“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free … So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” – John 8:31-32, 36
Our pastor preached from this section from John 8 (vs. 31-38) this morning as we continued our study through this rich Gospel. In this passage, the Jews to whom Jesus spoke struggled to understand the freedom that he brought. As Gerald illustrated the essence of what it means to know and experience true freedom in Christ so well, two prevailing thoughts seemed to control my mind.
First, God began to convict me of areas in my own life that are marked with bondage, needing to be set free by the graceful resurrecting power of God in Christ. The Spirit convicted me of my bondage to anger, especially as I deal with parenting my children. Experiencing freedom from this sinful response to stressfully redundant situations will allow me to shepherd my kids’ hearts, rather than react to distractions from my coveted place of (interrupted) comfort. I then began to be convicted of bondage to comfort altogether, which has manifested itself in many sinful attitudes, words, and actions in so many areas of my life. This bondage leads me to both sins of commission as well as omission. Freedom in this area would allow me to regard others as more important than myself and to seek the fruit of a life of labor for the Kingdom, instead of a life of leisure that only results in empty idleness. It would allow me, through developing self-discipline, to grow in godliness and the knowledge of the God who I was created to know and worship. I pray that God would allow my mind to continue to be filled with these thoughts in the coming days so that I may come to experience the transformation I so desperately need, as well as the freedom that comes with it.
Second, though, I have been reminded that we too often seek the wrong kind of freedom. I continue to realize that even though we may stand against any type of prosperity gospel, it truly has shaped us in more ways than we care to admit. This is one of those ways, I’m afraid. The question we should ask is, “From what, exactly, are we desperately seeking and praying to be freed?” All too often the freedom we seek is from circumstances that we feel have enslaved us. Proponents of the prosperity gospel spend much of their time urging followers to seek deliverance from non-prosperous or burdensome situations and to seek breakthroughs in the way of experiencing the prosperity that this form of ‘gospel’ brings.
But, of course, this is a false gospel. This reminds me of one of the most well-known statements by Paul in the New Testament found in Galatians 2:20…
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
As I prepared to preach this passage some time back, the phrase I italicized above stuck out to me in a way I had never before considered. Paul shares that his transformation has been so radical that it is as if Paul no longer exists the way he always has. Instead, his life is marked by Christ, as he continues to be changed by grace. But then he says something about this life that he continues to live. In speaking of this life that continues to be experienced in the flesh, I believe that he is making a declaration of the nature of this life. It is in the flesh, meaning that it will continue to be experienced in the context of this sin-sick, fallen world. Because of this, many of the circumstances faced before this transformation will continue to be experienced after it. In fact, especially in Paul’s case and is the case for many who follow Christ, the circumstances even get incredibly worse after a profession of faith has been made!
The freedom that Jesus would have us experience through the gospel does not come in the form of changed circumstances. The change the gospel brings takes place in us, as we continue to face the difficult circumstances of this life full of groaning and hardship. The freedom he would have us seek, and the freedom that the gospel brings delivers us from the bondage of sin, not the bondage of ill-desired circumstances! Jesus is concerned with changing us, not our circumstances. This, ultimately, allows him to use us in the midst of the same old difficult circumstances as others see the the transformation and evidence of true freedom in our lives. How much more eternally glorious is that than just having our circumstances change!?
We must be careful to make that distinction. Getting that wrong will determine ultimately what we treasure and pursue. One would lead us to pursue and treasure desirable circumstances (health, wealth, success, prosperity, etc…), the other will propel us to treasure the only thing worthy of being treasured, Jesus himself.
I am prone to seek freedom from the difficult situations of parenting; but, the truth is, I need to experience freedom from my own selfishness and from anger, both of which keep me from truly addressing the spiritual needs of my own heart and the hearts of my kids.
I often desire freedom from situations that make me uncomfortable or ones that seek to occupy my time; but, the freedom I truly need is from selfishness and a lack of self discipline that seek to deprive me of joy that can only be experienced through working diligently for the Kingdom through serving my King and others.
Some may seek freedom from poor health; but, the freedom you truly need is from self-reliance, which would allow you to truly come to understand, like Paul did, that God’s grace is sufficient and that his strength is made perfect in our weakness.
Others may seek freedom through financial ease; but, the freedom you truly need is from pride and covetousness, allowing you to see that everything you need is in Christ and allowing you to follow him as a disciple, trusting him to meet every need.
So, in what areas of your life are you experiencing bondage? In what areas of your life do you need to experience freedom in Christ through the power of his gospel? What idols need to be torn down in your heart so that you can experience true joy and freedom in the only God who saves?
Have your answers to these questions been oriented around the wrong type of freedom?