Ever since Mel Gibson played William Wallace in Braveheart the word freedom has taken on an added dimension. Now it isn’t enough to simply say the word freedom, you have to shout it with a guttural, death-defying shout. Well . . . maybe that’s just me. If you don’t on occasion scream “FREEDOM!!!” to the top of your lungs when you’re home alone, or on a nature walk, or in the Walmart parking lot, or as you drive away with the window down after you drop your kid off at school, you’re really missing a therapeutic moment.
The last post I wrote ended with a charge to husbands to unleash Gospel freedom in their families. Well, I’m here to clear up a few things. My wife, Radene, is always kind to read the stuff I post on my blog when I ask her. I have a very particular reason for wanting her to read my blogs that goes way beyond the truth that she’s my wife and I want her to like what I write.
Radene has a special gift that is both incredibly useful and entirely fearful. I can write something or say something that sounds SOOOO good in my mind. I know exactly what I just said, I think it’s awesome, and my pride just swells to hear her read it because it’s just brilliant. But then her gift kicks in. Radene’s gift is to search and destroy religious nonsense wherever it might be found. If I say something when I preach or write something on my blog that is full of super-spiritual nonsense, I find out. I used to get bent out of shape over it, but I’ve learned to trust her counsel on such matters. She’s usually right.
So here’s where this blog picks up with my last blog. Radene got to the end of the last blog and said that my use of the phrase Gospel freedom sounds more like a buzz word than something meaningful.
That cut me deep.
It was my main point at the end, how could she say that? She told me she wasn’t even sure what it meant! Well, once I explained it to her, she was like, “Why didn’t you just say that?” Ok. Clearly I need to explain.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36
“For freedom Christ has set us free;” Galatians 5:1a
What is this freedom? Jesus said in John 8:36 that being set free by the Son is true freedom. Paul writes that the reason Jesus sets us free is for freedom. Freedom in Christ is the end; it is the reason that Jesus saves us, so we can be free.
“Well, I’m from ‘Merica and I’m already free so thanks, but no thanks!”
Here is a huge problem. The freedom that we think of as Americans is not the same freedom that Christ offers. Americans tend to think of freedom as being released from any responsibility and released to a life of your own making. The ultimate freedom being freedom from being governed, free from all authority, free to make your own free choices. First of all, this kind of freedom is an illusion. Anarchy is not freedom. The only people who really want anarchy are the people who would profit from anarchy, and those who profit from anarchy tend to end up in power.
The most oppressed believer in Iran can experience more Gospel freedom than the most comforted person in America.
But secondly, and most importantly, the American version of freedom simply cannot be exported everywhere (despite our best efforts). So when we talk about freedom in Christ, we must be speaking about something more transcendent than American liberty. That’s one reason I make a distinction by saying Gospel freedom, so that you will know this freedom is of a different kind than what we usually associate. Therefore Gospel freedom by necessity must transcend American freedom so that it can be enjoyed even under the weight of the most oppressive human governments. The most oppressed believer in Iran can experience more Gospel freedom than the most comforted person in America.
So what is this Gospel freedom exactly? The answer is found in what Jesus means when he says, “If the Son sets you free.” From what have we been set free? Gospel freedom means that from the moment you are born again and repent of your sins, absolutely nothing about you or about what you do has any bearing on whether or not God accepts you completely. God’s acceptance of you is based on what Jesus has done for you through his death and resurrection. When you trust Christ and repent, you are believing 100% that it is Jesus who has done all the work for your salvation.
What does that mean practically? For starters it means when I fail, and we all do, God is not surprised. God knew what he was getting when he bought me. My failures have no bearing on his acceptance and love for me. The Holy Spirit is grieved by our disobedience (Ephesians 4:30), but He is not taken aback when we sin like He didn’t see it coming. The Father continues to accept me the same way He accepts Jesus because he has adopted me, through Jesus, as a son. So when I fall, I don’t have to kick myself while I’m down. I don’t have to wallow in pity, and neither do I have earn my way back into God’s grace. God’s love for me has not changed because His love for Jesus has never changed.
God didn’t save me because he knew I’d be an ace up His sleeve.
Another practical application is that since God’s acceptance of me is unwavering, life isn’t a performance trying to gain more favor with God. I have received ALL of God’s favor in Jesus Christ. That means I don’t have to be super-spiritual; I don’t have to see God in my crossword puzzles, or Jesus in my Cheerios. I can be normal, and love Jesus, and let HIM use me in super-normal ways. God didn’t save me because he knew I’d be an ace up His sleeve. He saved me because I was in many ways, pathetic, and He delights in glorifying Himself in broken people (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).
So, when I encourage husbands to unleash Gospel freedom in their homes, I mean let your wife and children be the people that God made them to be. Let them use their gifts and talents, and let them have the freedom to both use their gifts, and to fail without fear of condemnation. We husbands should be extending and fostering the same degree of grace to our families which we have received from Christ – limitless, abounding, unflinching grace. As a husband and father, my own experience of Gospel freedom will depend greatly on how much of that freedom I release into my wife and children!
You see, the Gospel takes freedom to a new dimension. My liberties as an American can’t touch the deep insecurities that the Gospel reaches. The freedom that Christ set us free for stirs a deep satisfaction within that cannot be shaken by circumstances. America may crumble, but I will still be completely free and satisfied with Christ. Therein is the secret to the Christian life: freedom that moves me to love the One who set me free. And when you love Jesus, obeying Him is no big thing at all.