In many ways, our nation celebrates freedom this weekend. Freedom to worship God in public places without restrictions, freedom to believe various worldviews, freedom of speech, freedom to vote and participate in democracy – the list goes on and on. Praise God for the United States of America, a country benefiting in more ways than one from the freedom gifted to its citizens through the Constitution, reigning governmental powers, and armed forces. Most of these are freedoms to celebrate.
At the same time, however, there is another “freedom” we have glorified that has ironically led us into greater depths of slavery. This is a so-called freedom that encourages rebellion against God at the cost of our very souls.
Think about it. Our “one nation” was founded “under God,” yet we have decided that we’d rather have our nation be “under ourselves,” or under our own human authority, our own ability to decide what is right and wrong and best, our own judgment based on changing cultural tides rather than on the unchanging nature of God Almighty.
The “one nation under God” phrase confesses our inability to rule ourselves, along with our need for his authority, power, and wisdom to reign over us. It’s no surprise how fallen our world is because our natural inclination is not to submit to God or to live lives of light and purity.
Why is it that my first response when someone hurts me is to hurt them back? Because my natural inclination is fallen. I need Someone to change my heart and rule me. We as humans need help from the outside because we cannot change ourselves.
So our forefathers submitted to God because they knew that men could do nothing of eternal value apart from his Lordship: no wise decision-making processes, no direction of goodness or purity, no peace with our neighbors. And, today, we are increasingly seeing the brokenness that comes from our rebellion against God come to fruition.
We think we are celebrating greater, truer freedoms with court decisions of past and present that give us what we want. But because what we want isn’t trustworthy on its own, these so-called freedoms are actually driving us more deeply into the slavery our hearts are crying to be released from.
The irony? We think we are becoming more free when we are becoming increasingly less free.
Our sinful nature, our natural fallenness, is bondage. What we need is to be set free – truly free – from this bondage, and there is only one person who can do that. Jesus came to set broken sinners free from their own destructive, enslaving desires…at the cost of his life. He entered our brokenness for the purpose of taking it upon himself at the cross. Jesus absorbed God’s due justice for our wrongdoing and rebellion against his holiness. He laid down his very life so that you and I could be truly free.
How is this freedom achieved then? If what we think is freedom is actually slavery, then what is freedom? Freedom is actually placing ourselves “under God” again. It is realizing that, in acknowledging Jesus as Lord over everything and everyone, we are no longer slaves to our own fallenness but freed to walk in the newness of life found in Jesus, himself.
Getting what we want is not freedom. It is slavery. Slavery is giving ourselves exactly what we want, at the cost of our souls. But freedom from slavery is realizing the misdirection, brokenness, and cost of what we want apart from God and pursuing what God wants instead.
What does God want from us? He wants us to admit our inability to be good apart from Jesus, to see our true, natural state of brokenness. He wants us to behold the goodness of his Son, who took our punishment at the cost of his own life, and trust in his ability to free us from our slavery to sin. He wants to lead us in the best life for us. He wants to give us actual freedom, actual life, in Jesus, who did not stay dead in the grave but rose from it, who is now seated upon the throne of heaven, ruling with authority over us all.
As Russell Moore put it so perfectly after the recent court ruling, “The Supreme Court can do many things, but the Supreme Court cannot get Jesus back in that tomb.”
So what freedom will you celebrate this weekend, and at what cost?