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South Williamsport, PA
United States

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Core Values Freedom, Part Two

In last week’s article, we established the beginning of freedom — the freedom from bondage. In this article, we will talk about how freedom grows and matures. This is the final installment in a series of articles on core values for Christians and churches. All of the articles can be found online at http://www.webbweekly.com. “It

In last week’s article, we established the beginning of freedom — the freedom from bondage. In this article, we will talk about how freedom grows and matures. This is the final installment in a series of articles on core values for Christians and churches. All of the articles can be found online at http://www.webbweekly.com.

“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

“Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” II Corinthians 3:17

The first step in gaining freedom is to be set free from bondage. This is why Jesus referred to being set free from sin and death as being “born again.” See John 3. It is why we refer to high school graduation as a commencement — a beginning. At graduation, the student completes the arduous work of earning a diploma — and the receiving of the diploma marks the beginning of the freedom to pursue their dreams.

Addicts will confirm that freedom begins in being set free from the substance or activity that has taken control of their lives. Prisoners will do the same, as will people who are held in the bondage of tyranny or debt. There is nothing sweeter than for a person in bondage to be set free.

Being set free from something is just the beginning. Those who are set free, but do not seek a noble purpose for their freedom, will end up in even greater bondage. Jesus warned of this difficult reality in Luke 11:24-26,

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”

The problem is summed up in the idiom, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Being set free from bondage creates an empty place — a place of possibilities. If that place is not filled with the pursuit of a noble purpose, then it will once again be filled with bondage. Friends, being set free from something is only the beginning of freedom. To remain free, we must fill the empty place with something selfless and noble. We see this principle play out in everyday life:

Recidivism refers to criminals who return to prison after gaining their freedom. In Pennsylvania, the recidivism rate is more than 50%. Relapse refers to addicts who return to addiction after gaining the freedom of sobriety. It is estimated that 75% will relapse during their first year of sobriety. Relapse also hits lottery winners. 70% will spend or lose all of their easy money within five years—leaving many winners worse off than they were before they were set free from the worries of money.

Like nature, spiritual freedom also abhors a vacuum. Jesus’ warning about a person set free from an evil spirit should send a chill through all of us. The truth is this: we are never set free simply to be free; we are set free to pursue a noble and selfless purpose. Freedom from must be followed by freedom for.

As I wrote last week, the story of God and us can only be understood in the context of agape love. Agape love is the highest form of love: unconditional; chosen; selfless; cheerfully sacrificing to meet the needs of others without seeking personal reward; finding joy in bringing delight to others.

Agape love must be offered freely. It cannot be forced, coerced, or taken; it cannot be expressed reluctantly or with obligation. Agape love can only be given and received in the context of freedom.

Because our holy design is agape love, our freedom grows and matures as we serve others. We too often assume that God gives us the blessings of freedom so that we can do whatever we want. That is a wrong assumption and a terrible mistake. If we take our freedom and selfishly invest it in our own pleasures, the end result will be a return to bondage — a bondage worse than before.

Paul warns us about the misuse of freedom in Galatians 5:13-15, “It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all, you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?”

Freedom to pursue a noble and divine purpose provides the apex of the human spirit and the pinnacle of the human story. When freedom is utilized for selfish pursuits, patriots devolve into tyrants. This is an empirical truth in every form of human institution, including the family, church, and government. Selfishness always results in bondage.

The truth about freedom begs this important question: what are you doing with your freedom? My friend, if you are driven by selfish desires and ambition, then your freedom will be squandered, and your end will be a worse than the beginning.

But if you take the blessings of freedom and pour your heart into a noble and divine purpose, then your freedom will grow and mature until it becomes unshakeable. Yes, those who are free to love with agape love can never again be held in bondage. They are free indeed.

I can think of no better way to end this article than by letting Jesus speak for Himself. After all, He gave the last full measure of devotion so that you and I can be free:

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free — 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 8:36

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