Sunday, November 8, 2015

Freedom and Agency

"Do what is right; let the consequence follow.
Battle for freedom in spirit and might;
And with stout hearts look ye forth till tomorrow.
God will protect you; then do what is right!"
"Do What is Right," LDS Hymnbook

I've been thinking a lot lately about the concept of freedom, and specifically freedom in Christ. What does this mean?

It's important to understand what Christ brings freedom from. It's sin. Sin is what chains us down and makes us slaves. Satan "is seeking to hurl away [our] souls down to everlasting misery and endless wo" (Helaman 7:16). As one speaker said in our sacrament meeting, "Satan is not your friend."

When we sin, we let the devil into our hearts. And when we sin again, we let him stay, have a drink, put his feet up, and eventually make residence - "he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance. Yea, they are grasped with death, and hell" (2 Nephi 28:22). And, he is sticky. He doesn't like to leave. If we let him into our hearts, he won't leave. We can't kick him out. We don't have that power. Then, we have his evil, lying, deceptive voice in our heart, tempting us to do evil constantly.

When Christ performed the atonement, He broke those bands. He released us from the shackles from the devil.

When we accept Christ as Savior, when we exercise faith, and repent, feel godly sorrow for those sins, when we know that what we have done doesn't match up to our divine nature and potential - He can cleanse us. "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:18). Christ kicks the devil out. He can beat the adversary, because the devil never entered into Christ. Christ, the perfectly righteous man, is the only one qualified to get the devil out.

When that happens, when the devil leaves, we become free again. We are not trapped by the adversary living inside us. We can choose again. We can move forward, choosing to do good.

The freedom that Christ offers us is not freedom to do whatever we want. It's freedom that allows us to "shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and . . . arise" (2 Nephi 1:23). It's the freedom that breaks the grasp of the devil and allows us to "choose liberty and eternal life" (2 Nephi 2:27). When God says, "Ye are free to choose" (2 Nephi 10:23), He means the hold of our sins has been lifted and we are free to run towards Him.

So let's do that. Since our chains are broken, let's run to Him, as fast as we can, choosing righteousness and obedience all the days of our lives.

A prayer in the Methodist hymnal includes this line, which I love: "Free us for joyful obedience, through Jesus Christ our Lord." Joyful obedience. Not grudging or spiteful obedience, but joyful obedience. Imagine what would happen if you thought of the "can't" of the gospel as "cans" - when you say "no" to something of the world, you're saying "yes" to letting the Holy Spirit fill your life up more. Don't be upset when you can't do something "fun," be joyful that you're saying "no" to the devil and "yes" to our Eternal Father.

"Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life."

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