My mother became a Christian in 1956 at the age of 41. Her life was anything but glorious. Her parents were itinerate farm workers who picked cotton. One of her brothers drowned while skating on a frozen river. Her father was sent to prison after being caught counterfeiting and then for bootlegging in the hills of Missouri. She and her first husband had four children; but soon after the fourth was born, she no longer could endure his alcoholism and womanizing. So much of her life was lived in hurt, pain, darkness and sin; she needed a Savior.
When I started to church as a young boy, she realized her life was a mess and began to go to church with me. One day, our pastor preached that Jesus could deliver anyone from the bondage of sin and give freedom to all who would accept His offer. My mother was one of the first to kneel at the altar and ask Christ into her heart.
One of her favorite songs was “Glorious Freedom,” written by Haldor Lillenas in 1917, and it was her testimony later in life. Lillenas wrote words that spoke directly to her heart, words that included, “sin’s galling fetters,” “chained like a slave,” “struggling in vain,” “fear with all of its torments.” The words that captured my mother’s heart included, “But I received a glorious freedom when Jesus broke my fetters in twain.”
My mother understood that when she made her confession of sin, Jesus was the great Emancipator and she no longer was chained like a slave to Satan, sin and hell! He transfigured her life to one of glorious freedom. He will for anyone who asks Him to do so!
When Freedom Comes, So Does Hope
When Jesus comes into our lives, He dispels the darkness of our pasts with the light of His hope for the future. His hope is the kind that will brighten the most densely darkened spots in our hearts. When hope comes, it ushers in dignity and noble character to a life ravaged by sin. No longer in the prison of sin, but free in Christ is the person who has Christ living inside!
A friend recently told me that her brother has been in prison for the past 40 years. Can you imagine his feeling when he was out from behind those bars, the constant eyes that were on him everywhere, given the kind of people with whom he had been locked up during those years? Think of his new freedom. It would be an adjustment, but with it comes hope for a new future.
When Freedom Comes, So Does Jesus
Because the veil of the Temple was torn in two at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, we are able to access the Father through the crucified and resurrected Jesus! This loving, crucified and resurrected Son of God lovingly introduces us to the Father Himself. This Father is the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-compassionate, all-present God who will reside in our lives.
Sin no longer needs to dominate our lives! He will dispense strength, encouragement and hope to us; but more than that, He will come to us at all times—darkest night or brightest day. “He will never leave us or forsake us,” Peter wrote. Isn’t it exciting to know God Himself lives with us constantly?
When freedom comes, it is not fleeting, but forever (2 Cor. 3:18). My former professor, the late Oscar Reed, wrote, “If we gaze at Christ long enough, we will reflect Him. The change is critical and gradual. The transformation is wrought by the Spirit of the Lord…” He also said, “great crisis even begins a change, which is continuous until the day of our Lord. Within that development is the further crisis of the heart cleansing, which prepares a person for God’s great future” (Beacon Bible Expositions, vol. 7).
My mother understood that concept. She may not have been able to articulate it as Dr. Reed, but she understood it and claimed it as her own. Her future was in God’s hands and remained until the day she died in 2006. Her freedom on Earth in Christ gave her unlimited freedom in heaven with the Jesus she loved so much—glorious and wonderful freedom!
Derl G. Keefer, administrative pastor, Center Park United Methodist Church, Three Rivers, Michigan.