Liberty For All
So shall I keep your law continually, forever and Ever, and I will walk at liberty, for I seek your precepts. Psalm 119:44–45
Paradoxically, we don’t experience true liberty by throwing off all restrictions. We enjoy genuine freedom only in the context of laws. When the laws of a nation are just, reasonable, and good, its citizens know what is expected of them – in traffic, in business, and community, in the home. As long as they live within those laws they prosper.
Spiritual life works the same way but it sometimes requires maturity to value God‘s laws and experience freedom. Young believers get a taste of grace and they sometimes think it doesn’t matter what they do; the sky is the limit! But sooner than later, they face the painful consequences of breaking God‘s laws, and they learn the value of the restriction.
God‘s word records hundreds of laws to guide others, to protect others, and provide the most rewarding life possible. They aren’t given to us to steal our fun and make our lives miserable. Quite the opposite as we live by them “continually and forever and ever“, we experience freedom from fear, relief from guilt, richer relationships with people, and a closer relationship with the one who wants us to thrive for following His loving guidance.
Our prisons are full of people who feel bitter, guilty, angry, and oppressed because they didn’t follow the laws of the land. Similarly our homes and neighborhoods contain people who suffer the consequences of lying, stealing, adultery, jealousy, laziness, and all other forms of selfishness.
The happiest people in the world are those who follow laws – God’s and man’s- and enjoy the liberty obedience gives them.
“With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessings and His help but knowing that here on earth, God‘s work must truly be our own”.
John F Kennedy
If we were to think of life as the bridge between our creation and our eternal future, could we see that the laws of God are like the guard rails along both sides keeping us safe- not driving off into the abyss, and directing our course- keeping us on track. Not many would see the guard rails as limits or restrictions. Who in their right mind would consider not having such on a bridge. Yet we often strain against rules and directions. We’d like to live in a unrestricted environment where everyone can do as they wish.
Once upon a time, humans tried to live without restrictions, especially the ones God had set down. We all know how that turned out! Listen to their story:
“The Lord saw that the wickedness (depravity) of man was great on the earth, and that every imagination or intent of the thoughts of his heart were only evil continually. The Lord regretted that He had made mankind on the earth, and He was [deeply] grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy (annihilate) mankind whom I have created from the surface of the earth—not only man, but the animals and the crawling things and the birds of the air—because it [deeply] grieves Me [to see mankind’s sin] and I regret that I have made them.” The [population of the] earth was corrupt [absolutely depraved—spiritually and morally putrid] in God’s sight, and the land was filled with violence [desecration, infringement, outrage, assault, and lust for power]. God looked on the earth and saw how debased and degenerate it was, for all humanity had corrupted their way on the earth and lost their true direction.”
All the way back in the Garden, one little rule that was broken started humans down a path of destruction. Once Adam and Eve disobeyed God, sin entered into the world and in a short time one of their sons murdered his brother.
Unrestricted living always results in tragic consequences. Imagine a world with no restrictions at all. What would it be like if there were no laws or regulations? I don’t know about you but that seems scary to me. It’s interesting how that we sometimes wish to have personal liberty to live as we wish while at the same time wishing to place restrictions on others.
Those who have a rebellious heart will always chaff at rules for it restricts their sinful ways. Those who are parents learn early on the rules are necessary for children. The Bible instructs us to teach our children the ways of God early on in life so that if they somewhere along the way run out of the road, those words planted in them will work to restore them to godliness. Scripture says that if we let our children do as they wish, we don’t love them. And God who loves us so won’t let us do as we wish for He knows we would soon self-destruct.
The question then is how do we determine who or what to obey. The answer is simple. Obey those who are over you for they watch for your soul. In every case we are to submit to those who are our leaders. Spiritual authority is from God and obedience to authority is part of discipleship. Unless we submit to the authorities placed over us we have no authority.
Children are to obey parents in every matter. The only exception would be if the parent were to demand that child act in someway that violates the higher authority of God. Things like doing chores or cleaning your room don’t violate that higher authority but sometimes it may feel like when you want to go play ball. Doing the work on your job you were hired to do is just as important as anything you do in the church. You can’t be a good church leader if you’re not also a good employee. Everywhere we go we are to find and submit ourselves to the authority in the room. One of the things the devil fears is a child of God who has learned the power of submission to authority.
The beauty of submission to authority is that it removes the responsibility from the one who submits. God holds accountable those who are in authority responsible for the actions of those submitted to them. That’s a heavy weight. Once you feel the weight of being in authority you will seek someone to submit to and your life will blossom.
We as citizens are to obey our governments as long as they aren’t demanding we do things in violation to the laws of God. When they do so we are free to resist. When Jesus was asked about whether the Jews should pay Rome taxes. Jesus said, “Give God what belongs to God and render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. That makes sense to me.
To be totally free is to fully submit to God and His designated authorities in every place of our lives.
Dr. John Thompson