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"Liberty, Freedom, Victory" (posted July 1, 2007)
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
- Galatians 5:1
I saw a pathetic sight in Scotland. It was a great eagle in a massive cage. The sun shining brilliantly in the heavens seemed to be calling it to rise from the earth and rejoice in its natural element, and the royal bird in response to the call fixed its eye on the sun and spread its mighty wings and stooped for flight, and then, becoming conscious of the iron bars that held it prisoner, it dropped its wings and lowered its head in apparent disappointment and shame.
Had I been an artist and had I wished to paint a picture of defeat, that great bird would have been my model. And yet it had the desire for liberty---that was clear in the flashing eye; and it had the power for liberty---that was clear in the outstretched pinions; it was the cage that held it prisoner in spite of its desire and in spite of the power.
The captive bird became a parable to me. It spoke to me of Christians, and alas! how many such there are who have the desire for the things above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1). They have the power also to rise up in thought and affection to where their true life is, for the Holy Spirit dwells in them; and yet as to the practical enjoyment of these things they know nothing. Some of them did once, perhaps, but not now, for they are held as prisoners to the earth. They are encaged who should be free.
These captive Christians are not happy. They get glimpses of the glory that shines in the face of Jesus, and their hearts are stirred, and they vow that they will be free, but sighs instead of songs break from their sad hearts and they confess to themselves the completeness of their bondage. They sometimes toss upon their beds with regrets and groans and prayers, but they find that their resolutions are unavailing. The snares with which the devil enticed them have become a cage in which he holds them, and they despair of ever feeling the thrill or joy of Christian liberty again.
Yet is there no way of deliverance? and shall the captive never become an overcomer? Yes, there is hope, for the Lord is gracious, and there is a way of deliverance for those who feel their bondage.
There is in the Book of Judges (of the Old Testament Scriptures) the dark background of the failures and defeats of Israel. Solemn warnings indeed are they all to us, for we are in danger of being overcome and enthralled by foes not one whit less real than those that enslaved God's people of old. But this dark background does but throw into bright relief the great victories gained by men whose faith was in God. These victories are illustrative of the way in which we, by the grace of God, may also overcome.
The victories gained by the Judges were not aggressive in their character. Every battle that these leaders in Israel fought was to maintain their national existence and to retain and enjoy that which belonged to them.
We are exhorted to stand fast in the liberty wherewith we have been made free, for the danger of being entangled with some yoke of bondage is ever present. It is when we fail in this, and the heart goes after the things of the world and the flesh (that is, our self-centered desires), that we become enslaved. Then is all service and witness hindered; we become wretched ourselves and useless to others.
But as we stand fast in our God-given liberty, with single eye and undivided heart, we are able to fulfill our high destiny as witnesses for Christ.
The gospel has set us free from the yoke of sin and Satan that we might yield ourselves to God (Romans 6:13). This is the secret of a happy life of Christian liberty, for as we yield our necks to His yoke we shall be free from all others.
John T. Mawson