What are your first thoughts and feelings when you hear the word freedom? Maybe you associate it with national liberty and the guarantee of individual rights. Perhaps it gives rise to a longing to be free from some situation or stress in your life that is demanding, unrelenting, and draining. It could be a job, a difficult relationship, financial struggles, health issues, or any number of restraints that keep you from enjoying life and pursuing your dreams.
However, Jesus spoke about a deeper aspect of freedom that pertains to the state of our souls and has nothing to do with the externals of life. He wants to free us from every internal form of bondage that prevents us from becoming the persons He created us to be. This kind of freedom is not achieved by war or revolution but by knowledge of the truth. Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32).
To continue in God’s Word means that we abide in it. It fills our minds, shapes our attitudes and emotions, and directs our behavior. And the result will be freedom from sin and the deceptions that could captivate us. We live in a culture that continually feeds us lies about both God and ourselves. And Satan is the master of deceit, whose goal is to ensnare us in sin so we will be rendered ineffective and useless for God’s purposes. By knowing and obeying Scripture we will discover the truth that sets us free.
As we examine our lives, the first step on the path to freedom is discovering what holds us captive. Sometimes we are in bondage to false beliefs that cause us to doubt our salvation or think that God’s acceptance is based on our good deeds. These deceptions leave us uncertain of our standing with the Lord, always questioning if we’ve done enough. The key that unlocks this spiritual jail is truth. Our salvation is not kept by our own ability, and we are not saved by works. God caused us to be born again according to His mercy, and His power protects us through faith, and guarantees that our inheritance in heaven is secure (1 Peter 1:3-5).
By knowing and obeying Scripture we will discover the truth that sets us free.
Another form of captivity is sinful habits. A common attitude today says essentially, “This is my life; I can do whatever I want.” However, toleration of sinful practices results in enslavement to them. Ephesians 4:22-24 tells us to “lay aside the old self” and its sinful habits and “put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”
Practices such as sexual immorality, lying, profanity, drunkenness, or other addictive behaviors have a way of capturing us. At first, sin produces a twinge of conscience, but if we ignore the Spirit’s conviction, we’ll soon begin rationalizing and excusing our behavior. At this point we’ve let go of truth and believed Satan’s lies. Freedom will only come through accepting the Spirit’s conviction, confessing these behaviors as sin, turning away from them in repentance, and turning to the Lord in obedience.
The most difficult area of captivity to recognize is emotional bondage, because these feelings are often hidden deep within us. They may have been with us so long that we’re comfortable with them and consider them a part of who we are. However, these emotions can hinder our relationships with God and other people. Instead of having the peace of Christ ruling in our hearts (Colossians 3:15), we are controlled by underlying damaging emotions such as fear, anxiety, insecurity, false guilt, jealousy, anger, bitterness, or unforgiveness. Once we recognize these attitudes and feelings, we can counteract them with scriptural truth.
Second, to become free, we should understand the effects of our bondage. If we don’t deal with whatever controls us, our spiritual growth will be hindered. Hebrews 12:1 tells us to “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us.” If we try to live the Christian life with all these burdens, we will be unable to be who God created us to be or achieve what He’s planned for us to accomplish. And the consequences don’t end with us; they affect our personal testimony to the world. Other people will see that our behavior doesn’t match our profession of faith.
Third, we must learn the truths about our salvation. Our freedom is based on our relationship with Christ. We are now God’s children and joint heirs with Christ—accepted, forgiven, and spiritually alive (Romans 8:15-17). Furthermore, we have His indwelling Spirit to guide and empower us to overcome every bondage. Through His divine power and the atoning sacrifice of His Son, God has provided everything we need to live a godly life and become partakers of his divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4).
To walk in the freedom the Lord desires for us, we must begin believing what He has said about our salvation, our position in Christ, and our possessions as His children. As we continue filling our minds with God’s Word, relying on the Spirit’s power, and responding to circumstances each day on the basis of these truths, we will discover that Jesus is right—we will know the truth, and the truth will make us free.
Charles F. Stanley
P.S. There are so many people in the world who are lost and living in bondage to sin and deception. In Touch Ministries appreciates your prayers for us as we seek to share the liberating gospel of Christ, which alone transforms lives and gives eternal life.