ANDREW BAKER — “IN CHRIST IS REAL FREEDOM” | IN HIM: GLIMPSES OF GLORY
28 October, 2018
Scripture reading: Ephesians 1:3-14
This is the second in a three-part series based on Ephesians 1:3-14, entitled “In Him: Glimpses of Glory”.
The Longing for Freedom
We saw last week in Ephesians 1:3-14, Paul offers a Christian view of true meaning in life: that we are purposed by God (v5, v9), created by Him (v4), predestined in love (v5, v11) and blessed by Him (v3). In Christ alone we find absolute, certain, complete and satisfying meaning in life.
And just as every human heart longs for meaning in life, so too our hearts long for freedom. Narratives and stories of freedom, and the fight for freedom, capture our imagination. Freedom is often portrayed as worth fighting for, and even worth dying for. Who could forget William Wallace’s impassioned cry in Braveheart: “They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our FREEDOM!!”
The concept of freedom features heavily in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is widely accepted as a life goal that everyone seems to agree on. And so, we are on a search for true freedom - socially, morally, politically, nationally and personally.
Will the Real Freedom Please Stand Up?
In society today, we might describe freedom as “the right to do whatever I want, whatever I choose, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else”. In our modern society, this definition of freedom is seen to be both tolerant and inclusive. At the same time, any religion founded on absolute morals and absolute truth, including Christianity, is seen by many as the enemy of freedom. The idea that absolute truth cannot co-exist with freedom is all around us.
In contrast, Jesus said: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Here, Jesus is saying that true freedom is only available within the truth that He provides.
So, which is it? Will the real freedom please stand up? Is Christianity the enemy of freedom or the enabler of freedom? What is freedom anyway? Where does it come from?
1. True Freedom Requires Truth
We often want freedom without judgement or truth. Many want a free, tolerant, inclusive society. For many, their greatest objection to the Christian message is the intolerance and exclusivity which they see embedded within it. On the one hand, we hear that “Everyone should be free to believe whatever they choose”, then in the next breath, “...but you can’t believe this thing or that!”
Whenever I discuss this with my non-Christian friends, the point we often arrive at is that both our views are equally exclusive and intolerant, but that we differ in where we draw the line between what is right and wrong. There really is no view that is “freer than another”, but in fact freedoms will always be defined by the truths underpinning them.
Truth is by definition intolerant and exclusive, since to say one thing is true means another is not. Every worldview is exclusive at its core, including the worldview that there is no truth! Some say, “Churches should stop preaching and trying to convert people to their point of view”, but this is in itself an attempt to convert to their particular point of view!
And so, a generation that has cried for freedom has all but shut down free speech. A generation that has called for tolerance, has become the champion of intolerance.
The cry for freedom is at its core a battle for truth. For the Christian, truth is rooted in the reality of Jesus Christ, and who the Bible says He is. This includes not only what He did, but also why He did what He did, out of His great love for us.
2. True Freedom Requires More Than Me
We also tend to want freedom to be personally determined. “I’m free to be me, without anyone telling me who I can and can’t be”. We uphold the individual’s right as arbiter and judge to determine their own truth. However, the push for self-determination has only narrowed the concept of freedom to something that lies within us and that we must find for ourselves...which in turn enslaves us to ourselves. As a result we’ve become addicted, unhappy and dissatisfied.
This affects us all, as it did Adam and Eve, when they decided to choose for themselves between right and wrong. We all tend toward wanting to ascend to the place of God, becoming for ourselves both arbiter and judge. But this is a decision that leads to bondage. As Abdu Murray says in his book, “Saving Truth”:
Whilst ever our freedom, our worship, our meaning, our purpose is an inward search it will be a futile, meaningless search which only enslaves us to ourselves.
True freedom is found in discovering ultimate truth beyond ourselves. The Gospel does not just bring freedom externally, it brings freedom from the inner issues of the human heart. From a Biblical point of view, true freedom is a gift given, a Saviour who came revealing truth, meaning and purpose, who died in our place to save us and bring freedom from the inside out.
3. True Freedom Requires Constraint and Sacrifice
We often want to define freedom as the absence of constraints or limitations. However, as is engraved into one wall at the Korean War Veterans Memorial, Washington, DC:
“Freedom Is Not Free".
Freedom by nature requires restriction, limitations and boundaries. Freedom is often the exercise of restraint, not the removal of it. Freedoms eventually clash. Freedoms, individual and societal, are constantly in competition with one another, and one must eventually outweigh the other. For example, with when it comes to money: do I want the freedom to spend money now, or the freedom that comes from saving money for later in life? Which freedom will I choose?
Christianity is the only religion whereby God gave up His freedom, so we could experience ultimate freedom…from evil and death itself. He sacrificed his independence and freedom to purchase ours.
4. True Freedom Requires Purpose
We often want freedom to be an end unto itself, as if freedom was in itself a goal. But freedom has only ever been a means, not an end. Freedom has to lead us somewhere. Not just a freedom from, but a freedom to greater purpose and meaning in our lives.
The greatest expression of freedom is in using something for the purpose it was created. For example, I could use my car as an expensive decoration - I could fill it with petrol and then sit in it. I could use it for storage. But a car is made to be driven, and true freedom is using the car for the purpose it was created.
So too with us, true freedom is found in relationship with the One who made us, to bring glory to Him and enjoy Him forever. In this way, we must sacrifice what we might want to do for what we were made to do. True freedom is not a principle. It is found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in relationship with Him.