This tremendous and true statement made by Abraham Lincoln reminds me of the following Bible passage, James 1:13-15, which has been running through my mind a lot lately:
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (ESV).
Our American forefathers fought long and hard for us to be free – and that freedom is not set in stone; it can be lost. But, it will likely not be lost simply because another nation decides to takes over. It can only be lost if we get lazy, become complacent, elect evil leaders, and give our freedoms away one at a time until we are in complete bondage.
The same can be said of our spiritual lives. God sent His only son, Jesus, to “fight the fight” and pay the price for our freedom. We were born into the bondage and slavery of sin; but, through Christ, we can be set free. We must repent of our sins and put our trust in Jesus’ sacrifice to save us.
As much as I cherish my American freedoms (and have concerns as I see them slipping away), I place an even higher value on my spiritual freedom. I know what it is to be spiritually bound – free to do anything I want outwardly, but inwardly tied, gagged, and restrained. I also know what it is to be spiritually free: to say no to sin, no matter how enticing it may seem, out of gratitude for what Christ has done for me. So free on the inside that no earthly trial could steal my joy.
We could even be in chains and still experience more freedom than we have ever known.
Would you rather have inner freedom or outer freedom?
Outer freedom means you can get up in the morning, get in the car you own, drive to the job you chose, and then enjoy hobbies in your free time. This freedom is outside of ourselves.
Inner freedom comes from within. Inner freedom happens when our hearts are right with God, we have joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8) and we are at peace despite our circumstances. This is the freedom one feels when he or she is living with an eternal perspective – when he or she clings to the hope of Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
We are a society so saturated with clamoring for outer freedom, many of us cannot imagine life any other way. However, many, if not most, of us are not internally free. We have entertainment galore, but we are afraid of the silence. We can go anywhere, but emptiness follows. We can fill our home with new “toys” and still be broken inside.
Have you ever been to a third world country and witnessed sick, poverty-stricken Christians who glow with joy? I would venture to say they have the kind of freedom we all long for – maybe because they are not so encumbered by stuff? The joy of the Lord is their strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
Those who have experienced both outer freedom and inner freedom know that inner freedom is most valuable. I am thankful beyond words for the liberty I have in this country and I believe our freedom is always worth fighting for. However, I know that no one can ever experience full freedom while being bound from within.
Will You Run from Temptation or Into Bondage?
My entire Christian walk has been a series of temptations. In my human frailty, I want God to just remove my ungodly desires; and, when I am utterly frustrated, I want to blame Him for the struggle. However, as the James passage above states, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire,” it is not God who tempts me. My sin nature is drawn to unrighteousness. When I encounter a temptation, I have a choice. I can:
- Consider the action. Contemplate what would happen if I engaged in the behavior. Think about how much fun it could be. Justify it in my mind. Mull it over until it almost reaches out and grabs me. Basically, I can dwell on it until I want it desperately.
- Recognize it immediately as a temptation. Reject the idea. Turn directly to Scripture, choose not to dwell on it, and ask Jesus to help me through it.
First, we are tempted, but what comes next is what matters. Do we yield to the temptation and check it out – or do we run away from it just as Joseph ran from Potiphar’s wife?
“Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, ‘Lie with me.’ But he refused and said to his master’s wife, ‘Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?’ And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.
But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, she caught him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me.’ But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.” (Genesis 39: 6b-12, ESV)
If we yield to temptation, we will wrap ourselves in spiritual bondage. If we surrender our lives to Christ, obey scripture, and seek to please God in every area, we will experience spiritual freedom.
There is nothing on earth that compares to spiritual freedom. Nothing.
As we celebrate another year of America’s freedom from tyrannical rule, let us spend some time searching our hearts. Are we as free inwardly as we are outwardly? Are we slaves to entertainment, the pursuit of success, or our sexual desires? Or, are we slaves only to Christ; and, as slaves to Christ, completely free?
All I have ever known is a free society. Never have I been told who to be or what to do with my life. Never have I been restricted in what I can buy and where I can go. However, I am well acquainted with spiritual bondage. The inability to communicate with God because of sin in my heart (Psalm 66:18). The terror of feeling disconnected from Him. The doubts and questions. There is no vacation spot in the world that can make us free from that bondage. No amount of alcohol will remove that weight.
If you are spiritually bound today, turn to Christ. Repent of your sin, recognize your desperate need for a Savior, and put your trust in the only one who can save you from the wrath that is to come.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36, ESV)
Are you completely free?