4th of July really has me thinking about the concept of freedom. You know, what it REALLY means to be free. The conclusion I came to is that it is completely possible to live in a free country and be a prison to ourselves, a prison to society, a prisoner to sin. And I think that's because I've been defining freedom wrong, I think maybe a lot of us have.

"Jesus loves you."

Most likely, no matter what you believe, you have heard this phrase, and if you're a Christian, you have probably memorized verses, read books, heard sermons, and talked to a lot of other people about these three simple words.

But do you really believe it? Not do you believe that Jesus loves your mom, or your sister, or your dog, or your best friend, or Mother Teresa, because obviously, He does. But do you believe that He loves YOU?

Yes, you.

Don't worry, I didn't start writing a patriotic article and get sidetracked and end up here. I promise, there's a connection.

I was listening to a podcast recently (if you know me, you know I love a good podcast) that talked about what being loved by Jesus does. How it affects us. What it means to actually know we are loved and to live like it. What I realized later is that it was actually a podcast about freedom. Living like we're loved and being free are one in the same.

Here's how. Living like we're loved makes us FEARLESS. There's a verse in the Bible in 1 John that says "There's NO fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear." We have perfect love. Jesus loves us each with a perfect love no matter what we do or who we are. So why am I so afraid? Why am I anxious? Why do I fear the disapproval of others? Does the "no fear" thing just not apply to me?

Negative. Of course, it applies to me, and to you. It's not that we don't have a perfect love that drives out fear, it's that we won't accept it. It doesn't feel right or fair that the God of the universe would love me perfectly, so perfectly that I could be fearless. And it's not fair. But Jesus isn't concerned with getting even with His children, He's just concerned with loving us.

So we get to live like we're loved because we ARE loved. We get to be fearless because, with a love like that, there's nothing to fear.

Here's where the freedom comes in. When we aren't afraid of rejection of others or of our own failure because we KNOW we are fully accepted and perfectly loved in the eyes of Jesus, we are FREE to love others! We are free to be ourselves and look like a fool in the eyes of others because we aren't afraid of their rejection. We are free to take risks and maybe fail a few times because we know Jesus already paid the ultimate price for our true failures on the cross. We are free to throw out kindness without an agenda because we don't need the approval of others to feel satisfied. We are fully known and perfectly loved by Jesus. We have ALL we need in that alone.

And THAT is the freedom that changes everything. That is the freedom that breaks chains and tears down walls. That is the freedom that extends past the 4th of July and into eternity. That is the freedom that I want to set off fireworks to celebrate.

When we embrace the love we don't need to earn, we are free to give it away, because the supply is endless. I think that's how I want to define freedom from now on.