When I think about the 4th of July, I think about freedom. And when I think about freedom, I am reminded of a sweet story about Abraham Lincoln I once heard.
The story goes something like this:
Abraham Lincoln went down to the slave block where they were selling slaves. There was a young slave girl there on whom Abraham bid. He won the slave girl; she was now his “property.” This girl probably thought he was just another slave owner who would take her away into captivity. That is, until he said to her, “You are free to go.”
“What do you mean?” she asked. To which he replied, “It means you are free.” She couldn’t wrap her mind around such a statement, so she continued to question…
“Does that mean I can say whatever I want to say?” “Yes, you can say whatever you want to say,” Lincoln answered. “Does that mean I can be whatever I want to be?” she asked. “Yes, you can be whatever you want to be,” he answered patiently. “Does that mean I can go wherever I want to go?” she questioned still. “Yes, my child, you can go wherever you want to go,” he explained.
Finally understanding that she was truly free – from the only life she had ever known, a life held in the captivity of slavery – the young girl looked up at Lincoln and with tear-filled eyes said, “I want to go with you.”
That story brings tears to my own eyes every time I think about it. And every time I think about it, I can’t help but think that this is exactly what Christ has done for us.
As Abraham Lincoln did for that slave girl, so Christ did for us.
We were living a life of captivity in slavery, imprisoned by our sin, separated from God. But Christ, by offering his life as a sacrifice, paid the price for our sins, and in doing so, freed us from bondage.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.” – Galations 5:1
The freedom Christ offers us comes in the form of free will. He does not force anyone to follow him. We have the choice to accept this gift of freedom he is offering to us – or not. Much like the slave girl, our free will allows us to say whatever we want to say, to be whatever we want to be, to go wherever we want to go…
But do we not want to go with Him?
A lot of people think of Christianity as a religion with a whole bunch of rules. They think of the Bible as some book full of ways God wants to limit how much we enjoy our time here on this earth. Some may even go so far as to say, “Well, if we are forgiven anyway, then why not just do whatever we want, ‘sin’ however we please, and enjoy the time we have here?”
But that’s just the thing… Christ wants us to enjoy the time we have here. He doesn’t want to limit our enjoyment of our lives on this earth. He wants to maximize it. He wants to give us life, and life to the fullest.
Christianity is a religion with pretty much no rules, except one. You must believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that he died on the cross for our sins, and accept him as your Savior. Beyond that, you are free to say, be, and go as you please.
The Bible is a book of guidelines on how to live a life that is not only pleasing to God, but that will be pleasing for ourselves. The Old Testament is full of detailed rules from forbidding people to eat shellfish (Leviticus 11:10) or to wear clothes that are made from more than one kind of fabric (Leviticus 19:19).
Of course, many of the “rules” laid out in the Old Testament are wise to live by – “tithe ten percent,” “observe the Sabbath” – but that was the “Old Covenant” between God and his people. When Christ came, he brought the New Testament, or the “New Covenant.”
Christ brought freedom.
Freedom from rules, freedom from bondage, freedom from slavery. But if we want to experience the fullest freedom that Christ offers, we have to choose to go with him.
In John 15:11 Christ tells us, “I have told you this so that you will be miserable, incomplete, and live a life devoid of any joy.” Oh, sorry. I am mistaken. Let me try that again. In John 15:11 Christ tells us,
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
The author of joy itself wants us to have his joy. He knows what a life of joy entails. He has blessed us with the Bible as a book of guidelines for how to live a life full of the most love, the most abundance, and the most joy… complete joy.
Of course there will be times of sadness. Of course there will be trials and heartaches. But if we choose to go with the Creator of the universe, the author of love, and the giver of life, certainly we will find we are no longer enslaved by the things of this world – the pressures, the temptations, the lies.
I love this Psalm that explains this concept so well:
“I run in the path of your commands for you have set my heart free.” – Psalm 119:42
There is freedom in the commands of Christ, freedom in living a life for Him, freedom unlike any other.