What an interesting concept to saturate on and give thanks for, during Advent: Freedom. Sometimes we leave this subject to July 4 or even to Easter. But we do well to remember how true freedom came into the world, through the God-man, and became available to all. Oh, and by the way, His freedom far surpasses anything and everything else. It is fact.
In his Thanksgiving Procamation, Abraham Lincoln stated: “…the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.” No doubt a great quote. Yet, I am reminded of another that seems to go far deeper and have much greater implication and truth. The Apostle Paul writes: “It was for freedom that Christ set us free” (see Gal. 5:1). It was central to His advent: That He (the Son) would set us free, and that we would be free indeed!
We have come off Thanksgiving, we have entered Advent. I find myself reminded that freedom itself — true, deep, inner freedom — is a genuine blessing that only comes from God. And it is this freedom that we ought to be grateful to God for. The Holy Spirit guides and empowers us on this journey, and as He does this “in” us, He sets us free from fear and sin. What command does Jesus give us? He says, “Fear not!” He also says, “Go now, and sin no more.”
The unfortunate aspect of this freedom is that the depth of it goes unnoticed by many. Today it seems, people fail to realize and recognize that our freedom in Christ has a holy and godly purpose. Let’s not go with the crowds on this. Let’s be resolved.
In a superficial way, we can often think that being able to purchase anything we want or indulge in any type of behavior or sin provides real freedom. But when we survey the truth and discover what true freedom is in Christ, we come to realize that true freedom doesn’t even come into play (or exist) until we, yes we, capitalize on it for service, sacrifice, and sharing. Augustine said this: “In His service is perfect freedom.”
But do we honestly think about freedom this way?
Read 1 Timothy 6. It is the life that is truly life. It is the freedom that is truly freedom. He has made it available.
When Christ came to set us free, it began with His Advent. He didn’t just provide the freedom — He modeled it, He lived it, He taught it, and He completed it. Therefore, it is something that can be settled, today, right now, for all who will receive Him and believe in Him. It is His ministry, His work, in us, that eliminates not just the more obvious or visible forms of slavery and imprisonment, such as to some addiction or weakness, but also the falsified freedoms. The greatest of these lies is the freedom to pursue a life of self focus, indulgence, and ambition.
Threatening our inner freedom now is an epidemic of isolation and narcissism. Many are in what the classic Christian writer George McDonald called the “dungeon of the self.” God wants not only to give us freedom but to become our freedom. It is linked indissolubly with our abiding in Christ and His abiding in us. He wants us to experience “the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rom 8:21) and He has made full provision for it.
God earnestly desires to work in us and through us, and as this is accomplished, we come alive to the nature of Christian service. It isn’t a price to be paid but an opportunity to be seized! An easy way for this point to become obvious is to reflect on those lives that we honor once they have passed. At a memorial service, for instance, it would be rare to hear a recitation of one’s academic or professional distinctions but not unusual to hear about someone having been a loving parent, a loyal friend, or a wonderful mentor. All those in attendance should know that when these praises ring true, they reflect God’s work that was manifested in that person’s life. For it is the amazing work that God accomplishes through us, and in us, and how it works itself out that is truly memorable. It makes an impact for all eternity!
This isn’t to deny a place for play, rest, and celebration. We have freedom for these things in life. We have freedom to live confidently, affirming that we can draw upon God’s peace (shalom) — a peace only He has; a peace only He can give. Let us be thankful and yes, humbly grateful in advance for the increased measure of freedom that we experience as we submit to God, as He accomplishes His purposes through us!
What a great perspective as we celebrate Advent.