Happy 4th of July! It’s great to be an American! But there’s a freedom even greater than the freedoms we have in America. Here’s a devotion I wrote for Independence Day about true freedom.
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” 34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:31-36)
It’s Independence Day—the day we celebrate how free we are in the U.S.! But I’m going to say something strange for the 4th of July: People in America aren’t really free. Just look around: Bitter partisanship and anger and bitterness—is that freedom? The constant struggle to have more money and stuff—is that freedom? The fear of death that leads people to spend whatever possible just to stay alive a little longer—is that freedom? Pride over sin parading through the streets—is that freedom? Here’s something we need to understand: You can live in the U.S. and still not be free. You can be free and still not be free.
At least that’s what Jesus says. The Jews of his day were proud of their freedom too, just as you and I are to be Americans. They said, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone.” Sounds very American, doesn’t it? Listen to Jesus’ response: “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” Those Jews were wrong about freedom. The real master in our world isn’t a foreign country, it’s sin. “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” Would you agree? When greed grabs your heart and controls your life, you’re not free. When bitterness fills your mind and guides your tongue, you’re not free. When alcohol or lust control your body, you’re not free. “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” Can we argue with that?
Here’s the irony: We think that the more we can do what we want, the freer we are. We say: “It’s a free country, so I can do whatever I want!” Do you know where that thought started? In the Garden of Eden. With a snake. “If you do what you want, if you eat this fruit, then you will be free, then you will have the knowledge of good and evil. The more you get to do what you want, the freer you are!” What’s the truth? Having the freedom to do what I want makes me even more a slave to sin. In the U.S., we are free to drink as much as we want. Free to commit adultery as much as we want. Free to hoard as much money as we want. Free to hate and despise and boast as much as we want. But remember, you can be free and still not be free. The more you get what you want, the more a slave you are. “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”
Do you want to be really free? Listen to Jesus: “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” Getting my way isn’t freedom—not in Jesus’ eyes. Freedom doesn’t come from a country or a political party. It comes from the truth. “The truth will set you free.” The devil’s lie is that freedom is doing what you want. The truth is that real freedom is trusting in what Jesus did for you. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
After a service about a month ago, a Catholic visitor came up and said, “You guys are lucky. You get to hear your sins forgiven every Sunday.” He doesn’t. He needs the truth! “The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). You don’t have to carry guilt around. Jesus died for you. That truth will set you free! After a Bible study on heaven, a Hispanic lady said, “So that’s how you don’t have to be afraid of death. Heaven is so much better!” The apostle Paul wrote: “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). He wrote that as he sat in prison. He was free, even in prison. The truth will set you free! I was talking with some people lately about evolution and creation. If evolution were true, we would be the result of blind luck and have no purpose in life. But we’re not an accident! “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Ephesians 2:10). That truth will set you free!
Now think again of our country. What do we need? Not a certain political party. Not a change in the laws. What do we need? The truth. We need more of God’s Word. That’s what changes hearts. That’s what changes minds. Whenever you feel weighed down by sin, God’s truth will set you free. Whenever you feel trapped by worry, God’s truth will set you free. Whenever you feel surrounded by sadness, God’s truth will set you free. “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Want to really celebrate your freedom? Read your Bible! “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”