In today’s world we are quick to say, “I am in charge of my life! That is what makes me free.” Christians, however, still say, “God is in charge of my life! That is what makes me free.” Who is right?
It may not be immediately obvious how submission to God brings freedom, but it helps if we understand that from which we humans need to be freed. Scripture suggests that we need freedom from three things: the World, the Flesh and the Devil.
The World is this place where God has planted us, but it is often harsh, hard and unforgiving. From the world we seek love, peace and joy. Often we find just the opposite because of other people’s sins and dysfunctions. We need freedom from this worldly onslaught.
The Flesh represents our own wrong choices, weaknesses, negative emotions, bad behaviors, sinful cravings and propensity to capitulate to temptation; in short, we need freedom from the frail, fallen and unredeemed part of our human nature.
The Devil represents the spiritual forces of darkness bent on preventing us from finding the love, joy, peace and the relationship with God for which we were created. We find a very real devil in this very real world. We moderns often feel that we are… well, too modern to believe in Satan and his minions. Of course, Satan would love for us to think he does not exist nor exerts control over our lives, but Scriptures warns, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8). We are not just flesh, we are spirit, and we need freedom from the negative spiritual influences that bind us.
So, back to the original question… where do we find freedom? It should be immediately obvious that finding freedom through our individual power and direction from this unholy triad of world, flesh and devil is problematic. The problem is that we have no real control over these things, not even our own fleshly desires. This means we need help in our struggle to gain mastery over our lives. That is why the Psalmist writes, Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me. (Psalm 40:13) and St. Paul is always writing about his having found freedom in Christ. A fundamental dynamic of the Christian Pilgrimage is calling on God to save us from those things from which we cannot save ourselves, for as St. Paul puts it, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground…” (Ephesians 6:12-13)
The Rev. Rob Hartley