I am writing this blog from the Atlanta airport as I await my flight back to DFW following the Council on Educational Standards and Accountability (CESA) Symposium. One of the keynote speakers was Dr. Michael Keller, the founding and lead pastor at Redeemer Lincoln Square in New York City. You may recognize his name as he is the son of the renowned reformed pastor and author, Tim Keller, founder of Redeemer Church in NYC. The Symposium was organized around three themes—Identity, Freedom, and Happiness. Here are a few thoughts about biblical freedom from Dr. Keller.
The narrative of freedom in today’s secular culture, according to Dr. Keller, is that “I should be free to do what I want, with whom I want, whenever I want to do it.” Freedom has become this society’s idol. The secularist defines freedom as the greatest amount of freedom for the greatest number of people as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. Those not informed by a biblical worldview would assert that truth is found internally, not externally. Therefore, they believe that human beings should be able to determine their own version of truth and should be free to do anything they desire as long as it does no harm to others.
Dr. Keller argued that this reasoning has a fatal flaw. It does not acknowledge the sinful nature and total depravity of human beings. Who decides what is harmful and what is not harmful to others? What if your version of truth conflicts with other versions of truth? It is this flawed reasoning that influences secularists to assert that all of life is a struggle between the oppressed and the oppressors. So, if you don’t allow me to do what I want, then I am oppressed and you are the oppressor and I must cancel you.
This subjective definition of freedom is inconsistent with the biblical definition of freedom. Nowhere in Scripture do we read that humans should live their lives free of external laws, regulations, or restrictions. In fact, binding ourselves to the restrictions that God has placed on us as believers allows us to live the way we were designed to live. Christ came to free us from the bondage of sin, not to grant us absolute freedom. Those of us who are redeemed are to be slaves to righteousness and live as servants to the God of the Universe, and to each other, subject to His laws and His restrictions. In fact, that is the essence of love. True love is giving up your freedom for the benefit of another. (Matthew 20:26-28, John 15:13). That’s exactly what Jesus did when He stepped down from His throne and entered our world. Biblical freedom enables me to sacrifice my desires, preferences, privileges, and rights for the benefit of others, including my spouse, my children, my neighbor, my co-worker, and my fellow citizens.
This truth applies to all of us, no matter where we land on the political spectrum. It’s ironic that those on the far left and those on the far right are making the same argument, that is, they claim the absolute right to live according to their particular definition of freedom. They demand their individual liberties with little or no regard for their fellow humans. The life of Jesus and the truth of God’s word offer a better definition of freedom, however. The Gospel of John records Jesus’s instruction on how to secure freedom, “Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32 NLT.
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