Two catch-words in our worlds today. We all desire freedom from tyranny, from imposed control, from bondage to unwanted forces. We want to be free to express ourselves, free to operate within our communities according to our beliefs, desires and hopes. Often we view this freedom as a political struggle in which we separate from those with opposing viewpoints or goals. Freedom has come to be much abused by those who would desire to rule. They speak of bringing freedom through greater legislation and control. We fight for freedom, seek to preserve our freedom and wish for greater freedoms. But what is true freedom, and what do we do with this freedom?
Discipline is recognized as a necessary, yet often despised, aspect to development and order. We want those that serve in the military to demonstrate great discipline, yet these live with restricted freedom. We view strict, orderly discipline as the realm of those who are specifically devoted to a cause, and not the requirement of the ordinary man. We all know that a measure of discipline is required in every life, but often apply the minimal amount to ourselves in order to accentuate our freedoms.
Freedom without discipline is unrestrained and can lead to a selfish, meandering existence. Discipline without freedom is strict, harsh and imposing. But freedom with discipline can foster the life of blessing, growth and maturity.
In John 8:31-32 (ESV) “Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'” True freedom comes from the knowledge of the truth, and as Jesus would later say, “I am the truth” (John 14:6), so the knowledge is not simply an intellectual pursuit, but the relational experience of a person. The Jews responded to Jesus regarding their freedom saying, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free?'” They must have forgotten of their bondage in Egypt, Assyria and Babylon. The freedom they considered was a physical freedom to the powers of this earth. They were physical descendants of Abraham, they were a part of the right nation, the one that is ruled properly, Even at the time of this event they were being ruled by the Roman Empire who had taken away many of their freedoms. Jesus clarifies their lack of freedom by answering, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits a sin is a slave to sin.” True freedom comes not from the absence of outer disturbance, but the freedom from perversion of the heart and twisting or rejection of the truth found in Jesus.
As believers, we have a freedom from sin and the related guilt, shame and ultimate consequences. We are free to pursue relationship with the Lord unhindered by regret, rules or obligation. Each of us are provided the opportunity and tools to be free of those things that strip meaning, hope and joy from our lives, those things that do not fulfill the purpose of our lives, but rather at to subvert this purpose. The life offered through Jesus is one of willful interaction with God, complete with the reasonable and appropriate response. God is the Creator, the Redeemer, and the One to whom all praise and honor is due. Our appropriate response to relationship with Him is a humble submission to His greater and good will, and an obedience to His commands, which are instructions regarding how to have a life of freedom and purpose. It is only when we reject this that we find ourselves in bondage to the need to create our own meaning, value and purpose apart from Him.
Imagine if your car decided that it wanted to be free to operate however it decided. The car saw you eating sweets, and how these sweets made your child gain great energy. So, the car decided that it too would eat sweets and operate at a higher level. Or perhaps your car decided that it no longer wanted to function as a vehicle, but rather wanted to pursue a life as a lumberjack. The manufacturer of the car designed it to perform in a certain manner with specific guidelines for best operation. Similarly, we have been designed for a purpose and been given guidelines in how we are to operate in order to experience the freedoms of our life in Christ.
However, this freedom cannot remain unrestricted. We are free to submit ourselves to any task, any pursuit, any desire, but not every task, pursuit or desire is worthy of submission. Order and structure must be applied to a life to achieve the desired results. An athlete must resist the desire for certain foods or activities in order to achieve the training goals set for them. Paul uses this argument in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV) where he says,
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."
Discipline is necessary for success in the Christian life. It is a life of freedom, but not of a freedom to fulfill our selfish desires. We are to use our freedom for a purpose, one which requires discipline and sacrifice to achieve. Again, in 1 Corinthians 9:19 (ESV) Paul says, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.” In Galatians 5:13 (ESV) Paul similarly states, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Peter echoes this in 1 Peter 2:16 (ESV), “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” Our freedom is to be demonstrated through a submission to the plan and purpose of God as expressed through His word. The truth is found in the person of Jesus and expressed in His word, the Bible. Our discipline must be towards those things as we develop a relationship with Him and give ourselves to the study and application of His teachings.
As we begin this new year, I encourage you to pursue freedom from sin and bondage through the forgiveness offered by Christ, His death on the cross and resurrection from the grave has broken the shackles of sin and provided you the means of victory over those things that are an affront to God and cause separation from Him. Likewise, I challenge you to develop and practice discipline in your freedoms. Learn to submit your desires, will and plans for each day to the heart of God, and you will discover that sometimes He may have different, and always better, plans. Give yourself to growing in your knowledge of the Word through personal study, corporate gatherings. Step out and take a class, join a small group, or put yourself in a place to glean from those who have studied and are gifted to teach. Use your freedoms to pursue God, and respond with the purpose of helping others experience the same freedom and relationship that you know.
If you desire to step out in faith this year, let us know how we can help. Through small group training in doctrine and ministry, specific training for particular missions programs, and personal discipleship, Mathetai is here to equip the body of Christ to do the work of the ministry. Send us an email at [email protected], comment on this blog or talk to us in personal and lets make 2020 the beginning of a new decade in pursuit of the Kingdom! You can give to help support the work of the ministry around the world by sending a check or money order to 2121 W. Imperial Hwy, Ste E-429, La Habra, CA 90631, or by giving online.