July 4th is a big day in the lives of Americans. It was the day our forefathers declared independence from the British Empire. And though we celebrate the freedom it represents, our nation wasn’t actually free on July 4th. Not until the end of the American Revolution in 1781 were we considered a free and independent country. Even then, the recently emancipated America struggled to embrace and navigate this new freedom.
Freedom is never easily gained. Have you read Exodus? Have you seen Braveheart? Have you watched Underground? Do you follow organizations like Preemptive Love Coalition, International Justice Mission or A21? The battle for freedom is almost always hard and ugly and, sadly, it doesn’t always end in a win.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. ~ Galatians 5:1
The Easy Part
On the one hand, we as Christ followers don’t have to do much of anything to be free in Christ. He fought the battle for us. And it was hard and ugly, but, praise God, it ended in victory!
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 8:34-36
The Hard Part
Just like any other oppressed individual or society, however, there is an adjustment period after being liberated from captivity. Sometimes we adapt to our newfound freedom quickly and without much trouble, happily easing into our new life. For many, though (for all of us to some degree), that old life is comfortable. It’s what we know, even if it made us miserable. Even when we know this freedom is so much better. It’s like spiritual Stockholm syndrome.
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. ~ Galatians 5:16-18
It’s hard to always live by the Spirit and not the flesh. It’s a daily contest. When we decide to follow Jesus we may be freed from our sinful life, but it doesn’t mean we’re not going to be tempted to sin – whether in thought or deed. Nor does it mean we won’t give in to our sinful nature. We have the freedom to do whatever we want as long as it’s legal. Or at least morally accepted. Sometimes the line between the two is blurry.
We often stay in our life of bondage because it’s what we know; a spiritual Stockholm syndrome.
The “How To” Part
The game plan then becomes to be less about ourselves and our wants and desires and to be more about the Holy Spirit. The more we get to know God, the more our wants and desires align with HIS wants and desires. And the more we comprehend the fight Jesus fought for us so we could be free, the more we realize how vapid earthly wants and desires really are.
Acclimating to our liberation requires daily purposeful action:
Surrender = Freedom
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” ~ Luke 9:23
A New Mindset = Freedom
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. ~ Colossians 3:2
Loving Others = Freedom
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. ~ Galatians 5:13-15
Most days I strive to walk in the Spirit. Some days I strive harder than others. Some days I phone it in. But every day I know the endeavor is worth it.
Patrick Henry had it right when he said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” He was just talking about something different. Christ gives us liberty from death – which is the ultimate freedom.