Declaring our Freedom from Independence
How to stop being chained by the deception of the enemy.
Last night Linda and I sat on camp chairs in the back of my GMC Sierra pickup watching fireworks and listening to Lee Greenwood’s lyrics blaring over loudspeakers, “I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free…” These are the themes of our 4th of July celebrations; independence, freedom, hot dogs and apple pie.
And I was uneasy. Not because I don’t like fireworks. In fact, this is one of my favorite holidays. I love America and I can sing along with Lee that ‘I’m proud to be an American’. It’s not the holiday or the meaning behind it that unsettles me. It is the hidden deception behind the way we tie together the ideas of independence and freedom.
On a geopolitical level, the alliance may make sense. When one is struggling under the oppression of a dictator or despot, it is freedom from such totalitarianism that produces the independence to forge your own future according to your own desires. Independence defines our past, our liberation from that power under which we no longer need to depend. Freedom defines our future, releasing us to live according to a new set of standards and expectations. In the political realm, the two concepts are integrally linked.
However, we should not be surprised to learn that what is true for the world is an aberration in the kingdom of God. In this upside down kingdom, independence and freedom are diametrically opposed to one another. Let me explain.
Freedom is a primary theme in scripture. Consider just these few select verses:
You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free (John 8:32)
If the Son sets you free you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17)
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
We could go on but the point is made – Christ died to set us free.
In Christ’s work for us there is freedom from and a freedom for. We are set free from sin and death and from the bondage of the life lived apart from God. We are freed for the new life in Christ, the life of faithfulness, joy and…obedience. And therein lies the rub.
In the kingdom of God, our freedom results in a life of surrender, a life of obedience, a life of – dare we say – absolute dependence on the God who saves and frees us.
Above we said that in the political realm, independence is necessary for freedom to be won. In the kingdom of God, absolute dependence is required to live out the fullness of the freedom God has for us in Christ. But we must say more. In this counter cultural kingdom where Christ reigns, the desire to claim one’s independence is an act of rebellion. Simply put, it is sin. We all depend on something or someone. If we depend completely on God, we will not place our dependence elsewhere. If we do not depend, rely, surrender and yield to the will of God in all things, we will turn away and place our trust in something or someone else.
Here is the irony. To whatever extent we depend on anything other than God, we lose our freedom. Did we catch that? Bondage, not freedom, is the product of seeking independence from God.
The challenge we face is trying to be both good Americans and faithful Christians. If we do not understand the different ways these terms are used in these two roles we play, we will make the fateful decision of linking spiritual independence to scriptural freedom. Every day we watch our culture move away from a dependence on God and seek an alien form of self-centered, self-protected and self-directed life. In their foolishness they believe that independence from a belief in the Creator will liberate them; that a rejection of obedience to God will set them free.
It does exactly the opposite. And that is the trap the enemy has set into which so many in our country are falling. Our seeking to be free of God will produce the greatest bondage we will ever know.
A number of years ago I was watching one of my sons play rec league basketball. He was about ten at the time. A father sitting next to me struck up a conversation about raising kids and at one point he stated that he was trying to raise his son to be as independent as possible. For some reason the PC regulator in my brain failed and I blurted out, “that’s interesting, because we are trying to raise our kids to be as dependent as possible.” He looked at me like an alien had crawled out of my ear and was sitting on my face. Slowly he turned and started up a conversation with the father on the other side of him.
It was a demonstration of two very different world views.
There is one further hidden deception waiting to trap those who seek freedom through independence from God. We have said that we will replace dependence on God with dependence on something else. And that new dependence will become our bondage. Where do we put our trust? Today too many believe the government owes them a job, protection from all offense and safety wherever they go. We are witnessing a shocking rise in the entitlement worldview held by those who substitute dependence on the government for the dependence on a God they have rejected as being too restricting. They have forfeited true freedom and are left with the chains of entitlement and the shackles of protecting their personal rights. When we are offended by every comment that does not align with our worldview, when we march to win the right to justify our sin, and when we label and attack all those with whom we disagree, we are demonstrating our absolute bondage, not our freedom.
God’s formula is both simple and profound. His freedom is ours without merit. It only requires our love for Him that manifests itself in willing surrender and joyful obedience. To a world bent on running away from God, such a formula is an anathema. To those who follow Jesus, it is the truth that sets us free.
May we hold dear to our national independence and freedom. May we hold even more dearly to our divine dependence and the true freedom it bestows. And may we have the wisdom and discernment to know the difference.