Friday, June 30, 2006

What kind of freedom do we most need?

[This is an excursus of sorts that fits in the middle of a sermon/essay on Pyromaniacs, titled "What Price Freedom?]

Christians who study their Bibles know that Christ secured freedom for us on the cross. But freedom from what? What binds us?

The Bible indicates three malevolent forces: the world, the flesh, and the Devil.

First, we are bound by the WORLD (1 John 2:15-17.)
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world - the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions - is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
The world first opened for business in the Garden of Eden. The first seller was Satan. The first buyers were Eve, and then Adam. Satan’s challenge as a salesman was twofold: first, Satan had to convince them that God was not enough -- His counsel was not enough, His word was not enough, His provision was not enough, His person was not enough. Second, Satan had to convince them that he could provide what God did not provide. He alone could provide meaning, fulfillment, knowledge.

And that is the world’s business today: to convince you and me that God is not enough, and that it can supply what God does not. The specifics are manifold: cars, jobs, body shapes, philosophies, good works, bad works, better sex, no sex, perverted sex, money, power, houses, exotic vacations, foods, colognes, makeup. Some of these things are evil in themselves, some are not. But they are wrapped up in a package that is absolutely deadly, because it is delusional, and damnable. The point in the world’s approach is that these things, these experiences will give you worth, meaning, value, joy, fulfillment — and they’ll do it without God. That is what makes them worldly.

The world has as many “good” works as bad. Whether you or I beat the stuffing out of this guy to get drugs to dull the pain of our Godless lives, or whether we help this child, to feel good about ourselves, to dull the pain of our Godless lives, either way, it’s the world!

Does the world have many slaves? Are you one?

Second, we are bound to the FLESH (Romans 8:5-8).
For those whose lives are according to the flesh think about the things of the flesh, but those whose lives are according to the Spirit, about the things of the Spirit. For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God's law, for it is unable to do so. Those whose lives are in the flesh are unable to please God. (HCSB)
The flesh is the world’s outpost in me. When the world says, “I’m selling,” it is the flesh that says, “I’m buying!” That is, when the world says, “I’m selling a fulfilled, meaningful life without God,” it is the flesh that says, “That’s what I want! I’m buying!”

The flesh is not simply what we do, it’s what we are. In fact, by natural birth, it is all we are! We are naturally inclined away from God. The idea that all men seek God is a crack-dream!

We all need God, true — but seek Him? Not a chance!

Why? If there’s a real God, a big God, a holy God, then how can we be God, as we all want to be? And because it’s what we are, it means we carry the world with us wherever we go. Do you think you can escape the world by retreating to a monastery, with no ads or magazines or scantily-clad women or men? Guess again! Everywhere you go — there you are! And that’s the problem!

Third, we are bound by the DEVIL (Ephesians 2:1-3).
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Satan is the mastermind behind it all. He is thousands of years old, he's tireless, he's relentless, he's pitiless, he's remorseless. Satan is utterly focused and driven and committed in pursuing his goal.

Think of Adam and Eve. They had no bad genes, perfect "childhood," flawless conditioning; they were pure and innocent, and Adam was taught by God Himself.

And how long did they last? How long did they resist the Devil's sales pitch?

Do you really think you’re more of a match than they were?

What's worse, we’re Satan's natural constituency!

Are you going to loose yourself from these powers, shake off these chains?

Can you free yourself from the entire culture into which you and I were born, of self-absorbed, self-willed, self-reliant Godlessness? Growing up, you were no more conscious of this mindset than you were of being surrounded by air. Less! This is the mindset that motivates advertising, the media, the schools. It is our context, our framework, our matrix — how do we free ourselves from that?

And if we imagine the answer to be “yes” — where are we going to get that power? From ourselves? From our flesh? By natural birth, you are the flesh! I am the flesh! Our very being, our thoughts and feelings and inclinations, are 100% in sync with the world. When our very nature is bound to the world, what power from within us will free us from what we are? Can the Ethiopian change his skin? Can the leopard change his spots? Can we “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps?”

How can the power to change our nature arise from our nature?

All the self-help, self-motivation programs just deepen this problem. It is possible by willpower to lose a bad habit. But if the lesson one learns from that is “I have the ability to create a fulfilled life for myself,” then the real problem has simply been doubled! When my self-improvement deepens my self-addiction, my real problem is vastly worsened.

But even if you could beat the world and the flesh -- and you can't -- could you beat the Devil?

Do you really think you’re smarter than he, a better debater, stronger? Character actor John Quade, years ago, said he turned down certain roles in plays or movies. Their plots—you’ve seen them—had a man outsmart the Devil. He said he couldn’t do it: “No man can out-smart the Devil!”

These powers — the world, the flesh, the Devil — are beyond us. We are bound by powers vast, and pervasive, and damnably effective. Had we the will to do it, we could no more free ourselves from them than we could start breathing in water instead of air.

And there’s the real kicker: we haven’t the will to do it.

Our only possible hope for freedom, for loosing from this bondage, would have to come from a power superior to that of the world, superior to that of the Devil, utterly outside of us, and not dependent on the tiniest fragment of contribution from us to our liberation.

[Concluded at Pyromaniacs.]


Mike Y said...

The idea that all men seek God is a crack-dream! I love that! And in the immortal words of Whitney Houston, "Crack is whack!"

I think you really touched on a seriously misunderstood topic in Christendom. Most talk of our freedom as the freedom from Law. And as you can well imagine, it tends to go down the path of indulging in just about everything.

Our wonderful freedom to finally live for God is more glorious than any other we could possibly seek to attain!

Thanks for the post!

Dan McGowan said...


Okay - let's see if we can ring a few bells here... saw your post over at Purgatorio... and your comments about Jamie Owens-Collins... and GHS, etc. etc. etc.

Well, I am Dan McGowan - class of 75 GHS... good friend of Glenn Wonacott, Dave Rogers, Jim Haynes and a few others you might recall -- I know your blog readers could probably care less about all of this... but come visit me in all these ways:

via email at:
my blog:

that's good for now...

Dan McGowan