I went to a concert last weekend in Springfield, Massachusetts. Casting Crowns headlined the show with Austin French and Zach Williams opening. I love seeing Casting Crowns in concert, and part of the reason that I love listening to them so much is because I already know a majority of the music before I even enter the hall. Admittedly, I don’t listen to Austin French or Zach Williams all that often, so they were a little bit of a newer experience for me, but I was struck by a common theme in their music. They were singing about freedom.
For quick reference, check out French’s Freedom Hymn or Williams’ Chain Breaker. For that matter, when you extend this theme to Crowns, you can check out songs like Voice of Truth or Who Am I. There is a lot of talk about freedom in Christianity.
I know what you are probably going to say in response though. We all get it. There are things in our lives that seem to hold us back. I have heard it even from people who just live in Vermont. You ask them why they are here, and they talk about how they are stuck here for one reason or another. Maybe their parents need them to be around, or maybe they just don’t have the financial resources to make that kind of change. They don’t have a way out, but they don’t particularly like where they are.
For other people, you might hear about people being stuck in their jobs. They don’t like them, but they feel like they don’t have options. They feel trapped. You can probably make lists of things that people feel tied down by. They feel like there is no way out, and they feel like they have to stay where they are. In short, they do not feel free.
We can even take this beyond the physical. People feel trapped spiritually. Do you have some type of sin that you always fall back into try as you might to get away from it? Is there that one bad habit that you really don’t want to have, but you can’t seem to shake it? Since none of us are perfect, I think that we can all say that we have these things in our lives. Maybe you have a bad temper. You try to do well, but it slips out every now and then. Maybe you have some type of idol in your life that is standing in the way of your relationship with God. You want to be tight with God, but something is just interfering with that progress.
Maybe that is you today. You simply don’t feel like you have the ability to break away either physical chains or more spiritual ones. You are clearly the type of person that these songs are reaching out to. It is a message that we all need to hear. God brings freedom.
This is contrary to popular opinion though. Most people will say that you shouldn’t be shackled to religion. They will say that religion is something that holds you down and actually takes away your freedom. They will say that God is just a myth meant to make you complacent. You are just consuming the opiate of the masses.
It seems strange to me, however, to consider our human condition this way. We are actually in greater bondage when we are separated from God. The Bible says that we are dead in our sins. There is functionally no changing death from within. If you have a dead body, it is not working. It does not have the power to bring itself back. It needs intervention from the outside. It is simply going to remain dead. There is no freedom in that.
When the power of God intervenes and brings you back to life, look at all the possibilities that are now available because you are alive. You certainly have the ability to do things that you did when you are dead. Without getting too morbid or graphic, you could lay down in a hole if you wanted to while you are alive. That being said, you would probably not do that because there are tons of better things that you can do now that you are alive. You can do so many great things to help so many other people. It is very much like what the apostle Paul said about everything being permissible but not expedient for the believer. God has given us the freedom to pursue His will, and we ought to take advantage of that by doing the things that we can only do while we are alive. We should do what God designed us to do. It is amazing to think about the privilege we have to do that.
I know that you might not be buying any of this. My example may not have made any sense to you. As much as I think most of us feel like there are some things that are holding us down, you might reflexively deny it. You might say that you don’t want this kind of freedom. You are perfectly happy the way you are. Even the things aren’t perfect, you don’t see how adding God to the equation can somehow give you a type of freedom that you don’t feel now. After all, you are presumably an adult if you are reading this, and most of you are probably from America. You probably feel like you have a great deal of freedom. You still don’t get why this might make a difference in your life.
I guess the best thing I can tell you in that case then is that the freedom that God gives is the type of freedom that takes you away from any standard you might feel like you have put upon you. You feel like you are wasting your life because you aren’t where you want to be in your career. That doesn’t worry God. He has you where He wants you for a purpose, and He is watching out for you. He will open the doors that are meant just for you. You are not a failure for God. Measured by God’s standards, you are His child. That’s what matters.
You might feel like you are a terrible person because you keep slipping into a certain sin. God doesn’t minimize our sin, and it is a serious violation that separates us from Him, but He will forgive our sins when we genuinely confess them and ask for it. This is not some kind of license to sin, but it is rather mercy of God made evident. And, your sins are washed away, and you are made white as snow. How crazy is that? You are not a failure in God’s eyes. You are still His valuable child. He might discipline you like parents discipline an unruly child, but you are still His. The world might be quick to call you a failure when you screw up. God doesn’t apply that kind of standard. You are still His child. That’s what matters.
When you see the world in this way, it really changes everything. There is a great deal of freedom. With the rest of the world, you feel like you’re walking on eggshells. You mess up one time, and you don’t have that never-ending forgiveness. You don’t have the mercy all the time. When I don’t care what anyone thinks about me beyond what God thinks about me, and when I understand that, as a child of God, there is no way that He can stop loving me, that changes everything.
That changes how I act towards other people. My reputation still matters to the degree that I don’t want it to damage my testimony for Jesus Christ, but if somebody thinks I am crazy for believing God, should that bother me? It really shouldn’t. I’m not perfect in this area by any means, and I still worry too much about what people think about me. That being said, I know the truth. I don’t have to worry about what they think about me. It shouldn’t make me nervous. I don’t need to play by whatever arbitrary standard they apply to me that day.
Instead, I can play by God’s rules, and they are quite simple. If you are a child of God, He loves you and wants what is best for you. His love for you is not going to change. You may make tons of terrible decisions. But look at David. He literally committed adultery and organized the murder of Uriah. We are not going to be perfect. Yes, we are called to change as Christians and to continually strive toward Conform ourselves to the image of Jesus Christ. However, there is a great deal of freedom and knowing that I only have to worry about what God thinks about me. Anybody else’s opinion doesn’t matter all that much. In fact, I know what God thinks about me because He tells me that in His word. All of that pressure is taken off. Man, talk about freedom. Do you want to experience that but never have? You can certainly have that opportunity as well.