But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Cor 3:16-17
On July 4, we who are in the United States celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It's a declaration of freedom, of a sort. Freedom is highly prized in the world today—not only in the United States but everywhere. We sometimes think of freedom in connection with independence—i.e., freedom from the control of another. Sometimes we think of freedom as having choices. Othertimes it means the ability to do whatever we want. However we characterize it, we rarely think of freedom in the way the Bible speaks of it. Freedom, in the biblical sense, is found in dependence, not independence.
Being a dependent is not usually a goal we strive after, in our culture. We push our children toward cultural definitions of success, which glorify the ability to cover ourselves without the need to rely on someone else. We equate independence with strength and control. Not surprisingly, our families are weaker than they've ever been. Marriages are failing at record rates. Relationships are managed by—and sometimes entirely based on—texting and social media. We're more independent and less reliant on one another than ever before, and it's not good for us. We're not free to pursue true love; we're slaves to our careers and the preoccupations of consumer culture.
Freedom, in the biblical sense, means the ability to do what's best for us. It means freedom from things that rob us of life. Influences that lead us to the life we are meant to have are positive. They control us, but in a way that gives us the life we're in search of. If we are dependent on the Spirit of God, we find the freedom to receive the abundant life Jesus talked about.
When Paul writes these words in 2 Corinthians 3, he is talking about two kinds of freedom we receive when we turn to the Lord. The first is freedom from rules and regulations. The law of Moses was created to lead the people of Israel to holiness, but it didn't provide a solution to sin, only a way to manage its effects. People were still separated from God and blocked from his presence. In Christ, we are washed clean, once and for all. We have the freedom to draw close to God. We can stand directly before him, without the need for a veil to shield our gaze from his glory or hide its departure from our faces. As his children, we experience the power and presence of the Spirit as a daily part of the Christian life, if we turn to him.
The second kind is freedom from sin. Sin isn't just a rule that we break; it's the thing that keeps us from the true life that Jesus offers us. Sin is bondage. Anyone who has struggled with addiction knows what I mean. But the world's path to fulfillment nearly always includes some allowance for addiction. Our culture has the power to control us, to burden us with stress and anxiety, then provide toxic remedies to help us feel better. Our workload increasingly demands happy hour. We're taught to shop and give in to our impulses. We reach for solutions that rob us of the true freedom that comes from submitting to the Spirit of God.
The goal of the Christian life is not independence. It's dependence on the power and presence of God in our lives. His Spirit dwells inside us to give us true freedom. We're not bound by rules and regulations, but rather empowered to become the men and women he desires us to be. We are dependent on his guidance to reach the goal that lies ahead. We find our way to holiness not by a moral law but because we are transformed on the inside. As we share his heart, we become more like him. And along that path, we become who we are meant to be, too. Our sin doesn't define us, nor should it control us. By turning to the Lord, as Paul says, we find ourselves in the presence of the one who offers us everything we truly need.
Whatever is controlling you, the Spirit of God offers you freedom from it. Celebrate a day of dependence today, from sin to the transforming presence of God in your life.