By Xin Ling
I remember the Italian poet Dante once said, “The human race finds itself in a better situation when it has the highest level of freedom.” It can be seen from this that people all desire freedom, and treat it as the highest pursuit in life. However, when speaking of freedom, every person has a different understanding.
Some people think: “As long as I have money, I can lead a carefree, self-indulgent, and golden life rather than looking to others all my life. And that’s freedom.” Some people think: “Once I possess status and power, I can make others revere and admire me, I can issue orders and have everyone at my beck and call, and I’ll be under no one’s control. This is true freedom.” Others think: “It is too oppressive living in the modern world full of tall concrete buildings. If I can get away from the shackles of this material world and live a rural life like Tao Yuanming, the ancient Chinese poet, then that would be true freedom.” And others think: “People living in the democracies ruled according to law all have freedom of speech and so they have freedom.” However, as Christians, what do we understand freedom to mean? Perhaps, many brothers and sisters would say: “Thehas redeemed us from sin, and by His grace and protection, our sins have been forgiven. This is our understanding of freedom.” Nevertheless, are our interpretations of freedom what true freedom refers to?
I saw two passages of thought-provoking words in a book, which say: “When people have yet to, their lives are often interfered with, and even controlled by, Satan. In other words, people who have not been saved are prisoners to Satan, they have no freedom, they have not been relinquished by Satan, they are not qualified or entitled to worship God, and they are closely pursued and viciously attacked by Satan. Such people have no happiness to speak of, they have no right to a normal existence to speak of, and moreover they have no dignity to speak of” (“God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II”). “There is no true freedom in the world. Do you think that having freedom of speech and human rights means freedom for you? Have you escaped from Satan’s influence? Have you broken away from the bondage of satanic disposition? Have you gotten rid of satanic philosophies? You are still living in sin; in that case, how could you have freedom? Is that true freedom?” (“Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life”).
These words are sincere, earnest and profound. They clearly tell us that so long as we still have the corrupt disposition of Satan, live in sin and pursue worldly things, and are still under the restraint and bondage of the flesh, then there is no freedom to speak of. I cannot help but start to reflect: “That’s right. So many people desperately earn money in order to live at ease and indulge the flesh, thus living under the control of money. However, having got money, they get hooked on luxurious and dissipated lifestyles. Although their flesh is completely satisfied, their hearts become extremely empty, and not a few people choose suicide as a way out. From this, we can see that what money brings us is not freedom, but harm, depravity and ruin. There are also many people seeking the freedom gained from having authority, from standing above others. Yet when they have a high position and power they obtain the admiration and adoration of others and are able to do anything they want, but for the sake of protecting their own status and power they fight with each other both openly and in secret, they slaughter each other, and they can never live a normal life. Wherever they stay, they have to be extremely cautious lest they themselves get attacked by others, so they can’t sleep well, and they all end up physically and mentally exhausted and in unendurable pain. In addition, some people forsake this worldly world and go everywhere, leading a wanderer’s life. Even though they enjoy a lot of beautiful scenery and learn about various local ways and customs, they are still unable to find release from their perplexity about life, the emptiness and loneliness in their hearts. There are also the people born in democratic countries: They have freedom of speech, but they inevitably live in corrupt dispositions because we humans all have the same corrupt nature. They are also often bound by fame, status and money, and scramble for these things. How can any of these people find true freedom?
Next, looking at us believers in the Lord, although we have been redeemed by the Lord Jesus, every day we still live in the bondage of sin and can’t practice the Lord’s words; we still follow the evil trends of the world, and lust for material and fleshly enjoyment, living helplessly in a cycle of sinning and confessing. When we interact with others, we rely on our life philosophies to deal with everything. Even though we have some tolerance and patience on the outside, our hearts are full of prejudices and misunderstanding, and we even envy and hate others when we see they are better off than us. Moreover, we are not loyal to God and often tell lies to cheat Him and cheat other people so that we always feel accused. Living in sin, we suffer all forms of spiritual torment and have no way to resolve them. Just as Paul said: “For to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Rom 7:18–19). At present, like the unbelievers we are still bound by all sorts of satanic philosophies and poisons, and we do not have true joy or peace in our hearts. How can we say we are free? Thinking of this, do we feel panic because of the state we are in? Because the Lord said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, Whoever commits sin is the servant of sin. And the servant stays not in the house for ever: but the Son stays ever” (Jhn 8:34–35). As long as we live in sin, we are the slaves of sin and live under the domain of Satan, which means we have no real freedom and will never find relief. Over time, we will only be completely seized by Satan and will lose the chance of salvation. Our lives will become godless.
So how can we truly become free people? God says: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jhn 8:32). “God has bestowed His life, and what He is and has on man, so that man is able to live it out, so that man is able to transform what God is and has and the truth He bestows on them into the direction and the path for them to live. That is, man can rely on this to live, and they can take His word and turn it into their life. … At the same time as man accepting God’s life as their own life, they come to understand the truth, they grow roots, they gain the principles of what it is to be a human, they grow the roots they need to be a human, and they gain the direction they need to walk in to be a human. They no longer suffer the deception of Satan, are no longer deceived by evil people, no longer bound by Satan, no longer used by evil people, no longer polluted, besmirched, bound or seduced by evil trends. Man lives free between heaven and earth and they are released, no longer to be bound or to feel pain. There are no more difficulties, they live free, and they are able to live genuinely under the dominion of God, no longer to suffer harm by any evil and dark forces” (“Man is the Greatest Beneficiary of God’s Management Plan”). “Only if one knows God and has the truth does he live in the light; and only when his view of the world and his view of life change does he change fundamentally. When he has a life goal and comports himself according to the truth; when he absolutely submits to God and lives by God’s word; when he feels assured and brightened deep in his soul; when his heart is free of darkness; and when he lives completely freely and unrestrained in God’s presence—only then does he live a true human life and become a person possessing truth” (“How to Know Man’s Nature”).
From these words of God, I understand that only by coming before God to live by His word and truth, and no longer being deceived and bound by Satan, can we truly live freely. God’s word is the truth, and is an effective medicine to treat our corruption, is the principle for our conduct and dealings with others, and is our weapon for overcoming Satan. After we accept all of the truths from God we possess the ability to differentiate between the positive and the negative; we are able to hate, reject and give up all life philosophies, codes of conduct, lies and fallacies, and evil trends that belong to Satan. Then we are no longer deceived by Satan, no longer bound by sin, and no longer pursue pleasure, or lust for splendor and riches, or seek sensual gratification. When we understand the truth, have our life view and values changed, and know the preciousness of the truth, we can take the bright path of pursuing the truth according to the direction that God points us in. That is to say, when we completely become subject to the dominion of God and live by His word, when none of Satan’s forces can deceive or block us from straying away from God, and when we are freed from the bondage of corrupt disposition and no longer live by the life philosophies of Satan, then we will enter into a state of freedom. That is a kind of pleasure and enjoyment of the spirit. Therefore, only truth can be our life; only living by the truth can allow us to live a new life and gain true freedom.