Who are the freest people in the world? The people who are freest from the world.
So, how free are you? I’m not asking if you can give me the right answer. I trust you know that “for freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1) and that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). You and I know that Christ has set us free from needing to achieve “a righteousness of [our] own that comes from the law” since we have by God’s grace been given the free gift of “the righteousness from God that depends on faith” in Christ (Philippians 3:9) — a mind-blowingly glorious truth.
“Who are the freest people in the world? The people who are freest from the world.”
The real question for you and me is, are we really living in the freedom Christ has given us? What Jesus purchased and gave to us is not an abstract theological category that we will only realize after we die, but a life-governing, joy-producing, experiential, and radically free reality that begins now. He sets us “free indeed” to live in the world as long as we are in the world (John 8:36).
The secret to experiencing this freedom all depends on where home really is for us.
The Key to Living Free
Over and over in the godly lineage of Hebrews 11, we see people who lived remarkably free here on earth. What made that great cloud of witnesses so free?
We might be quick to answer, “Faith!” That’s true, of course, but it doesn’t go deep enough. Because everyone lives by faith. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Everyone lives by faith in what they believe is true about reality, most of which they cannot see or personally prove. All human beings are wired to live this way.
What made our faithful forebears free was Who they ultimately believed in (Hebrews 11:6) and where they believed he was leading them:
For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:14–16)
There’s the key: they desired a better country — a heavenly one. They really desired it because they really believed it existed. They believed in the better country so much that they were content to “[die] in faith, not having received the [earthly] things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13).
They were free to do the best and hardest good in the world because they were free from needing to belong to the world.
“Live as People Who Are Free”
The depth of our understanding of our freedom in Christ is revealed by how free we are, like those saints, to live as strangers and exiles on earth. The proof of our freedom is in the pudding of our pursuits.
“The secret to experiencing freedom all depends on where home really is for us.”
True faith manifests both in what we say with our lips (Romans 10:9; Hebrews 13:15) and in the way we live. Yes, the people of old “[spoke] thus” (Hebrews 11:14). But they also lived thus: Abel offered, Enoch walked, Noah constructed, Abraham obeyed and went and offered, Sarah conceived, Isaac and Jacob blessed, Joseph instructed, Moses refused and chose and considered and left and kept, the Israelites passed through, Rahab lived (Hebrews 11:4–31). And “time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets” (Hebrews 11:32).
Some of these examples are more commendable than others. But their lives of faith, their “obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26), still speak, though they have long since passed away (Hebrews 11:4).
This is why Peter tells us to “live as people who are free” (1 Peter 2:16):
- We are free to no longer live as captives to the world’s values and claims and cravings and threats, since “here we have no lasting city” (Hebrews 13:14).
- We are free to “walk by the Spirit, and . . . not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16), since “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).
- We are free to not “lay up for [ourselves] treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for [ourselves indestructible] treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19–20).
- We are free to be content in whatever situation we find ourselves, since we know that our heavenly Father will supply all our needs (Philippians 4:11, 19).
- And we are free to die, since to be with Christ in his heavenly country is “far better” than anything we’ve known here (Philippians 1:23).
How Free Do You Want to Be?
Yes, all this freedom, and far more, is available to us as Christians. I suspect all of us, no matter how far along we are in the faith, would admit we’re living beneath our inheritance.
The question before us is this: How free do we want to be? This is where we begin to squirm. Our flesh does not want to be free from the world. Our indwelling sin is drawn to “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life” (1 John 2:16). To lose them feels like losing life. To which Jesus says, “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).
“Whatever it takes, don’t settle for anything less than the full freedom God has for you.”
Ponder that sentence. Pray over it, and let it probe you all day. What does the Spirit point out to you in the word “loses”? It is likely that the things he brings to mind — things that feel like losing your life to let go — are, in reality, holding you captive to this world and inhibiting you from living fruitfully in the kinds of kingdom-abundance Jesus wants to give you (John 10:10). Respond to the Spirit! Jesus wants you to find greater freedom and real life.
Whatever it takes, don’t settle for anything less than the full freedom God has for you. Seek with all your might to run unencumbered the race God has set before you, like those who ran before you, who freely chose to live like strangers and exiles here because their real citizenship is in heaven. For those who are freest in the world are those who are freest from the world.