Jesus once helped a woman who had been held captive 12 years by a health problem that had made her ritually unclean. How important was this problem to her? She had spent all her money seeking a cure (Mark 5:25-29). It was worth everything she had. Women didn’t ordinarily touch rabbis, but she reached out and touched Jesus — and Jesus gave her freedom. It cost her nothing, but it was worth everything!
Contrast that for a moment with the ancient Israelites, who were in slavery in Egypt. They wanted freedom, and they could not buy their way out. They suffered and groaned, and God heard their cry. He delivered them with amazing miracles. It cost them nothing, but how much was it worth to them? Not much, it seems. Although God set them free, they preferred a golden calf. They preferred the unholy fire, murmuring and self-centeredness. They grumbled about the person God was using to lead them. They grumbled about God, their food, and life itself.
Let’s go back to the New Testament, where Christ again sets people free — free from spiritual bondage of sin and death (Hebrews 2:14-15). How much did it cost? It was incredibly expensive. It cost Jesus his life, and all of the suffering he endured that we might have eternal life.
The benefits of his sacrifice are given to us. Freedom is given to us without charge, because we are unable to pay. How much is it worth to us? Our entire lives. “He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him” (2 Corinthians 5:15). We are to give our entire lives to him in service, as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).
In the church of God, people are being set free! Free from the fear of “not making it” into the kingdom of God. Free from rules that God does not require us to keep. Free from rules that tempt us to condemn other Christians. Each of us may examine our own hearts to see how much we value this freedom.
It is thrilling to see that many have responded with enthusiastic worship and support. But it is sad when it seems that some people are afraid of the wilderness and look for the comforts of Egypt. It is just as sad when some try to enter the promised land on their own, or sit in the desert by themselves.
Christ has given us freedom, and he used humans to bring that about, and people respond to that in different ways. Some rejoice, and some do not. I suppose that there will always be reasons to complain about the imperfections of leaders, the food or the music. But some are quietly working to build the kingdom of God.
The old covenant had many obligations. It specified a certain amount of time, a certain amount of money, numerous rules about behavior, and many sacrifices for worship. Those requirements teach us something about God and the relationship we have with him.
God no longer requires animal sacrifices — but that does not mean that he no longer requires us to make any sacrifices. The demands are now more profound than ever. God no longer requires all the same rules of behavior — but he still gives many commands regarding our behavior, and more importantly, about our hearts.
God no longer has the same rules about money — now, his exhortations are more profound. Do we resent God’s claim on “our” money? Some do. Some say that no one is good enough to be given God’s money. In a way, that is true, but then that would mean that no one is good enough to keep God’s money, either. If we as Christians keep all our money, we are not responding to freedom the way the New Testament describes we should.
God brought the Israelites out of Egypt so that they could serve him. Jesus gives us freedom so that we can serve him. The freedom comes with responsibility.
How much is freedom worth to us?
Thousands of people are rejoicing in the freedom Jesus is bringing to people through the gospel message. You probably know many of them, and you probably know a few people who have not accepted that freedom. Please do not abandon them in their time of need. Help us continue to reach out, despite our imperfections, with the message of freedom in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
You may have seen people profoundly transformed by God’s grace. Perhaps you have been there when people begin to grasp the depth and width and height of God’s love for them. This experience is one of our greatest joys.
If you cannot see the joy of burdens being lifted, if you cannot see the peace of anxieties released, be assured that freedom is indeed ringing around the world. Ask God to help you see it. Ask him to bless the results of your work and ours. Pray for us so that our priorities might be drawn yet closer to the heart of God. Pray for your brothers and sisters who need to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.