“For the time already past is [more than] enough for doing what the [unsaved] Gentiles like to do–living [unrestrained as you have done] in a course of [shameless] sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties, and wanton idolatries. In [connection with] all this, they [the unbelievers] are resentful and surprised that you do not [think like them, value their values and] run [hand in hand] with them into the same excesses of dissipation and immoral freedom, and they criticize and abuse and ridicule you and make fun of your values.” 1 Peter 4:3-4 AMP*
Freedom is an interesting concept. To most Americans I would imagine we find freedom to be synonymous with America and we probably believe we have “the corner on the market” of freedom here too! Our country does have amazing freedoms–we are all mostly able to live the quiet lives, earning our livings that Paul talks about in 1 Thess. 4:11 and 2 Thess. 3:12.
But here’s the thing–real freedom is tricky. It has been a near constant conversation in our household this week trying to figure out what true freedom really looks like. And I will tell you it totally depends on who is defining the word. I dare say most Americans would define freedom as the ability to worship (or not!), live, and go about daily life as one pleases so long as it does not harm another. Dictionary.com defines it as 1. the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint; or 2. exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
The Bible defines freedom vastly different. We believe that everyone on earth–whether in America or not–is in bondage to a sinful nature (Gal. 5:1). Freedom cannot be truly attained until Christ has set you free–to become a slave of God (Rom. 6:22). There is freedom in truth (John 8:32), there is freedom in righteousness (Rom. 6:18), and that freedom leads to fruit of the eternal kind. “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” Rom. 6:22 ESV.
Peter warns in a different part of his letter, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” 1 Pet. 2:16 ESV. To someone who does not understand the ways of Christ this sort of “freedom” is not really free at all! They would not value being a “slave to righteousness” over pleasing their wants, needs, and lusts. Many truly look at us like the we’re the one’s to be pitied! But, from a Godly perspective, we are all slaves to something or someone. Not one of us is truly free–we only have an appearance of or surface level freedom. Peter said it well when he spoke of the unbeliever’s surprise and resentfulness at a Christian not valuing what that person values. When I became a follower of Christ as a high school student (another fabulous story of God’s power for another day!), I immediately lost a number of friends simply because we no longer valued the same way of life. All of a sudden it was as if we spoke a different language. And try as I might to convince them that this thing God was doing in my life was as real as He was, they ultimately wanted no part of changing and submitting to a God that probably didn’t even exist.
This is the crux for me–Jesus has set me free from doing all of those things I knew I didn’t really want to do but felt trapped doing anyway. He allowed me to be free from destroying my life because of fear and self-condemnation. By the grace of His loving mercy and kindness towards me every day I get to wake up to new mercies and I get to inch my way closer to my Savior. It’s a step-by-step sanctification process–one I mess up constantly (kind of like my two year old trying to help me make muffins!). But the end result is for His glory, not mine. I’m just a lowly vessel, bought with Christ’s precious blood, free to do the will of my loving God in heaven, heaven bound, filled with joy and peace and thankfulness. This world is not my home; I’m just passing through.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Gal. 5:1 ESV
Thank you Lord that you looked upon my pitiful state and set me free. My I please you with the words of my mouth, the meditations of my heart, the actions of my feet and hands. Please show me how You would have me use the freedom You have given me. Please help me to live a life worthy of my calling. Amen
*The Amplified Bible (AMP) is a great resource for those of us who do not know Hebrew and Greek. The authors have striven to give us a better understanding of what the Hebrew or Greek listener would have instinctively understood. Sorry if it drives you nuts with all the extra words!