Go with me for a few minutes back to our childhoods—to the games we played as children. Remember those games of hide and seek? In the brief time the “it” was counting with his eyes closed, I’d frantically look for a good place to hide, a place where the “it” wouldn’t find me. Then at the right moment I would be able to go free! The times that were so much fun were when I was concealed and yet could see when the “it” walked past. I’d dart out of my hiding place and dash for base. If I got there before “it,” I would shout, “Free!” Oh, how exhilarating!
Today freedom is much sought after. Many teenagers today count the weeks until they’ll be old enough to drive a car and go places themselves. Pretty soon the count is on until they’re on their own. Freedom is a highly envied privilege. The thought of being restrained by another is not well tolerated. Children will rebel against their parents in an effort to get free. Adults will avoid church leaders to escape “judgment.”
Then there are those who are strapped by the duties of life. Maybe there is a handicapped child that takes so much care. Maybe there is a work situation that isn’t going well. Maybe there is the supervisor who is working through multiple issues with people or facing a lot of dealings with unreasonable customers. Maybe it’s a battle with a terminal illness. We just yearn to be free.
When God created man, he was free. He was placed into the Garden of Eden to dress and to keep it. There was no death. There probably was no need to pull weeds, no trees that overgrew themselves and needed to be cut back, and no fallen leaves to rake. Man was free. He was free to plant eye catching flowerbeds and do whatever his horticultural interests desired.
Then man sinned. Immediately after he sinned, he learned of physical bondage. Now he needs to work to survive. If he wants to eat, he needs to pull weeds and prune trees. He needs to pick fruit in its season before it dies. Now he is facing the experience of earnestly desiring to be renewed. Second Corinthians 5:1-4 tells us that we are composed of two parts. We have a physical body that someday will be “dissolved.” As long as we live in this earth, it will “groan” as we labor here. The physical bondage that man experiences is but for a time. We also have a soul within us that is eternal. Man’s sin also brought spiritual bondage to his soul. Now his heart (soul) is heavy instead of light. He knows guilt and shame instead of joy and peace. In the recesses of his heart, he knows that this condition is even more critical than the physical limitations he experiences.
When natural man seeks freedom, he seeks physical freedom as well as freedom to live out his own will. Go with me for a minute to the scene of an automobile accident. The car has rolled and someone is still pinned inside. The gas tank has been punctured and there is gasoline all around. The thought of the party in bondage is most assuredly, “Get me out of here now!” For the rescuers, the goal is similar, though they are likely more concerned about the safety of all involved than they are about a fast rescue.
When natural man seeks spiritual freedom, he measures it based on what he wants now. They see the rules of their parents and churches as barriers to their freedom. They rebel and chafe under any restrictions given. But if they manage to get their own way in one area, there is always someone else who is “keeping them from happiness.” You’ll find these people in churches. You meet them when you go to the store. It may be your neighbors or family. There are many people who fit this category.
So where does one acquire freedom? Jesus tells us, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” This brings us to the question that Pilate rather testily raised to Jesus and never allowed Him to answer. “What is truth?” In John 8:13-20 we have a dialog where the Pharisees are attacking the validity of truth, and Jesus is defending it. But without open hearts, the Pharisees could not receive truth. What was the truth they saw such a need to attack? Jesus had just shared, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” They were attacking the source of light. Light is freedom. They felt a pressing need to redefine freedom! However, convincing arguments and many against one did not change the truth. Try as they might, these religious leaders could not change the reality of Jesus’ supernatural existence—the reality that He is the Son of God and the answer to dispelling spiritual darkness. He is the answer to our freedom.
This is the reason for the Bible itself. It is a complete recipe for freedom under any circumstance. True freedom is under personal control, not circumstances others control. Hence it is available to anyone. You see, real freedom is a condition of the heart. It is rescinding my will and committing myself to following Jesus. Jesus said in John 8:31-32, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” In John 8:34 Jesus explains that if we commit sin, we are the servants (slaves in bondage) of sin. He gives us the answer to this condition in John 8:36, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” If we diligently follow as Jesus leads the way, we find freedom. No longer do we feel the weight of the burden on our necks. Matthew 11:28-30 tells us we can find rest, for Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden is light.
The individual who is physically trapped in the wrecked car can have a heart in bondage or a heart that’s free. Maybe he was a young person who took a corner much too fast. Maybe he was speeding down the road because he was angry with his parents for asking him not to go somewhere, and after storming out of the house he decided to go anyway. Consider the burden he has on his heart as he wrestles with the question of whether he will even survive the incident, and if he does not, where his soul will spend eternity. Maybe it’s a young person who was singing as he was driving down the road, and the next moment faced an intoxicated driver coming at him head on. He too may wrestle with the idea of the sufferings his “earthly tabernacle” would experience if the car caught fire. However, he does not have the burden of sin’s bondage on his heart to wrestle with. He may fear his pain and grieve his family’s suffering, but still knows that it will lead to eternal freedom from bondage. In this he can he rest, knowing that his heart is free in God.
The Anabaptist martyrs were physically imprisoned and tortured, but they manifested a freedom of heart that was not known to their captors or to the rest of the world around them.
To anyone who is feeling trapped by his parents’ desires or by the rules of the church, Jesus’ message is for you. “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” It’s a choice.
Are you free? There are many today who envy your freedom. Some are seeking. Others are rejecting the very source of truth. Can we see the burdens they are carrying? Jesus is their answer, too. Am I being faithful in introducing them to Jesus? Bringing someone to Jesus brings with it a blessing for eternity. Now isn’t that exhilarating?