Rev. Chip Hammond
People seem to have an innate resonance to and need for liberty. That inborn rhythm was built into us in creation. It became a steady drum beat in Western Civilization, and reached a crescendo at the founding of our nation.
Martin Luther, John Calvin, Samuel Rutherford, Jonathan Edwards, Patrick Henry, George Washington - all resounded sympathetically the phrases of Holy writ: "...you are free... (Gen. 2:16)," "If the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed (John 8:36),"
"Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor. 3:17)."
How is it that we are so twisted in our thinking? The majority of people you meet, if you caught them in a moment of honesty, would tell you that for them, freedom would be found in escaping God's will, as though we were self-created, autonomous being who could be or live somewhere that God was not, or had not made, or did not rule.
It's not reality. To live life that way is to constantly pine for a fantasy universe that does not exist, that is impossible. It is not a question of whether a universe without God would be a good universe or a bad universe. The concept is meaningless. The very phrase "if God does not exist..." is illogical, for there are no premises, no axioms on which to build. To long for such a universe is to be bound and enslaved, "By what a man is overcome, by that he is enslaved" (2 Peter 2:19).
I always marvel when Christians, and particularly Calvinists, are accused of trying to "rob people of their free will" or volition. Sometimes Christians, trying to vindicate God and their own bitterness, agree with such statements. But the truth is that it is precisely the sovereignty of God that establishes our free volition (WCF 3.1).
People misdefine freedom. They think it means "liberty to do anything without any parameters." But God, the Being from which comes all being, is the freest of all (WCF 2.1), and yet even he is restricted by the parameters of his own character.
There are things that are impossible for God to do (Heb. 6:18). It's not that God wants to do these things but just can't. His will, character, and sovereign power are all in agreement. This is true freedom.
A twisted way of looking at liberty and bondage would be this: "Well, I'm married to this woman, but I wonder if I've made a mistake. I wonder if there is another woman out there who would make me happier, or whom I would make happier. But I've taken vows, and now I'm bound by 'the old ball-and-chain.'"
A clear and unclouded way of looking at liberty and bondage is this: "God is sovereign over all things. I have sought to follow His will for marriage, and he has placed me in this marriage, married to this woman. According to his Word, I have promised to 'forsake all others and cleave only to her.' So now I am free, free to give myself in complete abandon of love to my bride, as Christ gave himself to and for the Church, and I am liberated from the misery and bondage of wondering if I should be with someone else."
When Donna and I were first married, we came very close to going to Botswana as missionaries. A representative from African Evangelical Fellowship was living in the area and attended our Church, and was in my Sunday School class (a class on Systematic Theology as I recall). AEF was creating a theological college for indigenous pastors and was looking for teachers. They required a Master's degree, but because I had a B.A. with a minor in Systematic Theology and Bible, and because I did a great deal of reading and studying on my own, he thought that AEF would certainly waive that requirement in my case, especially with his recommendation. We were excited (and our parents were chagrinded!). I can't tell you my disappointment when we got the word that without a Master's degree, the answer was absolutely "no," no exceptions. It wasn't God's plan for us at the time, and I went off to seminary, but I've always tucked away a "what if" and "maybe some day."
Five years ago God brought Rebecca to us. A little more than four years ago she had her first seizures. About two years ago it occurred to me that because of Rebecca's condition, we, in all likelihood, would never be able to leave the country.
There are two ways I could look at this. I could pine away, and be in bondage to regret, or maybe even resentment, and live my life in miserable oppression. Or I could walk in liberty and freedom the path that God has placed before me without pining and without the bondage or regret, remorse or resentment.
Ed Stoffel recently philosophized, "The past is like a great barrier through which we cannot pass. When we come to critical junctures in our lives, and we must choose, we cannot at some later moment go back in time and choose differently." This is true. Whether it represents bondage or liberty to you depends on how much you trust God. If we believe our days and our paths are ordained by God (Ps. 139:16, Ps. 23), it sets us free from bondage to "what if" ("what if" is not necessarily or always an evil question, but to be in bondage to it is evil).
"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for [specific] good works, which God has prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). If we understand that God has created us with natural liberty, and we are granted a spiritual liberty in Christ, we will walk in those good works most freely and with joy. God is not a God of bondage, but of liberty. Jesus "accomplished an exodus" (Lk. 9:30) for us when he died on the cross, and God says to us even more than he said to ancient Israel, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of bondage."
Are you living free?