Today we finish up a little three-part series on free will that we started back in Episode 307. On Thursday, I asked if there’s such a thing as “free will,” and “no” was the answer. That led to Episode 308 on Friday, where I asked, “If there’s no free will, how are sinners held accountable for not doing what they cannot do?” That that leads us, finally, to today’s question. Pastor John, how would you define “Christian freedom”?
What we said about free will so far is that when it comes to choosing Christ, to coming to Christ, nobody has this free will. Nobody has the ultimate self-determination that would empower them to overcome their own bondage, their own blindness, or that would provide the decisive influence and open their eyes to see Christ as compelling and to come to him. Nobody can do that for themselves.
Left to ourselves, we are so deeply in love with darkness we can’t come to the light. We are responsible to come. We have said that, because our inability to come is not natural inability. It is a moral inability. We are not chained to a post, wanting desperately to come to Christ, but being forbidden to come to Christ. Nobody is in that situation, and the reason we can’t come is because we love the alternative more. Then Christ breaks in, and the Holy Spirit breaks in and sets us free.
What It Means to Be Free
I want to argue that only Christians know true freedom. I want to get at what that true freedom is for just a few minutes. In Romans 6:6, Paul says, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” He continues in Romans 6:17: “Thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching.”
So, our freedom is described as a free, joyful, satisfying obedience to God. Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). What is that? What is it like to be “free indeed”? Paul said in Galatians 5:1: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” So, Christians are the freest of all people — “free indeed.” What does that mean?
“Our freedom is described as a free, joyful, satisfying obedience to God.”
Here is my answer. I will put it in four pieces, and then I’ll give a picture through the illustration of skydiving. To be fully free — free indeed — we must have freedom of desire, freedom of ability, freedom of opportunity, and freedom of no regrets. Skydiving gives a great illustration of what I mean.
Now, what you want in this illustration is the glorious freedom of skydiving, falling at 120 miles an hour with the wind in your face, and then popping your parachute at the last minute and coming safely to the ground — and then doing it over and over again in all kinds of conditions. You want that kind of free, joyful experience.
1. An Open Possibility
Suppose that you are on your way to the airport to go up for your first real jump, and your car hits a pothole, bangs into a telephone pole, and while you are waiting for the truck to come, you miss your appointment for skydiving. Your opportunity passes, so you lose the freedom of opportunity. So, you have to have a freedom of opportunity, and you just lost it.
2. The Proper Training
Suppose you make it to the airport, but it turns out that you skipped all the classes, and you don’t know the first thing about skydiving. You don’t have any basic abilities to do it, and they are not going to let you do it.
You don’t have the second kind of freedom that you need — namely, freedom of ability. You may have freedom of opportunity, because you got there. The opportunity is before you, but you don’t have the ability. They are not going to let you jump.
3. A Fitting Motive
Suppose you make it to the airport. You go to all the classes. You have all the abilities you need. You take off in the airplane, and as soon as the door opens, you look out, and all your desire vanishes. You are paralyzed with fear at jumping out of this airplane, and you will not jump out.
You have lost the freedom of desire. Now, you might dutifully jump out, but that is not the way we want to be Christian, right? Everybody knows dutiful jumping is not freedom. It is just another kind of bondage. What you want is to think, “I love this. I want to do this. I am out of here,” and to jump. That is freedom, but you don’t have it. You just lost it. You are in fear, and so you don’t have the freedom of desire.
4. The Perfect Rescue(r)
Suppose you get to the airport, no obstacle, because you have the freedom of opportunity. You have all the know-how necessary, because you have the freedom of ability. You look out the door, at the tiny clusters of silos and barns and farmhouses a few miles down, and you just can’t wait to jump, because you have all the freedom of desire. This is what you want to do.
So you jump, and as you free fall, enjoying every second of it, unknown to you, your parachute is defective. It is not going to open no matter what you do. Are you free? You feel free, but you don’t know what is about to happen. This is where most people live, thinking they are fully free. Well, are you free? You are not free. You are dead. In thirty seconds, you will be dead, with regrets.
In order to be fully free, you have to have a parachute in good working order. You need to be saved. You need to have Jesus Christ, because you are cruising toward destruction — no matter how free you feel in this world without a Savior.
Layers of Liberty in Christ
When Jesus makes us free, he makes us free at every single level. He has given us the freedom of opportunity: he died for us. The freedom of ability: he gave us the gift of faith. The freedom of desire: he put a new heart in us and wrote his law on it, causing us to have new desires and new loves. He gives us the freedom of having no regrets in a thousand years.
We will jump out of this airplane forever with Jesus at our side, and the parachute will always open. We will land in green pastures. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed,” and only believers in Jesus have this kind of freedom (John 8:36).