“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).
In today’s world, there are plenty of people who speak of freedom in terms of I, me and my.
I: I’m free to think what I like and do what I like. Nobody can tell me what I’m to think and how I’m to live.
me: I’m free to do what pleases me. You can’t tell me what to do.
my: “I did it my way.”
What are we to say about this way of speaking?
The first thing we need to say about it is this: it’s very different from the way in which the New Testament speaks about freedom.
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”: This is the complete opposite of saying to God, “I can think what I like and do what I like. You can’t tell me what to think and how to live.”
When we set alongside each other these two very different ways of thinking about freedom, it becomes clear that each of us is faced with a choice. We can choose a way of life that is centred upon ourselves, or we can choose to be led by the Spirit of the Lord.
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” – This is a verse from the New Testament. Let’s turn, now, to the Old Testament, and see what it teaches us about freedom.
“I run in the paths of Your commands, for You have set my heart free” (Psalm 119:32). Notice what the Psalmist says here. He says that he runs in the paths of God’s commands because God has set his heart free.
This is so very different from the world’s way of thinking. The world tells us, “I don’t need God. I’m free to do my own thing, free to live my own kind of life, without giving even a passing thought to how God wants me to live.” What kind of freedom is this? It’s freedom to rebel against God. When we are going our own way rather than God’s way, are we living in freedom?
We may answer this question by continuing with the Old Testament a little longer. This time, we go to the book of Exodus. It begins with Israel’s life in Egypt. They were not free. They were slaves. Then, something wonderful happened. The Lord brought them out of the land of slavery. He set them free to live as free men and free women. Once they had been set free by the Lord, they were to commit themselves to living for the Lord. It’s the same for us. The Lord sets us free so that we might live for him.
Let’s return, now, to 2 Corinthians 3:17 – “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” It’s the Spirit of the Lord who sets us free. He doesn’t set us free so that we might do what we like. He sets us free so that we might live a life that’s pleasing to him.
How are we to live this kind of life?
Let’s move on from 2 Corinthians 3:17 to the next verse – 2 Corinthians 3:18. Let’s see what this verse has to say to us about living for the Lord.
We “contemplate the Lord’s glory.” As we contemplate his glory, we are “being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory.” Where does this ever-increasing glory come from? It “comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
We began with the New Testament. We’ve taken a look at the Old Testament. We’ve returned to the New Testament. Now, let’s look a brief look at how two hymns of praise speak about freedom.
“I am trusting Thee, Lord Jesus, trusting only Thee, trusting Thee for full salvation, great and free.”
Here, we’re not singing about our freedom. We’re singing about God’s salvation. It’s full. It’s great. It’s free. When we read this description of God’s salvation, we must ask ourselves the question, “Will we find fulfilment in life when we insist on living our own way rather than God’s way? or Must we open our hearts to something that comes to us from outside of ourselves? Must we open our hearts to God’s salvation – so full, so great, so free? Is this the way in which we will be set free to be all that we were created to be, all that God wants us to be?
As we sing this hymn, “I am trusting Thee, Lord Jesus”, may we be set free from every temptation to trust in our own self-righteousness, set free to praise our Saviour.
“Jesus, keep me near the cross. There, a precious fountain, free to all, a healing stream flows from Calvary’s mountain.”
At the cross, we see how costly it was for Jesus, our Saviour, to lay down his life as a sacrifice for our sins. The sacrifice was costly for Jesus. The salvation is freely given to us.
Does this seem far removed from speaking of freedom in terms of I, me and my? Yes, it does, and yes, it is. These words take us to a place where we learn of true freedom – where it comes from and the effect it has upon us. The freedom that transforms our lives comes to us from Jesus, our Saviour. When Jesus sets us free, we are set free to live the new life in the Spirit.
We do not, always, live the new life in the Spirit, as we should. Why is this? Is it because we don’t stand up for ourselves and say, “Nobody can tell me what I’m to think and how I’m to live”? No. It’s not that at all. It’s because we’re not listening to what God has to say to us. When we’re listening to what he is saying to us, we’ll be much less likely to come across as self-centred people, who are more concerned with getting our own way than with walking in the way of the Lord.
We’ve thought together about two very different ways of thinking and speaking about freedom. Each of us must choose how we will live. It’s my prayer that we will choose to live a Christ-centred life rather than a self-centred life: “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20)