Ok so the title’s a lame attempt to get Google hits. But really this post is about the results of our election.
In the first post on freedom we thought about the blasphemy and bondage of modern, individualistic accounts of freedom.
Next we considered Jesus – especially Jesus in Gethsemane – as the proper starting point for thinking about freedom.
Last time we examined our natural state – we are not born free, we become free by the redemption that is in Jesus.
In this post we’ll think about how we live out our freedom day by day in the Christian walk.
Throughout our discussion, we’ve never been far from the paradox of freedom – i.e. Freedom to pursue the desires of my flesh is bondage, obedience to the will of the Father is freedom. Martin Luther put it like this in The Freedom of a Christian.
A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none,
A Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one.
Sound crazy? Put it this way. Ask yourself, ‘Am I free?’ One answer: ‘Absolutely, “Free indeed!” Christians are released from slavery to sin, set on our feet by Jesus, brought to the Father in righteousness, equipped by the Spirit to move forwards in sanctification.’
Now ask the question again, ‘Am I free?’ Another answer: ‘Absolutely not! I am ransomed, claimed, bought, owned, enslaved by Christ. I am entirely His possession – entirely at His disposal.’
And yet His service is perfect freedom. How can this be?
Well we’ll have to jettison the popular notion of freedom – doing what I want to do, any old time. Freedom is worked out in the relational matrices that constitute my identity. I’m not free by liberating myself from the claims of others upon me – those claims make me who I am. Instead I am free when I responsibly use my will in expression of my relational, grace-given identity.
Freedom means finding ouselves in obedience to God, in union with Christ, in being led by the Spirit, in serving the body. Walking in line with this truth means abandoning ourselves to these absolute claims upon us which, whether we acknowledge it or not, are the very atmosphere of our being.
We are like fish and we ought never to think we’ll be more free if only we escape the tank. We are free precisely in that environment. To walk out of step with these realities is to renounce the responsible moral agency Jesus purchased with His own blood and to become a slave to the world, the flesh and the devil. Anyone who calls such a choice ‘freedom’ hasn’t yet grasped who they really are.
Now what does this truth do to our hearts if we let it settle down deep? Well here are two lies that are unmasked which, if left unchallenged, can be so damaging.
The first lie is this: The devil always appears to us as our slave. Temptation always offers to serve us. We buy into it thinking ‘I am the master of this sin. This sin is getting me what I want. I am in charge.’ Of course Jesus says the opposite. “Whoever sins is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34) Right when we congratulate ourselves on mastering our own fate and negotiating a win-win for our flesh the shackles go on and we’re bound.
Here’s the other lie and, for me, this one goes much deeper: Your ‘freedom’ guarantees an unimpeachable core within you. You are a choosing individual – you may choose to honour those claims upon you from without or you may choose not to. Either way, there is a protected sphere deep down that is you – and it is beyond the claims of others.
No, no, no! Our Christ-shaped doctrine of freedom completely obliterates the notion of secret basements within myself. There simply do not exist within me little safe-havens for self. There’s no such thing as me-time or me-space. The real me, down to the very depths, is found in going outside myself. I am in Christ – hidden in Him. And He is in me – in all of me. Your Father sees what is done in secret. Where can we go from His Spirit? We may descend into some imagined basement of ourselves, but we’ll find Jesus right there. And if we are in our right minds we’ll rejoice, because who wants a Christless basement?
CS Lewis, looking back on his non-Christian days, said the word he hated more than all others was “interference”. And this is completely in line with the most cherished notions of our day – i.e. within myself, down beneath the claims of others, lies the real me. Untouchable, independent, proud, responsible. And we erect barriers to guard this precious sphere.
And of course whenever the lie is believed that we have such spheres it cultivates sin like nothing else. Pride, lust, gossip, self-righteousness, entitlement, anger, self-serving – you name it, these sins thrive on the notion that there is a ‘me’ down here who then has the choice of how to use my will.
We must hear the gospel again. I am already and down to the very depths of me claimed, purchased, ransomed, possessed by Christ. It’s not a case of the real me now deciding to walk with Christ – as though I have some ‘freedom’ to follow or not. Disobedience is not an option. It happens to be sure. But in another sense ‘how can you live in sin any more.’ (Rom 6:2).
There is an impossibility to sin that we mustn’t minimize just because we manage to do the impossible all the time. To act out of step with my redeemed identity is not the rational choice of a free self for whom righteousness and wickedness lie open as equally valid options. Read Romans 6 and 7 again to see Paul wrestling out loud with the impossibility and yet the absurd and horrific presence of sin in the Christian life. Sin is not an option. And though it happens it happens only in contradiction to our true selves and our true freedom.
The point of all this is that the Christian is not (in Barth’s phrase) Hercules at the crossroads. We’re not the captains of our souls or masters of our fates. No, Jesus has lifted us out of that position (which we called freedom and He called slavery) and united us to Himself. The real me has been completely re-constituted by Christ and already claimed by Him. We are already on the path. There’s nothing left for me to do except joyfully participate in this new humanity. To keep in step with this reality is to find my true self and experience the freedom that is already mine in my Redeemer.
1 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. 5 You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. 7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:1-12)
I was crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)