Bible Lesson 1A: Our Struggle for True Freedom

TODAY, there is much talk about equality, liberty, and freedom. Everyone wants a degree of self-determination. Naturally everyone wants to be free from oppression, discrimination, and poverty. Others demand to have freedom of speech, of religion, of politics and of career decisions.
How to satisfy those desires, however, is quite another matter. On the social or political level, many resort to protests, demonstrations, revolts, even revolutions. But do such confrontations achieve the desired results? On the contrary, they often lead to tragedies and loss of life. All of this once again testifies to the truthfulness of King Solomon’s inspired observation: “Man has dominated man to his harm.”​—Eccl. 8:9.
The Christian disciple James pointed out the key to  finding true happiness and satisfaction. He wrote: “The one who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and continues in it . . . will be happy in what he does.” (Jas. 1:25) God, who gave that perfect law, knows best the things humans need in order to be completely happy and satisfied. He gave the first human couple everything that they needed to be happy​—including true freedom.
When reading the first two chapters of Genesis, we can easily see that Adam and Eve enjoyed the kind of freedom that people today can only hope for​—freedom from want, from fear, and from oppression. The first couple’s life was completely free from worries about food, work, sickness, and death. (Gen. 1:27-29; 2:8, 9, 15) Does this mean that the freedom that Adam and Eve enjoyed was absolute?
Liberty can be described as a right to do whatever pleases. Freedom is often described in context to any type of constraints; it means not constrained by any external obligation or pressure. Liberty deals with the state of being free to do something, whereas freedom is the state of being free from something. 
Admittedly the differences between these two concepts can keep the mind busy for a long time and there have been several essays written on the subject particularly at the founding of the United States in the 1770’s.
Nowadays, the Satanists will say, “Do whatever you want!” and that course leads to eliminating someone else’s freedoms. May I give an example? In some countries there are no zoning laws. I might build a beautiful home with manicured landscaping all around it and enjoy the peace there for a year. One day someone else claims the liberty to open a car junk yard next door, and burn rubber, plastic and fuel there day and night. I have poured a fortune into building and now the value of my property to a potential buyer is nearly nothing because plumes of black smoke waft over the place choking us constantly. Clearly total freedom without constraints will be abused.
What do we need to enjoy freedom?
Many today think that to be truly free, they must be able to do anything and everything they want to do, regardless of the consequences. The World Book Encyclopedia defines freedom as “the ability to make choices and to carry them out.” However, it adds: “From a legal point of view, people are free if society imposes no unjust, unnecessary, or unreasonable limits on them.” This implies that, in practice, certain limits are necessary so that everyone in that society can benefit from the freedom granted. The question, then, is: Who has the right to determine what limits are just, necessary, and reasonable?
When it comes to freedom, a key point for us to bear in mind is that God alone has what can be called absolute and unlimited freedom.
He is the sovereign Creator of all things. (1 Tim. 1:17;Rev. 4:11) Recall the beautiful words of King David in describing the unique and lofty position that God alone occupies. (Read 1 Chronicles 29:11, 12.) Accordingly, all creatures in heaven and on earth have freedom in only a relative sense. They must recognize that God has the ultimate authority to impose what he determines to be just, necessary, and reasonable limits. That, in fact, was what God did with his human creation right from the beginning.
Given time and further raising by God, people can become like Him with a truly righteous thinking and then limits can be expanded, all under the kingship of God.
What specific command did God give our first human parents, and for what purpose?
God specifically commanded Adam and Eve to populate the earth and to take care of it. (Gen. 1:28) Did this command in some way deprive them of their freedom? Of course not! It was given to enable humans to participate in their Creator’s purpose​—to make the earth into a global paradise home for a race of perfect humans forever. (Isa. 45:18) Today, it is not against God’s will for people to choose to be single or to be married but remain childless. Still, by and large, people marry and raise children in spite of the challenges such choices bring. (1 Cor. 7:36-38) Under normal circumstances, people find happiness and satisfaction in doing so. (Ps. 127:3) Enjoying their marriage and family for all eternity should have been Adam and Eve’s satisfaction too.
God gave Adam and Eve another command, which included a clear statement of the penalty if violated: “As for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Gen. 2:17)
Was this command in any way unjust, unnecessary, or unreasonable? Did it rob Adam and Eve of their freedom? Certainly not. In fact, a number of Bible scholars comment on the logic and good sense of the command. For example, one scholar observes: “The inference of God’s commands in [Genesis 2:16, 17] is that only God knows what is good . . . for humanity and only God knows what is not good . . . for them. To enjoy the ‘good,’ humankind must trust God and obey him. If they disobey, they will be left to decide for themselves what is good . . . and what is not good.” That is a burden that humans could not carry successfully on their own.
Adam and Eve’s choice proved disastrous!
Upon reading God’s command to Adam, many today would say that Adam was denied the freedom to do what he wanted. In saying so, they are confusing the exercise of one’s free will with the right to decide what is good and what is bad. Adam and Eve did have the freedom to choose whether they would obey God or not. However, only God has the right to decide in the absolute sense what is good and what is bad, as symbolized by “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” in the Garden of Eden. (Gen. 2:9)
We do not always know what the outcome of our choices will be; nor do we know whether they will turn out for our good every time. That is why we so often see people make choices or decisions with all good intentions​—only to have them result in suffering, disaster, or tragedy. (Prov. 14:12) Human limitations play a large role. By means of his command, God lovingly taught Adam and Eve the way to exercise true freedom.
As it turned out, our first parents chose to disobey. Satan’s tempting promise​—“your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good from evil”—​proved to be irresistible for Eve. (Gen. 3:5) Did Adam and Eve’s choice eventually enhance their freedom in any way?
Their choice did not bring them what Satan said it would. In fact, they soon learned that rejecting God’s direction and going their own way resulted in disaster. (Gen. 3:16-19) They could not see and did not know what is good and what is bad, and they fell into Satan’s trap.—Read Proverbs 20:24 and footnote; Jeremiah 10:23.
They rejected the guidance God had provided. Their ending was death for themselves and for their future offspring. (Rom. 5:12) In striving for self-determination, they lost the true freedom they had been given.
People may think that the more freedom they have, the better off they will be, but the reality is that having unbounded freedom is a two-edged sword. True freedom does bring many benefits; yet, who and what law can protect you if everyone is unrestrained?
For this reason, The World Book Encyclopedia states: “The laws of every organized society form a complicated pattern of balanced freedoms and restrictions.” “Complicated” is surely the right word. Just consider the many volumes of laws written by man, let alone the armies of lawyers and judges needed to interpret and administer them.
Interestingly, The Adam and Eve allegory tells us God had just ONE law, just ONE restriction, “Don’t touch that tree.” Now we have hundreds of laws about nearly everything, but each law brings another legal restriction. We’re no better off with all those laws.
In contrast, Jesus the Christ pointed out a simple way to enjoy true freedom. He said: “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31, 32)
Jesus’ direction for gaining true freedom involves two requirements: First, accept the truth that he taught, and second, become his disciple. Doing so will lead to true freedom. But freedom from what? Jesus went on to explain: “Every doer of sin is a slave of sin. . . . If the Son sets you free, you will be truly free.”​—John 8:34, 36.
Clearly, the freedom that Jesus promised his disciples is far superior to the social or political freedom that most people yearn for today. When Jesus said: “If the Son sets you free, you will be truly free,” he was talking about liberation from the greatest bondage and oppression that humankind has ever experienced​—being “a slave of sin.” Not only can sin lead us to doing what is bad but it can also prevent us from doing what we know is right or from living up to our highest and most spiritually uplifted potential.
In that sense we are slaves of sin, and the outcome is frustration, pain, sickness, poverty, war, suffering, and death. (Rom. 6:23) The apostle Paul felt this pain and agony deeply. (Read Romans 7:21-25.) It is only when the shackles of sin are thrown off that we can hope to have the true freedom that our first human parents once enjoyed.
How to become truly free:
 Jesus’ statement “if you remain in my word” implies that there are certain requirements or boundaries for being set free by him. Dedicated Christians disown themselves and chose to live within the bounds of Christ’s teachings as his disciples. (Matt. 16:24) Just as Jesus promised, we will be truly free when the benefits of his ransom sacrifice are fully applied to us.
Some of us must live most of a lifetime to reach the conclusion, “I must give my life’s direction to God.” Some will, some fear doing so. But I can assure you from experience, IF you will completely give yourself to God and let go of the attempt to control everything, you’ll have the freedom to work and love and live a wonderful life, and the restrictions that will keep you going in the right direction toward your success.
Submitting to Jesus’ teachings as his disciples will give our life real meaning and satisfaction. This, in turn, opens up the prospect of being completely liberated from enslavement to sin and death. (Read Romans 8:1, 2, 20, 21.)
In my next Bible Lesson I will consider how we can wisely use the freedom we now have, so that we can honor God, the God of true freedom, forever.
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