Recently, whose voice have you been hearing most, your Good Shepherd, or the voice of the Liar? The voice of truth, or that of manipulation and control? The voice of freedom, or the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) call to oppression? There are so many sham-offers of false freedom￼—facsimiles of the true thing: “be yourself”, “you do you”, or even the ￼slogan on a shampoo bottle “liberate yourself”. (What, with shampoo?!)
They have taken many forms in the past, and they will continue to morph, be repackaged, and take different shapes on into the future. There will be appeals to what true freedom looks like on either side of a debate: “freedom looks like masks”, or “freedom does not look like this mask”. You even hear the siren’s call from the varying quarters of the church, causing you to wonder who is right and who has imbibed a tincture of the deception, but with the assertion of truth.
Here is where Christ’s promises are so genuinely liberating and so sorely needed. He promised that his people—those renovated by the Spirit and sincerely in Christ—will know his voice when he said, “my sheep hear my voice...and they follow me” (John 10:27). In this world of confusion and lies, is this not exactly what is desired! We need to cut through all the fog and manipulation and know, truly know what is right and good and true. What is Christ’s offer of freedom and what is earthly, unspiritual, demonic (James 3:15).
Your glorified Savior is meek and mild with his lambs, and his voice is one of tender freedom—freedom from the would-be oppressors. The spirit of this world, your flesh, and the devilish hoard want only to￼ enslave and control you. They do not have your freedom and best interest at heart. Yet they will disguise that spiritual and earthly slavery in the pretense of freedom. What is more, those deceived by these lies (even the elect, if that were possible, Matt 24:24) will be the ones requesting their custom-made prison (well furnished of course!). This is what the voice of oppression looks like, as it is bandied about like freedom. Do not be deceived, for there will always be what looks like a lamb, but by its voice it is betrayed for it speaks like a dragon (Rev 13:11). Therefore, we must discern true Freedom from the Lie. The voice of Christ will always take the form of his gracious law, an easy and light burden, a call to rest in him, to all we who are weary from constantly being lied to in this world which is under the sway of the evil one (1 John 5:19).
If you are hearing a luring whisper of honey, or a forceful shout of submission, to place your neck in any yoke of oppression (save for Christ’s gracious rule), know this: it is not the call of your gentle Shepherd. Christ has called you to authentic and lasting freedom, and his freedom is never oppressive.
Oh, but please do not mishear me at this point, friend. I am not advocating for an American individualism—a mere Americanism. That is one of the more pernicious and constant calls to false, self-sufficient, autonomous freedom. While there may be elements of the truth woven throughout, the American concept of individual freedom ￼￼harkens back to the original and great Lie as well: “you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5). The freedom I am asking us to listen to, long for, and obey is far greater than an earthly kingdom’s notion—I am speaking of Gospel freedom, the freedom that can only be summed up by Christ’s words: “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Or: “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32). Perhaps most succinctly still: “it is for freedom Christ has set us free” (Gal 5:1).
There is a regular phrase I am wont to say, and my friends, students, and counselees know it well. I believe it to be the offer of your Savior himself, and therefore it is oft on my lips. It is what we all need to hear at this hour: “be free, brother, be free”.