We celebrate freedom on the fourth of July. Or so it seems.
Our postmodern society tends to equate freedom with free will. And assumes it’s entitled to both. Regardless of how it abuses one or the other.
So many people today think free will means the freedom to do whatever they think is right. And if they shout loud and long enough about it, somehow that makes it “more right.” I wish I could write across the sky, “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”
Seriously, it reminds me of kids fighting their parents against every “unfair” restriction, like bedtimes and curfews. But the truth is:Freedom comes with a responsibility to give up a measure of free will for the good of others. Click To Tweet
So what’s the difference between free will and freedom? What does that mean for you and me?
The answers lie in Who gave us both and what He intends for us to do with each.
God gave us free will in creating us.
God knew we’d make wrong choices with free will. Yet He created us so we would willingly choose to love Him.
When the Bible talks about free will, it’s always in the context of service and devotion to God:
- Free-will offerings (Deuteronomy 12:17; Ezekiel 46:12; Corinthians 8:3-4)
- Titus willingly going to help the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 8:17)
- Paul asking Onesimus’s master if the slave could stay with him of his own free will (Philemon 1:14)
The ultimate example of this was Jesus when He said, “No one takes my life away from me. I give it up of my own free will. I have the right to give it up, and I have the right to take it back. This is what my Father has commanded me to do” (John 10:18, GNT).
God gave us freedom in saving us.
Now we’re caretakers of that freedom. Inherent in that is the exercise of personal responsibility. Galatians 5:1 (BSB) encapsulates both:
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be encumbered once more by a yoke of slavery.”
Christ has liberated us. The Greek literally means to release from bondage. Christ broke our bondage to sin and exempted us from all of sin’s liability. We now have true spiritual liberty.
As freedom’s caretakers, we are to respond by doing two things: stand firm (persevere) and don’t go back to a yoke of slavery (what we’ve been freed from).
To Jews, a yoke meant more than a wooden crosspiece for hitching two animals together to pull or plow something. A yoke meant a heavy burden. Think of how the first-century Romans overburdened the Jews with taxes. And how the Jews longed for the Messiah. Now imagine their shock when Jesus said,
“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened [overloaded; literally weighted down], and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me … For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Everyone within earshot immediately got the visual picture AND the cultural connotation. Can you fathom the wave of hope that washed over everyone who heard those words?
Free will and freedom are unspeakably gracious gifts from God. Both are also a trust: to use first for His glory then second for our benefit.
Galatians 5:13-15 (ESV, emphasis mine) says,
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
News broadcasts are rife with people using free will as an opportunity for the flesh. Biting and devouring one another. It grieves me. And brings me to my knees.
Looting and defacement in the name of a cause is free will run amok. It’s human agenda cloaked in cowardliness. And it debases all that God’s freedom stands for.
The freedom God gives us draws us closer to Him. As we do, our thoughts, desires, prayers, and actions align more closely with His.
Ravi Zacharias said, “True freedom is not the liberty to do whatever we want; it is the strength to do what we should. That is also true bravery. May God grant us that strength.”
My friends, let us take hold of the freedom Jesus paid the ultimate price to give us. And let us plead for God’s discernment in using our free will rightly.