John 8:36 – “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
This week marks the United States of America’s 242nd Independence celebration. Freedom is a big deal. The Revolutionary War was fought over this idea of freedom, and specifically the idea of freedom from the tyranny of government. This is why the newborn country of the United States of America drafted her charter documents in such a way as to emphasize the rights and protection of those rights of her citizens. Freedom was such a big deal that some who fought in the Revolutionary War would rather have died as free men than to live under oppression. New Hampshire has as its state motto “Live free or die” as a testament to this concept.
This type of freedom is a good thing, to be sure. Those who have known this type of freedom and have traveled to other countries that don’t have it realize what a benefit it is. Our founding fathers got it right when they identified certain inalienable rights endowed to us by our Creator. This means that all countries in the world shouldrecognize these same rights for their citizens, but not all do. That being said, if we are brutally honest, it is still possible to live in a country where such rights are not afforded or protected, as billions of people now living could attest to.
While freedom from tyrannical governments does have benefits for this life, it affords no perks for life after death. Certainly the environment that is cultivated in a free society might be more conducive for the promulgation of the truth which can lead to eternal life. In other words, a free society with freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression is more likely to find someone who can and will declare the truth of the Gospel than a society that stifles such speech. This isn’t to say that the Gospel can’t go forward in a closed society – simply look at the growth of the church behind the Iron Curtain in the 1970s and 1980s, or the explosion of the church under Mao’s Communist China where it was illegal to speak of Christianity or to practice it. We can safely say that political freedom is not the same as true biblical freedom.
The Bible speaks of freedom, but we should never make the mistake of thinking that this is the same freedom as that which we enjoy in this country. The freedom that is spoken of in the Scriptures and offered is available to all the people of the world, in every country free or not. Jesus said in John 8:36 – “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” What freedom is He talking about?
To answer this question we need merely to look two verses prior. In Jn. 8:34 Jesus says “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” The bondage that Jesus addresses is a bondage to sin. Therefore, the freedom that is offered is freedom from the bondage of sin. This is true freedom. This is the freedom that is available to every man, woman, and child across the globe: freedom from sin. And, this is humanity’s biggest need. In verse 34 when Jesus says “everyone who practices sin…” he doesn’t mean that there are some who don’t. No. The Bible makes it very clear that all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (cf. Rom. 3:23). The biggest problem facing humanity is indeed a bondage or slavery problem. The issue is that most are content to live in this form of slavery and don’t even seek to be free. As fallen image bearers, we love our sin. Only when we realize that we are accountable for that sin to our Creator who is Holy and knows no sin does this become an issue.
Bondage to sin first needs to be recognized. And once it is recognized then comes the realization the we are powerless to remedy the situation ourselves. Our sin makes us guilty before God and places us in the path of His wrath. This is why Paul, as he contemplated the succinct gospel message of 1 Tim. 1:15 – “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” said that when it was applied to him, he received mercy (1 Tim. 1:16). Mercy is the withholding of that which is deserved. Once he recognized his sin, he recognized that he stood in the path of God’s wrath. We all do.
The salvation of sinners that Jesus offers is salvation from sin, or as He states it in Jn. 8:36 – freedom. Jesus alone can offer freedom from the bondage of sin. Jesus alone can set you free. And, if He sets you free, you will truly be free: free from the bondage of sin. This is a freedom worth celebrating!