Freedom. Perhaps more than ever, we all want it. But what is it?
Surely freedom is doing whatever we want without restrictions; no barriers or limitations. We tend to think of freedom a little like an astronaut out in space, floating around, with no boundaries.
But is that really freedom? That astronaut can’t run around, or make friends, or even breath. It’s false freedom. They’re actually trapped in a vacuum, an empty void. They’re not free, they’re lost.
It’s tempting to think freedom is a life with no limits on who we are and what we do, with no God, no truth, no right or wrong. But is that freedom? Or is it meaningless emptiness?
The Bible gives a different picture of freedom. Freedom is found in the deep joy of being loved and loving in return, and not being loved but just anyone (as wonderful as that can be) but being loved by God himself.
How can loving God and being loved by him bring freedom? Especially when it can feel like loving God and my freedom are at war with each other…
In psalm 103 we see the answer.
This song was written by the Israelite king David. It opens with him declaring his deep devotion to the Lord, ‘Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name’ (vs 1). Far from limiting, David finds it incredibly liberating to live to please God. David’s relationship with God is something that brings him pleasure, delight, satisfaction and contentment, down to the depths of his soul. That’s the feeling of freedom isn’t it?
Some joys are powerful and yet only touch the surface of who we are. Watching a really good movie, eating a fantastically delicious dessert, buying Ikea pot plants. They’re enjoyable and yet they don’t touch our inner being. They don’t provide lasting satisfaction and joy.
But David says, my very soul, my inmost being, finds joy in God and so desires to bring God joy.
The joy of knowing God’s faithful love
So how does David find such deep soul-satisfying enjoyment in God? How do we find the true freedom we’re chasing?
The answer is: God’s faithful love. That’s what this Psalm is all about, God’s faithful love for his people. It’s all the way through (see verses 4, 8, 11& 17). David sings of six ways God shows his people his faithful love and the freedom and joy that brings.
- God ‘forgives all your iniquity’ (vs 3).
God shows his love by forgiving his people. What’s more, God’s forgiveness is continual and comprehensive. I have been forgiven and I will be forgiven.
Our guilt and shame enslave us – they make us lie and hide who we are inside, we lash out at others and run away from God. But God’s forgiveness sets us free. As far as the east is from the west so far has he removed our transgressions from us (vs 12). This is why Jesus came – to forgive us. That’s where true freedom begins.
2. God ‘heals all your diseases’ (vs 3)
The bible says sickness only came into the world when humanity rejected God. We all feel its effects in different ways. But God promises a life where there will be no more pain, grief, tears or mourning because death itself will have passed away. Jesus proved this in his ministry: the sick were made well, the blind saw, the deaf heard, the lame walked, the dead were raised! And just as Christians are forgiven, but keep struggling with sin until Christ returns, so Christians have healing, but we will keep struggling with sickness until Jesus comes back when our healing will be completed.
3. God ‘redeems your life from the pit’ (vs 4)
Thirdly, God loves his people by redeeming them from the lowest of places, the pit, the grave. When we wee heading for the grave, God bought us back. In his faithful love, he paid the price himself for our rebellion and wrongdoing through Jesus’ death on the cross. We did the wrong thing but he paid the price. Jesus gave his life for ours. But it doesn’t stop there.
4. God ‘crowns you with faithful love and compassion’ (vs 4)
Your life was in the pits. God redeems you. And then he crowns you and makes you royalty. God treats you not as you deserve to be treated, like a rebel. Instead he treats us as kings and we’re crowned, not with our own glory, but with his faithful love and with his compassion. So that now we serve him, and indeed reign with him, in a kingdom marked by compassion and love.
5. God ‘satisfies you with good things’ (vs 5)
God shows his love by satisfying us in a way nothing else can. Our world is filled with things that satiate different hungers. Food and drink, fun and pleasure, possessions and experiences, success and achievements. They feel good for a moment, but it doesn’t last. They may satisfy our bodies, but you are more than a body. You have a soul, a spirit. Only God satisfies our deepest soul, not just the cravings that come and go. He satisfies us with things that are good and glorious and eternal. It’s almost as if David is saying ‘I will cease glorifying and praising God the day he ceases blessing and loving and satisfying me’, which means never.
6. ‘Your youth is renewed like the eagle’s’ (vs 5)
Finally, God shows his faithful love by renewing us. You know that sense you have when you’re young that your whole life is ahead of you, your days are filled with potential and possibility and the joy of finding out what’s coming? But then as you get older that feeling fades and it starts to feel as if your life is actually behind you. Well verse 17 says, ‘the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him’. The one who was whose life was in the pit… is renewed so they soar like eagles, flying on high with powerful wings. That’s freedom! Their youth is renewed with vigour and strength and energy and brightness…because of God’s faithful, eternal love.
How to be truly free? Be truly loved by God and love him in return
In the end, who are you? You are loved by God. Who cares if you’re tall or short, old or young, popular or… more of an acquired taste. God’s love for us is not based on our performance, or our appearance, or our impressiveness. It’s based on his faithfulness, his commitment, his determination to love you and keep loving you, no matter what.
Real freedom can only be found in enjoying the faithful love of God and living for his glory. This freedom can only be ours when we are forgiven for all the times we lived not for God but for ourselves.
But here’s the good news, real freedom is free. It’s a gift. Forgiveness is free. God’s love is free. Satisfaction and joy and identity and purpose, real everlasting life are a free gift in Jesus. Our ultimate purpose in life is not to be free. But we will be free when we live out our purpose – loving God and being loved by him. That is a freedom we can have no matter what physical distancing restrictions and requirements we need to follow. Like Astronauts returning to earth, living for God takes adjustment especially the longer you’ve been in space. We’ll feel the weight pressing down as we confront reality – but then comes the safety and freedom that only comes from being held by God – forgiven by him, loved by him and living for him.