Freedom is an elusive concept to many, because we often equate it with a sense of entitlement. We believe that our autonomy demands that we do what we want, when we want, and how we want, with or without God. We venture into situations and circumstances that are not wise, only to end up dissatisfied with the outcome. We saturate our lives with junk and perpetuate the falsehood that this world belongs to us and not to God. We fool ourselves in our haughtiness and self-righteousness, giving no thought to our Maker and King. We disregard Him, only to end up in the same place that we started, desperate for help.
How do we stop this cycle? How do we establish ourselves in God without falling into self-entitlement? The human condition is such that we struggle with God for what we desire most, when our real struggle is with our own fleshly, sinful nature. See, our desires apart from God are what drives us away from Him and keeps us in competition and in opposition to Him. We struggle in our walk with Him because His desires for us do not align with our desires for ourselves. In a struggle of who will win, we frequently pull away from God to fulfill our own wants and fall into sin. This is the dilemma of the human condition, our struggle with God over the very outcome of our lives.
What we as humans fail to understand or acknowledge is that God has always been sovereign and our desires, no matter how wayward, will still work to accomplish God’s overall plan for humanity. The sad part is that we as humans will not reap the benefits of our “role” in the bigger picture if we are not fully submitted to God and His will. Our ability to function and operate in society is given to us by God, and can be taken away from Him when His purpose for us has expired. This is the case for everyone, not just those that “do evil.” There are many people that believe that they are “doing good,” but apart from God the good we humans do is like filthy rags to God. We claim to do good, yet we still do it with self-righteous intentions. The good we do is on our own terms, not on God’s. We get to decide what good deed we will do, when, how, and for whom. When that happens, the areas of most need often go unmet for what “feels” or “looks” good on the outside (i.e. what gets the most recognition or plaudits).
True giving is demonstrated out of a pure heart and in line with God’s perfect will. Period. Our freedom is granted to us by God, a gift from our Lord and Creator. It is limited or taken away depending on God’s imperative, and we see this phenomena all of the time. Finding freedom in self begins with submission to the one that made us, which is God. It is a foreign concept to us–to obtain freedom from essentially becoming a slave or submissive to another–but that is exactly what God is saying to us. “To truly be free, you must be fully dependent on Me.” God’s freedom is not a “do whatever you want” kind of freedom, and that’s a good thing. He gives us boundaries and a code of conduct with which to conduct our affairs. He does this not to restrict our freedom, but to keep us safe. See, love can only exist where there is safety and security. If I am placed in a situation where I am susceptible to be hurt with no covering, I have just put myself at the mercy of another. Now I know what you are saying “Well, don’t ‘bad’ things happen to Christians?” Yes, trials and tribulations befall EVERYONE in this world because of sin, not because of God. However, what God does is He protects us from harm where possible and only exposes us to it when He plans to use it for our good and only for a season. God is not some punisher as some suppose, but He is a lover, always acting in a way that is best for His children. If a calamity will not produce some sort of blessed outcome, either for the person involved or somewhere in the chain of human existence, God doesn’t do it. It has to be in line with His plan, which we often cannot and do not see in its totality.
If you love your life so much, you will not be able to lose it in pursuit of Him. You will consistently struggle in your flesh and be separated from God. Believe it or not, the autonomy that you believe that you presently have is not freedom at all. Rather, it is manufactured as freedom by the enemy of your soul, that has deceived you into thinking that you are better, smarter, and more knowledgeable than God. This was Eve’s problem in the Garden of Eden. She was deceived and allured with the thought that by eating the forbidden fruit she would acquire God’s knowledge. What the serpent failed to explain to her is that both her and her husband would lose everything they had, including their direct communication with God. Not only did she not get what was promised to her by the serpent, but her life became full of hardship and struggle. That was not God’s will. See, God only wanted her eyes to see and know good. When she ate of the forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the only thing that changed is that her eyes became open to the evil inherent in the world. She allowed that knowledge, by eating the apple, to transform her thinking and her heart in a way that gave her conscious awareness of her ability to make a choice apart from God’s will. Absent eating of the fruit of the tree, every choice Adam and Eve would have made would be in perfect alignment with God’s desires for them. God was not trying to withhold something good from them; rather, His whole aim was to love them and keep them away from harm, death, and suffering. Now armed with that knowledge, however, they became a threat in the Garden of Eden because their sinful nature made them diametrically opposed to God–essentially, “enemies of God.”
However, the Good News is that God had a plan. He had a plan even before Adam and Eve had a problem. He had a solution to their “sinful nature” problem, and that was His Son, Jesus Christ. See, if God would have intervened to stop the scenario between the serpent and Eve, He would have taken away humans ability to choose. He did not create human beings to enslave us to Him, in the way that you strip individuals of the freedom to choose who to serve. He wanted us to serve Him freely and out of a sincere heart, not because we were under compulsion to do so. Even though it pained God to watch all of this, He was encouraged by the knowledge that one day we would have a permanent remedy to our struggle with sin, and it would lie with His own flesh and blood.
Freedom is only freedom when it is dispensed within a defined set of parameters. Otherwise, we run the risk of acting freely and causing permanent injury to ourselves and others by our selfish, reckless behavior. It is not our relationship with others that makes us free, nor is it our wealth or title or inheritance. Rather, like a child with her parents, it is living within the boundaries provided by our Father that gives us the maximum freedom allowable under the particular circumstances we find ourselves in. Freedom in love. To truly know freedom, we must know love and exist in love at all times. And love, as we know from the apostle John, is God Himself.