A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinJuly 3, 1994
You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (JN 8:36)
This weekend, we are celebrating our nation’s independence. This is a time that we can remember and be grateful for our liberties of being a citizen of this country. We can decide for ourselves what occupation we will pursue. We as a society can choose our governmental leaders. We can also practice the religion of our choice. And we are guaranteed the right to freely express ourselves, and not fear imprisonment if we speak in opposition to our government leaders. When we compare our rights to the tyranny in many other countries, we should celebrate and treat these constitutional liberties with the utmost devotion.
However, our privileges do not allow us to do anything that we may desire. Our expressions can not go to the extent where others are harmed or put into jeopardy. Our liberties do not give us a license to kill, rob, or pillage when we may have the urge to do so. Anyone can see that without laws and restraints, the result would be anarchy and eventual self- destruction.
Just as we can enjoy freedom in our civil lives, we are promised freedom in our spiritual lives. We can be in a state of life where we can freely express our inner most loves without concern about the consequences. We can have a perception of not being under the control of someone else. We are all given the opportunity to have an awareness of being spiritually independent.
However, spiritual freedom does not mean that we will not be governed. There will be some spirit that will inspire us to do certain things. Still, we have the option to choose the type of spirits who guide our way of life.
When we examine spiritual freedom closely, we can see a great deal of discrepancy between what may appear to us and what the reality is. The appearance is that we are choosing good and figuring out how good affections can be applied to life. The reality is that the Lord alone leads us into a spiritual or heavenly freedom. If the Lord was not active, we would have no chance of living exclusively from our natural tendencies.
The wicked look upon a spiritual or Christian life as restrictive and stale. They can not conceive that there can be a more enjoyable happiness in being of service towards others than just living for pleasure and having others serve one’s self. They conceive of being free as doing whatever one pleases. All they see from a life of use is a great number of things that can not be done. A liar can not believe there can be a joy in being honest. A thief can not understand how it is better not to take possessions from others. An adulterer cannot conceive a delight in just one partner rather than a pernicious life. All they see are regulations that appear to restrict their ability to enjoy life.
However, the good and the angels in heaven do view things quite differently. They do not view the commandments as restrictions but as guidelines that enable us to receive internal joys from the Lord. An angel is not allowed to lie, cheat, steal, commit adultery, etc. But they do not desire to do these things anyway. The Writings explain that their will is in agreement with genuine good. This produces a heavenly attitude towards living that is united with the Lord’s will. This is the core of the freedom that the angels enjoy. The restrictions are ones they not only accept, but gladly abide by. When we no longer desire to experience merely sensual delights, we then experience true or heavenly delights. This is a delight that focuses on good things. One of the qualities of a person who enjoys heavenly delights is that nothing pleases them more than communicating happiness and blessedness to another from an inmost affection. It can easily be seen how much anxiety is reduced when there is an emphasis on sharing what one has with others. We are not concerned that someone will take away our possessions or that we can not get the maximum enjoyment from them. Instead, when there is the simple desire that whatever makes us happy, others are invited to share that happiness, life becomes more serene. And this serenity will be a major component in being in a state of heavenly freedom.
How can we obtain heavenly freedom in our personal lives. The Writings give two keys that enables us to enjoy the true freedom that comes from the Lord. First is to know the truth and secondly, we are to exercise self-compulsion.
Obviously, to know of the Lord’s freedom, we need to have a knowledge of what the Word teaches. The Word reveals to us what we are to believe in and what we are to accept in life. Without the Word, we would have absolutely no means of knowing about the Lord’s freedom. We would be hopelessly lost in our natural inclinations. But when we know the truth that is from the Lord, we are then aware of the process in which we can be led to a freedom of full expression without fear of embarrassment or humiliation. Heavenly freedom is impossible without some knowledge of what the Word teaches.
When we think about it, the wicked are constantly concerned that their interior motives will be exposed. They take great care to insure that their inner loves are concealed. They are constantly afraid that their true loves will be discovered.
The case is completely opposite with the good. Since they desire to share and make others happy, exposing their inner loves is not a threat to them. In fact, they want their intentions to be made known, so they can have a stronger and more uniting relationship with their neighbor. It is clearly seen that when there is no longer the fear of being exposed, life becomes more pleasant. This is the freedom that comes from the Lord and is taught only in the Word.
However, we must do more than just know what the Word teaches before we are actually in heavenly freedom. We must compel ourselves to comply with the truths that are in the Word. The irony is that while we are in the process of self-compulsion, we do not feel free. Instead, we feel restricted and in bonds. This is caused by temptations. While we are in the depths of temptations, we feel as if we are slaves, prevented to do what we really want to do. For example, a drug addict who is trying to break the habit of taking drugs does not enjoy the process of the withdrawal. It is more torture than any low that the person while on drugs encounters. But when the addiction is broken, and the person starts enjoying a more orderly way of life, it is then that the person recognizes that the former way of life was bondage and that now he or she enjoys a greater sense of freedom.
We all have had the experience of trying to break some habit and know the difficulty that is involved in it. However, if we are successful in removing some practice that is harmful to the quality of our lives, a new dimension of living is discovered and enjoyed. It is exactly the same on a spiritual level. When we are taught from the Word that we have a certain delight that we know is not according to Divine order, it is difficult not to indulge in that pleasure. While we are in the process of refusing to indulge in the delight, we are in the process of self-compulsion or temptation. While we are in this period, we will not feel free but in bondage. We are restrained to do what we want to do. Only when our former delights are regarded as abhorring, will we come to realize the enjoyments in the more orderly way of life. Before we can sense the Lord’s freedom, we must go through temptations that will appear like bondage. However, when we do emerge victorious, we will look at our former delights and recognize the confinement we were under while we were under their control.
There are three things that we can enjoy when we are in freedom that comes directly from the Lord. First, we will recognize a true sense of being independent. Secondly, we are free from the allurements and deceitful devices of the evil spirits. And thirdly, we are able to find delight in a state of contentment. These are the basics of the enjoyment that makes heaven to be heaven to the angels.
First, recognizing our independence. The Writings state that when we are in heavenly freedom, we will be able to think for ourselves what is true and what is good. We will have a strong dictate as to what is proper and what is improper. We are not dependent upon others to tell us what to do and not to do. The more we have an understanding of what the Word teaches about how we are to live, the more we will be able to judge for ourselves what is good and what is evil. The stronger our ability is to distinguish what is good from what is evil, the stronger we will have a sense of internal freedom.
Second, we are told that when we are guided by the Lord, we are free from evil spirits. As was mentioned before, we will be directed by some spirit. Creation was established in a way that we are directed by spirits in the spiritual world. Every affection and thought originates from the spiritual world. However, we can choose what affections and thoughts will control our lives. Therefore, we are responsible for what we choose to apply to life. If we choose a wicked way of life, we are under the control of evil spirits who actually burn with a hatred towards us. Much different is the case with the good. When we choose good, we are under the guidance of the angels in heaven. These do not look upon us as their subjects but they look upon us as their friends and companions. It is easily seen that the nature of the attitude of those directing us greatly determines the quality of freedom that we will experience.
And third, our delights will be one of a state of contentment. Freedom and contentment are closely related with other. In fact, we can not enjoy freedom unless we are content. When we are directed by the Lord, we will discover a satisfaction and happiness in what we are called upon to do. Contentment allows us to delight in what the Lord has given to us. An evil way of life forces us to always want more. We are never satisfied with what we have. This is why to be free, we must find contentment.
We can take action to develop a true and heavenly freedom within us. All that is required is a steady increase in understanding from the Word. This will bring us into greater light as to the life we are to lead that is more receptive of the Lord’s guidance. Also, there must be a commitment to have the required discipline to actually implement the Lord’s teachings in one’s life. If this is the case in our lives, we will enjoy a greater sense of freedom because we are able to stand on our own feet when it comes to recognizing what is proper and improper in life. Also, we will sense being lead and directed from those who desire our best welfare and happiness, not our destruction. And we will find contentment in life that will make life satisfying. When there is satisfaction, we feel more at ease and free. Only when we have a personal relationship with the Lord, can we understand His words, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”