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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Dr. Tony Evans » Tony Evans - God and Freedom

Tony Evans - God and Freedom

Tony Evans - God and Freedom
TOPICS: Freedom

The first use of the concept of freedom is found in the book of Genesis. We read in Genesis chapter 2, verses 15 to 17, these words, "Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The Lord God commanded the man, saying, 'From every tree of the garden you may freely eat", did you hear that? "From every tree of the garden, you may eat freely, but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.'" The principle of freedom was tied to human creation. When God created the first man, who would be the preamble for the human race, he brought in the issue of freedom.

Now, in hermeneutics, which is a big word that describes the science and art of biblical interpretation, is a principle. It's called "the law of first mention". It means, if you want to understand a concept from God that he has incorporated into the Bible, look at where he gives the concept first, "the law of first mention". Find out what he meant then to determine what you should be believing now, unless he gives you a reason to change what he said, and if he doesn't give you a reason to change what he said, you've gotta go with what he said, by the law of first mention, 'cause he didn't give you permission to say something else, but we live in a world today as folk who wanna say something else, when God has already said what he meant, and he didn't give us a basis for changing what he said when he meant what he said when he said it.

Please notice that, in his first definition of "freedom," the scope of freedom, "Every tree of the garden, you may freely eat". Now, God is the government. There is no human government that's been set up yet. We'll get into that, but he is the model for what human government was supposed to be, and notice how maximum the freedom option was. "Every tree of the garden, you may freely eat". Notice the breath of freedom. You have choice. "I'm going to give you the opportunity to choose from my good provision," because everything God had made, by that time, was good. So the question is "What do we mean by 'freedom'"?

"Freedom" is the unimpeded opportunity and responsibility to choose, to righteously and justly and legally pursue one's divinely created reason for being. It is where you get to choose what God has provided for you to maximize as part of his created order. He says, "Every tree of the garden you may freely eat," and because I'm free, I get to choose. It is being released from anything or anybody holding you illegitimately hostage from what God has authorized for you to enjoy and benefit from what he has provided. I want you to notice something else about freedom. Freedom involves responsibility. It says, "God put him in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it". "I'm going to give you freedom, but you have to be responsible to manage it, to maintain it, and to expand its productivity".

Yes, freedom involves the responsibility to maximize the opportunity that God has provided you, and isn't that what we say, "to pursue happiness"? That is, "to pursue," because everybody may not pursue the benefits of freedom. Everybody may not pursue it equally, and everybody may not pursue it righteously. But he says to Adam, which would be the preamble for government, based on his government in the garden, that "if you will act responsibly, related to the good things that I have provided, you will have the opportunity to take it, use it, expand it, benefit from it, and enjoy it, 'cause that fruit was sweet to the taste". Freedom is to be utilized, and it is to be enjoyed. It is to be benefited from, and because it's a garden, it is to be beneficial, as we'll see in a moment, to others. But please notice something: the restriction.

Did you know freedom has restrictions? Without restrictions, the word "freedom" loses its meaning. "From every tree of the garden," maximum freedom, "you may freely eat, but of the tree in the midst of the garden, you are not to eat it, or it will kill you". He creates a restriction in the midst of the opportunity for freedom. He says, "Even though I'mma give you freedom, I'mma give you a boundary". Pay attention here: Maximizing your freedom demands legitimate boundaries. The boundaries are not designed to restrict freedom. It is designed to enhance freedom if it's a legitimate boundary. You see, freedom, in order to be experienced, enjoyed, and benefited from, which is what government is supposed to protect, has to have boundaries because the goal of freedom is to maximize the reason why you were made in the first place.

So what we have today is people wanting to be free from their creative purpose, creating anarchy, chaos, and confusion in society and in the world. The boundaries have to be set by the tree in the midst of a garden. What did he tell Adam? He said, "Adam, from every tree, I'mma give you maximum freedom, but I'm gonna give you limited regulations. I'm only gonna tell you don't do one thing: Don't mess with the Google tree". That's right. I called it the "Google tree". Why? 'Cause it was an information center. This tree was an information center, and it sat right in the midst of the garden. Let's contemporize that a little bit. Let's put it, it sat in the den of his house. The garden was his house. It sat in the den of his house. So when he went to the bedroom, he had to go through the den. He had to see that information center. When he went to the kitchen to cook the food, he had to pass by the information center. It was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, of right and wrong, of up and down. It was an information center.

Now, why did he put the tree in the den, where he couldn't miss it every day, walking from one side of the crib to the other side of the crib, one side of the house to the other side of the house? Now why did he put it there? Here it is: "Adam, I'm your government. I'mma tell you how to run your existence, and I'mma give you maximum freedom. I'm not gonna give you a whole bunch of rules. Give you one: You are not to live your life by human reason, knowledge. You're to live your life by divine revelation. In other words, you are to get your instruction from me, not come up with it on your own apart from me, but because freedom offers always a choice, you can choose to do it my way, or you can choose to do it your way, but I just want you to know it's not in your best interest to experience freedom if you're gonna choose it your way rather than my way. It's not gonna be good for ya 'cause I want you to be free".

When God created government, he created government with the idea of limited regulations. You see it here in the garden. Let me give you another illustration. When he created the first nation, first nation he ever created was Israel. That's why Israel is a big deal in Scripture. That's why God says, "I'mma bless the nation that blesses Israel, and I'mma curse the nation that curses Israel because I am setting up, in Israel, a format for how society is supposed to run and how civil government is supposed to function".

Now, most of us, when we think in terms of Israel, the nation and its government, think about the Ten Commandments, and we should. Limited regulations, I mean, ten things, and if you run by these ten things, you'll have a free society. But he introduces the Ten Commandments with a statement, and if you start with the Ten Commandments but miss the statement, you'll miss what government's supposed to do.

He says, "I am the Lord God who delivered you from slavery," Exodus, chapter 20, verse 2. "I am the Lord God, and I delivered you from slavery. Guess what? I gave you your freedom, and because I gave you your freedom, I'm going to give you the boundaries in which to operate that freedom. They are gonna be ten amendments to the Constitution, 613 statutes and ordinances to, kind of, show you how to apply my ten rules, and if you do what these ten rules, applied this way, you will live in a free society. You will live with the freedom for why I created government and why I created civilization and why I created nations, but the moment you create your own rules, draw regulations that are inconsistent with mine, you're gonna have a problem because you will not be running the nation or your life or your family or your church, for that matter, but since we're talkin' about civil government, you will not be running the civil government like I created it to run, and you are gonna create chaos so that maximum freedom is not enjoyed, and you will turn limited regulation 'cause, see, when you have anarchy, then you gotta come up with more rules to control the anarchy". He says, "No, if you will abide by my regulations, then you will experience the freedom as a nation I have given you to experience".

Now, when you have time, I want you to read 1 Samuel chapter 8, and I want you to read verses 10 through 19. I want you to read all those verses and take your time 'cause this section of Scripture will blow your mind. I'll just summarize it for you right now. God said this: He says, "If you exclude me from your government, if you exclude me from your rulers", now, you can say, "In God We Trust," all you want. You can put the Ten Commandments, you know, in the courthouse all you want. He said, "If you build a civil government without me setting the rules, the government will take your family," he says. "The government will put you in wars that you shouldn't go in. The government will require taxes that you shouldn't be obligated to pay". He says, "The government will control your children," and he says, "And then you will be in a hot mess," and then he explains why, "because you've turned your government into God".

In God's kingdom, civil government is not the only government. There's self-government. There is family government. There is ecclesiastical government, and then there is civil government, and the one is not to illegitimately impose itself on the other, and it is in understanding the kingdom, 'cause, remember, you're supposed to be a kingdom independent, right? It is in understanding the kingdom that civil government gets to be what it's designed to be.

Now, I know, I know that we live in a secular world with secular thinking. That's why you need the right kind of leaders, both in character and both in competence, that are biblically oriented so that they can seek to influence the biblical definition of government so that God can be involved in government and not excluded from government because God says, in 1 Samuel, "If you exclude me from government, I will stay excluded, and I will leave you alone and let you handle this hot mess you've created without me," and it doesn't take a genius to see what has happened in our world. So God created boundaries in order to maximize freedom. He told Adam, "The tree in the midst of the garden is an information tree. It's got good information and bad information". Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It's an information tree. "I do not want you discovering truth apart from me".

So I need to say a word about this. Truth. Truth goes beyond probabilities and possibilities and potentialities. Truth is an absolute standard by which reality is measured. Let me dumb it down for us all. Truth is God's perspective on every subject. Truth is not what you believe to be true. Truth is not what you feel is true. Truth is not what you want to be true. Truth is what God says is true, which means you adjust your thinking, your feeling, your education, your knowledge, your votes, all of that. You adjust all that to what God says, and the reason why we don't have kingdom impact is we don't have kingdom thinkers and, thus, not kingdom independents. They're more aligned to a political ideology than through the kingdom of God, leading to a division in the church and a lack of impact in the culture. No, God gave them ten rules, and the rules are negative: "Thou shalt not, thou shalt not, thou shalt not," but the only reason he gives them ten negative rules is so he can keep 'em in maximum freedom. Isn't that what laws do?

Laws are to restrict bad in order so that good can flourish if it's a righteous law. He says, "Don't do these ten things so that you can stay free 'cause I set you free". If you want to experience the freedom in your life and in our nation, then we need a government that gives maximum freedom limited but safe, just, and righteous regulations. Look, that's why people skip passages to keep their evil. One of the passages that addresses slavery, for example, one of the great sins of our history, is Exodus 21:16. It says, "If you can kidnap somebody and then, if you sell them, then you've committed a capital crime worthy of death". That would've shut down slavery right there, but people skipped it in order to not follow through on freedom in order to maintain an economic system that was wrong, but then the Bible talks about protests. It says there's a righteous way to protest. There's a righteous way, it encourages protests as long as it's just and it's righteous.

And so we get all this mixed up because people wanna lean to their own understanding, and the problem is Christians are doin' it too across racial, culture, class, and political lines. But God has established government and when people turn from his standard of government, consequences are great 'cause look at what he said to Adam: "The day you eat of it, you shall surely die". So, when Adam and Eve decided they would choose wrongly, guess what they lost? They lost the freedom of a happy home. They were now in conflict with one another. They lost the freedom of enjoying their work 'cause it says now, chapter 3, "They would toil in their work". They lost the freedom of enjoying a healthy environment because thorns and thistles would now grow, chapter 3, says. One other thing I wanna share with you, when you understand this definition of government, and I know you wanna know how this applies to certain issues, and we're gonna talk about those, coming up next, how it applies to specific issues.

There are so many issues. We can't cover them all but some of the major ones. But here's the principle you should be dealing with: If you now understand freedom as God defines it, maximum freedom, limited regulations, dire consequences, so you're gonna exercise responsibility to maximize your creative potential, then what is one of the main things you should be doing? Here it is: setting other folks free. Ah, that's why I love Galatians: "It was for freedom you have been made free". Every free person should be invested in freeing somebody else.

One of the tragedies of the civil rights movement that set the laws right is that not enough of us have reached back down for those still trapped. We've not reached down and brought them back up to the dignity we ourselves have achieved. If you name the name of Jesus Christ, you should be a freedom fighter. The tragedy of the American experiment is that folks who were fighting for freedom were still willing to hold other people hostage. They weren't setting other people free whether it's slavery or the antebellum days or whether it's criminal leasing or whether it's Jim Crow or however it's manifested, no matter how it shows up, if you are a Christian and you understand God's definition of government, you're a freedom fighter, and you're setting other people free.

The Emancipation Proclamation was a glorious document in January of 1863. It set the slaves free. When the slaves were set free, many of the slaves went north because they were no longer held hostage to southern plantations. Now, going north was risky business 'cause there were still folks out there who didn't believe in freedom. There were still folks out there who didn't accept the concept of freedom. So they were willing to take the risk to be free because they didn't want their families and their legacy to operate in slavery any longer, but did you know there were many people in the South who didn't make the trek north? They wouldn't go north.

One of the reasons why is because they've been enslaved too long. They got used to slavery. The plantation had become comfortable. They at least knew the plantation. They understood the plantation. They knew how to work the plantation, but freedom was risky business. They had to go through these areas where there were enemies, and so they locked themselves in slavery because to be free was taking too big a risk. Unfortunately, we've got too many Christians who don't wanna go north. They don't wanna fight for biblical freedom and so they dumb down to the cultures and the parties of the day, and they operate with a "spiritual plantation mentality".

Not understanding God's biblical authority bars biblical guidelines. It's time for another kind of Juneteenth. You know Juneteenth. That's when in June 1865, the word came to the slaves in Texas, and then beyond, "You've been set free". That's a year and a half from the Proclamation. Folk been partyin' ever since, Texas, surrounding' states. It's called Juneteenth. It's a party 'cause it's remembering when we got the good news of freedom. Now, for a year and a half, it had been hidden, so folks were functioning in slavery when they have been set free.

Jesus Christ offers you and me freedom. He even offers governments freedom that will operate by his definition of freedom under his definition of civil government, but a lot of folks are so used to being slaves, illegitimately depending upon government to be God or illegitimately applying government in the wrong way, and they get used to the plantation mentality. It's time for some freedom fighters. It's time for a spiritual Juneteenth to celebrate freedom and to bring it to the politicians, the pundits, the political party, and to the media, that God offers nations freedom but only by his rules and regulations. You skip that, and you live in slavery even though you still may talk about being free.

Now, the worst kind of freedom of all is recorded by Jesus in John chapter 8, when he says that "if you've been controlled by sin, then you're in personal bondage," and what good is setting a nation free if you won't even let God set you free from whatever is holding you hostage? That's why I wanna invite you, if you're under the sound of my voice and you've never received spiritual freedom, you've never accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, you've never invited him into your life to forgive your sins and give you eternal life, then I wanna invite you to come to Christ right now for salvation.

How do you do that? You simply go to him and say, "I'm a sinner, and I need a Savior. I need to be forgiven of my sins. I agree that I cannot save myself, and I trust you alone for my eternal destiny". And if you place faith alone in Christ alone, he will forgive your sins and give you the gift of eternal life, and he'll do it right now.

Biblical freedom is the unimpeded opportunity and responsibility to choose to righteously, justly, and legally pursue one's divinely created reason for being. The first use of the word and concept of "freedom" did not start with man. It started with God, because in the garden God told Adam and Eve, "From every tree of the garden, you may freely eat". Freedom doesn't mean no restrictions. Freedom means operating properly within legitimate restrictions. When there's no restriction, that's chaos. When there is illegitimate, impeded restriction, then that is being confined irresponsibly and illegitimately, but when they are in the biblical boundaries of freedom, you can maximize your potential because God's influence can dominate your choices so that you can maximize your purpose.
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