By Pr Karl Chan
Freedom can be defined as the power to act, think, or speak as one wants. It also could be defined as not being in prison. But what is true freedom?
“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ They answered him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?’ 33-36 Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’” (John 8:31-36).
Freedom resonates with humanity. There are so many movies and comic books in which the protagonists or heroes make people free from evil. One film that speaks about freedom is “Braveheart” (1995) with Mel Gibson as William Wallace, a Scottish hero in the 13th century. The movie is about William Wallace, a Scottish man that rallies the Scottish against the English, who have invaded, conquered, and oppressed Scotland. He is captured after bravely fighting against the English. Before his death, the magistrate offers him a quick death if he cries “Mercy”. But instead, he shouts, “Freedom”. After some years of intense battles, the Scottish finally obtain the victory and their freedom.
Why did Jesus come? How did He set us free? The Bible says that we were dead and slaves of sin, but Jesus came to give us life and makes us free from sin. Jesus did not come to change bad people into good people. He came to make dead people alive. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here” (1 Cor. 5:17). In Christ, we are a new creation; we have a new purpose, a new vision, a new understanding, and a new heart. Remind the devil who you are in Christ, not who you were because in Christ because you are not the same. You are not dead anymore. You are not a slave of sin. Through the power of Christ, we are made alive.
Let us know unpack John 8:31-36 and think of the following questions:
What Did God Get You Free From?
God has given us freedom to follow after Christ. The Bible says that we cannot have two masters (Matthew 6:24). As slaves of sin, we can only follow and obey sin. But in Christ, we can choose which master to serve. In the old times, slaves could only gain freedom if their master set them free or if they could pay the price. It was very difficult to do either. However, we can be free now because Jesus had paid the price. Jesus died on the cross for us to set us free from sin. In Easter, we remembered the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and the power of the resurrection of Jesus in our lives. We all can now be free and alive when we believe in Jesus Christ.
When I was coming back from Gold Coast, I was sick and tired. I was waiting in the line to board the plane when one man got into the line in front of me. I was so angry and wanted to make him known that I knew that he tried to skip the line. Then the Lord reminded me that I could be kind to him. As Christians, life will not be always easy and we would not always take the right decisions. It is difficult to overcome self and to choose the right way, God’s way.
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it” (Rom. 7:15-20). Paul’s dilemma was that it was difficult to do what he knew he should do and not to do what was not good. He said that the sinful part in him dragged him back to the old times when he was a sinner.
As Paul, we also struggle with our self and our past. Yet, with God and in Christ, we can do right even when we do not feel like doing so. Even when we struggle, we must remember that God has given us the freedom and honour to put Him first and to follow His ways. Jesus restored our relationship with God; what we need is faith to believe in what He has done for us even when we do feel different. In faith, we know we have freedom to think, to do, and to live differently from before. We may not know how, but we believe in His Word. Church, let us then believe even when we do not feel like it because we have been made free to follow Christ.
What Freedom Looks Like to You?
Paul wrote to the Church in Rome, saying: “So that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed” (Rom. 15:32). Paul had been called by God to minister the believers in Rome. He believed in Christ and understood true freedom. He had written to the Church that he was going to come with joy to be refreshed, yet we know Paul’s story. He was a prisoner of the Romans and went to Rome to appeal to Cesar. In the way, the ship where he and other prisoners were travelling wrecked. They had to find refuge in the island of Malta and wait for 3 months on an island until they could set sail to Rome. The circumstances he went through were beyond expectation. This trip did not seem joyful and refreshing as Paul had written before. Yet, his freedom did not depend on the circumstances. Even in chains, Paul gave testimony of God and preaching His Word.
True freedom in Christ empowers us to praise God amid chaos and unexpected situations. We all go through difficult experiences. Thus, what should we do then when we go through those situations? Getting to Rome (whether that means getting a job or study opportunity, fulfilling our dreams or our ministry, or leading our family) will not be easy for us. Yet, we are free to live beyond what is in front of us, believing that God is for us, with us, and before us. Even when we cannot sense Him, God is there with us. Let us trust in Him for He will take us to Rome.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30)
“For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Cor. 3:9).
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57).
“We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him” (1 John 5:18).
“[…] and lead us not into temptation” (Luke 11:4).
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matt. 7:11).
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).
“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto deatha” (Rev. 12:11).
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7).
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21).
Our challenges may be big, but God is greater. Let us choose to see beyond them, to trust God, and to follow His ways.
What Will You Do With This Freedom?
This ANZAC Day we remembered and honoured the sacrifice of many brave men in the World War I. Among one that was mentioned that day was: “Is the way we live our lives worthy of their sacrifices?” Likewise, many years ago, our freedom was bought at a high price on the cross by Jesus. In this freedom, we have now a choice on action, thought, and motivations. We can choose to stay in the comfortable but deadly zone as slaves of sin. It is easy and familiar for us to keep doing and thinking the same way. But Jesus came to give us an opportunity to choose whom to follow. Jesus came so we can choose to follow Him and to serve others, not to serve ourselves. By serving others, our freedom grows.
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Gal. 5:13-15).
Rather than using our freedom to choose the wrong way and end destroying our freedom, let us choose to love and to serve others to bring them into the true freedom in Jesus Christ.