If you’ve ever read the words of Jesus, you’ll notice that he talks a lot about freedom. He also, modelled a life that was free from the influences of culture, politics, and the popular opinion of the crowd. It could appear (at a cursory glance) that Jesus floated through life on the wings of a mystical kind of freedom that is beyond our grasp. If we take a closer look, though, we see that Jesus was super intentional in how he lived. And the life he invited us into, a life that offers true freedom, is one he believed was possible for us.
I can hear a few of you scuffle in your seat as I talk about this life with Christ being possible. I believe that, I read in the gospels that Jesus believed that, however it is important that we clarify how it is possible. This life that Jesus taught, lived and called us to is humanly impossible (which might seem a contradiction to what I’ve just said) but it is possible for those who believe. Freedom is available but there are some important truths that Jesus taught, which aren’t easy, that we need to embrace in order to live this life of ‘believing’. Without them, it’s a bit like trying to fly without the right equipment – without the wings that make it possible.
So, what did Jesus teach and model that will help us – let me outline a few that I’m discovering are the foundations of living free in the Way of Jesus:
‘Repentance’ is the door to freedom – that’s probably not what you want to hear but it is the foundation to what Jesus taught and offered. His whole message on the ‘Kingdom of God’ was boiled down into one statement by the gospel writers – “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is within reach” (Matt 3:2, Matt 4:17, Mark 1:15). Repentance is not an old out of date religious word - when used right it means a change of mindset that leads to a change of life. It means being willing to put down our way of perceiving the world and embracing God’s Way. That’s not easy but until you surrender your ego and your own idea of truth and wholeheartedly embrace the message of the Kingdom that Jesus taught – you’re going to be flying without wings.
Laying down your life not preserving it leads to freedom – again this isn’t an easy message, but Jesus teaches those who would follow His Way that unless you are going to lose your life (lay it down) then you’ll not find life (Matt 10:39, Matt 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, John 12:25). The only way to discover freedom and life is to lay your life down to be used by Jesus in whatever way he chooses. If you try to live free without laying your life down, you’ll always be fighting to preserve yourself, you’ll be flying without wings.
Wholehearted obedience is the way of freedom – these truths are not nice gentle sentiments to put on your Instagram feed, but they are true to what Jesus taught and lived. Jesus knew that complete obedience to his heavenly Father was the way to life and freedom (John 12:50). Ultimately it took him to the cross to die and be raised to life. Ancient church planter (Saint Paul) taught that when we commit our lives to Jesus it’s as though we die, as Jesus did, and are raised to a new life with him – it’s that dramatic and decisive a moment (Gal 2:20). If you try to live free without this then you’ll constantly be fighting your will with God’s and it will be like flying without wings.
We can explain this in ways that are culturally relevant (which I believe we ought to work at doing) but we can’t sugar coat it. Jesus is not inviting you to follow him so that he can meet your needs and make you feel great (although you will have incredible peace), he’s inviting you to lay your life down for him. That’s the way to freedom, that’s the way to flying with wings.