How to be Free


Francis of Assisi got his first taste of freedom in a prison cell.

True freedom lives, if we allow it to, inside of us.

As a kid growing up in smog-strangled Los Angeles I heard a radio ditty about a magical island “26 miles across the sea.” But when we went to the shore I could never see it. So I assumed it was a myth. Then one breezy day at the beach, it suddenly appeared. I was astounded because it wasn’t just visible, it was near, really near! In fact, ten years later I met the girl who would become my high school sweetheart on a day trip to Catalina, “the island of romance.”

So why hadn’t I been able to see it till then? In a word: pollution.

There’s a worse kind of pollution. It’s the kind that invades our souls, the kind the Apostle Paul was referring to when he said that from this world we can only see a vague reflection of reality, of God, as if in “a darkened mirror, an enigma.” (1 Corinthians 12:11). But there is a way to blow the smog from our hearts and minds. Jesus said, “Blessed (happy, fulfilled) are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

Purity. The word evokes images of extreme asceticism, of living on dried bread crusts (who gets to eat the rest of the bread?) and of flagellating oneself with a leather scourge every time one has an impure thought. But real purity isn’t about limitations, it’s about freedom. defines purity as “freedom from anything that corrupts or pollutes.” It’s about blowing the smog away. Easy to say, hard to do.

Or maybe not.

Jesus wasn’t some pop guru floating foamy platitudes. He told us how to be free: “When you abide in my word (literally live there—make it the basis of your life), then you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  (John 8:31-32)

But how do we do that? How do we “abide” in his word? There are hundreds of references in the Bible to the power of God’s word to blow away the pollution of a lie-choked world. But the majority of these are not about reading his word, they’re about memorizing it. Only a relative handful of copies of the sacred texts existed in the ancient world. Even in Jesus’ time, those who wanted to read God’s word had to reserve time to sit with the scrolls in a local synagogue. So how did they use that time? They used it to memorize as many precious words as they could! When Jesus and the Apostles quote the Old Testament, they’re doing it from memory. Most people wouldn’t own a copy of the Bible for another 1,600 years!

Nowadays we can own as many copies as we like. Or simply read it online. Lucky us.

But Jesus wasn’t talking about merely reading or studying his word, he was talking about burning it into our souls. King David got it. In Psalm 119:10-13 he says, “I have hidden your word in my heart (memorized it) so that I might not sin against you…and with my lips I will declare (recite and meditate upon) all the words of your mouth.”

Drugs kill. Racism kills. [Insert-item-of-choice] kills. There have been many such mottos. But the killer behind the killers is sin. Sin is soul-pollution, the smog that obscures our vision of truth and of God.

Only God’s word “hidden in our hearts” is powerful enough to free the living word, his Spirit, to blow away the pollution of sin (the word Spirit literally means “wind” or “breath” in Hebrew and Greek), to allow us to see–through purified air–that God has been near, really near, to us all along.

“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  ~John 8:36

More on the subject: How Memorization Revolutionized My Life

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to How to be Free

  1. numrhood says:

    missing 1 corinthians 12:13
    missing john 8:38
    matthew 5:33
    john 33:56-7


  2. pastorpete51 says:

    Oh I remember nor being able to see more than 8 blocks in downtown. The beach always seemed cleaner(Manhattan beach) but O never saw Catalina. Nice post

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks for your words today. I think of how many times those words hidden in the heart have been a source of encouragement and grace for me. What our nation needs today are fresh breezes of the Spirit blowing away the fog that has settled among us.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I wish more people would realize that sin is the source of the world’s problems, and that Jesus is the solution. Thanks for sharing this, Mitch.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. 🦋 I visited Los Angeles. I didnt ike the smog and I never saw the mountains that’s suppose to be there.

    I love how you used your opening paragragh to get the readers attention. You put this peice together very well.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Lisa Beth says:

    Great truths here – thanks for stirring our hearts and refocusing our sites!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. How can anyone have a successful life without reading the owner’s manual?

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Mitch, this is a post that should be read by everyone. In the mire of today and all that abide within need to be aware of that which sets us free. It is shameful that many use the “smog” to emit power.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. lisa roitsch says:

    Very well spoken my friend! Yes!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. gpavants says:

    Hi Mitch,

    Always good to hear your devotionals. Yes, I hate we live in a polluted world, but praise the Lord for washing us with His Wird and the breath of His Spirit.

    In Christ,


    Liked by 2 people

  11. Pingback: How to be Free – The Journey Home

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