Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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by George C. Clark
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
There is a word we hear constantly in these turbulent times, and that word is, freedom. It seems that everyone is in pursuit of it. Yet, I am certain that even those who most often speak of it, and promise it to the masses, do not realize even an infinitesimal part of what it really means. One is not in a position to understand freedom until his sins have been washed away by the precious blood of Christ. Real freedom is a blessing which God reserves for those who surrender their lives to His Son, Jesus. Knowing this, Jesus told those who would listen, “If, then, the Son makes you free, you’ll be free indeed.”
As with so many biblical words, it is useless to define “freedom” in dictionary fashion, for it can be understood only through the forgiveness of sins. Expecting complex answers to questions concerning freedom, men have overlooked “the simplicity which is in Christ.” Many think man’s earthly problems, such as war, poverty, rebellion, natural disasters, and pernicious diseases, require complex answers. But those who simply believe God find the freedom which all mankind seems to want.
My friend, the price for your freedom has already been paid. The way has already been made by God for you to live in perfect liberty, and that, forever. It remains for us only to acknowledge this truth, and to humble ourselves to receive the “unspeakable gift” of God. So many people, whole nations in fact, are pursuing freedom, though freedom has been available to all since Jesus paid the price for it with his blood at Calvary. It is tragic that men persist in searching for that which is so available. It is like searching for sand in the Sahara, or looking for snow in a blizzard.
But, for what kind of liberty do men seek? It seems that most seek a peace which can never come. That is, they are striving for a man-made peace on an earth populated by evil men. They seem to be longing for a political system that will bring relief from oppression in a world of oppressors, and liberty from fear in a world fraught with danger. Rejecting the simple and sure promises of God, they waste their lives in vain efforts to establish peace on earth without Christ, only to die in sin and leave their work to others. There will be no peace on earth until people find it, in their hearts, with God. And to do this, men must change their focus from self to Christ. The Lord made this plea through the prophet Isaiah, “Look unto me and be saved, all the ends of the earth” (Isa. 45:22).
Liberty being so freely offered, but so constantly ignored by men, one must conclude that, despite their claims, men are not seeking true liberty at all. Yet, they labor on, as did their predecessors, seeking a non-existent freedom, one that never has and never will materialize. No, it isn’t freedom many are seeking. It is merely a temporary distraction from stress.
The minds of Israel’s leaders in Jesus’ time were so blinded by their hope for political freedom that they boasted, “We are Abraham’s seed and have never been enslaved by any man.” But Jesus replied, “Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.” Jesus was offering those men real freedom, but it was not the kind of freedom that carnal man wants, for it demands that men humble themselves to Jesus and do what is right. Hell is crowded with ancient and modern Pharisees who refused God’s offer of freedom from sin through faith in the blood of Christ.
Very often, the cause of one’s rejection of Christ, and so, of freedom, is ignorance. Peter acknowledged that it was ignorance which led the Jews to crucify their Lord (Acts 3:17). Even now, men ignorantly scorn those who receive the liberating baptism of the Spirit as childish and ignorant, unaware of their own desperate need of that experience. Ignorance is the insignia on the hearts of all who pay “lip service” to freedom but refuse the Spirit of Christ – the only source of lasting peace. Consider the millions who look to political leaders, philosophers, and physicians for liberty. How people desire freedom from fear of death and suffering, without knowing how to obtain it!
Our Lord, in speaking of the means of obtaining real freedom, said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn. 8:31-32). Nothing can take away the liberty that comes through the truth. Man can destroy only the kind of liberty he has power to give. He cannot touch that which God alone bestows.
Who was really free, the prisoner or the governor, when the Apostle Paul stood before Felix to answer the charges brought against him? We read that, as Paul “reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled” (Acts 24:25). So, Paul the prisoner, whom men thought was bound, proved to be free, while Felix the governor, whom men thought was free, proved to be in bondage. The outward circumstances were irrelevant; true freedom is a spiritual condition, not a physical one. Many a prisoner today has come to possess a liberty in Christ for which the authorities who sentenced him yearn. Who was really free, Jesus the crucified, or the Roman soldiers who stood at the foot of his cross? Noah, shut up by God in the dark, storm-tossed ark, or those on the outside? Daniel in the den of lions, or King Darius, pacing his palace floor? Joseph, sold into slavery, or his brothers, counting the money? Who was really free?
Nothing on earth can take away the freedom that comes from heaven. It is eternal. When Paul, in chains like a common criminal, reached Rome, he testified to all of the grace of God. Chains and prisons were no match for one whom the Son had made free. Even many of Caesar’s own household were made believers through Paul’s preaching. They came to know the truth of Paul’s words, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” Even now, Paul’s words encourage the hearts of God’s children, as they did in ancient Galatia: “In this freedom with which Christ has made us free, stand fast, and do not submit again to slavery’s yoke.”
Freedom is fellowship with God. It is not affected by circumstances. It has its being in the sphere of the minds and hearts of men. And its living demonstration is in the life of the man of whom it is said, “His heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.” Having a “fixed heart” means walking in God’s freedom at all times and everywhere. How impoverished is this life without it!