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Freedom Fright

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Freedom Fright tAn Arab chief tells a story of a spy who was captured and then sentenced to death by a general in the Persian army. This general had the strange custom of giving condemned criminals a choice between the firing squad and the big, black door. As the moment for execution drew near, the spy was brought to the Persian general, who asked the question, “What will it be: the firing squad or the big, black door?”

The spy hesitated for a long time. It was a difficult decision. He chose the firing squad.

Moments later shots rang out confirming his execution. The general turned to his aide and said, “They always prefer the known way to the unknown. It is characteristic of people to be afraid of the undefined. Yet, we gave him a choice.”

The aide said, “What lies beyond the big door?”

“Freedom,” replied the general. “I've known only a few brave enough to take it.”

Although we can’t verify the story’s validity it is still a very useful illustration that helps us understand a relatively controversial point. People tend to fear freedom. A careful perusal of the Bible and African-American history testify that there are occasions when this is frightfully true.

According to the book of Exodus, “The people of Israel had lived in Egypt for 430 years. In fact, it was on the last day of the 430th year that all the LORD's forces left the land. This night had been reserved by the LORD to bring his people out from the land of Egypt…” (Ex. 12:40-42, NLT)

We all know the rest of story: on many occasions the people of Israel desired “flesh pots” and all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic...” they could eat. When the Egyptians barreled down on them, they turned against Moses and complained, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren't there enough graves for us in Egypt? Why did you make us leave? Didn't we tell you to leave us alone while we were still in Egypt? Our Egyptian slavery was far better than dying out here in the wilderness!” (Ex. 14:11-12, NLT)

Are you serious?!?! “Slavery was far better than dying…”????  I mean, who says that?

What we are witnessing here is the unfortunate psychology of the slave. Because the Israelites were so used to living as slaves and being provided rations while they worked, when a crisis arose all they remembered was how the Egyptians cared and provided for their every need. The fact that they were getting slave rations was for some reason overlooked.  They unwittingly equated slavery with freedom, reminiscing on how they “[ate] for free in Egypt.” (Num. 11:6, NLT)   They were so used to slavery they preferred it to freedom and were unable to recognize the difference between when they were slaves to Pharaoh and the freedom God gave them. Strange, don’t you think?

American history gives us a glimpse of the newly freed African slave facing a slightly different issue. Although history records that some of them actually preferred slavery to freedom, many of them continued as slaves merely because they didn’t know they had been freed. The story of Juneteenth, the oldest known holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, shows how this happened.It was June 19th 1865 that Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and that slavery had been abolished. Mind you, this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which became official January 1, 1863. Due to the limited amount of Union troops available to enforce the Executive Order, the Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on Texans.

So for two and a half years there were people living as slaves although they had been declared free. The thought that a group of people is free, yet forced to remain enslaved due to a lack of knowledge is equally as alarming as preferring slavery to freedom. (On another note - what kind of person would fail to alert someone that had been enslaved to the exhilarating news that they’ve been set free?)

John tells us in his gospel, “If the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free.” (John 8:36,  NLT) However, because following Christ requires the adherence to certain rules and regulations, many of us equate Christ’s freedom with a new bondage.  We misinterpret what He means when He says, “I command you to love each other… you are my friends if you obey me… A servant is not greater than the master (Jesus being the master, we the servant).” (John 15:12, 14, 20, NLT).  This is because we don’t have a proper understanding of freedom.

What then, is freedom? Compliance with one’s own sense of what is lawful? If we obey ourselves, and we’re not right, it is, indeed, “freedom” but it is a perverse sense of freedom; it becomes “idolatry” with you on the throne as your own god. We become slaves to desire and impulse, and that is not freedom. Freedom is when external and internal laws are governed by the same objective law giver; and both are good.

So now that we’ve been declared free in Christ, what is our response?  Do we, like the children of Israel, lament the loss of what we thought was freedom?  Having now been informed that we should be sober, avoid revelry, practice abstinence, avoid harmful foods and flashy adornment, do we immediately start retreating to the flesh pots of Egypt, where we were “free”?

Possibly even more importantly – do we share the wonderful news of our freedom with others, or are we allowing them to continue to live in the bondage of sin? An unwillingness to share freedom with others is a sign that we, who are living free, are still in bondage to fear – fear that informing others that they are free will somehow compromise our freedom.

There is another potential response to newly acquired freedom and you see it in some of the children of Israel who left Egypt. You see it in the Africans who received news that they’d been set free. Even though this freedom was new and psychologically, many of them were afraid to walk in that freedom, they did so anyhow, placing trust in the word and protection of the One who had declared them free. They may not have felt completely free but they continued moving forward.  So it is with us.  The Son has set us free, and we are free indeed: free from the darkness of our pasts; free from the sin that so easily besets us; free from whatever may have been our past struggles.

So walk in that freedom.  Tell others that they too are free.  When the enemy and sins of your past attempt to chase you down to drag you back into bondage, know that the One who has freed you will either personally come to your aid, or send His angelic troops to ensure His executive order is enforced.

“For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death.” (Rom. 8:2, NLT)  “God has not given us a spirit of fear…” (2 Tim. 1:7, NLT)  Freedom is not to be feared but embraced. 

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Pastor Johns joined our congregation in June of 2011 and his infectious love for Christ has us all energized and ready to evangelize. Pastor Johns has a passion for personal evangelism and he desires to make us all serious students of the Bible so that we can share what we know. His Wednesday evening Bible study program - Prep School - is unlike anything you've ever seen, but it will get you delving into the Word as you may have never done before. He believes "this is our church; this is our city!"