From the Archives: Preserving Our Liberty

By Charles W. Naylor

Christ came into the world to make men free. We are told that “whom the Son maketh free is free indeed.” Spiritual freedom is a heritage of every child of God. When the burden of sin rolls away, how natural it is for the soul to exclaim, “I am free! I am free!” It is God’s will that this new sense of freedom be preserved, that we be free throughout life. It is our privilege to live free, natural lives, exercising our spiritual functions, and living our spiritual life free from any yoke of bondage. Paul said that even the slave of his day who was saved was the Lord’s free man. It is a wonderful thing to be free.

Freedom is not an unbounded thing. It has its limitations. Sometimes people of the Old World hear of American freedom, and they come to this country expecting to do just as they please without any restraint or restrictions. They soon find out, however, that liberty has its boundaries, and that their liberties in this land of liberty must not become license. Just so in the spiritual world—there are limitations upon liberty. It is never allowed to become license. Wherever it goes beyond its natural boundaries, wherever it is pressed too far, it reacts in a new form of bondage. Liberty means safety within its proper limits. But liberty pressed too far leads to danger that cannot be avoided. So, if we will retain our spiritual liberty, we must stay within proper bounds; we must conform to certain principles. Spiritual freedom is being in harmony with divine law. It is the result of being in conformity to divine law, for divine law is the boundary of liberty. As soon as we go beyond the limits God has meant for human liberty, we transgress the right of God or of our fellows, and this reacts upon ourselves in a way that restricts our liberty.

Photo: Charles W. Naylor

So, if we will have real freedom, we are under the necessity of respecting the rights of God and all his creatures, and not transgressing upon them. For this reason, we must follow the Golden Rule, and must be obedient to God. As soon as we transgress the rights of others, we limit ourselves, restrict our own freedom, and bring ourselves into bondage. This result does not follow because God has decreed that is should follow; it is the natural result of the principles of liberty.

If we would be free, and maintain that liberty that God has given us, we must conform to the principles of righteousness. We must live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. The moment we depart from the principles of righteousness, that moment we bind ourselves with the chains that hold us fast. For this reason, the child of God must live without committing sin.

Would you be free? Then you must be righteous, just, and holy. You must live a life that is consistent with the principles of liberty. A great many people who once shouted their freedom and rejoiced greatly in it can no longer do so, because they have not preserved their freedom from sin. They no longer have a clear conscience. They no longer have a conscience void of offense, and so their liberty is greatly restricted, and they cannot enjoy the things they once enjoyed.

Sin is not the only thing that robs one of liberty. We may give place to faults in our lives, either by carelessly yielding to them or by not resisting them and developing proper habits. Many a person who desires to do right and who has really been saved feels himself so hampered by his faults, is held back so much from the enjoyment of his spiritual life, because he has a sense of the imperfection in his life, that his freedom is very partial and unsatisfactory. It is true that we shall have faults as long as we live, but many of these faults we can correct and overcome. We can master ourselves by God’s help. But if we go on carelessly and without making a definite and sustained effort to overcome our faults, our Christian lives will be on a much lower plane than they would otherwise be, and our Christian liberty will have in it elements of bondage that continually hinder us. If we will be free in our spiritual life, we must make an earnest effort to overcome those faults that restrict our freedom.

We have to fight for our liberty against Satan, too. He would restrict or destroy our liberty by every possible means. But thank God, if we adopt an attitude toward him that gives him no place in our lives and trust God for grace to overcome him continually, he cannot have any great success in limiting our liberty. We do not need to fear him, for God will sustain us and give us victory over him.

Our liberties are often restricted by people. They would bind us upon rules and regulations. They would require of us things that should not be required. They would often point out a path for us to walk in that is narrower and more difficult than God intends us to walk in…There are two ways in which people would destroy our Christian liberty. One is that already spoken of—by restricting us to narrower limits of life than God restricts us to. The other is in advocating and urging broader liberties than God allows, or than our consciences and the Word of God allow. But this broader liberty, though it may sometimes look attractive, never brings real liberty, but is a source of bondage to the soul. It hedges in our true freedom. So, whenever we allow people to persuade us to let down God’s standard, to modify God’s laws, or to excuse ourselves in any way from measuring up to God’s standard of Christian life, we are not giving to ourselves more liberty, but less…

How many times we limit ourselves, how many burdens we bind upon ourselves, just because we choose our own ways instead of God’s ways! People think to gain greater liberty by doing as they please, but they find their freedom of the soul, the joy of Christian service, the blessedness of union with Christ has in a great measure passed away. Just to have their own whey they have sacrificed these things that belong to Christian freedom.

There is one way to preserve our Christian freedom; that is, to sink down into the will of God, to make his will our will, and each day conscientiously and with full purpose of heart to serve him in the whole truth. Thereby we shall preserve our liberties. We shall be kept in the enjoyment of freedom. But it is only when we keep God’s whole Word and his whole will, submitting our ways fully to him, and being wholeheartedly in his service to the full measure of our understanding, that our spiritual freedom can be maintained.

Charles W. Naylor, prolific author, songwriter, and pioneer of the Church of God movement, wrote this article, originally published in the October 5, 1922, issue of The Gospel Trumpet.

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