Biblical Freedom

July 5, 2015 No Comments »
Biblical Freedom

By Jerran Jackson & Joel Jackson

A prison chaplain once explained: “Inmates would like to have the freedom to make simple choices, like what to eat or what to wear. But the choices they have already made took away these freedoms. Even more than iron bars, the choices that we make determine whether we are free or bound.” 

Biblical freedom is more than our ability to make free choices. In America we count ourselves free because we can express our opinion and we can vote in secrecy. This political freedom is wonderful. But biblical freedom involves more. 

Pawn Stars

Freedom in the Old Testament was very practical; it was deliverance from slavery. Israel was born in slavery to Egypt. “The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God” (Exodus 2:23). Again and again throughout the story of Israel, God sent a deliverer. But when God himself came to free his people, he set them free in a way nobody expected.

The hit show Pawn Stars pictures pawn dealers as treasure hunters. However, most pawn dealers serve primarily as loan officers. A person in need of cash may pawn some belongings to pay off a debt or to make a purchase. Israelites were known to pawn their cloaks (Exodus 22:26). They even could pawn themselves. Moses commanded, “If any of your people—Hebrew men or women—sell themselves to you and serve you six years, in the seventh year you must let them go free” (Deuteronomy 15:12). Hebrews in financial distress could sell themselves to a fellow Israelite to pay off a debt. But even then, God planned for the slave to be set free. 

Old Testament freedom referred primarily to release from oppression or slavery. But God hinted at something deeper. The Lord said, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter?” (Isaiah 58:6, 7). God intended for his people to be free from all kinds of oppression and imprisonment. 

After Malachi

In the years between the Old and New Testaments, the Jews’ hunger for freedom intensified. Foreign ruler Antiochus Epiphanes turned the Jerusalem temple into a worship center for Zeus. This sparked a revolt by Judas Maccabeus and his brothers, which eventually led to Jewish independence. However political independence did not bring all the glories of freedom for which the Jews had hoped. 

This led the Jews to look for a deliverer who could provide a freedom deeper than political independence. During the long wait for this deliverer, many Jews wrote about what they believed and hoped God’s emissary would bring. Their writings illustrate a growing desire for a freedom from unrighteousness, freedom from confusion, and freedom from worldly entanglement. All this would be brought about by God’s chosen one. 

Then came Jesus. He taught like no one else. He worked miracles. Jesus proclaimed good news: the kingdom of God was near, and anyone could prepare for it by repenting. Jesus also spoke about freedom. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). His freedom included forgiveness, wholeness, and joy (Luke 4:18, 19; 5:20-25; 13:12, 13). Jesus’ followers said, “Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life” (Romans 6:22). Through the Spirit, Jesus frees people to live without fear of death or judgment (Hebrews 2:15; Romans 8:1, 2).

Freedom for You

What does this mean for you? It means you can live free from past pains, from pride, from living out of fear, from your own weaknesses, and from your addiction to pleasure or comfort. 

This freedom is not stoicism or Buddhism; it’s not freedom from desire. This freedom is purified desires. You are not free from the world, but Christ sets you free in the world. 

How can you live free from failures, sins, and self-inflicted wounds? 

First, depend on Jesus to set you free from guilt. His blood covers all of your sins. There is no wrong you have done or will do that his cross has not absorbed. This grace is so radical, Peter had to warn: “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves” (1 Peter 2:16). This verse led a friend to introduce himself, “I’m a liar, a cheat, a thief, and an adulterer who’s been saved by the blood of Jesus.” He knew that Jesus paid it all, therefore he was free. 

Second, let the Holy Spirit transform your old “have-to” list into a “free-to” list. Paul exulted, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:17, 18). You are free to display the Lord’s glory in your life. You’re already forgiven. You’re already bound for Heaven. There is no guilt requiring you to do good. You can now choose freely to add acts of kindness and service to your life. “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Third, let God’s Word train your heart and mind. James wrote, “Whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do” (James 1:25). This is a lifelong process. But you can move the process along by absorbing Scripture and living by it. A couple of fellows I mentor read over Scripture verses I text to them. They say this helps them turn their minds and hearts to the Lord each day. A friend of mine tapes a Bible passage to his dashboard so he can glance at it on his way to work. Pick out a verse you can practice and build it into a pattern in your life. God’s Word can change your old habits and set you free.

Let Freedom Ring

Biblical freedom is the spiritual strength which enables you to make godly choices. This strength comes from the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 3:17). Many people who enjoy political liberty do not enjoy full freedom because they are enslaved to passions and pride. But Christ not only can liberate you, he can spread his freedom through you. Your godly choices can emancipate others. Boaz freed Ruth and Naomi from poverty and despair. David freed Mephibosheth from fear and rejection. Elisha freed the Shunammite woman from grief and disappointment. In each of these cases, their freedom brought joy, peace, and well-being (the biblical shalom). 

As America’s independence was just celebrated, I challenge you to pursue a deeper freedom as well. “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts” (Psalm 119:45). You can walk in freedom. Like my two friends who read over the Scripture texts, you can find release from sins which have entangled you (Hebrews 12:1). Like the man with the Bible passage on his dashboard, you can build liberating patterns into your life (Romans 12:2). And like Boaz or David, you can help others find God’s freedom. That’s an independence worth celebrating.

Jerran Jackson and Joel Jackson are a father and son writing team living free.

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