In the summer of 2018, a youth soccer team from Thailand was trapped in a cave complex in the northern part of the country. Monsoon rains had inundated the area where they were exploring deep within the labyrinth, and the rising floodwaters cut off their exit. For eighteen days these twelve young men and their coach were entombed without food and with only a trickle of drinkable water dripping off a rock. But just when they probably thought that all was lost and they were sure to die, a Thai Navy SEAL team broke through the water in their underground prison to rescue them. Can you imagine what these boys felt when they first saw them? “We’ve been found!”
At first, some were in disbelief. But I can almost feel the hope rising in their hearts as they learned that a full-scale rescue effort was underway. Probably no one can fully comprehend the celebration and freedom each one experienced, another eight days later, as they all were led by divers through the treacherous five miles of underwater passageways and then broke free out of the dark, muddy, floodwaters into the fresh air.
Our salvation story is much like the story of these kids. Although we were not in a cave, as rebels against God we were hopelessly trapped and doomed to die in our sins. Like the boys exploring the cavern, we felt safe for a while. But in time we found out we actually were in terrible spiritual danger. Lost and in despair, we cried out for mercy and salvation. Like the SEALS rescuing these young men, God came to us at just the right time and, by His grace, delivered us. And finally, just as the soccer team felt overwhelming joy at their deliverance, so should we feel even more joy and thankfulness that God has given us new life in Jesus.
Jesus gave His life to set us free. I hope you’ll take a few moments to pause and reflect on these verses of Scripture that speak about the freedom that God gives to those who repent and believe in Jesus, the Son of God.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners (Isaiah 61:1).
And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free (John 8:32).
So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36).
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1).
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another (Galatians 5:13).
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death (Romans 8:2).
“Thank You, Lord, for freedom!”
But we don’t always walk in this freedom. When we hunger and thirst for others to do what we want, like we want, and when we want, our relationships can seem empty, or at least unfulfilling. If we’re not downright unhappy, we still can be left with the sense that “there should be more.” Most of us have experienced this kind of dissatisfaction with relationships. One of the purposes of this book is to encourage you that it is possible to experience freedom from this discontentment in at least two wonderful ways. First, the gospel of Jesus can free you from many things that have stunted your spiritual growth and damaged your witness for Christ. Second, it can bring you into the freedom to manifest the life and love of Christ that Jesus and the writers of Scripture declared, as in the verses above, and that you may have seen in other believers. When we turn to the Lord, seek His face, and turn from our unbelief and idolatry, we are responding to the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. The result of these acts is that increasingly, Jesus truly becomes our Lord instead of other people and life’s circumstances ruling in our lives. This continuous work of repentance—conviction, contrition, confession of sin, conversion, and confession of Christ as Lord over various areas of our lives—liberates us from the instability and fears that can hinder, corrupt, or even destroy our relationships when we base our lives on what others think and expect of us, or provide for us, instead of on Jesus.
I hope you’ll remember the freedom that Jesus purchased for you in His work on the cross and through His resurrection, and then walk in it. As you walk in His freedom, enjoying His forgiveness and fellowship, you’ll have a growing desire to bless others with the same freedom in your relationships. In other words, pay it forward! You’ll be loving others as Jesus has loved you, and that’s what living to love with Jesus is all about.