The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.
(Luke 4:18-19 ESV)
Jesus is our liberator; he brings true freedom to the downtrodden and oppressed. But it is important for us to define what we mean by the term “freedom” or we might become confused as to what Jesus is actually saying.
In 2016 America, freedom is defined as the ability to act according to our desires without constraint from the outside. “Unless I’m overtly hurting someone else, let me do what I want to do!” This view of freedom has led people to even deny their God-given gender because it does not correlate with how they feel about themselves.
This is not the biblical concept of freedom. However, our culture isn’t getting it all wrong. In fact, many in the Church get freedom wrong too. Yes it is true that God’s Law, his commandments, model what a life of freedom looks like. God’s Law shows us how we were created to live. But God’s commandments are not sufficient to give true freedom. God gave Israel the Ten Commandments on Mt Sinai. As soon as God revealed his Law, Israel promptly began to break every one of them. The whole Old Testament is a long story of human failure to obey God. Just outward Law is not enough. Outward Law does not give freedom but slavery, because the human heart remains enslaved to sin.
That’s why God made this promise to Israel in the Old Testament, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). True biblical freedom is living according to your created purpose from the inside out. That’s what the culture gets right. Freedom is acting according to our deepest desires and longings. We are caged birds and Christ has broken down the door of our cage to allow us to fly. That’s biblical freedom. But what the culture misses is that true freedom only arises out of a liberated heart. The lack of outward constraints does not necessarily give freedom. We are also like crack addicts, addicted to patterns of behavior that are destroying both ourselves and those around us. How could anyone call that true freedom? What we need is a new heart that desires and loves God’s Law; love your neighbor as yourself.
That’s the liberty that Christ brings. Through his Holy Spirit he gives you a new heart so that you begin to desire and live according to your created purpose. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Father Kurt is the Pastor of Light of Christ Anglican Church in Georgetown, TX