The Truth About Freedom and Living Free
Where in your life do you need freedom?
Freedom is something I’d taken for granted until the summer of 1982 when I entered Moscow, Russia by train. Communist Russia or the USSR. Before being allowed to exit the train, everything was searched. Everything! My magazines, summer reads, and all other random hints of western life – all confiscated. It was very unsettling!
Once the group of Economics and Business students and faculty I was traveling with settled into our hotel, there were additional clues that I was not in Kansas anymore. Little things like newspaper strips in the bathrooms in place of toilet paper. Thank heavens I brought along plenty of mini packages of Kleenex.
Then there were the many bare shelves in the grocery stores and the overabundance of pickles. Or people wanting to purchase your 501 Levi jeans for two hundred American dollars – tempting if you lugged around a spare pair of pants with you everywhere you went.
By far, what screamed “not free” to me loudest was that those in charge determined where we went and when we went each day. And it was not uncommon for them to completely change the plan at the last minute. It left me feeling quite vulnerable!
For the first time in my entire life, I truly appreciated freedom.
Misconception About Freedom
Here in the states, we tend to think of freedom as the ability to do what we want, when we want, and how we want to do it.
In reality, we are free to do what we want, when, and how IF it is within certain parameters. Park where you shouldn’t – there are consequences. Steal something and there are legal consequences. Murder someone, there are legal consequences.
Unlike many other countries in the world, we are free in the US to express opinions and ideas without governmental interference.
Just because you live in a free country doesn’t necessarily mean you are walking in freedom. There’s no end to the ways you might be holding yourself captive and limiting your freedom.
Bondage & Freedom
Scripture paints a vivid picture of bondage and freedom in Exodus where it describes how God’s treasured people, the Israelites, were in slavery in Egypt. The Israelites arrived in Egypt when Joseph was in charge and because of their connection to Joseph they were given land in Goshen to look after the royal flocks.
After Joseph’s death, and with a new Pharaoh at the helm, the Israelites’ situation shifted. No longer did they hold a place of honor but were considered a threat. God had blessed His people abundantly, and they had significantly increased in numbers. As a result, the Hebrew midwives were ordered to kill the Israelite baby boys when they were born in an effort to shrink their numbers. And they were treated cruelly – beaten and forced to engage in oppressive work. In utter misery, they cried out to God.
Years passed, and the king of Egypt died. But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act. Exodus 2:23-25 (NLT)
God enlists the help of Moses, who was among the infant boys that God preserved, to confront Pharaoh, and after ten grueling plagues, the Pharaoh finally conceded and allowed Moses to lead the Israelites to freedom through the Red Sea. The same sea that utterly destroyed the Egyptian army as they pursued God’s treasured ones.
Once free from the burden of slavery in Egypt on the other side of the Red Sea, they headed to Mt. Sinai where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. At first glance you may be wondering how the Ten Commandments reflect freedom, but pay attention to how God introduces the Ten Commandments: “I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.” Exodus 20:2 (NLT)
The implication is that because you are no longer slaves, here’s how to live in freedom – in relationship with me and in community with others in a way that will serve you best.
There is so much meaning packed into this story that it would take dozens of blogs to flesh it all out! I want to highlight one truth. Remember, in slavery, the Israelites were forced to work in a burdensome and wear-you-out way. With that in mind, let’s dig into the fourth commandant:
“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.” Exodus 20 8-11 (NLT)
Restricting work to six days wasn’t an attempt to put the Israelites in bondage again, but rather to set them free to enjoy rest. A welcome respite after being forced to work so hard! God, in His love for His people, wanted to lavish them with the gift of rest. And to urge His treasured ones to follow His example – after all, God rested after creating for six days!
Culturally, in America, independence is valued – making decisions for my good, what’s best for me. What I want matters more than what’s best for those around me. You might even view that as “true freedom,” however, in some cultures, what’s best for the group (family, an organization, or a community) outweighs what’s best for the individual. That’s what God valued for the Israelites.
The Ten Commandments set out a way of doing life that would not only preserve their relationship with God, but also preserve their relationship with each other. Not in a restrictive way, but in a life-giving way that would enable them to enjoy genuine freedom!
In the New Testament Jesus speaks boldly about freedom!
And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
“But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. John 8:32-36 (NLT)
Jesus’ purpose for coming to earth was to set us free from the bondage of sin. In order to do that He had to pay the price for my sin and yours by dying on the cross.
Bondage to Sin
We don’t like to think about sin!
Sin is your Egypt.
Sin hinders you personally and professionally. It puts unnecessary pressure on you, limits your opportunities, and distorts your thinking.
You are able to walk in true freedom when you willingly become a slave to Christ and you adhere to His ways, knowing that he loves you deeply and wants the very, very best for you!
You are free, truly free, when you know God – really know Him! Then how you live and work will reflect your relationship with Him!
So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. John 8:36 (NLT)
We are no longer bound by the law, or the Ten Commandments, but rather by love. Love is to be our primary pursuit. We are to love God and to love others. (Luke 10:27) While many things are permissible, we are not to indulge in what may potentially harm the people around us. (I Cor. 6:12)
Here’s another way of thinking about freedom. Extra pounds are burdensome and keep you in bondage. Diets are like “the law.” They feel restrictive and limiting. Adhering to a diet will make dropping the pounds possible, but you may also feel resentful and deprived. Eventually you fail to stick to the diet.
However, if you are free to eat whatever you want, but are focused on your health and making wise choices when it comes to food, the process becomes more sustainable. Then, rather than binging on cookies you are free to enjoy a cookie. And you will be more motivated to eat in a way that’s beneficial to you if you feel loved and you love yourself. Keep that up and you will lose the pounds and be free to enjoy the many other happy benefits to your health. An added perk is that the people around you will benefit from the slimmer happier you too!
There are many areas where you might be in bondage and not experiencing freedom. Maybe you are experiencing financial, spiritual, emotional, or relational bondage. Or maybe you are enslaved to fear, pursuing success, or bad habits. Whatever it is, imagine what it would be like to truly live free!
Where do you need more freedom in your life or work?