slam dunk a basketball on a 10’ rim, but no ability to do so, you are not truly free to slam dunk. If you have the desire, ability, and opportunity to cheat on your taxes, but come to regret that decision when the IRS audits you (your enjoyment fades), you are not truly free.
How does this apply to the great pursuits of freedom throughout history? Every single civil and political struggle for freedom has focused on providing equal opportunity for people. Someone enslaved in chattel slavery does not have equal opportunity. Someone who is discriminated against does not have equal opportunity. Someone who is killed before they are born does not have equal opportunity. These are good and worthy struggles for the freedom of opportunity for all people.
Opportunity, however, is the only aspect of freedom that human institutions (or humans) can establish and preserve. No human institution can free a person’s enslaved desires, abilities, and eternal enjoyment. This is why Jesus speaks about sin in the context of freedom. Sin enslaves our desires, hinders our abilities, and deceives our enjoyments. As Jesus says, “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”
The only way to have our desires restored, abilities reenabled, and enjoyments to last forever is to have the Son set us free. No one can set himself or herself free from spiritual bondage. Jesus breaks the guilt, corruption, and power of sin on the cross. Therefore, abiding in Jesus is the only path to true and complete freedom.
Let’s be “freedom fighters” for all people created in the image of God, recognizing that fight is limited to opportunity. Let’s also be courageous and diligent to proclaim the good news that Jesus has died to set people free from the bondage of sin.