This year, my family missed out on watching fireworks for the Fourth of July. It’s been so hot and dry in our area that the city completely banned them due to fire risk. We were totally bummed out – especially since it also happens to be my son’s birthday and he loves them! But at the end of the day it was all ok because we still found other meaningful ways to celebrate.
It reminded me that the way we celebrate isn’t really what matters most – it’s what (and whom in our case) we’re celebrating that matters. Fireworks or not, we found ourselves incredibly grateful to be alive and free and together. And that was enough.
Since the beginning of time, people have yearned for freedom; sometimes to the point of spending their entire lives trying to gain it or protect it. We honor those heroes and their sacrifice because freedom is worth fighting for.
But as we sit with this, we need to remember that not all freedom looks the same. We tend to think first of the physical freedoms of a country – its laws, economy, and practices. But the internal freedom of our hearts was fought for too – bought with the life and death of Jesus, offered to us freely by God, and experienced through His Spirit. (Gal. 3:14; Col. 1:13-14; I Tim. 2:5-6). That’s the best news we’ll ever hear!
So what exactly does our God-given freedom look like?
There’s a moment I love in Luke chapter 4 where we find Jesus returning to His hometown Nazareth after 40 days of testing and temptation in the wilderness. He goes to the synagogue and stands up to read scripture. As they hand him the scroll of Isaiah, He searches until finding this passage:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18-19)
Then He dramatically rolls up the scroll and sits down, saying to the speechless crowd, “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” (Luke 4:21)
This story gives me goosebumps. I can just imagine the shocked, maybe doubtful looks on everyone’s faces as they look at this familiar yet unrecognizable man – the one they watched grow up from a boy – filled with the Holy Spirit and fulfilling prophecies. Jesus the Christ was boldly proclaiming His identity! He was filled with God’s Spirit, and He knew exactly who He was and what He’d been sent to do – to bring freedom. This was God’s plan all along – for all people to have access to His kingdom, healed and free through the power of His Spirit.
All throughout the Bible when the Spirit of God is present, incredible and miraculous things happen. People who were bound up with disease and illness are healed, demons are cast out, the last become first, the “unlovable” are loved, and we are all set free from the grip of sin and death itself through Jesus.
It’s all too easy to find ourselves looking at the world around us for the keys to our freedom – things like having a picture perfect life, or climbing the ladder of success, or believing that electing the “right” politicians will magically solve all the world’s problems. But none of these things will fill us up or save us from despair. John 8:36 tells us that “who the son sets free is free indeed.” Nothing and no one on this earth can bring us true freedom except God through His Spirit. As our creator and savior, He is the first and best advocate for our freedom that has ever been or will ever be.
His Spirit at work in us leads to freedom from comparison and striving for others’ approval, so that we are no longer held captive by the world’s definition of perfection, beauty or success. We can live freely in our identity as beloved daughters of the King! Friends, let’s take our eyes off all the constant distractions of life, rally around each other in support, and draw closer and closer to God, the source of our ultimate freedom.