The subject before us deserves our attention. It should ring in the ears of every person like the sound of a trumpet. We live in a nation that embraces the ideology of democratic freedom. We have personal freedom, civil freedom, religious freedom and national freedom etc. How vast is this lists of privileges! How endless are the comforts that it contains! Their full value perhaps can never be known. It was well said by the Jewish rabbis of long ago, ‘If the sea were ink and the world parchment, it would never serve to describe the praises of liberty.’ But are we free ourselves?
The question is one that demands special attention to the present state of public opinion. The minds of many people today think of freedom in terms of political freedom. Yet there is a freedom, within the reach of us all, which few, I am afraid, ever think of, a freedom independent of all political changes, a freedom which neither the prevailing government, nor the cleverest politician can bestow. This is the freedom I will discuss with you. Do you know anything of it? Are you free?
Over the next two weeks, I am going to show you the best and true kind of freedom and the way in which this freedom may become your own.
The freedom I speak of is a freedom that is within the reach of every child of Adam who is willing to have it. No power on earth can prevent a man or woman having it, if they have but the will to receive it. Tyrants may threaten and cast in prison, but they can do nothing to stop a person having this liberty.
And, once we have it, nothing can take it away. Men may torture us, banish us, hang us, behead us, burn us, but they can never tear from us true freedom. The poorest may have no less than the richest; the most unlearned may have it as well as the most learned; and the weakest as well as the strongest. Laws cannot deprive us of it. No church, no political system and no one can rob us of it. Once it is ours, it is an everlasting possession.
Now what is this glorious freedom? Where is it to be found? What is it like? Who has obtained it for humanity? Who has it at this moment to bestow? I ask my readers to give me their attention, and I will supply a plain answer to these questions.
The true freedom I speak of is spiritual freedom, freedom of the soul. It is the freedom that Christ bestows freely on all true believers (Christians). Those whom the Son makes free are free indeed: ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty’ (2 Corinthians 3:17). Let people say what they please of the comparative freedom of all the human right commissions we have today; let them struggle, if they will, for universal liberty, fraternity, and equality: we will never know true liberty until we enrolled as citizens in the kingdom of God. We are ignorant of the best kind of freedom if we have not been set free by Christ.
Those set free by Christ are free from the guilt of sin. That heavy burden of unforgiven sin, which lies so heavy on many consciences, no longer presses them down. Christ’s blood has cleansed it all away. They feel pardoned, reconciled, justified and accepted in God’s sight. They can look back to their old sins, however black and many, and say, ‘You cannot condemn me.’ They can look back on long years of carelessness and worldliness and say, ‘Who can hold me accountable for anything in my past? This is true liberty. This is to be free.
Those set free by Christ are free from the power of sin. It no longer rules and reigns in their hearts, and overtakes them like a flood. Through the power of Christ’s Spirit they restrain the deeds of their fallen nature, and crucify their flesh with its affections and lusts. Through his grace working in them they get the victory over their evil inclinations. The flesh may fight, but it does not conquer them; the devil may tempt and harass, but does not overcome them; they are no longer the slave of lusts and appetites, and passions, and moods. In all these things they are more than conquerors through him who loved them. This is true liberty. This is to be free.
Those who set free by Christ are free from the cringing fear of God. They no longer look at him with dread and apprehension, as an offended Maker; they no longer hate him, and hide from him, like Adam did among the trees of the garden; they no longer tremble at the thought of his judgment. Through the Spirit of adoption that Christ has given them, they look on God as a reconciled Father, and rejoice in the thought of his love. They no longer feel his anger. They feel that when God the Father looks down upon them, he sees them in Christ and, unworthy as they are in themselves, is well pleased. This is true liberty. This is to be free.
Those set free by Christ are free from the fear of man. They are no longer afraid of man’s opinions, or care much what man thinks of them; they are also indifferent to his favour or hatred, his smile or his frown. They look away from man who can be seen, to Christ who is not seen, and having the favour of Christ, they care little for the condemnation of man. ‘The fear of man’ was once a snare to them. They trembled at the thought of what man would say, or think, or do: they dared not run counter to the fashions and customs of those around them; they shrank from the idea of standing alone. But the snare is now broken and they are delivered. This is true liberty. This is to be free.
Those who set free by Christ are free from the fear of death. They no longer look forward to it with silent dismay, as something horrible that they don’t care to think of. Through Christ they can look this last enemy calmly in the face, and say, ‘You cannot harm me.’ They can look forward to all that comes after death, decay, resurrection, judgment and eternity, and yet not feel cast down. They can stand by the side of an open grave, and say, ‘O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?’ They can lay down on their deathbeds, and say, ‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil’ (Psalm 23:4). ‘Not a hair of my head will perish.’ This is true liberty. This is to be free.
By Rev. Eric D. Maefonea