Free and Peaceful

by Mary

Here's the truth …

“put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24 NIV).

As Independence Day approaches, I began thinking about what it means to be free.  Does freedom come from the idea that you can do whatever you want without having a boss, or does freedom actually come from adhering to structure and rules?  Our forefathers went straight from being under the thumb of King George to creating their own government and the laws to go with it.  Although they certainly celebrated their independence, they still relied on a structure.  Within the confines of the new structure, freedom could be felt.  Otherwise, a free-for-all seemed too scary to be celebrated at all.

If you ever watched toddlers, you noticed that they feel much more secure when they know the rules.  The meltdowns happen when they are given way too much freedom or when they have not been forced to nap.  There is freedom, then, in operating within rules that are in our best interests.  It seems like an oxymoron that in order to be free, you must succumb to rules; but that’s the truth. 

Think about it, in order to enjoy the hills of a roller coaster, you need to be strapped in.  In order to take to the open road in your car, you need to buckle up.  You have freedom to drive in any lane, but it would behoove you to stay in that lane.  You can take any route you want to get to your destination, but you must stay on a route that leads you there.  You cannot, for example, head towards Boston from Iowa if you want to get to California!

My husband and I operate our finances like that.  We create a budget and stay within that structure that we’ve put into place.  Freedom comes from knowing how much we have in our accounts that we can spend.  If we weren’t organized about it, we’d have a lot of unrest wondering if there was enough money to cover our spending.  Because I know I have money in my clothing envelope, I can spend freely until that money is depleted.  If I choose to get one blouse too many, then my peace will go away because now I am in a quandary for how I will pay for that.  Freedom feels great, but only if you know your margins.  If you step outside of those margins into uncharted territory, you have taken away your peace.  How freeing is that, then? 

So we must distinguish between freedom and peace.

Once we are saved, God’s Word provides the guidelines we need for understanding what His Will is for our lives.  It’s like putting on a coat in the winter time.  Some people might see the coat as restrictive, but the reality is that the covering gives us freedom to move about outside in the cold, snowy weather.  The same is true of the new creation we become in Christ when we “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24 NIV).  We are free to make choices that are amoral (neither good nor bad); therefore, if we want to know whether we should take a job, move to a different village, buy a house, marry a potential mate, go to a certain college, etc., we can make all of those decisions much more easily knowing that anything we do, as long as it’s not immoral, will not keep Him from fulfilling His Will for our lives.  We’ve got our coats on!

One of the pastors of my church, for example, went to college and majored in mathematics.  God did not take that independent decision and say, “You’re a screw up!  I had totally different plans for you!”  Instead, He used that time in my pastor’s life to take care of other parts of His will for my pastor, like introducing him to his future wife at that college.  Then, He guided him into ministry.  Majoring in math could have been seen as stepping outside of God’s Will if he was supposed to be a pastor anyway, but God uses everything and takes care of bringing us to His purpose for our lives.  People may stress about being outside of God’s Will, but I believe that God takes over and gets us to where He needs us.  So, there is freedom simply because of our dependence on God.  This begs the questions:  Are we really free?  Are we really independent, even when we make our own decisions?  Or is it because of our dependence on Him that we really can be free?

Isn’t it much more liberating to know that God is the author of your life?  I know that I can trust in Him to allow me to make choices that will teach me lessons that I would not normally choose for myself to learn.  Sometimes, He lets me fail because He sees the bigger picture and knows that my character will be built, brick by brick, on the foundation of those failures.  That’s why it’s important to know His Word and to live according to it.  The more I understand His desires, the easier time I will have in making future decisions.  Freedom.

If I make an immoral decision, though, I’d better be ready to face the natural consequences for that decision.  We know of some people, for example, who have made a large purchase without having a plan to pay for it, other than going into debt.  They are counting on people to help them to pay for it but will only receive half of the money they need from those people.  How will they come up with the balance of an exorbitant sum of money?  They have operated outside of God’s Will by moving forward anyway because His Word clearly states:  “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it” (Luke 14:28 ESV).   

As a result, if these people were honest with themselves, they would admit that they have no peace while that purchase remains unpaid.  And they could very well experience the natural consequences of having to give up things they didn’t expect to sacrifice for this extravagant purchase.  God is not a vending machine who pops out money for our poor decision making.  Anne Graham Lotz agrees.  She says in her book Wounded by God’s People: “Sometimes our view of God seems to be the same view we have of a genie.  We think that if we rub Him the right way with prayer and faith, He will pop up and give us what we want.  It’s a view that is drastically wrong” (2013, p. 114).  Jesus reminds us: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Luke 4:12 ESV).  So, while these spenders were free to make that decision, they cannot move forward in peace while being so far outside of God’s Will.  The natural consequence of haste is poverty (Proverbs 21:5 ESV).

So, this Independence Day, realize that you are free only if you choose to govern your lives according to God’s Word.  In Him, when you make amoral decisions, you don’t have to stress about them.  God’s got your back!  But when you make immoral decisions and step outside of God’s boundaries, you might be “free,” but you will never have real peace. 

… and that’s the truth as I know it!

Mary

Graham Lotz, A. (2013). Wounded by God's people: Discovering how God's love heals our hearts. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.