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Guy Mason - September 2012

28 Aug 2012

Freedom

In September 2008, the British press revealed the tragic story of a man who went missing for three years. The article declared that the man had been locked up in an IKEA store because he couldn’t find the exit!

In a follow up interview he said: “At last I’m free from that monstrosity of a building. I only went in for some cushion covers. It was a living nightmare, every time I saw an exit sign I went for it, only to find myself right back where I was 20 minutes earlier. When I asked someone for the exit, they pointed and just said ‘that away’. After a few days I finally gave up and settled down for a new life but it was crap, I wouldn’t mind but all the TVs weren’t real so I couldn’t even watch Big Brother.”

It’s a funny and clearly fabricated account.  That said, we can all relate to his story.  Just as this man longed to be free from the “IKEA prison” so too do we long to be unshackled from the things in our life that inhibit us.  We all have an inbuilt desire to break free.

What is freedom?  A common definition we encounter suggests: “Freedom is the power and right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.”

In other words, freedom is being uninhibited from anyone or anything that might prevent us from living the life we want to live.   Freedom is getting to do what we want, how we want, when we want.  

The great philosopher Jack Sparrow says as much in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean:

“Wherever we want to go, we go. That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and a hull and sails; that’s what a ship needs. Not what a ship is. What the Black Pearl really is, is freedom.”

There’s a lot to love about a freedom defined according to my wants and desire.   I love independence.  But as we discover in our own lives, a self-sufficient, self-defining freedom is actually fraught with difficulties.

Firstly, what if my wants are to the detriment of someone else? It’s been said, “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”. Freedom, defined purely by what one wants, corrupts relationships – whether in the office, the community or the home.

Secondly, what I want is not always what is best for me.  We all have made decisions based on our desires and wants that, in hindsight, we regret. We may have got what we wanted, but we know it was not what we needed.  More often, rather than freeing us, our wants enslave.

Thirdly, a freedom built on my own wants assumes we can know with certainty what our wants truly are.  In my experience, my desires are conflicting.  I want to be fit and healthy.  I also want to eat junk food.  I want to be a man of truth and integrity.  I also want to win and I know that often truth and integrity can stand as a barrier. 

Instead of providing direction, our wants produce confusion.  Add to this, exposure to advertising and opinion-seeking telling us what we want.  The result is a life where we go from one employer to the next, one relationship to the next and one experience to the next in search of that illusive fulfillment.  The further we search, the more bound we feel.

I want to suggest that God’s design and our desire for freedom are not mutually exclusive.  However, God’s definition and culture’s definition are radically different.

Our world says freedom is found in doing what we want to do.  God says freedom is found in doing what we were made to do.

Recently, I did survive a trip to IKEA.  However, I was not so lucky in putting my purchase together. In fact, I spent seven hours on a TV cabinet that in the end was put together back to front.  

Why did I have such difficulty?  The truth is I have a great dislike for manuals, guides and instructions. They insult my independence and manhood! I like to do everything in my own strength.  Yet, I do not know whether the situation or challenge path of self-reliance is a foolish and futile path.  

We are significantly more complex than a bookshelf. The mind, the heart, the soul, the body are beautiful knit together – but together they (we) require a manual.

To be free and find fulfillment and lasting joy, we need to know not just what we want, but how we were made.  You can try and cut corners and do life your own way, but you will fall short.  So where do we go?  

Well in the gospel of John, he records these words from Jesus: Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Jesus is making a bold and audacious claim that he is the guide, the manual and the one who knows what you were made for.  He claims that if we hear His word and abide in his truth, we will be free.  

According to Jesus freedom is not living without a master, it is having the right master.  To find out more about Jesus you can visit one of our Sunday services, attend an “Introducing Jesus Course” or download a free message at cityonahill.com.au   

Guy Mason is the lead pastor of City on a Hill, a church that meets on Sundays at 8.45am, 10.30am (Hoyt’s Melbourne Central) and 6pm (Arrow, 488 Swanston St).  To find out more visit cityonahill.com.au or check out facebook.com/cityonahill.com.au

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