As an American, when I first think of freedom, my mind fills with images of things like flags, fireworks, and stars. I think of the events that lead up to the Declaration of Independence, and our national anthem starts playing in my head. This is the time of year when I’m reminded of just how much was sacrificed for our freedom, and I’m more grateful than ever.
Here in the United States, all too often I forget how blessed I am to have my freedoms. Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to my beliefs and values and decisions… it’s far more than countless other countries can claim.
I’ve never been persecuted. I’ve never been oppressed. I’ve never needed to flee. Not that it can’t ever happen in America, but for most people, it’s not a daily reality. I live in a country of incredible freedom. And I have opportunities many others can only dream of.
As a Christian, my freedom extends even farther.
Just like much was sacrificed to gain our country’s freedom, Jesus sacrificed the unthinkable for us. To offer us His freedom. Freedom from not only the weighty matters of this world, but from the bondage of spiritual forces as well.
Ever since the sins of Adam and Eve, we’ve been in bondage. Held in chains by our earthly desires and our sinful natures. Captured by evil thoughts and rendered incapable of turning from them . . . from the destructive activities, habits, and mindsets that tear us apart.
That’s just where the Enemy wants us. He’s never happier than when he’s at the other end of our chains, holding us back from everything God longs to give. When we feel defeated, trapped, helpless, lost – that’s when Satan celebrates.
Once, he sought to destroy Christ and our path to freedom with Him. Now, having been overcome by our God, he knows he’s lost. He knows what awaits him for eternity. And with no ability to change it, he’s going down kicking and screaming – seeking to drag as many of us down with him as he can.
One of his favorite methods for this? Lies. Especially regarding our freedom.
That temptation or sin you’re struggling with? According to him, you might as well give up because you’ll never overcome it. And besides, by trying to resist, you’re only keeping yourself from its pleasure. Forget the warnings you hear. Just give in.
Those criticisms, cruel comments, and insults? They’re all true, he says. Anyone that ever speaks kindness is avoiding the truth. The truth that you’re worthless. Ugly. Without hope and without love. He’ll tell you that you’re a burden, and that nothing can ever change.
The grudges you’re holding? Good, he’ll tell you. Hold tight and never let go. And if the offender ever seeks forgiveness or tries to apologize, refuse. Throw their every mistake back at them with as much bitterness as you can find. After all, they hurt you. They deserve it.
Satan is a deceiver. A master of lies. A crafty serpent set on twisting the truth and burying it deep in our hearts and minds. In our own power, we can never escape him or his lies.
And that’s where Jesus steps in.
Sometimes I wonder what Satan thinks when he’s reminded of the cross. Does he notice when Christians wear the symbol as necklaces or on their shirts? Does what he once thought was a symbol of his triumph now disgust him? Does it bring chills to his spine?
Because that cross isn’t a symbol of Satan’s triumph, but of God’s. When Jesus gave up His life for us, Satan thought he’d finally won. Three days later, his eternal defeat was sealed – and his grip on our chains was loosened. Where once his grip was unyielding, where once we couldn’t do anything about our bondage, now we can break free.
True freedom is found when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Satan can never hold us permanently captive again.
That temptation and/or struggle with sin? With Jesus’ help, you can overcome it. No, it won’t be easy, and you won’t be perfect. But the next time you’re struggling, turn to Jesus, and refuse to give in. Remember that in Jesus’ power, you can order Satan to back off!
Those harsh and devastating words from others? They’re still going to hurt, but you don’t have to – and shouldn’t! – accept them as truth. Your worth, your identity, don’t come from what others think and say. You’re valuable because you’re a child of God. You are loved!
The grudge you’re holding tight to? You don’t have to keep it. You can never forgive someone for more than Jesus forgave you, so let His example and His strength fuel you – and let go. The one you’re harming most by refusing is yourself. Set your heart free. Forgive.
Satan is a deceiver, but Jesus is Truth. In our weakness, in our struggles, in our battles with knowing who we really are and what really matters . . . He’s here. He loves us, He died for us, and He’s ready to help us overcome. He’s waiting to set us free from what traps us.
And I’ve seen Him do it. Over and over again, I’ve wrestled and fought and agonized with a struggle that I thought I could and should handle myself. And over and over again, as I realized that I couldn’t overcome it on my own and asked Jesus to help me, He did.
He still does. He still will. With Jesus at our side, there’s no prison Satan can keep us in. There’s no chain he can keep us tangled with. And he has no lies that can triumph over Jesus’ truth. He’ll continue to put up a violent fight – but ultimately, he’ll lose.
That’s true freedom to me – knowing that no matter what happens in this life, we don’t have to remain chained by the depression, the anxiety, the temptations, the addictions . . . anything Satan comes at us with. Jesus has given us another path. He’s the Way – to peace, joy, love, forgiveness . . . everything we long for but can’t find on our own.
And even though the sorrows and pain of this world are real, even though we’ll struggle with the temptations of the flesh . . . knowing that it’s not a lost cause brings me hope. I always have somewhere – Someone – to turn to in the midst of it. And some day, I’m going to be more free than I can possibly imagine.
Free from sin. Free from sorrow. Free from Satan.
Free to spend every moment for the rest of eternity in the presence of my Savior, worshipping him and conversing with Him face to face.
That day’s coming soon. And as I’m looking forward to it, I’m going to continue to remind myself that I’m not a prisoner of the world. I’m not a helpless captive of the Enemy.
I’m rescued . . . released . . . saved.
And I’m free.
I pray you are too.
Live as people who are free,
not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil,
but living as servants of God.
(1 Peter 2:16 ESV)