“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
All of us love the concept of freedom and value it very much, even though sometimes we take it for granted. We also have a history of not handling it very well. Evangelical apologist Ravi Zacharias said, “Freedom is not the same thing as autonomy. Freedom does not mean I am a law unto myself. Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, speaking to a hostile university audience that jeered him, stopped in the middle, and in non-regal language he said, ‘Shut up! Freedom can be destroyed as easily by making a mockery of it as it can by its retraction.’ That’s precisely what man has done. In an attempt to be reasonable, man has become irrational. In an attempt to deify himself, he has defaced himself. In an attempt to be free, he has made himself a slave. And like Alexander the Great, he has conquered the world around him but has not yet conquered himself.”
Zacharias is correct. Therefore, the question is not “How can I be absolutely free?” We cannot. The question is, “To whom or what shall I be enslaved?” Some are enslaved to their jobs, their hobbies, their passions and desires. Others are enslaved to their past or their prejudices. Try as they might to put on a front of freedom, the clanking of the shackles is loud and clear.
Jesus said, “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Those to whom He was speaking bristled when He told them how they could be free: “If you continue in my word, then you are truly disciples of mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32). Telling them they could be free of course implied they were not free and they were determined to persist in their fantasy of freedom. Many people resist the idea that they are slaves to anyone or anything because slavery involves subjection and humility. Who wants that?
However, while we might be inclined to want autonomy, at the same time we yearn for authority. Even though we live in a time which is hostile to authority, the struggles that we undergo every single day for significance, security and acceptance force all of us to ask, “Who has the right to tell me what to do?” That question sounds like a challenge but it is really a plea for help. Without an ultimate authority for truth, all of what we strive for in our lives has no ultimate value, and our lives themselves become futile.
So while we might like to talk big about going it on our own, we eventually do one of two things. Either we learn from the error of our ways and turn to seek God or we destroy ourselves on the hard realities of life. The Bible says, “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Jesus, when He saw the crowds, “had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34). A sheep without a shepherd might be quite happy meandering through the pasture of life, eating the grass along the way, only to raise his head and come to the realization he has no idea where he is, how he got there or where he is going. Sounds pretty much like the human experience, doesn’t it? A sheep without a shepherd is not a good thing to be. A sheep without a shepherd ends up in the bottom of a ravine or a tasty morsel for some wolf..but at least he died with the happy thought that no one told him what to do. Is that worth it, folks?
When we trust Jesus and obey the gospel in penitent baptism into His body which is His church, we are “freed from sin” and we become “slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18). We have not become autonomous, but nonetheless “sin shall not be master over you” (Romans 6:14). Now we become “slaves of righteousness” under God’s grace. Have you obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:15-16)?