Graduation outfits look so goofy. Who decided that we should wear a shiny bathrobe accessorized with a hat that looks like a pizza box while we receive our diplomas? Regardless of the ridiculous outfit, I wore my swishy robe with pride the day I walked the stage to graduate from college. It felt like a metaphorical metamorphosis. On one side of the stage, I was a college senior living in a crowded dorm. After crossing the stage and turning my tassel, I was a college graduate ready to be independent. My whole future full of possibilities was in front of me. This ceremony didn’t just represent achievement; it represented freedom. I felt like I was becoming a full-fledged adult now. I could live wherever I wanted. I could work any job. And I could spend my money on whatever my heart desired. Shoot, I could buy a whole cake from the grocery store, and no one could stop me.
Then, reality hit me like a heavy-weight boxer. Living in freedom was expensive. Zillow advertised apartments that cost as much as an Apple laptop every single month. Any job that called me back basically paid minimum wage or less. I didn’t know how to pay bills, do my taxes, clean a stove, or fold a fitted sheet. By every definition of the word, I was “free.” Wasn’t I? Nothing was holding me back, but I still felt trapped. Despite this newfound freedom, numerous circumstances held me captive.
We all fight for freedom. We work hard. We run towards our next checkpoint. We dream about getting our license. We count down the days until we move out. Then, we are all faced with a conundrum. Why is the freedom I craved different from the freedom which I encountered?
READ: John 8:31-32
“Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
This short verse gives us the keys to freedom. Jesus doesn’t offer freedom by following some complex plan, fighting a war, or writing up a declaration. Freedom comes from the truth. “Truth” in this section of Scripture directly refers to the source of all truth, Jesus himself. He is saying that knowing Him means knowing freedom. You don’t have to fight for it. You don’t have to hustle for it. You don’t have to deliver a speech on emancipation. You experience freedom when you encounter Jesus.
Jesus put an exclamation mark on this message when He elaborated, “Who the Son sets free, he is free indeed” (John 8:36). Jesus promised permanent liberty. It cannot be snatched away. It cannot be uprooted. When you are free, you are “free indeed.” There is nothing that can force you out of this all-encompassing freedom. However, many of us still live like we’re in captivity. We cannot move forward in freedom because we feel trapped by our past. We don’t feel free because we can’t forgive. We feel the weight of sin and guilt everywhere we go, and it weighs us down. People can easily push back on this passage by saying, “Well, I certainly don’t feel free.”
It’s possible you aren’t experiencing it because you aren’t looking for it in the right places. Most people think of freedom as a life without any restriction with no laws to abide by, no expectations to live up to, and getting to do whatever you want whenever you want. That’s a dangerous definition. Just imagine, even for a moment, if all restrictions were lifted and we lived in a Purge scenario. No restrictions would quickly lead to regret and repercussions.
What would you do if there were no restrictions?
You could eat 120 chicken nuggets in one sitting, but all that sodium may cause your heart to hurt… or even burst.
You could speed as fast as possible down the highway, but you might lose control and find yourself in a fatal flip.
You could punch that mean kid right in the face, but they could turn around and hit you harder.
Living a life with no restrictions would feel like freedom just for a few minutes, but it would quickly spiral into suffering. A purge-like scenario leads to pain. This means that we cannot view liberty as a life without restriction. It must be something more.
READ: 2 Corinthians 3:17
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
You were created for freedom, but you need to learn where to find it. It’s not found in a life without discipline or restraint. Rather, freedom is found in the fullness of God’s presence. Why is that? Because God is the ultimate source of freedom. When you are intimately close with Him, it’s a present reminder of a truth that’s bigger than time itself. The Spirit of God brings freedom from guilt, sin, shame, and even death. That’s real freedom, and you can find it in God’s presence.
Here are four ways to experience freedom by experiencing the presence of God:
Read Scripture out loud. God’s Word is alive and astounding. When we speak God’s word aloud, we encounter the power and presence of God.
Worship without restraint. God moves through the praise of His people. Singing praise shifts your wandering mind into the present moment. God is with us, and worship makes it more clear.
Meditate on God’s message. There are times when we don’t know what to say, so we can just be quiet and deeply think on the powerful promises in Scripture. Just take some time to be still before God while meditating on His Word.
Pray loudly and openly. Scripture says that there is power in the name of Jesus, so pray His name aloud. It made the demons shutter throughout Scripture, and it will do the same for enslaving thoughts and emotions.
Freedom is not the absence of rules; rather, it’s the presence of God. Throughout the Bible, it’s taught “where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17; Rom 8:1-4; Isaiah 61:1). The presence of God can completely change your mindset in an instant. Belting out a worship song, whispering a prayer, or meditating on a message in Scripture can fill you with joy, peace, and contentment— that’s the true nature of freedom.
Freedom is found in the fullness of God’s presence.
TALK IT OUT
Go through these questions with your circle. Be honest. Be open. Talk through the tough stuff.
Q1: What comes to mind when you think of freedom?
Q2: Have you ever been disappointed by something that you expected to give you freedom?
Q3: What is a Biblical way to define freedom based on what you read today?
Q4: Have you ever felt freedom in the presence of God? What makes you feel that way?
Q5: What’s one thing you can do every day this week to begin spending time in God’s presence to experience His freedom?