Freedom. I would like to be in a small group with you and together we would attempt to define “freedom”. What does true freedom look like? Have you raised children? Before they reach the stage of being “self-conscious”, they are free. They are totally uninhibited. We then as parents begin to fit them into a mold that reflects our family image. However, children eventually reach the stage where they want their own freedom. As a result, they gradually develop their own “self”, seeking their own freedom. If that child is not careful, in seeking their own freedom, they actually become slaves. Slaves to habits and lifestyles they pursued in seeking their own freedom.

When I think of this, my mind goes to Nelson Mandela. I hesitate to use his name because it can bring flashes of emotion in some people. I have read his biography twice because what he did with his life impressed me. Mandela was born into the Zulu tribe of South Africa. The land that the Zulu’s claimed as their own was gradually being taken away from them by Europeans who used Cape Town as a resupply depot for their ships on their way to India. Mandela became an activist against the system that practiced Apartheid culture. He became a prisoner of the Afrikaner government and was sent to prison on Robbin Island off the coast of South Africa where he spent 30 years at hard labor in the rock quarries. Through these 30 years he reached deep into his own soul to examine who he really was. He dealt with all the anger and toxic emotions that led him to prison. At the end of 30 years, he was released, and for the first time in his life he experienced true freedom. This led him to the very seat of South Africa’s government, and he became the president of South Africa. He gained respect worldwide. Interestingly, slavery led him to freedom.

The same could be said regarding the story Jesus told in Luke 15. A boy comes to his father and wants his freedom. His father gives the son his inheritance and the son takes off to a “far country”. There, he seeks his freedom, but rather than freedom, he finds himself enslaved as a herder of swine, actually eating the corn husks that the swine feed on. In the story Jesus is telling, He says, “…when the son came to himself…” he realized that the freedom he sought had led to slavery. Now, in what he had previously thought of as slavery, he found freedom.

So, what is freedom? Where do I go to find it? In John 8, Jesus is having a debate with the Pharisees, a sect of the religious system of the Jews. They did not realize He was the Messiah, and they were placing their faith in their “father”, Abraham. Their freedom was found in keeping all the traditions of their Mosaic teaching. Jesus was saying that their freedom actually led to bondage. Then He says in verse 32, “…and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free…”. So, what is “the truth” Jesus is referring to? Where do I find this “truth”, so I can be free? Is it in some University system or is it in some Ashram in India? Jesus gives us the answer; “I am the way, the truth and the life”. When Jesus speaks of “truth”, he is speaking of Himself. He is saying, there is no true freedom apart from knowing Me! He alone holds the truth and this Truth (Jesus) will bring the freedom I search for. The old gospel song says it so well; “He sets me free, yes He sets me free…”.

This is so well illustrated in Mark 5. Jesus, with His disciples, had crossed the sea of Galilee from the west to the east. The area is known as Decapolis, meaning ten cities. As they get out of the boat, “…immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him, even with chains”. This is one of the most tragic scenes in the New Testament. At some point in this man’s life, evil spirits had entered him. His life is described; “…he had been bound with shackles and chains and the chains had been torn apart by him, and the shackles broken to pieces, and no one was strong enough subdue him. And constantly day and night, among the tombs and the mountains, he was crying out and cutting himself with stones…”. This is a tragic scene, where this man had lost all sense of freedom and was enslaved by forces beyond anyone’s control. In this hopeless state, “…he ran up to Jesus and bowed down before Him and crying out…”. Jesus addressed the problem by addressing the spirits that were controlling this man’s life. He commanded the evil spirits to leave, which they did, and they entered a herd of swine, feeding nearby. They in turn, ran down to the seashore and jumped in, drowning themselves. All the people of the area, hearing of this event, run out to see if it was true. Now, they find the man, no longer naked, bound or crying out, but sitting before Jesus. He is now asking Jesus, “may I please go with you”. He had been through the most significant change of his life and he wanted to go with Jesus. What did Jesus say? “Return to your home and tell people what it means to be free”. Jesus got back in he boat and returned to the west shore of the lake.

What is freedom? It is to live the life that God has given to me, free of all bondage; mental, emotional, physical or spiritual. It is living life to its highest potential. This life can only be made possible through “the Truth”, which is Jesus Himself, living His life, through me.

There are so many prisons that people live in today. For Mandela, it was Robben Island, a man-made place of intentional torture, meant to break a man’s spirit to conform with what culture wants him to be. The prisons people live in today are not made of brick and mortar but, just like the Prodigal that Jesus talked about, are made of false expectations, lifestyles, traditions, chemicals and the list could go on.

I think our original parents, Adam and Eve, found this freedom in Eden. It was a place of paradise and they had perfect fellowship with their creator. Why did Adam hide? “I heard the sound of Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid”. I believe Jesus wants to restore us to a place of freedom with Him, where I need not hide from Him. Rather than hiding, I invite Him into my life, and I ask Him to make me all that he intends me to be.

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still of the roses;
And the voice I hear
Falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me,
And He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own.
And the joy we share, as we tarry there,
No other has ever known.

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