Tag Archives: Freedom

Free Indeed?

…Jesus was, is and always will be the only One who has the power and authority to free us from the eternal consequences of our sin.

And if He does that, we will be free indeed.

(Previous Post)

So how?

Who is Jesus, and how can He set us free from the eternal consequences of our sin? Why does He have that power, and how do we get Him to direct it in our direction?

  1. Jesus is Immanuel – God with us in the form of a man
  2. He can set us free because He is God
  3. He has that power because He is a perfect man who gave His life to pay the price for our sin
  4. We ask Him to

Simple, huh?

Well, yes! The truth of the Christian ‘gospel’ is simple. Jesus came to bring us Good News. Humanity had a problem that it couldn’t fix – a problem that would condemn us all to be separated from our Creator forever. Jesus came to fix that problem, so that everyone would have the opportunity to have their individual, personal relationship with God restored! If there was ever Good News, that is it!

Of course, simple doesn’t mean easy…

To me at least, my car is simple. I jump (OK, ease) into the driver’s seat, turn the key, and zoom (OK, trundle) off into the distance. In order to keep my car going, I need to put petrol (OK, gas) in it every week or so, and avoid driving it into a tree. Do I know how all the cogs, valves, springs and things work together to make my car go? Heck no! If I ever have to look under the bonnet (OK, hood) of my car I studiously avoid all the whirring, clanky things and zero in on the windshield wash fluid thing. That, I can just about cope with. I don’t understand how my car does what it does, but it does it anyway and I trust it.

Do NOT make the mistake of rejecting Jesus and the salvation He offers simply because you don’t understand Him or it!

No 16 year old kid thinks they have to take a car apart, understand everything, and rebuild it before even getting into the driver’s seat. So why do so many of us think that we cannot trust God before understanding everything about Him?

If we are honest with ourselves, we all acknowledge the following as being true:

  1. I am imperfect
  2. I have done things that make me feel guilty
  3. If there IS a place that I can only go to if I am perfect, then I am in trouble
  4. I need help to fix my imperfections and take away my guilt

Biblical Christianity is the only solution. The world is full of religious systems that try and teach us how to reach God (or god/gods/purity/self/the universe/nirvana/the force/the FSM…) through our own efforts. Why don’t people accept that it is impossible for the imperfect to make itself perfect?

Pride.

Like I said – simple doesn’t mean easy.

Asking Jesus to save us has to involve an acceptance of the problem. I am broken, and I cannot fix myself. Dear God, please do it for me. I know that I am not good enough to be in Your presence, and to be honest I am so selfish and prideful that I don’t even think I want to be in Your presence. But I’m scared, lonely, and I want to want to be with You. I have heard about Jesus – about how He somehow has made it possible for You to forgive me for being so horrible in so many ways. I try to be good, and sometimes I do good things, but I know it’s not enough to make up for that time when I….

God, please save me. Jesus, thank You for doing what I could never do. I don’t understand You or what You did, but Your Word is enough for me right now. I have no other plea.

Just as I am,–without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am,–and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, Whose Blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am,–though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am,–poor, wretched, blind–
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am,–Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am–Thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come.

We don’t have to understand everything. Truth is, no one understands everything. Jesus does it all, including the understanding, for us. But after we have stopped rejecting God’s loving advances and allowed Him to fill our hearts with His grace. mercy, forgiveness and Spirit, we can then slowly begin to look under the hood of our salvation. With righteous fear and trembling, we look at all the cogs and valves and springs and things, and start to get an awed appreciation of who God is, what He has done, and what it all really means for us.

Don’t wait until you know what happens when you turn the key. Just turn the key.

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Free Indeed!

So Jesus told those Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are really my disciples. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They replied to him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves to anybody. So how can you say, ‘You will be set free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, I tell all of you with certainty that everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the household forever, but the son does remain forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!”

(John 8:31-36, ISV)

The last words of my previous post on the subject of freedom were: “Yes we are free to choose, but we have never, are not, and will never be free from the consequences of the choices that we make.” The problem is that humanity has developed a twisted view of what freedom really is. We think that we have the right to do what we want, when we want, how we want – without suffering any negative consequences. We call that ‘ideal’ freedom. In a nutshell, what we think of as ‘freedom’ is actually rebellion against authority. We don’t want to be held subject to anything – whether it be obvious authorities such as governments, employers or anyone else who tries to physically tell us what to do, or less direct authorities such as the passing of time or the ingestion of too much chocolate. I would like to be able to eat nothing but chocolate without suffering any negative consequences, but common sense tells me that is impossible. Therefore I am unconsciously admitting that chocolate (or more accurately the effects of chocolate on my body) has authority over me. We cannot escape from this! Our human bodies, emotions, and spirits are ALL slaves in one way or another. We are NOT free! We live, pay taxes, and die. What is the answer?

Before we move on to examine the passage from the Bible I quoted above, we need to get to the ultimate root of the human problem. We have touched on it briefly in previous posts, but we are going to look at it more closely today.

The root of the human problem is sin.

Sin is a dirty word in contemporary society. It is intensely disliked, simply because (as we’ve been discussing) it stamps all over the ideal of freedom that we think we should be able to live by. The concept of sin – things we do or say that are somehow wrong or offensive or even evil – is almost universally derided in the western world. Of course, society is still happy enough to point a collectivist finger at the really bad people (murderers, rapists, global-warming deniers, fundamental Christians…) and call them sinful, but the word simply doesn’t apply to anyone else. How DARE anyone say that it is wrong for a man to have sex with another man? How DARE anyone say that it is wrong for those men to marry and enjoy all the benefits that society offers to married couples? Well, I for one dare to say those things because it’s the truth. Of course, my truth is founded solely on the Bible and the teachings it contains, so therefore anyone who rejects the Bible is probably also going to reject much of what it says is right or wrong. For the purpose of this post all I’m going to say to you if you fall into that category is “have you actually read the whole Bible with an open heart and mind?”.

So the Bible tells us that certain things are sinful. Let’s have a look at a few examples:

The LORD told Moses to tell the people of Israel:

I am the LORD your God! So don’t follow the customs of Egypt where you used to live or those of Canaan where I am bringing you. I am the LORD your God, and you must obey my teachings. Obey them and you will live. I am the LORD.

Don’t have sex with any of your close relatives, especially your own mother. This would disgrace your father. And don’t disgrace him by having sex with any of his other wives.

Don’t have sex with your sister or stepsister, whether you grew up together or not.

Don’t disgrace yourself by having sex with your granddaughter or half sister or a sister of your father or mother.

Don’t disgrace your uncle by having sex with his wife.

Don’t have sex with your daughter-in-law or sister-in-law. And don’t have sex with the daughter or granddaughter of any woman that you have earlier had sex with. You may be having sex with a relative, and that would make you unclean.

As long as your wife is alive, don’t cause trouble for her by taking one of her sisters as a second wife.

When a woman is having her monthly period, she is unclean, so don’t have sex with her.

Don’t have sex with another man’s wife–that would make you unclean.

Don’t sacrifice your children on the altar fires to the god Molech. I am the LORD your God, and that would disgrace me.

It is disgusting for a man to have sex with another man.

Anyone who has sex with an animal is unclean.

Don’t make yourselves unclean by any of these disgusting practices of those nations that I am forcing out of the land for you. They made themselves and the land so unclean, that I punished the land because of their sins, and I made it vomit them up. Now don’t do these sickening things that make the land filthy. Instead, obey my laws and teachings. Then the land won’t become sick of you and vomit you up, just as it did them. If any of you do these vulgar, disgusting things, you will be unclean and no longer belong to my people. I am the LORD your God, and I forbid you to follow their sickening way of life.

(Leviticus 18, CEV)

Wow. Sounds like God hates sex, doesn’t it? And let’s be honest here – a vast proportion of the hurt, pain, fear, sadness, loneliness, grief etc. etc. that life dumps on people is the result of sex, or the desire to have sex, be sexy, appear physically or financially attractive to the opposite sex for the purpose of having sex… When it comes to the modern ideal of ‘freedom’, NOTHING shouts louder than sexual freedom. And it appears that God doesn’t like that! Money, power, control…. all the other big cheeses when it comes to personal freedom bow down beneath the altar of sex. Why am I using this example? Because I believe we are ALL guilty of sinful behavior of one sort or another in this area of life. It is universal. The Bible tells us that if we even LOOK lustfully at another person’s spouse – we are guilty of adultery. Thinking about any sort of sex outside of a marriage relationship is sinful. We’ve all been there, done that. So at this very basic, very universal level we are all sinners. We have all broken God’s law and offended Him beyond our ability to understand. So we are back to basics. God gives us all the freedom to choose whether to obey His rules or not, but our actions will have consequences. We are not free. Emotional and physical disease as a result of immorality is almost as universal as the immorality itself. Anyone can see that. Abortion, AIDS, broken families, murders, rapes, hatred… The list is endless. All because we want to be ‘free’.

Well, we can be.

The laws (including those found in Leviticus 18) that God gave to the Israelites were given for one purpose. The law reveals the truth about the heart of each and every human, and that truth is we do not meet God’s standards. God was very clear for generation after generation – if you obey me and do only the things that are good for you (remember – God designed us, and He knows exactly what is good for us and distilled that knowledge into law) then you will be blessed beyond your wildest dreams! I will be your God, and you will be my people! We will have an eternal, perfect relationship because you will be worthy of being in my presence!

The law reveals that we are all law-breakers, and deserve to be punished for breaking it.

Sadly, the punishment would be eternal separation from God, because no matter how hard we try, we can not change ourselves into something acceptable to Him. The imperfect cannot make itself perfect. Never, no how, no way. Religion (including much that calls itself Christianity) is man’s attempt to do something to earn God’s approval. Tithe, pray, go to church regardless of whether it’s a game day or not, feed the poor, go on a missions trip and get an icky disease from the natives….

Filthy rags. That’s what the Bible calls our very, very best most earnest, sincere efforts at pleasing God.

Well, after all that – let’s look at the verses from John’s Gospel that I quoted somewhere up there beyond the top of the page:

So Jesus told those Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are really my disciples. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They replied to him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves to anybody. So how can you say, ‘You will be set free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, I tell all of you with certainty that everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the household forever, but the son does remain forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!”

(John 8:31-36, ISV)

This won’t take long. The truth is so clear. The Jews thought they were free because they knew the law and tried to follow it. They refused to understand that their best efforts were worthless. The One and Only thing that can really set us free is the Truth Himself. Everyone who commits a sin (in other words, everyone) is a slave of sin. Slaves to sin cannot live in God’s presence. Only children of God can do that. And Jesus was, is and always will be the only One who has the power and authority to free us from the eternal consequences of our sin.

And if He does that, we will be free indeed.

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Spiritual Freedom

The Lord God put the man in the garden of Eden to care for it and work it. The Lord God commanded him, “You may eat the fruit from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat the fruit from the tree which gives the knowledge of good and evil. If you ever eat fruit from that tree, you will die!”

(Genesis 2:15-17)

At first glance, this quote taken from the opening pages of the Bible seems to be way too simple to have any grounding in reality. It paints a picture of a God who forces man to become a gardener, and then tells him that if he enjoys all the fruits of his labor – he will die! It seems to suggest that God is a tyrant, playing games with humanity for His own amusement.

Before we start to consider the reliability (or not) of Genesis or the rest of the Bible, allow me to tell you a story. It’s a simple illustration that has been used many times before, but I challenge anyone to deny the truth that it contains…

A man had a dream. He dreamed of having a family, and providing them with the very best home and surroundings he could design and build. He didn’t NEED a family, but he was lonely and wanted the joy that can come from close, intimate relationships with other humans. So he worked very hard for a long time, sacrificing his own immediate comfort and pleasure for a future that he knew would be incredible. Finally, everything was ready! The house was gorgeous, and it was located in the most fertile land he could afford. Everything about the place oozed comfort and peace, and he couldn’t wait to fill it with the warmth and laughter of a family. But there was one more thing he needed to do, because winter was coming and it was going to get very cold. So the man prepared the most incredible fire place anyone has ever seen! He carefully gathered enough wood to keep it burning until Spring. This fire was going to be absolutely essential for the health and welfare of his family, and the man was looking forward to spending the long dark evenings ahead sitting with his family in the light and heat of the fire.

And his dream came true! He found himself a wife, and a year later they had a beautiful baby boy. Joy oh joy! As the boy grew into a child, the man realized that his son was totally fascinated by the dancing flames of the fire that kept them warm during the winter. The man knew that the fire could be incredibly dangerous, but he also knew that he could not put the fire out. His family would freeze! So the man and his wife lovingly but firmly explained to their boy that he must not go too near the fire, because it would burn and possibly even kill him. Everything else in their home had been made perfectly safe, and the boy knew that he had the freedom to go anywhere and do anything he wanted. He was only forbidden from getting too close to the fire….

Call it what you want. It is the truth. A loving father does all he can to provide for his children, and in the process of doing that there are going to be certain things that a child should not go near. The fact is clear – it is impossible to protect children from every danger without turning a home into a prison.

God gave His children the most incredible life imaginable. Eden was no ordinary garden. Everything was absolutely perfect! However in order for that perfection to be complete, God had to give His children the freedom to choose. So they were told that they could choose anything that the garden had to offer. Earlier in Genesis 2 we are told that:

The Lord God caused every beautiful tree and every tree that was good for food to grow out of the ground. In the middle of the garden, God put the tree that gives life and also the tree that gives the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed through Eden and watered the garden. From there the river branched out to become four rivers. The first river, named Pishon, flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. The gold of that land is excellent. Bdellium and onyx are also found there. The second river, named Gihon, flows around the whole land of Cush. The third river, named Tigris, flows out of Assyria toward the east. The fourth river is the Euphrates.

(Genesis 2:9-14)

It was beautiful beyond our wildest dreams! Food everywhere, rivers watering the garden, gold and other wonderful things to be found. I don’t think that being a gardener in Eden was anything other than a privilege and a delight. And God did what a perfect Father has to do. He told His children to obey him, because after all – He had designed and built this garden, and He knew everything about it. He had the absolute right to forbid His children from any or all of it, but He limited the restrictions to just two trees out of the hundreds and thousands and possibly millions of trees that surrounded the man and his wife. Just two trees! And He clearly explained the reasons for the restriction. You will DIE if you eat that! Listen to your Father, son! You will DIE…

The poison that killed Adam and Eve (and has killed every other human being since) was not contained inside a piece of fruit from a tree in a garden. The poison that kills us all is disobedience. We think we know best – better than our spouse, better than our parents, better than our government, teachers, employers….

We think we know better than God. We’ve gone so far down that road that some of us even claim not to believe in God anymore. God gave us the spiritual freedom to make that choice! We are not programmed to believe in Him, and He allows us to turn around, walk away and attempt to forget that He exists. This is what the scene in the Garden of Eden tells us. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and realized that in doing so they had disobeyed their Father. They willingly unplugged themselves from their Life Source, listened to lies, and reaped the consequences. Their SPIRITUAL death was immediate (they could no longer be in God’s presence) and their PHYSICAL death followed in time.

One of the foundational ‘laws’ of the universe is that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. That is true physically, and it is also true spiritually. Yes we are free to choose, but we have never, are not, and will never be free from the consequences of the choices that we make.

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Freedom

Freedom is an illusion. At least – physical freedom is an illusion. We’ll talk about spiritual freedom later.

Physically, we are all slaves. Slaves to the consequences of our (and other people’s) actions. For example, I am ‘free’ to eat what I want, when I want to. And believe me, if I did (be quiet over there…) exactly that, I would get fatter and fatter until I could no longer waddle over to the fridge. Then where has my freedom gone?

Another more serious example is freedom of speech. Yes, we indeed should be able to say what we want, how we want, when we want. And people exercise that freedom all the time. Until they say something to someone bigger than them who gets angry and beats the cheese out of them.

Life itself places limits on our physical freedoms. That is a lesson everyone has to learn, and if they don’t – they will probably die young or end up in jail.

We cannot escape the consequences of our actions. We are NOT free, at least not in the ultimate sense.

So what has this got to do with my previous post that posed the question “How can there be a loving, perfect God when the world is full of pain and suffering?”

Simple. God created us with the freedom to choose, but He made it perfectly clear that poor choices would have poor consequences. God is not a supernatural Puppet Master, tugging on our strings and making us dance to His tune. I would not want to have anything to do with such a god.

So God gave us free will (yes, my reformed, Calvinistic friends – we DO have free will) but He also allows us (and everyone else) to suffer the consequences when we use our free will to make stupid, hateful, dangerous, murderous choices. Again – God HAS to allow that, otherwise He could rightly be accused of playing galactic toy soldiers with us.

Now we are approaching the realm of spiritual freedom. Let’s have a look what God tells us about this gift of free will:

The Lord God put the man in the garden of Eden to care for it and work it. The Lord God commanded him, “You may eat the fruit from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat the fruit from the tree which gives the knowledge of good and evil. If you ever eat fruit from that tree, you will die!”

(Genesis 2:15-17)

(Note: So you don’t believe that the Bible is the literal Word of God? Leave a comment and tell me why not! The Bible is a miraculous book that contains prophecy after prophecy that have been perfectly fulfilled. But don’t take my word for it. Read, study, search…. Truth hurts, but it will set you free!)

Here we have the (in)famous Garden Of Eden scene where God tells Adam that he will die if he eats the fruit of a specific tree.  What DOES this all mean? Why would God do something so apparently trite and meaningless? After all, fruit is good for us – full of natural chemicals, rather than the synthetic stuff that tastes good! In the next post, we will answer this question, and then conclude this initial study of freedom and consequences.

Bad stuff happens because humans do bad things.

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