Following Jesus

What Is True Freedom?

July 3, 2020 by

The Fourth of July weekend is coming up, and the subjects of freedom and liberty are on our minds. We all love and celebrate freedom. No one wants to be oppressed, bound, enslaved, or coerced into doing, thinking, or believing anything that they don’t want to. We all long for freedom.

But what is true freedom? Why is it so important?

There are many dimensions of freedom: national freedom, freedom of thought, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion and faith, economic freedom, freedom from prejudice and hatred.

But how does my freedom connect to your freedom? Does one person’s freedom mean oppression of somebody else? If I am free, am I obliged to see to the freedom of others? Who grants freedom anyways?

Well, it helps to live in a “free country,” and be guaranteed freedom and protections under law. But we all see that this freedom is precarious, even in our wonderful and powerful nation and all around the world, and that it isn’t equally distributed, even in free societies.


History is a repeating struggle for freedom from all kinds of oppression and slavery. Wars are fought, people are killed, victories are claimed; but the cycle continues and the powerful continue to oppress the weak.

Although it is clear that political, national, democratic freedom is a good thing, true freedom can only come from God and through his son Jesus, our Lord and Savior, as a grace and gift.

The Old Testament Prophet Isaiah talked about freedom saying, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (Isaiah 61:1).

King David in (Psalm 118:5) said, “Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.”

Yes, God does answer and can set us free! He sent his son Jesus to live as a man, to teach a way of freedom, to die for our freedom! In the Gospel of (John 8:31-36), Jesus tells us how to receive this freedom:

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits 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.”

Those are powerful words about truth and freedom! God’s word, Jesus’ word is truth. “Abiding in it” – living and following Jesus’ way will show us the truth and bring true freedom. The opposite of this freedom is slavery to sin. There is nothing good or pretty or free about slavery.

The Apostle Paul often wrote on the topic of freedom to the churches he planted on his mission journeys. He wrote this to the first century Greek churches in the letter to the Galatians.

(Galatians 4:3-7) “In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

(Galatians 5:1-26) “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Paul also warns us not to use our freedom wrongly, especially not to use it to hurt or disrespect others.

(Galatians 5:13-14) “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.”

That of course is the “Golden Rule,” the heart and soul of Jesus’ message and teaching, to love others as we love ourselves. This gives everyone the freedom of Christ!

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul further expounds this concept of freedom coming from serving others.

(1 Corinthians 9:19) For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.”

(1 Corinthians 10:23) “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.”

But maybe the most powerful witness to the freedom of the Holy Spirit and Christ Jesus, and its power to liberate is found in Pauls’ letter to the Romans, chapter 8.

(Romans 8:1-2) There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

(Romans 8:15) For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

(Romans 8:20-21) For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Now that is a victorious freedom that will outlast any government or political party! Freedom in Christ will unite us in love and justice with all people regardless of nationality, race, color, religion, social status, education, economic standing, position, or persuasion. Let’s pray for that freedom and liberty to extend around our whole world today. It is the truth, and the truth will set us free!

Let the fireworks begin! God bless everyone!


About the author

Heinrich Arnold 1

J. Heinrich Arnold

J. Heinrich Arnold serves as a senior pastor for the Bruderhof in the United States and abroad.

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