Editor’s Note: Yesterday, IFWE’s vice president of theological initiatives, Art Lindsley, delivered a lecture on his booklet, Free Indeed: Living Life in Light of the Biblical View of Freedom, at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. You can watch a video recording of his lecture below.
Following is an excerpt from Art’s booklet on the question, “how can you be truly free as a ‘servant’ of Christ?”
In Christ, we are freed from bondage in order to say “Thy will be done.” We were headed down a road away from God and have been turned around 180 degrees by God’s grace so that we are now pursuing our Lord rather than running away from him. We were serving sin, but now we are serving Christ.
But how can service or being a servant be freedom?
Because we are made in a particular way, for a purpose, and to function in a designated fashion.
The Train and Car Analogies of Christian Freedom
One analogy sometimes used is a train. If a train stays on the tracks, it can function well in transporting people and goods from one place to another. If the train goes off the tracks, it leads to pain (and death) for people and a destruction of its cargo. The train needs the tracks to function as it is designed to do. There are limits to where that train can go and the path it needs to follow.
To use another analogy, consider a car. All cars come with manufacturers’ recommendations for maximum efficiency. You need to change the oil or the spark plugs at regular intervals. For most cars, you don’t put diesel fuel in the gas tank because it causes real problems. Similarly, you don’t put water or sugar in the gas tank or it will make the car run poorly or stop it altogether.
Just as with the train and the car, there are certain laws, rules, and norms that need to be followed in order to flourish as a human being. We need to follow the Creator’s instructions for recommended use as given in the Bible. God’s laws or Jesus’s commands are not arbitrary but show us the way to joy. This way to joy must involve saying “no” to certain actions or patterns of life that will get us off track.
Following God’s Ways Leads to Flourishing
God’s character, his revelation in the Bible, and our own nature correspond to each other. We are to be holy because God is holy (I Pet. 1:16). To act in an unholy fashion is to violate God our Creator, his word, and our own being. There are direct consequences to us for violating God’s specifications for how to live. We need an intimate relationship with God, closeness to other people, clear vocational direction, proper sexual conduct, sleep, exercise, and nutrition. If we habitually fall short in any of these areas it can lead to dissatisfaction, lack of purpose, a feeling of inadequacy, or even a crisis of meaning or purpose in our life.
There is a structure to reality rooted in God’s nature, his creation, and our own being. We can choose to live autonomously, attempting to be “free from” any restriction, but we will never experience true freedom by following that path. True freedom is living the way we were created to live.
Another way of describing this life after the Fall is that we serve Christ our Redeemer. We are created in, through, by, and for him (Col. 1: 16). This service, not surprisingly, leads to flourishing. This truth will make us free (John 8:32). In Christ we are free indeed (John 8:36).
Free from Sin, Death, and the Law
The Apostle Paul expounds on the implications of this freedom more fully. See especially Romans 6:18f where we are said to be “freed from sin” so that we can be “slaves to righteousness” (Rom. 6:18). Later, he writes that we are “freed from sin” to be “enslaved to God” (Rom. 6:22). Being “enslaved to God” leads to “eternal life” (vs. 22 and 23) and a fullness of life in the present time.
We are not only freed from sin but also freed from death. Paul says that the outcome of our sin is death (Rom. 6:21) and that the “wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). But Christ has now freed us from the power of death. Note, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting? …but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:54-57). We may fear dying, but we need not fear death itself.
We are also freed from the Law (Rom. 7:3-6). It is not that the Law is bad. In fact, it is said to be “holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12). The Law is even said to be “spiritual” (Rom. 7:14). What, then, are we “freed from”?
We are freed from trying to earn our salvation, from duty as a wearisome practice, from the condemnation in our own nature, from having disobeyed the Law. We are not “under the Law but under grace” in that sense (Rom. 6:14). But it is not a contradiction of this when Jesus says, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” We are now freed from the condemnation and external adherence to the Law in order to now serve out of hearts full of grace, out of desire (not merely duty), and joyous obedience.
Called to Freedom
We are now called to freedom. Paul writes in Galatians, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free” (Gal. 5:1) and “You were called to freedom” (Gal. 5:13). We now experience the glorious liberty of being children of God (Rom. 8:21). We have the Spirit and “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty” (II Cor. 3:17).