Moving toward freedom: How to avoid detours

Moving toward freedom is one of the great goals in life, but many singles are on a road that takes them in the opposite direction: slavery.

Looks can be deceiving. If we accept the world's idea of what sets us free, we'll pursue money, and ironically, money can provide certain kinds of freedom, especially from doing unpleasant tasks.

Money is so attractive we rarely think about the problems of the rich, and believe me, they do have problems. They come to put their trust in money, one of the most dangerous mindsets in life. If you think money would solve all your problems, keep that thought the next time a multi-millionaire celebrity goes into rehab or commits suicide.

The path toward true freedom is an unpopular one, not because it's difficult but because it's the opposite of what you're being told 24/7/365.

Philosophers have been seeking this freedom for thousands of years, but only one person has gone beyond speculation to the ultimate truth. He is the only one worth listening to.

Bad behavior is always expensive

None of us is perfect and we never will be. In our quest for perfection — freedom, if you will — we try a lot of different things. Here are some popular moves that don't work, yet people keep doing them:

  • Alcohol, drug, or food abuse
  • Credit card debt
  • Smoking or vaping
  • Promiscuity
  • Excessive gaming
  • Pornography
  • Unnecessary risks
  • Social media approval

Those coping methods don't help in moving toward freedom. Just the opposite; They create slavery you eventually have to deal with, often requiring professional help. They're painful, time-consuming detours.

One way to avoid these traps is to foresee the consequences. Most thrills turn out to be a bad idea. There's an old saying about sin:

Sin takes you farther than you wanted to go, keeps you longer than you wanted to stay, and costs more than you wanted to pay.

An activity or behavior may not seem sinful, but before you do it, ask yourself, "Will this lead me toward freedom or increased slavery?"

Moving toward freedom:
The problem of problems

Watch infomercials on TV and you'll soon be convinced there's a product or plan to solve every problem you have. Some solve problems you didn't even know you had. The secret is most sales pitches are written first to scare you with a problem, real or imaginary, then convince you their product or service is the solution.

The logic is simple: If I can eliminate all my problems, I'll be happy. And spending money is easier than working or being disciplined to solve problems.

But the flaw in that premise is that all problems can be eliminated. They can't.

Trust me. You no sooner get rid of one problem in life than another pops up. That's just the way life is. Theologians blame the ruined, sinful condition of our world. They say it's not perfect and it never can be.

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However, our problems go much deeper than how to make a quick, low-fat dinner. We try to solve our worry by buying insurance, our fear by buying a security system, our anger by meditation, our guilt by sniffing essential oils.

As long as there have been newspapers, magazines, radio, television and the Internet, we've been told we can get rid of low self-esteem by buying a luxury car. Or designer clothes. Or a stunning mansion.

No matter what the problem, we've become convinced we can buy a solution. Solutions = freedom. Freedom = happiness. At least that's the promise.

It's a consumer society. To make the economy go, people have to sell and people have to buy. The lie is that all this buying can help you in moving toward freedom.

Why we still haven't learned

I have to admit, my snowblower does solve the problem of clearing my driveway in the winter. I'm not saying material things are bad or that we should try to do without them. What I am saying is that they do not have the power to solve the most serious problems of life.

In the 21st century, we still have not learned that lesson because we basically mimic what our friends and relatives do. We believe the voice that comes out of that flat screen in the corner of our living room because it's so much easier than turning all the electronics off and reading the Bible.

Who has more influence with young people, the CEO of Apple or Jesus Christ? I think you know the answer to that.

We're listening to voices that have an ulterior motive. They all want something from us, usually money. Just think about the advertisements and commercials you encounter every day. It must be hundreds!

We haven't learned because God doesn't seem real to us. He's not visible. He doesn't speak audibly. Usually when we pray we don't get a clear answer. As creatures of flesh and blood, we're influenced more by what we can perceive with our senses rather than the One who has no ulterior motive, who has our best interests at heart.

Pursuing God — for him and not for what he can give us — is hard. It demands clean motives on our part, and because we're sinners, that's a tough leap to make. But moving toward freedom in his direction can be done.

Moving toward freedom from

There are two sides to freedom. The first is freedom FROM. Over a lifetime, we've become so accustomed to the negative influences in our life we can't believe we can ever be free from their control.

What would it be like to be free from fear? I've know a lot of fear in my life. I was bullied in grade school and high school, sometimes in the workplace. I've survived cancer twice and have been afraid it would come back. I've been afraid of a lot of things.

What about freedom from anger? Many singles are angry and frustrated because they're not married but want to be. The anger turns into bitterness and eats at them. Would would it be like to be free from that?

All of us worry. We'd like to control our life but we can't. Have you ever had a worry-free week? Even a worry-free day? I don't think I have.

Then there's guilt. We agonize over things we've done and those we should have done but didn't. Some churches pour on the guilt as a way to control their members. Freedom from guilt would feel so sweet.

Those are just a few of the things we want freedom from. It seems like asking too much. We're so used to our chains we can never imagine ourselves without them. In a sick way, they become comfortable while at the same time oppressing us.

Moving toward freedom to

That's the negative side, although moving away from bad things is actually a good thing. We all should be moving toward freedom to engage in good things.

When we break free of the hangups that are holding us back, we find the confidence to do those works every Christian should be going after. When we know we are forgiven by God, we are free to forgive others. In fact, we have a duty to do so.

We want to be free to serve others. That doesn't necessarily mean in a churchy kind of way, but simply by being more helpful on our job. It's easy to serve customers or clients, but we are called to serve co-workers as well, even those lower on the corporate ladder than us. We can serve friends and relatives. We can serve our community, and yes, we can serve our local church.

Moving toward freedom means being free to love. We singles can love people other than a spouse. That doesn't mean an ishy-squishy romantic kind of love, but an appreciation of him or her as a person, a kindness they may not get anywhere else.

The ultimate freedom to is the freedom to love and enjoy God. When we jettison the "gimme" prayers, we are free to offer "thank you," "I praise you," and "God, I love you" prayers.

True freedom for singles

In his book The Contemporary Christian: Applying God's Word to Today's World, pastor and theologian John Stott gives this definition of true freedom:

True freedom is freedom to be our true selves, as God made us and meant us to be.

But what is your true self? For singles, I think it's being an authentic person, not a copy of anyone else, not a slave to the world's values. God made you unique. If you ask, he will give you the courage to accept your flaws and the humility to appreciate your gifts.

We can wrestle for freedom, making prodigious efforts to conquer bad habits until, exhausted and depressed, we realize self-effort will never work. Only when we reach that terrible conclusion will we be able to see the right way to true freedom.

Why, it's Jesus Christ! Didn't you suspect this was headed that way? The apostle Peter, a striver if there ever was one, finally wore himself out, then said,

"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7, ESV)

Moving toward freedom means moving closer to Jesus. True, genuine freedom is found nowhere else. Other freedoms are counterfeit. Believe in him, trust him, let him heal your life and draw you to himself. Hold him to his promise:

"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:36, ESV)

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