Who should be King save him who makes us free?
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
In the second story in Tennyson's Idylls of the King, Gareth wants to join Arthur's knights, but his mother Bellicent wants him to remain home and hunt until he has grown older and stronger. At the end of one of his pleas, Gareth says, "Man am I grown, a man's work must I do. / Follow the deer? follow the Christ, the King, / Live pure, speak true, right wrong, follow the King - / Else, wherefore born?" Bellicent ignores the noble element of his plea and focuses on the tenuous nature of Arthur's kingship, since his claim to the throne remains disputed. The opening quote is Gareth's final word before his mother relents (with a condition).
Gareth's simple words strike at the heart of man's plight, reflected in the words of Jesus to the Pharisees in John 8, also quoted above. Those given over to sin remain slaves to sin, and have no sonship, no inheritance, in the Kingdom of God. But those whom the Son has set free, are free indeed--that is, they are no longer slaves to sin, but heirs of the household; sons of the Father. Elsewhere in John's Gospel, Jesus defines His sonship to the Father and the authority such sonship implies by His submission to the Father's will and commands: "I can do nothing on my own authority; I judge only as God tells me, so my judgement is right, because I am not trying to do what I want, but only what he who sent me wants;" "For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak."
A Master and a Father both command and promise. A slave obeys his master out of fear, or because of some promised reward. However, the freedom of sonship is the freedom to obey the Father's commands willingly, in the knowledge that the Father's pleasure and future inheritance remain upon, and are entrusted to the son. Everything a master has belongs to the master alone, not the slave. Everything the Father has belongs to the Son, and will be his to command in the fullness time. The slave has no hope of inheritance, because he is a slave and not a son. The son has no fear of retribution or renunciation, for his mistakes are part of becoming able to command his inheritance.
Idols are like masters, but worse, for they make promises illegitimately, since only the Father possesses by rights all that He has made. An idol will make demands and offer rewards, but consumptively; not as the Father who commands His son to obey so that he might become greater and be glorified. An idol's promises are illicit--the idol has no power to glorify, no power to save, but only the power to consume and destroy. An idol "would be King," but cannot make his "slave" free. Only the King who can free is a King worthy of honor, fidelity, and worship. So what does it look like to be a son in the Father's Kingdom?
As expected, the Only Son of God shows us. The freedom of the Son is the freedom to speak as the Father would have us speak and do as the Father would have us do. Idolatry is characterized by the inability to live in this freedom. To cling to patterns of sin, to cling to identities that are abominable in God's sight, to wield worldly powers to coerce others (sex, wealth, fame, intelligence, physical strength, etc.), to live in despair of obedience--these are the rewards of idolatry.
In John 12, Jesus says this:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
Shall we follow the deer? Shall we seek those earthly rewards that bring pleasure; those patterns of selfish desire? No! Let us follow the Christ, the King! Let us live pure, speak true, right wrong, follow the King - else, wherefore born?