What does the word freedom mean to you? Does freedom come from the ability to do anything, think anything, say anything and worship anything? No it does not! Unlimited choice does not equal freedom. Freedom, I mean true freedom, finds its origin in God. I was blessed with the opportunity to witness true freedom this past weekend. I would like to share this experience with you. Please read more…..
Freedom is found or lost based on the choices we make. True freedom is the power and right to do that which is right and good. Freedom is obtained by choosing to follow the Will of God. Freedom is lost through sin.
It seems that both here in the United States and all around the world people are distorting the meaning of freedom. Freedom has been misconstrued to mean “the ability to do anything I please.” Not only is this not freedom but this perverse thinking leads away from true and lasting freedom. Having free will and having choice does not equate to having freedom. Wrong choices lead us to sin.
Sin is an offense against God. Sin stands against reason and truth. Sin is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor. The wages for sin is death (Rom 6:23), and death is the ultimate loss of freedom. Even some angels sinned. In 2 Peter 2:4 we discover that the angels sinned and in doing so they forfeited their freedom and were permanently cast into the pit of hell.
In December of 2016, I had the opportunity to provide a retreat for the inmates at Benner Prison in Bellefonte, PA. I wrote about this in a 4thDayLetter last year. (Click here to read that letter.) At that time, I was struck by the joy of many of the inmates. This past Friday and Saturday I was blessed with the invitation to go back and put on a second retreat for the men at Benner. This year I was struck by their inner FREEDOM.
Yes, that’s right, strange as it may seem, many of these men, although behind steel bars and razor wire fences, have discovered true and lasting freedom. Making wrong choices caused their incarceration. Now, although incarcerated, they have been set free. What is the source of their freedom? Their freedom comes from a deep and abiding love for Jesus Christ and for one another. I clearly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit while I was among these men.
2 Corinthians 3:17 states: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
John 8:31-32 states: “Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
While it is true that these men have forfeited some of the freedoms of this passing world, they have found everlasting freedom in the Truth of God. In John 14:6 we read: “Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Due to their circumstances these men have ample time to remain in God’s Word. Many of them know the Bible far better than me. The more time they spend in scripture, the more they come to know God. This is what is written in John 1:1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
So what does all of that mean for those of us on the outside of the prison walls? It means that if we want to enjoy real freedom we must make the right choices. According to Galatians 5:1, God does not want us to remain as slaves to sin. It was precisely for our FREEDOM that Jesus came into this world. To remain free we must stand firmly against sin.
In Galatians 5:13-15 Paul tells us that we were “called for freedom.” But he continues and tells us: “But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.
I was once again blessed and deeply moved by these men. Through these men I had the opportunity to encounter Christ. These men gave me a glimpse of real Christian Freedom. I want to share their freedom with each of you. We must heed Paul’s warning in Galatians and we must stop choosing the desires of our fleshly existence. We are spiritual beings as well. We need to choose to spend time in God’s Word. We must choose to follow His commands. We must choose to love God with all of our hearts and we must choose to love and serve each other. It is only by choosing that which is right that we too can experience the Freedom that God has in store for us.
I would be remiss if I did not thank Deacon Jack for his invitation to come to the prison and to thank him and his wife Collette for their gracious hospitality. I also send my thanks to Father John, to Bishop Mark and to all the many volunteers who so generously gave of their time to help with the retreat and to my friend Bob Gray who drove me to and from the retreat 10 hours each way.
- Are you experiencing real, true and lasting freedom in your life?
- Have you been set free or are you captive to some area of this earthly existence?
Father God, thank you for revealing the love of your Son Jesus through these men. Help us all to find freedom by choosing to follow your will and the teachings of Jesus our Lord and Savior, amen.
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SCHEDULE A RETREAT
I would love to come to visit with your parish, church community or other Christian gathering to share more about God’s mercy, forgiveness, love and freedom. Please click here to inquire about a hosting a retreat.