- May 20, 2018
- Jared Odenbeck
“If you have to run away from something that used to be an idol, you’re actually still enslaved to it. You shouldn’t just be emancipated, you have to be emancipated from your emancipation. You have to say Jesus Christ is my love, glory, beauty, goodness, righteousness – my meaning.” Tim Keller
How do we run away from an idol? If we realize that we worship our career, we may change jobs in hopes that a new direction will perform our much-needed heart surgery. This new career will easily replace the former idol with equal, if not greater, intensity. If we discover the horror of the severity of our own selfishness, we may serve others. Yet, our service to others easily becomes a new god. We derive our contentment and our self-image and identity from our performances, whether good, bad, or satisfactory. All of this is nothing but slavery and feeble attempts at self-emancipation. They do not go nearly far enough. They fail to rip the sin out at the root. That is what we need. That is why we “have to be emancipated from [our] emancipation.”
Emancipation from emancipation means that we must be freed from our desire of being free. We idolize freedom, which prompts us to run from difficulty in order to gain “freedom.” This comes at the cost of gaining true freedom, which is found in immersing ourselves in deep waters with the Lord (Isaiah 43:2). We believe that we successfully averted the danger of swelling and sailed ourselves out of a storm into calmer waters, but this so-called “freedom” only steers us away from that which masters and confronts us at our core. We run, rather than stay, to a seemingly better and more convenient circumstance which suits our preferences and fancies, because ultimately we desire to please ourselves more than we desire to be in hard places for and with him. We desire this so-called “freedom,” because the worldly eye cannot perceive it, for it clothes itself as a noble, modern, and heroic pursuit. “Freedom” longs to flee and craves escape when the walls close in.
Truly, we find out who we are when we stare danger, trouble, and difficulty in the eyes. Our reactions speak loudest. We love to talk. But talk is easy. Character rises from the ash-laden pit as the fire burns fiercely and unrelenting. For those of us in Christ, we know that the blaze will relent and that these things will pass like the transient shadows of afternoon-sun-blocking clouds. True freedom knows at the core of its being that it already received everything in Jesus Christ. So, true freedom welcomes danger, calamity, and hardships, for true freedom needs nothing. True freedom says, “come what may, I will obey, I find my joy in what you say” (Lindy Conant). Freedom is knowing that nothing can or will master you.
If nothing can master you, there is no need to run. Unlike Jonah, who fled the LORD to serve himself, and the Israelites, who fled the LORD to put their trust in the strength of Pharaoh and Egypt, we must take hold of him and not let go. Where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17). And we “will not be dominated by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). And “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). We will see his glory in the shadows of the darkness of difficulty, and it will transform us into the image of the Son.