The Paradox of Freedom

If we‘re not at liberty to do anything we please, what does freedom in Christ really mean?

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 Sea at Palavas, 1870 (oil on canvas), by Gustave Courbet
 

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.

 

Reflect

 

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.

 

Respond

 

• 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.

 

Revisit

 

• 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?

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1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners;

2 To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,

3 To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.

4 Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, They will raise up the former devastations; And they will repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.

5 Strangers will stand and pasture your flocks, And foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers.

6 But you will be called the priests of the LORD; You will be spoken of as ministers of our God. You will eat the wealth of nations, And in their riches you will boast.

7 Instead of your shame you will have a double portion, And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land, Everlasting joy will be theirs.

8 For I, the LORD, love justice, I hate robbery in the burnt offering; And I will faithfully give them their recompense And make an everlasting covenant with them.

9 Then their offspring will be known among the nations, And their descendants in the midst of the peoples. All who see them will recognize them Because they are the offspring whom the LORD has blessed.

10 I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, And as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up, So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise To spring up before all the nations.

18 THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,

19 TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD."

8 You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years.

9 You shall then sound a ram's horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all through your land.

10 You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family.

11 You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee; you shall not sow, nor reap its aftergrowth, nor gather in from its untrimmed vines.

12 For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat its crops out of the field.

13 On this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his own property.

14 If you make a sale, moreover, to your friend or buy from your friend's hand, you shall not wrong one another.

15 Corresponding to the number of years after the jubilee, you shall buy from your friend; he is to sell to you according to the number of years of crops.

16 In proportion to the extent of the years you shall increase its price, and in proportion to the fewness of the years you shall diminish its price, for it is a number of crops he is selling to you.

17 So you shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the LORD your God.

18 You shall thus observe My statutes and keep My judgments, so as to carry them out, that you may live securely on the land.

19 Then the land will yield its produce, so that you can eat your fill and live securely on it.

20 But if you say, What are we going to eat on the seventh year if we do not sow or gather in our crops?"

21 then I will so order My blessing for you in the sixth year that it will bring forth the crop for three years.

22 When you are sowing the eighth year, you can still eat old things from the crop, eating the old until the ninth year when its crop comes in.

23 The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me.

24 Thus for every piece of your property, you are to provide for the redemption of the land.

25 If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell part of his property, then his nearest kinsman is to come and buy back what his relative has sold.

26 Or in case a man has no kinsman, but so recovers his means as to find sufficient for its redemption,

27 then he shall calculate the years since its sale and refund the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and so return to his property.

28 But if he has not found sufficient means to get it back for himself, then what he has sold shall remain in the hands of its purchaser until the year of jubilee; but at the jubilee it shall revert, that he may return to his property.

29 Likewise, if a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, then his redemption right remains valid until a full year from its sale; his right of redemption lasts a full year.

30 But if it is not bought back for him within the space of a full year, then the house that is in the walled city passes permanently to its purchaser throughout his generations; it does not revert in the jubilee.

31 The houses of the villages, however, which have no surrounding wall shall be considered as open fields; they have redemption rights and revert in the jubilee.

32 As for cities of the Levites, the Levites have a permanent right of redemption for the houses of the cities which are their possession.

33 What, therefore, belongs to the Levites may be redeemed and a house sale in the city of this possession reverts in the jubilee, for the houses of the cities of the Levites are their possession among the sons of Israel.

34 But pasture fields of their cities shall not be sold, for that is their perpetual possession.

35 Now in case a countryman of yours becomes poor and his means with regard to you falter, then you are to sustain him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you.

36 Do not take usurious interest from him, but revere your God, that your countryman may live with you.

37 You shall not give him your silver at interest, nor your food for gain.

38 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.

39 If a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to you that he sells himself to you, you shall not subject him to a slave's service.

40 He shall be with you as a hired man, as if he were a sojourner; he shall serve with you until the year of jubilee.

41 He shall then go out from you, he and his sons with him, and shall go back to his family, that he may return to the property of his forefathers.

42 For they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt; they are not to be sold in a slave sale.

43 You shall not rule over him with severity, but are to revere your God.

44 As for your male and female slaves whom you may have--you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you.

45 Then, too, it is out of the sons of the sojourners who live as aliens among you that you may gain acquisition, and out of their families who are with you, whom they will have produced in your land; they also may become your possession.

46 You may even bequeath them to your sons after you, to receive as a possession; you can use them as permanent slaves. But in respect to your countrymen, the sons of Israel, you shall not rule with severity over one another.

47 Now if the means of a stranger or of a sojourner with you becomes sufficient, and a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to him as to sell himself to a stranger who is sojourning with you, or to the descendants of a stranger's family,

48 then he shall have redemption right after he has been sold. One of his brothers may redeem him,

49 or his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, or one of his blood relatives from his family may redeem him; or if he prospers, he may redeem himself.

50 He then with his purchaser shall calculate from the year when he sold himself to him up to the year of jubilee; and the price of his sale shall correspond to the number of years. It is like the days of a hired man that he shall be with him.

51 If there are still many years, he shall refund part of his purchase price in proportion to them for his own redemption;

52 and if few years remain until the year of jubilee, he shall so calculate with him. In proportion to his years he is to refund the amount for his redemption.

53 Like a man hired year by year he shall be with him; he shall not rule over him with severity in your sight.

54 Even if he is not redeemed by these means, he shall still go out in the year of jubilee, he and his sons with him.

55 For the sons of Israel are My servants; they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

1 It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

43 Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins."

6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;

7 for he who has died is freed from sin.

13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, Abba! Father!"

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

7 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.

13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

16 Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.

14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died;

15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

12 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

2 I will say to the LORD, My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!"

3 For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper And from the deadly pestilence.

4 He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

5 You will not be afraid of the terror by night, Or of the arrow that flies by day;

6 Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.

7 A thousand may fall at your side And ten thousand at your right hand, But it shall not approach you.

8 You will only look on with your eyes And see the recompense of the wicked.

9 For you have made the LORD, my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place.

10 No evil will befall you, Nor will any plague come near your tent.

11 For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways.

12 They will bear you up in their hands, That you do not strike your foot against a stone.

13 You will tread upon the lion and cobra, The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

14 Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.

15 He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.

16 With a long life I will satisfy him And let him see My salvation."

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