“Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. (John 8:34-37 ESV)
On the 4th of July, we celebrate our country and the freedom that was won nearly 250 years ago. To begin this post, I want to share two quick memories:
Horsetooth Reservoir. Mid summer. Cool Morning. Breakfast burritos and water skis. Good friends.
As the boat drifts to a stop, one friend looks off in the distance and ruminates, “Isn’t this wonderful?? What a blessing to be out on the water with friends delighting in God’s creation!"
The response is more theological and contemplative than the rhetorical question probably warranted, “Yes! But, you know, as followers of Jesus, we’re the only people that can truly enjoy something like this."
Riding a bike down Whedbee Street, headed north, when a bus passes by with an advertisement on the side reading, “Love is taking care of yourself!” (Full disclosure; I have no idea what the ad was for…)
These two memories bring crashing together two very different worldviews; one of a culture that desperately tries to find value, satisfaction and freedom in self, and one of a redeemed sinner bought by the blood of Jesus that earnestly tries to never find satisfaction anywhere other than in God.
The culture we live in values self over anything else. We see this everywhere; from car commercials to Supreme Court rulings. If you were to ask the average person how they define freedom, they would probably say something along the lines of, “Freedom is the ability to do what I want, when I want, how I want.” If they’re trying to lighten the clear narcissism in that statement, they might add, “as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else.” According to our culture, freedom is the ability to pursue your own joy in your own way. There is a great deception here. It seems as though seeking satisfaction by fulfilling our own personal tastes and desires would lead to freedom. We can be so quick to buy into this lie.
Every worldview is ultimately trying to answer some big questions. Things like, “How did we get here?”, “What defines morality?” and “What is the goal of human flourishing?”. The worldview of our American culture answers these questions by pointing to an individuals’ desires, and assumes that the individual is ultimate. The problem is that if you get the answers to those questions wrong, your whole life will be wrong. This worldview fails to realize that we were created for a specific purpose which is so clearly answered by the first question of the Westminister Shorter Catechism: The chief end of man is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.
On the 4th we remember and reflect on the freedoms that we have, but the way our culture normally thinks about freedom isn’t the way the Bible talks of it. True freedom is not the right to do as you please or choose as you please, but it’s the gift of being so spiritually aware of the glory of God that all else pales in comparison. True freedom recognizes that loving yourself is not the ultimate end of this life. True freedom sees temporal comforts and the beauty of creation and puts them in their proper place, as gifts from God, but not our ultimate delight. True freedom looks at Horsetooth Reservoir while eating a breakfast burrito and recognizes that you’re already completely satisfied and loved in God through Christ that you’re able to enjoy the moment for what it truly is: a gift from your loving Heavenly Father.
Freedom is not inconsistent with limitation; freedom recognizes true purpose is found in a sovereign God, delights in the One who is infinitely delightful, and joyfully obeys His commands and callings.
On July 4th, it’s right and good to reflect on the many who have gone before us to give our nation its character, culture, and identity. Though it seems like it’s all falling apart (and it is; the best laid plans of men never last), we live in an a land that affords us many fantastic temporal blessings. As you celebrate these things, remember that they are not ultimate. As you gather around the grill, or watch in wonder as colorful explosions fill the sky, or kick the ol’ pigskin through the hoop*, revel in the freedom you have to truly enjoy those things. Without the redeeming blood of Jesus, you would be trying your hardest to suck every bit of joy from those moments; trying to satiate a thirst for joy that will only be found in the boundlessness of God. As the ransomed saints of The King, we’re the only ones that can truly enjoy this day.
*This is a joke. I’m not in to sports.