Scotland Conference: Freedom In Christ

"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed," (John 8:36). This was the key verse of the first Scotland Youth Conference held in February.

scotlandAround 66 youth attended from around the UK and Europe to discuss and meditate on the theme of liberty in Christ. On the first night, we discussed the meaning of liberty - an idea that has provoked revolutions, wars and philosophical debates for centuries. For Christians, however, the definition of liberty is best described by the words of St. Macarius the Great: a state of detachment from all worldly affections so that I may be free for only one longing. What St. Macarius describes is freedom from attachment to the world (and/or desires of the flesh), in order to completely devote life to the Creator.

It may be an easy concept to understand but for most of us this will be a lifelong challenge. How can we achieve such liberty and freedom so as to solely focus on Jesus Christ? The first step is to discover our bondages. Every single one of us, at every stage of life, is bound to something: a high school student may be bound to the approval of classmates; a church servant may be bound to the praise of a congregation; and an alcoholic is certainly bound to his alcohol addiction. Living under the oppression of people's opinions, addictions to substances or the satisfaction of certain feelings can (and usually does) leave us feeling devastated, weak, and hopeless. Why then do we continue to live in such a way? During the conference we addressed three main reasons: firstly, we like the bondage; secondly, we fear doing anything about it; and lastly, we underestimate its influence over us. Sound familiar?

The good news is that every one of us is made in the image and likeness of God. Our 'passions' were not included in that original picture. Passions include fear, gluttony, greed, pride, sorrow, anger, love of money, lust, envy etc. These passions are the source of our bondages: for example, pride is intimately connected to a need for approval and lust is most definitely the source of sexual immorality. The fall of man resulted in a distortion of the original image, like a painting that someone had scribbled over. The scribbles are those passions mentioned above that are alien to God's intended nature for us. By the grace and love of God, the whole life of our Lord Jesus Christ served to erase those scribbles so that we could be restored again to the original image of God, through the work of His Holy Spirit. This means that we are able to overcome these passions in Christ. Isaiah 9:6 calls God a Wonderful Counsellor and He is truly always able to heal us.

The even more amazing news is that we are able to achieve a life of liberty or being de-passioned - meaning that although I occasionally fall into sin, it does not have dominion or control over me. I can be free from living a life of sin (if you aren't cheering, you should be!!). I believe this is what Christ means in John 16:33 when He says, "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

Several talks focused specifically on fear, approval, addiction, and failure. The common trend in dealing with each of these bondages is to: (1) admit them to yourself / ask the Holy Spirit to expose them to you; (2) try to find the source; (3) deal with your past; (4) meet your need for love, attention, approval, relief from Christ and His Word rather than a person, behaviour, or substance; (5) enjoy your wholeness and new identity in Christ. Equally important are prayer, fasting, repenting, confession, and all the liturgical powers (agpeya prayers, midnight praises, Eucharist and divine liturgy, etc.). This may seem farfetched at the beginning, but I can confidently say (from personal experience - even though I'm still learning!!) that spending intimate and daily time bringing our issues to our Saviour is able to solve all of our problems.

Overall, the conference was a place of rest for many of us who came feeling burdened and were finally able to pinpoint the source of our anxieties and fears more clearly. We left feeling invigorated to reassess how we deal with our passions and motivated to overcome them. We must always remember that "we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us" (Romans 8:37).

St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church in London is one of the oldest Coptic churches in the lands of the immigration, and one of the first to be supported and cared for by our beloved patriarch, HH the late Pope Shenouda III.

  • St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church
    Allen Street, Kensington
    London W8 6UX