Freedom from the Idol of Liberty
A theme common to both salvation in Christ and to the heart of man is the promise and desire of liberty. No greater issue drives conflict both in the Church and in the world.
In the church, we struggle uniquely over the matters pertaining to spiritual liberty in our beliefs and practices regarding sin, grace and the will of God. The world meanwhile struggles over the matters pertaining to natural and civil rights regarding human relations (i.e., government). In that the church is also in the world, it is affected by both struggles, caught between the two as it were.
Further, all mankind—church and world—struggles over the matters pertaining to liberty of body and soul—what we otherwise call health: physical, mental, emotional and economic. It is the struggle for mortal well-being, mobility and prosperity against nature in its subjection to death.
These three then—the church body of Christ, the world body politic and the natural body common to all—demonstrate three theaters within which the struggle for liberty is fought. Not only so, but struggle in turn ensues between the theaters: the church vs. the world, and nature vs. the church and vs. the world.
Christ’s Promise and Human Yearning
It’s from this context that we want to look at the meaning of freedom in Christ. Christ offers the promise of freedom to mankind in his yearning for liberty. The Christian promise of liberty is profuse throughout the ministry of Jesus and the apostles. Jesus promised—“I am…the truth, ….and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free;…therefore whom the Son sets free is free indeed.” The prophets declare He shall “proclaim liberty to the captives and release from darkness to the prisoners.” The apostles echo our Lord thusly, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom…It was for freedom that Christ has set us free.”
Conversely, man’s yearning for liberty is inherent and everywhere expressed. Men seek deliverance from the bondages of nature’s oppressions, the bondages of state tyranny and the bondages of religion. The questions and issues of these bondages are discussed and debated everywhere—from hospital rooms to voting booths to church “synagogue” meetings. In some cases, the yearning in the world is so great and so otherwise oppressed that it results in violence and bloodshed.
So it is that Christ came to bring His promise of liberty to a world yearning for liberty. But there is just one problem, and it is a monumental one. It is that the world’s otherwise legitimate yearning for liberty is inherently attached and inextricably bound to its idolatry of liberty itself. The virtue of liberty for which humanity cries is esteemed in its own right as god(dess) in the place of God. Said simply, men worship liberty.
This sets up a drama of the spirit between Christ who promises freedom and man who seeks it. Before Christ can effectively bring the lasting liberty He promises, He must smash the idol of liberty before which man has fallen in worship. Otherwise, whatever freedom man may momentarily receive from Christ will not last, and man will return to a greater and perhaps even irreversible state of bondage.
Where blessing, persuasion, teaching and conviction of conscience fail to lead man to yield up his worship of freedom, the Lord allows bondage itself to intensify in the hope of breaking man’s idol and obtaining his surrender. In this, the heart of man is put to the test in every theater of liberty conflict.
The Carrot and the Stick
Thus Christ—in His bid to bring us liberty—may either use the “carrot” or the “stick.” In His good kindness, He may bring us first a “taste” of the freedom we seek in answer to our yearning—before we have repented of our liberty idol—in hopes we may surrender it, coming to Him alone as our God. (Consider how many He healed, delivered from demons, from religion’s judgment and supernaturally fed prior to any surrender of their freedom lust.)
Or He may leave us in our bondage, allowing it to multiply against us, until we surrender our idol quest, yielding to His Lordship. (See how Christ did nothing to release the nation from its bondage to the scourge of Rome.)
Either way, we must come to the place where we worship Him alone, whether after or before we receive His deliverance. Jesus always promises liberty, but permanent liberty comes only by surrender of the idol of liberty. And any freedom we are graced to taste otherwise will not last. This applies to personal healing and deliverance, as well as to societal well-being under any state of liberty. And it applies to freedom from religious tyranny, which only comes by confession of our own innermost sins (“Go, and sin no more.”)
Freedom from Sin: The Root Eternal Liberty
The first and foundational liberty Jesus promises us is freedom from the penalty and power of sin. Every other perceived freedom in body and society is but a shadow freedom that won’t last and can’t be preserved while sin continues to reign in our mortal body. Without eternal freedom from sin, every other freedom is ultimately a passing illusion, a mirage. Nevertheless, God gives undeserved graceful tastes of temporal liberty in nature and in the world while leading us by these to freedom from sin. We ought to thank Him for whatever fleeting natural liberties we may enjoy by such grace.
But this we must know: the idol of liberty must come down for eternal liberty to come and remain, and thus for any other bodily and societal liberty to remain. (Such an idol of world renown has stood on America’s eastern shore for 140 years. But you don’t call it an idol. You call it a “statue.”) And if it does not come down, whatever liberty we perceive to still have will be taken from us, and we will be delivered to the oppressors. And if we do not repent of our idolatry once the oppressors arrive, we shall remain oppressed unto death.
Deliverance from the Oppression to Come
“Lead us not into the time of testing, but deliver us from the Evil One.”
The scripture already tells us that such oppression will finally envelop the earth before “the Deliverer comes to turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” The liberty-worshiping world and church will together go into captivity under the time of testing. We are watching that captivity arise even now in both nature and politics, as well as through remaining bondage to religion in the church.
But those who know their God and have surrendered their own liberty idol(s) have a promise of deliverance. Earlier for some, and later for a vast host, that deliverance will see the actualized glorious liberty of the sons of God….even the immortal redemption of our bodies.
In view of these things, lying between divine promise and human desire, let those of us who already know the God of eternal liberty be sure that, in our own yearnings, we have first laid down idolatry of every freedom we seek of Him—in the church, in the world and in nature. This is crucial. We must be persuaded of His promise. But we must accept testing under remaining bondage against any and all idolatry until His deliverance comes:
19 Until the time that his word came to pass, The word of the LORD tested him. 20 The king sent and released him, the ruler of peoples, and set him free. Ps. 105
This is only for our good. Woe to us if we receive His promise without finding deliverance from our idol. Many there be who have received their liberties without ever enduring severance from their worship of them. That receipt then turns to their deceit and eventual ruin under worse bondage than before. (King George had nothing on the societal tyranny that lies ahead for “freedom loving” America.)
Such ruin is where most of the church and the nations are now headed. But in view of such, let us who are committed to losing our own idols extend an intercessor’s heart to repent on behalf of our deceived who have not, that the Lord might yet have mercy, that they too might escape the greater bondage to come.
There is still a little time, and a closing (yet still ajar) door of opportunity for such deliverance before the latch irreversibly shuts.
“Lord, set us free from our idolatry of your freedom, that you may set us free indeed from our bondage.”
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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