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What if it’s true . . . that you are free

bible study time boxWhat does freedom look like? Perhaps a more pertinent question is, what does the pursuit of freedom look like? Maybe even more pertinent: Can the pursuit of freedom be successful?

Tension in the pursuit of freedom

Think about this pursuit of freedom in terms of a 21-year-old fictional college student named Jack. Jack is under immense pressure to get his career right. So he shopped for a college that would give him the best return on his investment. He is a consumer buying an education. But why is he so driven by getting a good return on his investment?

Because he is under immense pressure to establish a career identity—one that gives him a sense of fulfillment, pays well, and gives him a good standing in society.

But why is he so driven to establish this career identity? Because if he establishes that identity, then he’s free, right? He has the freedom to spend, succeed, and pursue bigger and better things. But why does he want that freedom? Perhaps sitting at the bottom of it all is this simple idea: If Jack can achieve that level of freedom, then his existence is justified. Then he has value. Then he has worth.

Those of you who’ve been through Jack’s vain pursuit realize what the Teacher understood when he wrote the book of Ecclesiastes: “I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. This too is meaningless. So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:17,19,20). Such a pursuit of meaning and value isn’t freedom. It’s vanity. It’s meaningless. It’s far from freedom.

The freeing reality of the gift of freedom

But what if it’s true that you’re already free? Think of Jack again. What if the pursuit of justifying his own existence is a pursuit that will never work? What if, instead, God already gave him worth by declaring him not guilty of sin and he had nothing . . . nothing . . . to prove? Then he is truly free: free to learn, free to pursue a successful career, free to earn a good living, free to find fulfillment in his work.

But if he doesn’t have to justify his own existence, what is Jack going to do with all of his gifts? He is free to give them to those who need them. He is free to make money and enjoy it as the gift it is. He is free to work hard for the sake of his neighbor.

We call that vocation. God doesn’t need Jack’s gifts, but the gifts God gives to Jack are needed by those around him. And if Jack is free to serve his neighbor out of love—not out of self-fulfillment and self-justification—then he doesn’t have to worry about establishing an identity because he already has it in Christ.

Holy Baptism gave Jack the identity of being a child of God. Since he has that identity, Jack can freely serve his neighbor because he is fully justified in Christ. But what about his return on investment? He isn’t concerned about that because he’s putting his neighbor before himself, and that’s when he truly gets to enjoy the gifts God has given to him. He doesn’t need all of those things to establish his value. He has his value so he’s free to see his gifts as they truly are: gifts.

A summary of freedom in our lives

Most of us struggle at some point with our identity. We want a return on our investment because we want to establish an identity because we want to be free because we want to be justified in the eyes of others. But we are already justified in Christ. That means we have the freedom of vocation because we have an identity through Baptism. Now we have the freedom to enjoy life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, you are free. Paul reminds us that we are saved by grace, not by works, because if we were saved by works, it wouldn’t be grace (Romans 11:6). But in Christ we are justified; we are free. And in freedom, we begin to see something amazing: We see Christ in our neighbor, and grace upon grace, Christ recognizes our service to our neighbor as service rendered to him. He says to us, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. . . . Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:34,40).

That’s freedom, and it’s yours.

Author: Gregory Lyon
Volume 111, Number 06
Issue: June 2024

What is vocation?

Michael Berg, a theology professor at Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, Wis., and author of Vocation: The Setting for Human Flourishing wrote the following definition of vocation: “The word vocation means calling. It is when God calls a Christian to a neighbor relationship. Everybody has multiple stations in life (e.g., mother or accountant). Those stations become callings when the Christian is called to serve a neighbor in that station. There is always a call from God and always a neighbor to serve.”

Read more in Berg’s book, available at Northwestern Publishing House,

This We Believe

What do we believe about good works? These statements of belief are from This We Believe, a public summary of the main teachings of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

V. Good works and prayer

1. We believe that faith in Jesus Christ always leads a believer to produce works that are pleasing to God. “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17). As a branch in Christ the vine, a Christian produces good fruit (John 15:5).

6. We believe that good works, which are fruits of faith, must be distinguished from works of civic righteousness performed by unbelievers. Although unbelievers may do much that appears to be good and upright, these works are not good in God’s sight, for “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). While we recognize the value of such works for human society, we know that unbelievers cannot do their duty to God through works of civic righteousness.

8. We believe that the Holy Spirit enables every believer to produce good works as fruits of faith (Galatians 5:22-25). The Holy Spirit gives every believer a new nature, or “new man,” that cooperates with the Holy Spirit in doing good works. The Holy Spirit uses the gospel to motivate believers to do good works.



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This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series What if it's true . . .

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