Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
This is the simple truth that was overshadowed in Genesis 3. God’s goodness and truth were traded for moral autonomy – the chance for man to be his own god. The serpent undermined Eve’s view of God, leading her to question God’s loving boundaries. The cost of moral autonomy was and is great. Banishment from the garden and the Tree of Life, physical and spiritual death, toil and pain continue to this day.
As Americans, we talk a lot about freedom, but we rarely pause to give any definition to the word itself. What do we mean by freedom? Is freedom the just rule of law, or the lack of all rules?
Adam and Eve had freedom in the Garden to eat of every tree except one. They had the freedom of trusting in a loving God who had created them to enjoy His presence. Instead, they chose freedom from God and His rule – both His sovereign rule and His single command. They wrongly saw freedom in moral autonomy. Instead, they subjected themselves to the serpent – an animal over which Adam had been commanded to rule. The power structures of the world were turned upside-down (God>Man>Serpent became Serpent>Man>God).
This is where we find ourselves today. Our hearts (yours and mine) long for moral autonomy – the right to make our own rules. We want to be like gods. We desperately believe that we will only find true joy when we rid ourselves of the rule makers in our lives, especially if they disagree with our moral vision. This is the very heart of sin. It is a rebellion against God’s right as our Creator to rule our lives. We have declared our own sovereignty within His territory, making us His enemies. And for this, He has every right and obligation to punish us as traitors.
We are traitors and fugitives. There is no freedom for traitors and fugitives. Traitors and fugitives live in the shadows. They don’t show their face in public. They fear being exposed, and often strike out violently against those who threaten to blow their cover. Does this sound like your heart? In your search for freedom, have you found hopelessness instead?
This is where the good news comes in, and it’s free. On the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for our rebellion. He stood in our place, so that we could stand before God in his place. God’s justice and wrath were poured out on Jesus in place of all who give up their rebellion and see that he is their only hope. His resurrection guarantees the verdict, and grants freedom to rebel captives. Do you want freedom and true joy? This is the only place you will find it! Confess your rebellion and look to the Savior! Delight yourself in the Lord!
Last night, my wife Kolby and I went out to eat on Bardstown Road, an area here in Louisville that is packed with restaurants. After driving up and down the street for a while, we parked the car and were about to walk into a restaurant when a homeless man named Rick came up and asked for some money to buy dinner. Rick had his heart set on getting some KFC in his belly before he returned to Wayside, the local Christian homeless shelter.
This new situation presented several dilemmas.
1) I hate handing money to people on the streets. I will gladly buy someone a meal, but I’m not giving out money for someone to go buy booze.
2) I also don’t like the idea of pulling my wallet out, especially knowing that I had a good bit of cash and credit cards inside.
3) Rick is a big dude. He had me in height by 4-5 inches and in weight by 20 lbs, and Kolby is half his size.
I found myself asking, ‘What should be my priorities in this situation?’ And the answer I came to was simple: Love. My first priority was to show Rick the love of Christ, but how? As one who believes in the gospel and seeks to live in light of the new creation and restoration that happens in Christ, I want to break down the walls of hostility and distrust put in place by the fall. Recognizing that we live in a world deeply marred by the fall, I wanted to treat Rick in a way that communicated the sort of trust that is impossible in our fallen state. My instincts said ‘Beware!’ but my heart longed to trust this stranger. I wanted to communicate the gospel’s ability to overcome our shame and distrust of one another.
After walking to KFC and discovering it was closed, we tried to get Rick to join us for a meal somewhere else. But it was KFC or bust for him, so I finally gave him some cash out of my wallet to go to the other KFC downtown. I don’t know if he did or not. But Kolby and I had a great conversation afterwards about our hearts, the gospel, and learning to love people even when it’s messy and you could get hurt. The reality is, we do live in a broken world, but we are hopeful for its redemption, because we have a savior who loved us, even when it cost him his throne in heaven and his life on earth. Let’s live and love in light of this wondrous gospel, in spite of the cost.