Monday, August 30, 2010

NSA Disputatio Exhortation: Proving Your Liberty: Just How Free Are You?

What is liberty? What is freedom?

First, we begin with the assertion that God is perfect freedom. Whatever freedom is, God is most supremely free. Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor. 3:17).

We might be tempted to condense this talk into a sentence and just say be like God, be free. But what does it mean for God to be free? Was God ever enslaved? Is God’s freedom, merely His prerogative to do whatever He wants?

We frequently describe freedom in relative terms, greater or lesser degrees of freedom. But while this might seem sensible for describing humans, does that really makes sense when it comes to God?

We confess that God is infinite and eternal, and His wisdom and being is oceans deeper than our biggest and brightest thought about Him. Nevertheless, we have the Word of God, the Scriptures which tell us true information about our God. The Bible does not exhaust God’s pursuits, but it describes God truly. And what we find is a God who is strangely preoccupied with us.

Doesn’t God have something better to do? Doesn’t He get tired of our stupidity? Our shallowness? Our sin? Isn’t it annoying to hang out with finite, mortal beings?

But somehow it isn’t, and this is tied to the notion of freedom.

Martin Luther and a number of others noted during the Reformation that freedom is bound up with the notion of nature. A bird is free to fly, but a man is not (unless he invents an airplane). A fish is free to breathe underwater, but a man is not (unless he pipes oxygen down or crams it into steel bottle). And most importantly, a sinful man is not free to become righteous in any meaningful sense.

But before we go all moral and Calvinistic on this point, we should not leave the “nature” notion behind.

Absolute freedom means that God is not bound by nature; rather, His nature is boundless. His nature is one of infinite possibilities.

But infinite, eternal possibility always requires at least one characteristic to have any meaning: It must be alive. Infinite, eternal possibility means infinite, eternal life that constantly overflows and spills out to new horizons, new glory.

This means that if we are to speak of “boundaries” or “limits” to God’s nature in any sense, we merely mean that He is bound to be alive.

How does God use His freedom?

He creates. God is not bound by His deity or infinity from creating a finite world to relate to. He is free to remain both transcendent over and above it and yet He may also freely penetrate and fill it with His presence, and free to interact with it as He pleases.

He saves and delivers. “The Lord gives freedom to the prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; The Lord raises those who are bowed down…” (Psalms)

The Exodus is the great slavery to freedom story. But the trajectory is not freedom from Pharaoh in order to party at the golden calf. Their “Yahweh worldview” did not absolve them from guilt. It just made their rebellion more awful. But the freedom that Yahweh tried to bestow upon Israel was the freedom of sons, serving in His house (the tabernacle). But was Israel ever really ever “free” (Ps. 95)?

Supremely, Jesus is the revelation of the freedom of God. Jesus is the freedom of God in the incarnation. Skeptics wonder how God can become a man. Is that possible? But this is a question of freedom. Is God free to overcome that barrier between Creator and creature? Is God free to enter His creation and become a person within the human race He made?

But more than that, Jesus’ ministry is a ministry of freedom: "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD." Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

Jesus’ death is the supreme demonstration of His freedom. The freedom of God is seen in His overcoming every between Him and life, between others and His life. Creation, rescue, incarnation, and ultimately death and resurrection are the grand displays of God’s freedom, His boundless love and life that constantly overflows. God’s freedom is His unexplainable persistence in pursuing us. Mere humans in all our frailty and mortality and finitude, and then mere humans in all of our wretched sin and folly. And God’s freedom is His persistent, patient love by which He pursues His people again and again and again. God is free to come for His people because He has chosen us in His love and mercy.

We know from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that the Spirit of the Lord is the Spirit of liberty (2 Cor. 3:17). Where the Spirit is, there is liberty. Christ has been given the Spirit to overcome every barrier, everything that holds us back from His life and fellowship.

Freedom breaks boundaries and bridges every distance for the sake of righteousness and life. The Jerusalem above is “free” which is the mother of us all, and this means that the barren rejoice because they have mothers (Gal. 4:26-27). And we are children of the free woman (Gal. 4:31). Therefore stand fast in the freedom by which Christ has made us free (Gal. 5:1).

Conclusions & Applications
Freedom is alive, and it creates, heals, saves, and redeems. And Jesus came to bestow this freedom upon us so that we might use it and exercise it for the blessing and salvation of others.

“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, 'You will be made free'?" Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. "And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (Jn. 8:31-36)

We have been raised from the dead with Christ and freed from all sin (Rom. 6). Liberty is not for the flesh; liberty is for love and service (Gal. 5:13). And this is why James calls the law the “perfect law of liberty” (Js. 1:25, 2:12). Likewise, Peter exhorts his audience to use their liberty as slaves of God to honor all people, love the brothers, and display the fear of God (1 Pet. 2:16-17). In his second letter, Peter warns against being entangled and enslaved again by the pollutions of this world after being set free from the bondage of sin (2 Pet. 2:19-20).


1. Use your freedom to honor your mother and father. Your parents were set free from bondage and slavery to sin, and you honor them by loving that freedom. Freedom overcome distance and every barrier to communion. How free are you? How can you honor your mother and father?

2. Use your freedom to honor the fathers and mothers of this community. This includes pastors, elders, teachers, older men and women, grandparents. Honor is not merely the lack of disrespect. Honor bestows, honor piles up, honor looks for ways to speak highly of them. How free are you?

3. Freedom from Egypt doesn’t mean playing video games, drinking beer, and smoking cigarettes. Freedom from Egypt doesn’t mean spending all your time sizing up the members of the opposite sex.

4. Use your freedom to give life, to encourage, to build up, to serve, to die. Look for a barrier, a distance that needs bridging and prove your freedom. You have particular gifts as members of the body of Christ, particular talents. Do not bury them, do not short change the rest of the body by staying up late watching stupid movies.

How free are you? Prove it.

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