I was talking with someone the other day about what it means to live in a free country. In a strictly controlled country, people’s outward behavior is controlled. People must conform to a set standard. They are not free to stray from the norm. In a free country, people have an opportunity to choose the path they will take. This freedom opens up many positive options for people. Unfortunately, it also opens up many negative options as well. People are free to make their own choices; both good and bad.
We tend to take our freedom in America for granted. We have almost complete control over what we do, where we go, how we act, and what we think. Because we assume this freedom rather than value it, we tend to abuse our freedom. In many ways we have become a nation of people who boldly proclaim, “No one can tell me what to do.” When restraint of any kind is removed the consequences are usually not good.
The New Testament shares a different approach to freedom. It speaks of an ultimate freedom that respects authority, exercises self-restraint and leads to God’s blessing.
The Bible makes it clear that our freedom is a gift from God and not a right to be claimed. Spiritually we are all slaves to sin. We can do nothing to break that bondage. Jesus stepped in on our behalf and redeemed us. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. It is Jesus who has set us free. Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:34-36 (NIV)
Through Jesus Christ, we have been set free from the power of sin and death. Sin no longer is our master; in control of our lives. Most people today believe that they are free to do what they want to do. Sadly, they are wrong. Outside of a relationship with Christ, we are all slaves to the passions and desires of sin. Our “freedom” is only an illusion. Our sinful nature dictates our actions. When Jesus comes into our lives, He sets us free from the control of sin. This does not mean that we will never sin again. It means that now we actually have the real choice about how we will live our lives. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin-- Romans 6:6 (NIV)
The Bible also makes it clear that with our freedom comes responsibility. If we take our freedom in Christ for granted, we may slip right back into our old sinful habits. You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. Galatians 5:13 (NIV)
We must constantly choose to use our freedom to follow Christ. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. Romans 6:11-14 (NIV)
There are limits to our freedom. This is a life-lesson that everyone needs to learn. In every situation in life there are certain limits or boundaries to our freedom. When we act within these boundaries we are completely free. When we violate these boundaries we forfeit our freedom. For example, if you go to the movies, you are free to sit wherever you would like, but you are not free to go up on stage in the middle of the movie and begin to sing. If you do, you have violated the boundaries of the movie experience and you will be summarily escorted from the theater.
Paul makes it clear that our freedom in Christ does not give us license to do whatever we wish. Instead, we are restrained by the boundaries of service to Christ. "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 (NIV)
Our freedom is an incredible gift. It is not bound to a political system or military power. It is secure in the power of the Living God.