Absolute freedom is a myth.
We are each slave, a servant to some master, as the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 6:16: “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (New King James Version).
Formerly, we were slaves of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, but now, in Jesus Christ, we have died to sin and been freed so we might become slaves of God (Romans 6:22).
The famous 19th century preacher, Charles Spurgeon, warned that some people may claim a notional freedom in which they claim familiarity with Jesus Christ. But in their lives they serve another master.
What Spurgeon preached to his congregation:
Dear friends, a man may think himself free, and still be a slave.
You know, there are many in this world who dream themselves to be what they are not; and you have a faculty of dreaming in the same manner. Christ must have come to you, and shown you your slavery, and broken your heart on account of it, or else you are not free; and you must have looked to the wounds of Jesus as the only gates of your escape, and have seen in His hands the only power which could snap your fetters or else, though you have professed and re-professed, you are as much slaves of Satan as though you were in the pit itself.
There must be the going up out of Egypt, the leaving the flesh pots and the brick kilns, and advancing through the Red Sea of atonement into the wilderness, and afterwards into the promised rest. Have you passed from death unto life? If not, beware of having a mere notional, professional liberty.
There are many, too, who have the liberty of natural self-righteousness and of the power of the flesh.
They have fanciful, unfounded hopes of heaven. They have never wronged anybody; they have never done any mischief in the world; they are amiable; they are generous to the poor; they are this, they are that, they are the other; therefore, they feel themselves to be free.
They never feel their own inability; they can always pray alike and always sing alike; they have no changes; they are not emptied from vessel to vessel; their confidence never wavers; they believe themselves all right, and abide in their confidence.
They do not stop to examine—their delusion is too strong, and their comfort is much too precious for them to wish to mar it by looking to its foundation—so they go on, on, on—sound asleep till one of these days, falling over the awful precipice of ruin, they will wake up where waking will be too late. We know there are some such; they are in God’s house, but they are not God’s sons.
The day will come when God will ask every member of the Christian Church, and all who profess religion, “Are you children by faith in the promise or not?” And if you are only children according to the flesh, He will send you back again into the wilderness—to eternal ruin you must go unless the Spirit of God has given you the spirit of freedom.
There was a custom, observed among the Greeks and Romans, that when a man died, if he left slaves, they went as a heritage to the elder son, and if the elder son said, “Some of these are my own brethren, though they are slaves, I therefore pronounce them free,” they would be free.
Emancipation was not always allowed in either Greek or Roman states—a man might not always set a slave free without giving a good reason; but it was always held to be a valid reason if the son, coming into a heritage of slaves, chose to set them free. No question was asked, if the son made them free; the law did not step in.
So, dear friends, if the Son shall make us free, we shall be free, indeed. If Jesus Christ, the great Heir according to the promise, the great Mediator, whom God has created Heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds—if He shall say to us, who are as Ishmael, “I make you free,” then are we free, indeed.
And neither law, justice, heaven nor hell can bring any argument against us why we should not be free. But do beware of all imaginary freedoms, and shun them as you would poison. And God give you divine grace to enjoy the glorious liberty of the children of God.
Sermon edited with preface by Zach Parker, news editor at The Ouachita Citizen. The excerpt is from Charles Spurgeon’s sermon, “The great liberator,” delivered April 17, 1864 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.