Today’s Christians have lost sight of true freedom. They think that the level of survival which they have attained is the scope of their freedom. This is spiritual blindness and holds whole churches back from the freedom that is theirs in Christ.
I have discussed freedom in various ways over recent months, but a recent discussion prompted me to realise that many people are absolutely blind to the issue. And the implications are serious.
Many years ago I met an Australian state politician who was a relatively new Christian. He was serving in the parliament and attending a big church with a well-known minister in one of the capital cities.
A friend introduced me to this older man and we enjoyed a catch up one afternoon. As we chatted privately he confided in me that he had a very real struggle in his role. He attributed the problem to the fact that he was a Christian working in a key area and thus coming under stronger spiritual attack.
His personal struggle was with immoral temptation. He found himself strongly distracted by immoral thoughts and interest in women.
Having once been addicted to immoral thoughts I knew from personal experience that it is possible to become completely free from such things. I knew the joy of freedom and the sweet simplicity of life that comes from the liberation which Christ brings.
I therefore ventured to suggest to this man that he did not have to struggle as he was. I proffered to him the suggestion that he could be completely liberated and released from the temptation.
His response was a firm and emphatic rebuttal. He assured me that there was no freedom from this pressure and he knew that for a fact. He knew it because he had gone to his own pastor, the high-profile pastor of one of the leading churches, and told him about the problem. The pastor responded by explaining that there was no release from this problem. The pastor confided that he too lived with a constant daily battle against unclean thoughts and immoral temptations.
Thus advised by his pastor, the man would not hear that there was any other freedom to be enjoyed. He deemed that his high-profile pastor had more status on this point than I did, despite my personal testimony of deliverance and freedom.
Some months later the politician vacated his position prematurely. I suspect that he could not stand the on-going personal struggle he was in.
Christians use the expression ‘besetting sin’ to describe a sin that defies their efforts to overcome it. The concept is extended to suggest that every Christian has some weakness that they will never conquer and so they must continue to rely on God’s grace to carry them through an on-going, life-long battle with their besetting sin.
That idea, however, is a contradiction of what the Bible teaches about besetting sin.
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1,2
In the only reference to sins which ‘beset us’ the verse tells us to lay aside those sins. They are not sins which we cannot conquer, but rather are to be disposed of. There is no Biblical doctrine teaching that sin is unable to be removed. Instead the Bible teaches that sin is able to be completely extracted from our lives.
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” Romans 6:12
“For sin will not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:14
My son, Jonathan, tells of a meeting he attended where the topic was Anger Management. The presumption was that everyone had a problem with anger and that anger had to be managed by each individual. When Jonathan advised the coordinator that he had completely resolved his anger problem by realising the forgiveness of Christ for his own sins and then by applying the same grace of forgiveness to those who wronged him, he was ignored. The leader of the discussion did not take up Jonathan’s claim, probably because they did not believe it could be true.
No Concept of Freedom
It is as if today’s generation has lost all sight and understanding of true freedom. They have no concept of freedom. Just like that high profile pastor who lived in a daily struggle and the Anger Management leader who could not relate to a testimony of freedom, those who are leading today’s world cannot bring their followers into freedom. If the leaders do not have true freedom themselves, then they cannot lead their followers into freedom.
Surveys of Christian leaders indicate that a high percentage of them have an addiction to pornography. When pastors and leaders are addicts and slaves to sin and degradation there is no way they can lead their congregations into freedom. In fact, they have no real testimony or concept of true freedom.
Jack Sonnemann, the highly effective anti-pornography campaigner in Australia, told me recently that he finds few young pastors who will welcome his anti-porn message into their churches. His American associates tell him that this must implicate those pastors as porn addicts themselves.
Whatever the case, it is yet another evidence for the absence of true freedom in the church. When leaders struggle with lust, are addicted to porn and can only restrain their anger, then they know nothing of the true freedom Christ has for them.
Freedom in Christ
Consider a few verses which announce what true freedom is like and what all Christian leaders should be living in and bringing to their congregations.
“If the Son therefore makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1
Freedom is what we are called for and it is given to us by Christ who sets us free and gives us true freedom. Truth is one of the power tools which Christ uses to set us free. We are to stand in that freedom and avoid being enslaved again.
It is time the people of God took hold of the true freedom which is their’s in Christ. Please do so.