The purpose of liberty

Written by Charles Ekong

27/05/2024

Two fundamental qualities that make us human are our ability to think and choose. Months ago, I wrote about the former, highlighting reason as a vital human quality that enables us to appreciate God and His creation. Only human beings can look up and marvel at the magnificence of the cosmos [Psalm 8:3-4]. Animals and plants lack this capacity, as do the stunning celestial bodies science has enabled us to see. God created humankind to reign over His creation [Psalm 115:16, Romans 5:17], but He also intended us to orientate our lives around Him – the implication of true worship [Colossians 3:17]. But then, sin entered the world, and we rebelled against God and His agenda, thereby choosing to worship another. 

God never created us to self-govern, but He gave us the right to decide who governs us [Deuteronomy 30:15-20]. So, every human being must have a master. The real question is, what sort of master do you have? Does your master empower you to reign with him or enslave you? Does he bring you life or death? In Scripture, Pharaoh was the first master to enslave God’s people, and he was archetypal of an ungodly master. He oppressed, enslaved and killed God’s people [Exodus 1:8-16]. Centuries later, a similar ungodly master went further and tried to systematically strip them of their history, language and culture [Daniel 1:1-4]. These wicked masters don’t just seek to rob us of our identity and intrinsic worth, but they’re ultimately after our minds because once you can control how someone thinks, you can control them – and that’s real enslavement.

An enslaved person has no choice but to worship his master’s god. Therefore, it’s pertinent that God gives us free will [Deuteronomy 11:26-28]. He doesn’t see or treat us as slaves, so He’ll never oppress, enslave or control us. Instead, He woos us with love. That said, we cannot orientate our lives around God unless we choose to because genuine submission is impossible without the option to rebel. However, our starting point, like the Hebrews, is slavery because, until Jesus, we had no power to break the stronghold of our captor, sin [Jeremiah 17:9, John 8:34]. Dead in our sins, we needed a saviour, and God sent His Son, who fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy about a coming Liberator [John 3:16, Luke 4:18]. So, when Jesus said: “It is finished” on the cross, He ended the captivity of those who chose to place their faith in Him [John 8:36, 19:30, Colossians 1:13-14]. But our liberty will do us little good if we don’t understand why we were set free. 

The dialogue between God and Moses at the Burning Bush is noteworthy if we’re to understand the purpose of our freedom in Christ. God told Moses that His people were to worship Him after He liberated them from Egypt [Exodus 3:6-12]. Then, on six occasions, He sent Moses to tell Pharaoh to let His people go so they may worship Him. Interestingly, God’s first commandment to the liberated nation forbade the worship of any other gods [Exodus 20:1-6]. It’s a prohibition that emphasised the importance of worship to the newly freed slaves and us, whom He ransomed from the domain of darkness and adopted into His family [Ephesians 2:19, Romans 8:15]. While there’s no coercion on God’s part, worship is the only reasonable response for a believer who understands the price and purpose of their liberty [Romans 12:1]. For such a person, worship is a lifestyle, not an event, because every aspect of their life is lived for the audience of One [Colossians 3:23-24].

An enslaved person must learn to think like a free individual, which requires effort and time. Though physically free, he isn’t wholly liberated until his mindset changes. That implies letting go of his slavery mentality and adopting a free person’s mindset. The freed slave is the only person who can do this for himself [Romans 12:2]. But such is the importance of mental transformation that if he doesn’t actively and consistently work at renewing his mind, he’ll eventually find himself back in the clutches of Egypt because of poor choices. Egypt is like a strong current; if you’re only treading water, the current will ultimately sweep you away. That’s what many of us do after salvation. We stand still; we don’t push ourselves to grow [Hebrews 5:12]. We don’t commit to ensuring God’s word abides richly in us. So, though liberated, we still hold the paradigms of Egypt [Colossians 3:16]. Consequently, we lack discernment and the wherewithal to overcome the current [Ephesians 4:18, Hebrews 5:13-14].

In a world where most swim with the current, God calls believers to swim against it [James 4:4]. The current of Egypt isn’t one that anyone can overcome with their might [Zechariah 4:6]. Therefore, we need strength beyond our own to break free of it successfully. Consequently, at salvation, God infuses us with a power stronger than Egypt’s current so that we can display the supremacy of His ways to a perishing world [1 John 4:4, 1 Peter 2:9]. However, that power is activated as we freely choose to orientate ourselves around God and His agenda – that is, as we worship Him. 

Our ultimate purpose is to glorify God [Isaiah 43:7]. However, that glory is at the end of a process that begins with true worship [John 4:24-26]. Since we cannot worship God freely under the yoke of slavery, He saw to it that we were set free [Galatians 5:1]. So, we now have a choice. What will you do with your liberty? Joshua, a man who experienced slavery and freedom, left these enduring words in his valediction: “…Choose today who you will serve (worship)…but as for me, and my family, we will serve Yahweh” [Joshua 24:15].

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