O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
These words are familiar to every American, and they express a sentiment echoed in many other national anthems. Canadians sing, “God keep our land glorious and free!” The Greek Hymn to Liberty declares, “From the graves of our slain shall thy valour prevail as we greet thee again: Hail, Liberty! Hail!” The Swedes address their nation as “Thou ancient, Thou free, Thou mountainous north.” Kenyans sing, “May we dwell in unity, peace and liberty.”
The desire for freedom is common to people everywhere, whether they are pursuing it or trying to preserve it. However, the word also means different things to different people, and it can take various forms. Typing the phrases “freedom from,” “freedom of,” and “freedom to” into Google brings up interesting auto-complete suggestions and a glimpse at what some common searches might be. For example, there is freedom from religion, fear, control, addiction, and want; freedom to operate, read, glide, assemble, and choose; and freedom of speech, religion, press, and the seas. But underlying these many facets of the word are two questions that deserve our consideration: Why do we want freedom so badly? Do we want to be free of something, or do we want to be free to do something?
Read Isaiah 61:1-11
Before opening your Bible, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what He wants you to take away from this passage. Then read the section, jotting down your first impressions: What questions do you have? Is anything confusing? Which verses speak into your present situation, and how?
When the prophet Isaiah—and later, Jesus (see Luke 4:18-19)—spoke of “the favorable year of the Lord,” it was a reference to the Year of Jubilee described in Leviticus 25:8-55. During this period, all debts were to be erased, all slaves released, and land returned to its original owners. The Year of Jubilee can be seen as a metaphor for God’s salvation. The greatest freedom we can experience is the forgiveness of our sins, liberation from the strongholds that have held us captive, and the restoration of our relationship with our Maker and His creation.
The Word of God holds many promises of freedom for those who put their trust in Jesus. For example, we have freedom:
• In Christ (John 8:36; Rom. 8:2; 2 Cor. 3:17; Gal. 5:1).
• From sin (Acts 10:43; Rom. 6:6-7; 1 Cor. 10:13).
• From fear (Rom. 8:15; Phil. 4:6-7; 2 Tim. 1:7 NKJV).
But with freedom comes responsibility. Getting a driver’s license is exciting because it means the freedom to drive, but you still have to follow rules. Living in a land that has declared independence from other countries means you’re free, but even the freest nation has laws its citizens must obey. For that matter, a person who defies all authority and attempts to live as he or she pleases is still subject to the laws of gravity, nature, biology, time, and the seasons. Similarly, freedom in Christ does not absolve us of responsibility and accountability.
Write your thoughts in a journal.
• The apostles Paul and Peter both warned that one’s salvation does not serve as license to sin (Gal. 5:13; 1 Peter 2:16). When the Holy Spirit indwells a person, love is to be the driving force rather than a selfish desire for independence. Our freedom must instead compel us to serve one another and glorify God (2 Cor. 5:14-15).
• Another important consideration is why the Lord gives us liberty. When we read about how He delivered people from illness, demonic oppression, and even societal shame, the emphasis is, again and again, on what He saved them from. His purpose was to restore lives and to break the chains keeping them under the domination of sin. We never hear Jesus saying, “Okay, now go and do whatever you want.” Rather, He instructed them to leave their life of sin.
• Read 1 Corinthians 6:12. Paul recognized that we have the free will to choose what to do, say, think, buy, eat, drink, or wear at any given moment. However, he also understood using that right to satisfy our old flesh nature would pull us back into the slavery Christ rescued us from, effectively forfeiting the freedom Jesus paid for with His blood.
• What does “freedom” mean to you? Do you yearn to be liberated from persecution and oppression, or are you tempted by a longing to have carte blanche to live as you please? Pray and ask God to reveal how you may need to change your understanding of freedom.
• Name some strongholds from which God has helped you break free. What other areas still have you trapped? Draw encouragement from the victories you’ve experienced, and bring to the Lord sins or attitudes that you find difficult to stop.
• Read Psalm 91:1-16 several times this week, and memorize verses 14 to 16. As they come to mind, make a point of thanking God for specific ways He has given you freedom.
• In his message titled “You Will Know the Truth and the Truth Will Set You Free,” John Piper explained true freedom this way: “If you don’t have the desire to do a thing, you are not fully free to do it … And if you have the desire to do something but no ability to do it, you are not free to do it. And if you have the desire and the ability to do something, but no opportunity to do it, you are not free to do it. And if you have the desire to do something, and the ability to do it, and the opportunity to do it, but it destroys you in the end, you are not fully free—not free indeed.” How does this relate to the freedom you have in your relationship with Jesus Christ?