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Free Indeed

A mother wrote to her state senator complaining about laws that allow women as young as eighteen to perform as dancers in bars. She had sent her daughter to Houston to go to college. To make extra money, the daughter got a job dancing in a bar. The money in this line of work was so good that she soon forgot about getting an education.

The senator used this mother’s moving letter to write an editorial piece for a Houston paper, arguing that at the very least the minimum age for this degrading work ought to be raised to twenty-one, to prevent immature eighteen-year-olds from being lured into it.

It wasn’t long before a letter to the editor appeared, challenging the senator’s idea. The writer argued predictably that an eighteen- year-old should be able to decide for herself what is best for her and that she should not be told by a bunch of middle-aged men in the state legislature.

This letter expressed a common modern American idea of freedom. In the mind of the writer, freedom is the license to do whatever you please; it is an exemption from having to listen to anyone who tries to tell you what to do. This is the sort of thing many seem to have in mind these days when they celebrate the freedom we have in our country.

Doing What God Wants

But the freedom they have in mind is no freedom at all. It is in fact freedom’s very opposite: bondage. The undisciplined person’s freedom is an illusion, a lie. Satan is the originator of the idea of license as freedom. He first tried it on Eve, when he suggested that she would be a lot better off doing something other than what God had commanded. Throw off the constraints of God and be free, he said.

Eve and Adam found to their sorrow that not only was disobedience to God not liberating, it was enslaving. It gave Satan a hold on them, to lead them where they did not want to go, to trick them into doing things they regretted and that brought them endless misery. Their experience has been universal to the human race. The promise of freedom in giving in to the desires of the flesh turns out to be a most cruel and enslaving lie.

There is such a thing as real freedom, however. It is the freedom that Jesus won for us by atoning for our sins with His cross. Jesus promises that whoever continues in His Word will know the truth and that truth will give freedom (John 8:32). The truth is that Jesus has broken sin’s power and released us from its hold and from its final result, which is death and eternal damnation. Jesus said: “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

The really surprising thing about the freedom that Christ gives is that it is exercised in bondage to God. Real freedom turns out to be this: to be able to do, not what we want, but what He wants. The flesh wants to be free from God, to follow its own desires. But the spirit — that new nature in us that is the creation of the Holy Spirit — knows that it is good to be God’s slave.

The apostle Paul put it better: “For when you were slaves to sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:20-23).

— Pastor John Klatt