"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:36).
The true freedom I speak of is spiritual freedom, freedom of soul. It is the freedom which Christ bestows, without money and without price, on all true Christians. Those whom the Son makes free, are free indeed: "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." (2 Corinthians 3:17.) Let men talk what they please of the comparative freedom of monarchies and republics; let them struggle, if they will, for universal liberty, fraternity, and equality: we never know the highest style of liberty — until we are enrolled citizens of the kingdom of God. We are ignorant of the best kind of freedom — if we are not Christ's freemen.
Christ's freemen are free from the guilt of sin. That heavy burden of unforgiven transgressions, which lies so heavy on many consciences, no longer presses them down. Christ's blood has cleansed it all away. They feel pardoned, reconciled, justified, and accepted in God's sight. They can look back to their old sins, however black and many, and say, "You cannot condemn me!" They can look back on long years of carelessness and worldliness and say, "Who shall lay anything to my charge?" This is true liberty. This is to be free.
Christ's freemen are free from the power of sin. It no longer rules and reigns in their hearts, and carries them before it like a flood. Through the power of Christ's Spirit, they mortify the deeds of their bodies, and crucify their flesh with its affections and lusts. Through His grace working in them, they get the victory over their evil inclinations. The flesh may fight — but it does not conquer them; the devil may tempt and vex — but does not overcome them; they are no longer the slaves of lusts and appetites, and passions, and tempers. Over all these things, they are more than conquerors, through Him who loved them. This is true liberty. This is to be free.
Christ's freemen are free from the slavish fear of God. They no longer look at Him with dread and alarm, as an offended Maker; they no longer hate Him, and get away from Him, like Adam among the trees of the garden; they no longer tremble at the thought of His judgment. Through the Spirit of adoption which Christ has given them, they look on God as a reconciled Father, and rejoice in the thought of His love. They feel that anger is passed away. They feel that when God the Father looks down upon them — He sees them in Christ, and unworthy as they are in themselves, is well-pleased. This is true liberty. This is to be free.
Christ's freemen are free from the fear of man. They are no longer afraid of man's opinions, or care much what man thinks of them; they are alike indifferent to his favor or his enmity, his smile or his frown. They look away from man who can be seen — to Christ who is not seen, and having the favor of Christ, they care little for the blame of man. "The fear of man" was once a snare to them. They trembled at the thought of what man would say, or think, or do; they dared not run counter to the fashions and customs of those around them; they shrank from the idea of standing alone. But the snare is now broken and they are delivered. This is true liberty. This is to be free.
Christ's freemen are free from the fear of death. They no longer look forward to it with silent dismay, as a horrible thing which they do not care to think of. Through Christ, they can look this last enemy calmly in the face, and say, "You can not harm me!" They can look forward to all that comes after death, decay, resurrection, judgment, and eternity — and yet not feel cast down. They can stand by the side of an open grave, and say, "O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?" They can lay them down on their death-beds, and say, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." (Psalm 23:4.) "Not a hair of my head shall perish." This is true liberty. This is to be free.
Best of all, Christ's freemen are free forever. Once enrolled in the list of Heavenly citizens, their names shall never be struck off. Once presented with the freedom of Christ's kingdom, they shall possess it for evermore. The highest privileges of this world's freedom, can only endure for a life-time; the freest citizen on earth must submit at length to die — but the freedom of Christ's people is eternal. They carry it down to the grave, and it lives still; they will rise again with it at the last day, and enjoy the privileges of it for evermore. This is true liberty. This is to be free.
- J.C. Ryle