Freedom: But How Free Am I, Really?
“Give me liberty or give me Death!” How many times do you suppose you’ve heard that famous quote? There are few words that have passed the lips of our forefathers that could even compare to this little string of words.
I guess every preacher has a pet peeve or two which, I’m sure, makes me no different from all the rest. No, I’m not interested in the “issues” of the day and the open warfare that goes along with all of that. I’m not interested in squabbling with my preaching brethren about all the little idiosyncracies that revolve around the ministry. As a matter of fact, I refuse to allow myself the opportunity to get caught up in things that would take me away from my “prime directive.” Basically, mine is a message of “Give me liberty or give me death.”
For many years there has been a burning desire in my heart for the people of God to feel “FREE.” God is a God of freedom. How many times, as you recall, did God set His people free from some kind of bondage or captivity. God is in the “freedom” business. Jesus Himself said, “If the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed.”
As you well know, there are two systems of justification. There is the law of works and the law of faith, as the Scripture defines them. The law of works could get you to heaven if you could live it 100%… but you can’t, no matter how good you are and how hard you try. Jesus did, and He was the only one ever successful at it, for He never committed a sin.
On the other hand, the law of faith makes provision through the blood of Christ and the grace of God for our weakness. When we sin, it is charged to Jesus, our sacrifice is paid for by His blood. WE ARE FREE! No longer do we live under a covenant that says, “When you sin, you die.” WE ARE FREE! No longer should we try to do right because God says to in the Bible. Instead, we strive to do what is right “because the love of Christ constrains us.”
As early as the Book of Romans chapter six, the problem with liberty and people’s response to it surfaces on the pages of Scripture. Liberty, when introduced to people causes one of three actions. One: Accept it, embrace it, enjoy it and live faithfully in it. Two: Reject it. To reject liberty, freedom from the law of works, as a “blood cleansed” child of God, would be like one of the Israelites telling Moses that they had rather stay in Egypt and make bricks for the Pharaoh. Third: Abuse it. This is the one I want to talk about. Obviously, if you reject it, you are certainly not abusing it. If you embrace it and live in it faithfully, you have no problem.
I want to talk about our abuse of liberty. It is refreshing, it is to me anyway, to be a part of a people who love the concept of liberty. Probably, the most severe problem with liberty could be best understood with a cliche that you’ve had used on you and you’ve probably used on your children a hundred times. “Give you and inch and you take a mile.” If I had ten bucks for each time I’ve heard that or said it, I would be doing well.
“Give you and inch and you take a mile?” What does that mean, anyway? A person would have to be either too young or very slow to miss the message in that statement.
Freedom is not a concept that delivers us to do as we will. When God delivered Israel from Egypt and led them to the land of promise, were they without responsibility? Certainly not. When God delivered His people from the captivity of Babylon, did He bring them home to a life of no responsibility? Of course not!
Freedom breeds MORE, not Less responsibility. Freedom gives us choices beyond that of legalism. Legalism spells everything out for us. Liberty makes us think and choose for ourselves. Now it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that there is more responsibility with liberty than there is with legalism. If you choose legalism, you cannot choose heaven with it. On the other hand, if you choose liberty you get heaven, but you also get a greater responsibility.
Legalism says, “You go to church so you can go to heaven.” Liberty says, “I go to church because I love God and I love His people.” Legalism says, “You do every thing right or you cannot please God.” Liberty says, “I want to please God with every action of my life. How can I do that more clearly?” Legalism says, “If you do the crime you will do the time.” Liberty says, “If you do the crime, Jesus has already paid the fine.”
A natural assumption of many of the liberated ones is to believe that we can do what we want and still please God. “It’s ok to miss church. God knows my heart. Besides, I’m cleansed by the blood of Jesus.” Watch out! The ole “give an inch take a mile” idea is slipping up on you. “I don’t HAVE to teach. I don’t HAVE to do this or that. Besides, someone else will do it if I don’t.” Frankly, most of those “someone else” people are about worn out.
When you think about your freedom, think about this: “To whom MUCH is given, MUCH is required…”