The freedom of the children of God

This post continues a review of key points in Ron Highfield's book, God, Freedom & Human Dignity: Embracing a God-Centered Identity in a Me-Centered Culture. For other posts in the series, click a number: 123456, 7, 8, 9, 10, 1213.

Joyous freedom (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

In previous posts we've noted that true human freedom is found in the identity that is ours in union with Christ--a union that makes us, by the grace of adoption, God's dearly beloved children. This time we'll look further at that freedom as Highfield, referencing 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Galatians 2:20 and Philippians 1:21, states this about our identity as God's children and the freedom that goes with it:
We are dearly loved children, created in the image of God to reflect God's character by loving. This is our true self, our deepest identity, our ultimate destiny. Hence we can act freely only when we exercise the power to live as God's created image and arrive at a state in which we possess only our own properties, that is, properties that image God. Freedom understood in a Christian way, then, is the power to live as we were created to live and to be what we were meant to be. It is the state of willing and acting as God's dear children. (pp. 183-4)
This, of course, is a decidedly God-centered perspective on freedom, which flies in the face of the ways personal freedom is typically defined in our me-centered Western cultures. True freedom originates with God, and becomes ours by grace---the grace that unites us to the glorified humanity of Jesus, the Source of our being and the freedom that goes with it. As Highfield notes, referencing Paul's epistles, true freedom cannot be achieved on our own:
Christ and the Spirit free us from the impossible requirement that we achieve our freedom from sin and death by our own power. In this respect we are not "under the law but under grace" (Rom. 6:15; cf. Gal. 5:18). (p. 183)
Thus we see that the greatest obstacle to true freedom is our fallen nature, which seeks freedom on its own terms, through its own efforts, thus placing itself under the impossible burden of the law, seeking to "earn" its own freedom. In contrast, Paul sees freedom as a gift that originates with God and is ours by grace, including the Spirit's enabling power. Paul refers to the glorious state by which we truly are free as "adoption," "salvation" and "redemption" (Romans 8:22-25). Highfield comments:
The freedom Christ makes possible embodies the perfect realization of human nature, the unambiguous manifestation of the true self, and the revelation of our destiny as children of God (Rom. 8:19). (p. 184)
God never coerces us into this freedom. Rather he "moves us and liberates us to will his will through deep spiritual persuasion and enlightenment. Spirit to spirit (Romans 8:16).... God's is the freedom that frees!" (p. 185, emphasis added). Of course, we do not yet possess this freedom in all its fullness---that is yet to come in a new heaven and new earth in which we will dwell in glorified (free, unencumbered) bodies. But that freedom already is at work in us, for God by his Spirit dwells in us.

True human freedom thus is for us a present reality---existing as it does in the representative (vicarious), now glorified Son of God who remains forever on our behalf fully human, while also being fully divine (the Incarnation is a permanent reality!). The Spirit unites us to the glorified humanity of Jesus and in that way makes of us who we, in Christ, truly are---beloved, truly free children of God. Hallelujah!! And so we seek to be who we truly are. But in doing so we come up against our fallen selves, as Paul notes in Romans chapter 7. Highfield comments:
When we take ourselves into our own hands to will and do the good by our own power, we have already failed. But as we look not at ourselves but at Jesus Christ, confess our sins and rely on the Spirit's empowering power, we will experience his power liberating us to will and do his will. (p. 187)
When we are liberated from a me-centered search for freedom, and rest in Christ, the source of true human freedom, we are free indeed. As Highfield notes, "In that freedom we are what we would create ourselves to be if we had the power" (p. 188).

The false and enslaving goal of "self-determination" (I decide what is right; what is true freedom), leads not to freedom but to the worst possible bondage in that it is based on the worst sort of delusion as Highfield notes: "We can wish we were God and attempt to play that role. But we cannot succeed" (p. 189). Highfield then offers this important concluding thought:
The Christian hope envisions a state in which we attain freedom to become fully our true selves. We were created to image the character of God and to reflect his glory to all creation. Through Christ and in the Spirit, God empowers us to overcome the "other" [including our own me-centeredness] so that we become truly free, that is, we become in our actions and existence what we are in our true being. (p. 190)