It is truly a wonderful thing that God both wants us to be free but that he has also made it possible! I wonder how many of us find it easy to truly live out of this place of total freedom though. There are many ways in which the god of this world (not to mention our flesh) wants to entangle us once again and hinder our sense of freedom. The writer to the Hebrews encourages us to ... "throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles" (Heb 12:1)
Here's one thing I've noticed though that can easily trip us up, focusing more on what we have been freed "from" and less on what we have been freed "for"! Both of these are important but when we have one without the other, then we start to get into trouble. Sometimes, we get so enthused about our freedom from sin, the power and penalty for our sin. We're so joyful that God forgives us, removing our sin and giving us a fresh start, that we can easily find ourselves almost back where we started because we've yet to see why He did this.
After all, it was for freedom, right? In other words I'm now free to make my own choices, live my own dream and just follow my heart finally. Anything else just wouldn't be freedom! We see this played out in the political arena around some very serious issues related to sexual identity, sexual expression and the 'rights' of the individual to decide for themselves what they do with their own body, including when it comes to abortion and euthanasia.
When I lived in Texas, some people wanted to demonstrate their 'right' (aka 'freedom') to bear arms, carrying a loaded weapon slung over their shoulder wherever they went, including to go buy a cup of coffee at the local Starbucks. The fact that mothers and young children were terrified at the sight could not be allowed to hinder their 'freedoms'.
So here's the kicker ('kicker' defined as an ironic twist in American English), the Apostle goes on to tell us wisely that the way we are to use our freedom, is by humbly serving one another in love. True wisdom says that real freedom is found in choosing to surrender the control of your life to another, ultimately to God Himself. We follow the example of Jesus who came not to be served (though surely he deserved this), nor even to serve himself (which must have been quite tempting at times), but rather He chose to serve, to lay down his life, to focus on the needs of others without complaint or judgment. Wow!
But that's Jesus I hear you say ... be careful with that because He is the only life worth living! We get to let him live His life, His way of life, His truth, through us when we say "Yes" to Him, when we bow before the Lord in full surrender. There's an interesting episode in the Old Testament to do with freedom. You see slavery then was not uncommon, a way to pay back debts that couldn't be paid because you didn't have the resources (a bit like us and our sin!)
Every 7 years, debts were to be cancelled so that people could live in freedom. That included allowing slaves to have their freedom (see Deut 15). In fact, when you set them free you were also to load them up with food, animals and supplies to give them a fresh start. This was God wanted the Jews to remember that they had been set free from slavery in Egypt and He had wanted them to enjoy the provision of the Promised Land. But sometimes a slave felt so loved by their master that they asked to stay forever and as a sign of their commitment, their earlobe would be pinned to the door!
Maybe a rather graphic picture, but understanding that we have been set free for a purpose is so important to our continued freedom. When we choose to belong to Christ, to be owned and with that, loved and provided for, then we are most at peace, we are most free. Free to service others, to give ourselves away for the benefit of others, ultimately for the glory of God.
How can you grow in freedom by growing in service? The best thing is first to resolve to live like this, then ask someone you respect to help you live it out. We have so many areas of need for service ... I can help anyone learn more if you just ask.
With love and prayers,