It is the theme of so many movies, so many novels, so many classroom presentations and political discourses: Freedom comes in pursuing your deepest desires, whatever those desires may be.
Our cultural maxims are rife with these platitudes. Be true to yourself, be unashamed in who you are, and you will find joy and fulfillment.
However, true freedom, the Bible insists, comes when we obey God. We do not find freedom outside of the revealed will of God but within it. It is within the boundaries He gives us that we find freedom and joy and fulfillment. What looks like captivity is freedom, and what looks like freedom is captivity. We are terrible assessors of what brings the truest joy. It is a daily battle to take God at His word.
I have five children, whom I love more than life itself. My wife and I endeavor to teach them how to become conscientious and loving adults. To become people who seek to contribute to civilization in an effort to leave this world better than they found it.
Let’s say I tell my children not to leave our yard. Not because I despise them, or wish to hinder their enjoyment of life, but because of the rushing traffic on the streets near our house. Am I being a patriarchal tyrant by insisting they stay where it’s safe? Of course not, I simply want what’s best for my children.
It is my desire that my children find freedom in obeying the boundaries I have set for them. We’ve got a very nice yard, with plenty of diversions. There’s no shortage of things to do. But if any of my children choose to defy my rule, out of willful ignorance or spite, they leave themselves vulnerable to a host of dangers.
The boundaries I have established in my household (e.g. do your homework, clean up your room, brush your teeth, stay in the yard) are neither arbitrary nor unreasonable. I am using my wisdom as a mature and moral adult to provide guidelines by which they can grow and develop. It is out of our love for our children that my wife and I are compelled to institute rules and boundaries.
Similarly, God gives us all boundaries and He does so out of an infinite abundance of love and mercy. He tells us we will find joy and freedom not outside of such boundaries but within them. Within the limits He gives us, we are able to find much greater joy and pleasure and fulfillment.
Adam and Eve, living within the simple boundary God gave them (do not eat the fruit of one tree) were able to live a sinless existence fully in the presence of God. But they were also able to choose not to obey. As soon as they did, they found their disobedience made them slaves. No longer free to serve God in every moment of every day, they became slaves to their sinful natures. The promise of freedom brought them only the pain of captivity.
It is just so much better to take God at His word and to live within the boundaries He gives us.
As Christians we have the promised Holy Spirit who works in and through and with us to deliver us from sin. As we put away what formerly delighted us, we find a whole new kind of freedom in obeying God. We find He becomes our delight and we find great joy in living in obedience to Him… He grants us the freedom to be free — free from sin, freedom from our enslavement to it, freedom to see what is truly delightful.
No sin is worth the captivity it brings us. Sin enslaves, but God delivers.
We find our freedom not apart from Him and the boundaries He gives us, but with Him and within those boundaries He has graciously given to us.
Here is where one finds a true fulfillment and a true freedom.