Have You Lost Your Freedom?

Are you truly free as a Christian? The unique distinctive of Christianity among all the world’s religions is freedom (Gen 2:16; Jn 8:32; Gal 5:1; 2 Cor 3:17). I love the song “I’m Free” by The Who. I don’t remember the lyrics other than the chorus and the catchy guitar chords. When I became a Christian in 1980, I experienced the exhilaration of truly being free because of the unfathomable grace of Jesus in spite of all my sins. But after being in the same UBF chapter for 25 years, I felt I lost my freedom. I am not blaming my chapter or anyone in particular. It was entirely my own fault. I allowed myself to feel enslaved by UBF traditions and expectations.

I reassessed what I had been doing. I decided to stop writing testimonies, to not attend weekly meetings and yearly conferences, to regularly visit my aged mother in Malaysia, to stop “message training,” to allow responsible dating among single Christians, to resign as an elder after 20 years, and to freely and respectfully voice my objection or disagreement (agreeably and prayerfully) when I do not agree with others. This upset some people. But I was and I am free in Christ to do so with the fear of God in my heart (Prov 1:7, 9:10), and without dishonoring God or the Bible or Christianity.

For the record, I am a Christian and a fully committed UBF member. I have not counted, but I have likely offered over a million to this ministry by virtue of being a physician. This is not a bragging right, nor a credit to me, because it is purely and entirely God’s grace to me. Because of UBF’s influence I love the Bible to this day, along with preaching, Bible teaching, mentoring others, raising leaders, and church planting. My entire Christian life and experience has been shaped by UBF for 32 years and counting. I am also not against the things I stopped doing. I have never discouraged others to not write testimonies, or to not attend UBF conferences, or to not marry by faith. (But I have expressed to many that “message training” makes our UBF messengers weird, because some no longer sound like themselves when they preach.) For the sake of my own sanity, I had to rediscover the freedom that I know I have in Christ.

Freedom  attracts non-Christians. Non-Christians are not free because they are enslaved by violence, video games and voyeurism, by porno, partying and playing around. But after becoming Christians we can also quite easily become enslaved. Historically, Christians become enslaved to their own religious traditions and methodologies, as though their religious habits give them an advantage or a superior status over others. Such “Christian” enslavement causes us to become more like Pharisees than like Jesus. Why do prostitutes flock to Jesus, but not to the Pharisees? Might this be a reason why prostitutes do not flock to many of our Christian churches today?

Freedom is not easy. The first week I stopped writing testimonies, I felt as though the ground would open up and swallow me alive for sinning greatly against God. Then I asked myself, “Will God love/bless me more if I write? Am I sinning and grieving God by not writing?” The answer was obvious. Still it was terribly hard to deny myself and not write!! I have always loved to share stories and testimonies. I am just no longer doing so by writing testimonies. Instead, I blog!

Is freedom dangerous? Absolutely! Christians abusing their freedom surely happens. But does it mean that we should be afraid of freedom and no longer teach it, proclaim it, declare it, and shout it from the rooftops?

Fear of freedom? Correct me if I’m wrong, but we Christians are often afraid of teaching freedom, as we are of teaching grace. We think that if we really teach freedom and grace, then young Christians will just live as they want. They won’t come to church. They won’t go to conferences. They won’t study the Bible. They won’t evangelize others. They won’t marry by faith. Etc. I beg to strongly disagree.

Legalism or liberty? Whenever we enforce anything, even good Christian habits, we promote legalism rather than liberty. Perhaps without being aware of it, we do not really give young Christians the freedom of choice. We guilt trip them if they don’t want to come to a conference, or marry someone we recommend to them. We know we should not do this. Yet it has happened often enough. It is only when we truly proclaim freedom, including freedom not to do what we do in UBF, that the Christian life is the most attractive and appealing life in the world.

Are you truly free in Christ?


  1. Great questions Ben!

    “Have You Lost Your Freedom?” I did lose my freedom, yes. For over 20 years there were always several voices in my head. The voice of UBF missionaries was the loudest. So loud, in fact, that I couldn’t hear my own voice. In fact, my thoughts, my feelings, my actions, my marriage, my family, my career, my purpose from God became so tightly bound to all things UBF that I became the “Tom Cruise” of UBF, living and breathing UBF for 30 to 40 hours every week on top of my 40 to 60 hour job.

    “Are you truly free in Christ?” Yes I am now! Now there is only my voice, and at times, the voice of God via the Holy Spirit, directing my life. I declared my freedom, sparked by the wise words of a truly spiritual man who said to me I will not bind your conscience. I am happy to say that I regained my identity as an American, and I am still born free!!.

  2. Hi Brian. Thanks for sharing.

    What you experienced has historically been described as the “abuse” of shepherding type ministries where the “shepherd” practically becomes and functions like the Holy Spirit.

    I believe that as more and more Christians begin to speak up without fear and with a degree of brokenness and humility, God may have mercy on the “shepherds” who have perpetrated such abuses, often without their conscious awareness, which of course still does not exonerate them in any way.

    Personally, I have witnessed that the saddest effect of such abusive shepherding is that it stunts the spiritual growth of members, and stifles their initiative, creativity and risk taking, because the members are absolutely required implicitly to clear every decision with their shepherd in order to obtain their blessing, permission and approval.

    We pray to raise leaders, but inadvertently we have often raised timid and hesitant followers who need to get permission to lead. The only real way for one to be a leader is to let them lead without undue interference. May this happen with increasing frequency.

    • Ben, there was a time not too long ago that your words in this article and comment here would have caused me to say to myself “Get behind me Satan!” However, I now say “Amen, brother!”

      You described what me and my friends experienced quite well. The main issue here is what I call “binding the mind” to a set of ideas. No matter how noble or “Christian” those ideas may be, human beings were not created to be bound in such a way.

      I remember something I heard last year that helped me free my mind immensely. For decades I accepted and believed that the “world mission command” was Jesus’ mission statement, as found in Matthew 28:19-20, and that this was the greatest command from Jesus.

      When I read/blogged/listened to many Christian resources, I discovered that Luke 4:17-21 is Jesus’ mission statement and the greatest command from Jesus is to love, as in John 13:34-35 and Matthew 22:36-40.

  3. Darren Gruett

    Ben, this is a great article. There are few times I can say that I agree with everything that someone else says, but in this case, I agree with every point you have made. God’s grace really does liberate us in so many ways, both now and for eternity.

    • Thanks, Darren! My 4 favorite words: grace, mercy, rest, freedom. Nothing against mission, deny yourself, die to yourself, feed sheep, have faith and be a Calvinist! :o)