“Freedom in general may be defined as the absence of obstacles to the realization of desires” (Bertrand Russell). Exhaustive research reveals that Russell has been dead since 1970. I’d say that’s pretty restrictive.
Last week, we saw that the freedom that brings true happiness has boundaries. The dog that breaks his leash soon finds himself unhappy when confronted with hunger or a snarling forest creature or a ton of speeding metal. The spouse who sneaks out of the wedding vows finds crab grass on the other side of the fence as well. Not too many train wrecks are happy events.
Being in Christ frees us from the duties of the Mosaic laws. Galatians 5:1 reminds us, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” However, Paul continues, “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). Freedom means free to live according to the Holy Spirit in love, not according to the strictures of a religious system. It is freedom to be holy and truly happy.
True freedom means service to God and man. Jesus Christ, the Son who sets free, also said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The Creator God stooped down in history to pay the ultimate price to serve His rebellious creatures. How much more should we be willing to forgo our little pleasures for the ultimate joy of serving God and others?
Freedom of speech is one of our most cherished and controversial American liberties. However, it is also one of our most mis-used. Often, the defenders of the First Amendment believe it gives them the right to say what they want, when they want, and it’s the audience’s problem if they don’t like it. This is not a very loving attitude.
The Bible puts the highest restrictions on free speech: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). Our words, even when hard to hear, should be spoken with healing in mind. Angry words only beget angry words (Proverbs 15:1).
One freedom that is granted neither by God nor government is freedom from the consequences of our actions. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Ga-latians 6:9). Just as in farming, what you plant in your life will bear fruit. It is true that the believer is forgiven the punishment for sins, but the scars may still remain. And the effects of sin can last a life-time. Bodies, hearts, finances, and relationships don’t instantly heal when a person confesses sinful behavior. It may take 30 minutes or 30 years, but we will reap what we sow. The law of sowing and reaping puts severe boundaries around our freedoms.
Related to the law of sowing and reaping is the Golden Rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Christ himself spoke and lived this rule. It puts forth the highest motives and responsibilities, and covers speech, actions—everything. He summed up the entire Bible in those few words. And, this verse hearkens back to our original study of the core of all motives: happiness. For we only do those things that make us happy, and our ultimate happiness is to serve the happiness of others, especially God.
Freedom from guilt is one of the greatest pleasures in life. If you don’t want to feel guilty, don’t do bad things. That simple. If you DO bad things, confess and forsake them, and the guilt goes away. Equally simple. I did not say easy, but simple. Everyone feels guilt about something, as much as we try to hide it or mini-mize it. We would like to suppress it, but it bubbles underneath the surface of our minds like a frozen spring. Some carry guilt with them to their grave. It is not necessary. Romans assures us: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Once sin is confessed, we are no longer held guilty. The scars may remain, but the threat of pun-ishment is gone. David’s Psalm of penitence begins, “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered” (Psalm 32:1). Nothing to carry to the grave!
These are just some of the restrictions on our freedoms that serve not to hinder us, but to protect us. And to make us truly happy!
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