[Jesus] came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. As usual, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him, and unrolling the scroll, He found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”–Luke 4:18-21
Jesus offers us a lot more freedom than we realize. When I was younger I wanted nothing to do with Christianity because it seemed like bondage. It was a list of rules, a list of conditions, a list of things I was supposed to be but wasn’t. Somehow, the message of freedom was lost. I ran from Jesus and straight into the things that oppressed me. And because God is the God of freedom, He let me – knowing full well that He would need to come rescue me later. (Which He did.)
God knew we would suffer great oppression in this world. We are oppressed by this world, our emotions, and our idols. Sometimes we fight to break the chains, sometimes we willingly enslave ourselves. But no matter how we ended up in bondage, Christ offers us freedom; a type of freedom we can’t find anywhere else. And there is more to this kind of freedom than free-will.
Freedom Means You Don’t Have to Try Harder
Willpower dries up quickly. Repentance to some of us means dwelling on our mistakes and promising God we’ll do everything in our power to avoid doing it again. That’s ridiculous. We don’t possess any power in and of ourselves to conquer our sin and cleanse ourselves. If we did, Jesus’ death on the cross wouldn’t have been necessary. He would have just penned some really great pep-talks in the New Testament and given us a list of ways to improve ourselves. He would have removed the book of Philippians and replaced it with a book on time-management and how to reach your full potential.
But Jesus doesn’t want to inspire us to be great, He wants us to look to Him for greatness. The Bible doesn’t tell us how great we could be, it tells us how great God is. We’re free from the burden of trying to be perfect, wonderful, accomplished, and skilled. The whole point of Christianity isn’t that we need to be awesome, the point of Christianity is that our Lord and Savior is awesome.
Freedom Means You Don’t Have to Be Afraid
When our idols oppress us, we will always be anxious. If money is our idol, we will always be wondering if we’ll have enough. If marriage is our idol, we will always be wondering if we’ll end up alone. If addiction is our idol, we will always be wondering how we will get a fix. Ecclesiastes 7:7 says, “Surely oppression drives the wise into madness…” An idol seeks to do nothing else but oppress you, and that oppression will drive you to the end of your sanity. You will never have peace. You will never have life.
Our idols never want us to know that we are free to let them go. They never want us figuring out that the side door of our prison is wide open. And if we ever discover this door, they convince us that our cell is better than what’s outside. They enslave us with fear.
But God doesn’t want us to live in fear. Romans 8:15 says, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” God is willing to save us from our prisons. He’s not only willing to lead us to the side door, but He’s willing to break down the wall completely. We don’t have to be afraid of dwindling bank accounts, loneliness, or addiction. We are free to not only to leave our fears behind, but to run to the Father with all our struggles, needs, and desires.
Freedom Means You Don’t Have to Hold Back
God is the God of tough conversations. At times I think faith is never coming to God with questions, complaints, or concerns, but God knows my heart. He knows when I’m confused, hurt, and angry even before I do. He knows when I’m angry with Him. He knows when I’m giving Him the silent treatment. He knows the reasons I don’t want to talk with Him that day. He knows without me even saying it, so why don’t I just express my heart to Him? I’m the only one in the relationship pretending not to see the elephant in the room. God is the one sitting on top of the elephant, waving at me.
God wants an honest heart. He didn’t design the heart to be impenetrable and concealed. Ezekiel 36:26 says, “And I [God] 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.” Hearts of stone are hard, hearts of flesh are raw. God wants everything. Every messy, disgusting, and broken part of your heart. On the flip side, He also wants every joyful, pure, and loving part of your heart as well. He wants all of you. With God you are completely free to be who you are, because He created you to be who you are.
Jesus has set us free. It isn’t that one day we will be set free – we are free right now. When blinded by anguish, oppression, and captivation, we don’t see the freedoms Christ has for us, but we are indeed free. In John 8:34-36, Jesus gives an encouraging message to His followers: “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”