The Nature of Liberty
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All around the world, Christian people are thinking about our responsibility.

We have been told that we carry the banner of religious liberty that reformers like Luther carried generations ago. It is well for us to understand, of course, what liberty is, and, shall I say, what it isn’t. Let’s meditate a bit on liberty and the nature of liberty.

The psalmist says this:

I will walk at liberty for I seek Thy precepts (Psalm 119:45).

This is echoed in James 2:12. There are those who have the idea that the Old Testament is the testament of the law and the New Testament is the testament of freedom from the law. But James, in one verse, unites for us the concept of liberty and law:

So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty (James 2:12).

There we have it—the law of liberty. Liberty, then, is not freedom without responsibility, not at all. One of our missionaries was telling us that as some of the natives in Africa heard about freedom coming, their idea of freedom was this: that as soon as they got independence, then they could travel on any side of the road they wanted to. Some of them had, shall I say, worse ideas.

Of course, we don’t have any ideas like that, do we? Well, I wonder, friends. I wonder if we have become fully emancipated from primitive or childish ideas of liberty. We are to be judged by the law of liberty.

Naught nobler is than to be free. The stars of heaven are free. Because in amplitude of liberty Their joy is to obey the laws (William Watson).

All through God’s vast universe we see the beautiful results of following the law of liberty. Only in this planet is that idea mixed up, confused. Eventually, all that confusion will be gone, and once again one pulse of harmony and gladness will beat throughout the vast creation.

So, as we think about liberty, let’s remember that there is a law of liberty, and liberty is not freedom without responsibility.

The Definition of Liberty

Liberty is the opportunity to choose.

Nobody can take that choice away from you. Nobody can take away from you that liberty.

“Ah, but,” somebody says, “they might put us in jail.” Yes, they might. They put Peter in jail. They put Paul in jail. But they didn’t take away their liberty.

Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage.

They banished John over to the Isle of Patmos, but they didn’t keep the angels out. They didn’t keep John from receiving the greatest revelations of his life. He had a fellowship with God. We shall need to remember all this as we go into the repetition of the persecutions of the Dark Ages.

When we are bound in chains, confined in dungeons, we shall need to realize that we are still free—free men, free women.

Liberty is the opportunity to choose.

Satan wants the soul to be bound. But God has made the soul free.

They may burn Huss at the stake, but he dies free. They may crucify Peter with his head downward, but he dies free.

You remember one of those Huguenots in southern France during the Dark Ages, confined in a fortress for years? But on the wall of that old room had been written in French, “Resist. Resist.”

And let me tell you: there are not people enough in this world, nor devils in hell, to take away that freedom.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage (Galatians 5:1).

Oh, friends, isn’t it wonderful to be free? It’s wonderful to know that no one can interfere with God’s purpose for your life. That is echoed in other words in Romans 8:28:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.

We love Him, don’t we? So all things are working together for our good. Thank the Lord for the great fact of liberty. Nothing can take it from you, except yourself. Now, you can sell out. You can become a slave by your choice.

There is a report that says millions of people are slaves to tobacco by their own choice. And they fully admit that they would like to get loose, but they can’t.

But we don’t have to sell ourselves into slavery. We do not have to give up to the Enemy. We do not have to obey his dictates. And people cannot force us. The devil would like to, but he can’t. God won’t let him. God could force us, but He won’t.

God invites. He pleads. He urges. He knocks at the door. But the soul is free to choose.

Various artists have painted the image of Jesus knocking at the door. But we are told that one of those paintings, painted many years ago, was viewed on completion by the friends of the artist. And as they stood there looking at it, one of them said, “Haven’t you forgotten some- thing? There is no latch on the door.”

“Oh,” he answered, “That is on the inside.”

God has put it there, my friends.

That is why John the Baptist could stand erect in the presence of earthly monarchs. He was not afraid of King Herod. They put him in a dungeon, but he was still free.

Herod was the slave. Something he wanted to do he couldn’t do. He was held with a slavish infatuation for that woman that did not belong to him. It was John the Baptist who was truly free.

The Responsibilities of Liberty

Now, there is something else about liberty that we ought to stop and think about. Let’s look at the responsibility that goes with liberty.

In Luke 16:2, we hear the words addressed to the steward in Christ’s story:

Give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.

While the fact of liberty is without controversy, let us remember that liberty is not something that belongs to us inherently.

It is a gift from God. God has entrusted each of us with this precious gift. And the greater the liberty that He gives us, the greater is our responsibility and accountability. Therefore, the more certain we become that nobody can take it from us, the more certain we need to be that some day we shall need to answer to God for how we use it.

Do you see that we will not be able to bring any alibi if it wasn’t used rightly? We can- not say then, “O Lord, I know that I didn’t do this or that, but someone made me.”

No, nobody made you do anything.

Some of us would say, “Yes, someone did make me. Look, he was going to whip me if I didn’t do it.”

Or, “He was going to torture me if I didn’t do it.”

Or, “He was going to kill me if I didn’t do it.”

At that time, God would produce fifty million witnesses that we could take the beating and torture and death rather than give up that freedom.

Yes, there is a responsibility that goes with freedom. At judgment day, we will have to give an account of how we lived, according to Ecclesiastes 12:14 and James 2:12:

For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.

We are to be judged by the law of liberty. Our use of liberty will be reviewed to see whether we shall have that liberty throughout eternity. Everyone who loses liberty at judgment day will agree that that is the proper thing to be done with them.

Read that closing chapter of The Great Controversy. Get the picture when all the world, everyone who has ever lived on the earth, will be alive upon it all at once. Adam and Eve will be there, Noah, Abraham and Jacob, David, Elijah and Ahab, Peter and Paul, Caiaphas and Judas.

Upon the canvass of the heavens will be portrayed a living, moving, three-dimensional picture, vast in every way. The screen will be vast. The subject will be vast, everything immense. And there we shall see that rebellion which began in heaven. There we shall see the Creation of this world. There we shall watch the unfolding of the plan of salvation as well as the plans of the Enemy.

Whenever we find lurking in our hearts the spirit to want to make people come around to our terms, even if what we are talking about is right and true, let’s remember that God never borrows the weapons of hell to do the work of heaven.

And every individual will see his own life, vividly and accurately depicted: nothing omitted. When it is done, friends, the wicked with a unanimity that has never been seen before will bow down and confess that there is only one thing to do with them, and that is to put an end to the life that they have so abused.

In other words, God so values the power of choice that He will not take away life without the intelligent consent of the individual to whom He has entrusted it. The whole universe, every intelligence that has ever been, will vote together.

There will be no deadlocked jury. Everyone, even Satan himself, will confess that the sentence is just, that God’s law is perfect, and that only by obedience to that law can life and liberty be enjoyed.

I think that is wonderful, don’t you? I cannot but admire the character of God.

Patience

God has waited for six thousand years, and He has to wait another thousand for all this to come to focus. But some of us have trouble waiting five minutes for somebody to make up his mind on a matter of conscience. Do you know what we do?

We want to give them the answers and make them choose. I am glad God is so patient, aren’t you? And remember this: Whenever we find in our hearts the desire to make people come around to our terms, even if what we are talking about is right and true, let’s remember that God never borrows the weapons of hell to do the work of heaven.

God is waiting patiently, knocking at the door. Let’s wait with Him on the porch.

There is something so beautiful about the divine courtesy waiting on the porch. And you and I, as we deal with individuals, may seek to reflect, to reveal that divine courtesy. But with it let us remind people, and let us remind ourselves, there is coming the judgment day.

Finding Liberty

Now let us turn to John 8 to discover how those fifty million people in the United States that would like to quit smoking could quit; how they could be delivered from the slavery; and how somebody here can be delivered from the slavery of evil temper, or some other sin that chains you.

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed (John 8:31-36).

Here is freedom indeed. How does it come? It comes from the word of liberty.

You remember back in the Old Testament there was a ceremony that typified this deliverance in Christ. A man might be a slave. But there came a time when the year of jubilee arrived. And then the bells rang, the trumpets were blown, and the word of God was, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land and unto all the inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10).

The law of Moses had in its heart this thought of liberty. God showed in many ways that He was trying to make everybody free, get rid of slavery—slavery between people, our slavery to sin, and our slavery to Satan.

Jesus, speaking to these people in Jerusalem, said, “If you listen to what I tell you, if you will accept it, then you will be free. The truth will make you free.”

But some angrily retorted, “We are not slaves. We are Abraham’s seed.”

And, sadly, Jesus looked at those angry faces and said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant, the slave, of sin.”

You are free to be made free. You have the liberty to become free, but not of your own power. We cannot break the chains ourselves.

But Jesus was anointed that He might proclaim liberty to the captives (Luke 4).

And the slaves, even those deepest down in the dungeon, can cry to Christ and find deliverance. That is what happened that Sabbath morning in the synagogue in Capernaum. A man under the dominion of evil spirits wandered in there. He heard Jesus talking, and deep down in his soul there was a desire for freedom. But, the devils that were in possession did not want to let go. And they cried out.

But Jesus looked beneath those words of demons and He saw way down underneath the desire of that soul. Thank God, friends, every soul that cries to Jesus, even if it must be in the secret heart, is heard.

“Call unto me and I will answer thee,” He says, “whoso- ever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered” (Jeremiah 33:3, Joel 2:32).

Read these beautiful comments from The Desire of Ages:

Every soul that refuses to give himself to God is under the control of another power. He is not his own. He may talk of freedom, but he is in the most abject slavery. He is not allowed to see the beauty of truth, for his mind is under the control of Satan. While he flatters himself that he is following the dictates of his own judgment, he obeys the will of the prince of darkness. Christ came to break the shackles of sin-slavery from the soul. ‘If the Son therefore shall make ye free, ye shall be free indeed.’ ‘The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus’ sets us ‘free from the law of sin and death’

...In the work of redemption there is no compulsion. No external force is employed (The Desire of Ages, 466).

This is what some people don’t understand. They are wish- ing that God would take somebody that they are praying for and make them good. Or it may be that they are wishing that God would take their own hearts and make them good. But that isn’t heaven’s way. No external force is employed. Let’s read on:

In the work of redemption there is no compulsion. No external force is employed. Under the influence of the Spirit of God, man is left free to choose whom he will serve. In the change that takes place when the soul surrenders to Christ, there is the highest sense of freedom. The expulsion of sin is the act of the soul itself (The Desire of Ages, 466).

If you ever give up the cigarette, you will have to put it away. If you ever quit that wine cup, you will have to lay it down. And so on with all the long list of sin.

But, you cannot do it without God. That is sure. And God will not do it without you. Without Him we cannot; without us He will not, for it would violate the whole thing we are studying: liberty, freedom.

The expulsion of sin is the act of the soul itself. True, we have no power to free ourselves from Satan’s control; but when we desire to be set free from sin, and in our great need cry out for a power out of and above ourselves, the powers of the soul are imbued with the divine energy of the Holy Spirit, and they obey the dictates of the will in fulfilling the will of God (The Desire of Ages, 466).

Isn’t that wonderful?

If we are free, but use our freedom to let the devil in. He’ll mock us. He’ll tell us what he wants us to do, and we pretty well have to do it.

What can we do about it? There is one thing and only one thing. We can cry to Jesus. He came to preach deliverance to the captives. He came to open the prison. He came to cast out the demons. And we can cry to Him. And what will He do?

Many people have this picture: that the soul just sort of sits there and says, “Lord, I see I can’t do it. I can’t do anything about it. You will have to take over and drive the devil out.” That is not the truth at all. No: “The expulsion of sin is the act of the soul itself” (The Desire of Ages, 466).

What does expulsion mean? Well, in plain English, it to means kick out. Who is going to kick the devil out? You are.

“Oh, but I can’t. I have tried a thousand times.”

Well, this time you are going to do it. What is the difference? Well, you have asked Jesus to come in. You know you can’t do it without Him. You are fully convinced of that. And so you cry to Jesus and He comes.

But when He comes in, do you know what He says? “Do you really want to get rid of that devil?”

“Yes.” “All right. Tell him to go. Kick him out.”

“Oh, but I have done that over and over again.”

“Never mind. This time he is going to do it.”

“Why?”

“Because I am with you.”

And when our will cooperates with the will of God, it becomes powerful. And no devil can stand in the way of omnipotent power.

There is power in Jesus, but we must see how it operates. It operates not apart from us, but in and through our wills.

Are you in slavery? Not to a piece of tobacco, not to a glass of whiskey, but just in slavery to doubt and gloom? I would almost rather be a slave to a cigarette than that. Do you know why? Well, you can throw a cigarette in the fire, but how do you throw away doubt and gloom?

Let me tell you there is only one way in the world to get rid of doubt, and that is to cry to Jesus and let Him in, and let the light of His love banish darkness. But remember, the expulsion of sin is the act of the soul. And gloom and doubt are sin, friends. They may not be as ugly looking as vice and crime, but oh, my, wouldn’t you hate to live eternally in doubt and gloom? That would be eternal torment, wouldn’t it? Thank God we are not going to have that trouble. And it is your privilege to say to that doleful devil in the corner of your mind, “Go.”

He won’t listen to you if you speak of yourself. But if you invoke the name of Jesus, if you say, “In the name of Jesus Christ, be gone. I shall walk at liberty because I have given my heart to God. I have opened the windows of my soul heavenward. I believe the sunshine of love is streaming into my soul. I will be free. I am free. I stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made me free,” you can talk yourself, sing yourself, and live in the light.

Will you do it? Will you take that choice that to God is so valuable that He gave His only Son that you might have the chance to use it, and use it for Him, with Him, in harmony with Him?

Don’t forget that statement:

As the will of man cooperates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent (Reflecting Christ, 298).

Friends, I think that is marvelous, don’t you? So the expulsion of sin is the act of the soul itself.

Thank God for a will that can surrender. But remember, when you surrender, He doesn’t make a slave out of you. You are always free. You can always go back to the devil if you choose. We are not going to, are we?

All to Jesus I surrender
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live;
I surrender all, I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Saviour,
I surrender all.
All to Jesus I surrender,
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now;
I surrender all, I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Saviour,
I surrender all.

To give us this opportunity to be free cost the Son of God His life. It is offered to you, a free gift, but oh, you must take it. You must take it, for “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered” (Joel 2:32).

If you are free, free in Jesus, thank Him for it. If you are not, call on Him for freedom. Ask Him for deliverance.

Remember, if you are seeking Him, there is no question about you finding Him, because He has been seeking you all the while. So He says, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).

He hears you. He accepts you. He gives you His life, His power, and He will help you to be free in Him. Put your will on His side.

This article is adapted from a study given by W. D. Frazee on January 18, 1964.

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