Freedom in Christ


Most people will agree that freedom is a desirable thing. There are many kinds of freedom, and today I'm only going to discuss the kind of freedom Jesus was talking about in John 8:34-36: freedom from the penalty and the power of sin. This is the freedom from which all other freedoms flow.

But first, we have to understand exactly what is sin so that we know what we are being freed from.

Simply put, sin is anything that is contrary to God's character and nature as revealed in Scripture. This is crucial to understand, because people have a tendency to create a god in their own minds, whether intentionally or not. If we worship a made-up god, that is a form of idolatry. That's why we need to rely on who Scripture says that Jesus is so that we know the true God and therefore know His character and nature.

But why do we rely on Scripture to tell us? Because it is authoritative, because it is inerrant, because its prophecies are fulfilled, and because the historical, archeological and scientific evidence back it up. And Scripture makes it very clear that Jesus is God.

No one can say that Jesus never claimed to be God. There are numerous Scripture passages that attest to His deity, such as in John 10:30 when Jesus said, "I and the Father are one". Take just one example: the explosion of miracles that Jesus performed while He walked this earth. Even the Pharisees that wanted to kill Jesus never questioned whether those miracles were genuine. Jesus performed those miracles to authenticate His claim to be God.

The evidence for the authority of Scripture can't be fully discussed in this brief blog post. Let's just say that if there are any skeptics out there who don't trust Scripture and what it says about Jesus, I suggest they do their own research and find out why the Bible is still standing after people have been trying to knock it down for over 2,000 years. 

Once we know who Jesus is, we can then start to examine who we are. And when we take an honest look at ourselves, we know that we don't reflect God's character and nature perfectly as revealed in Scripture. And that's what sin is: anything that's contrary to God's character and nature.

We agree with the Apostle Paul in Romans 3:23 that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Leviticus 11:44 says, "Be holy, for I, God, am holy", yet we know that we are far from holy. If we look at just the Ten Commandments alone and we're honest with ourselves, we know we've broken them all...  even the ones that it would seem as if we have kept.

For example, take the seventh commandment that forbids adultery. If I never sleep with another man's wife, I haven't broken it, right? Wrong! God is referring to a principle in Scripture, which defines adultery as sexual activity apart from that of a natural man & a natural woman bound in matrimony. Anything apart from that is adultery. That covers a lot of territory.

And adultery doesn't even have to be the physical act. 1 Samuel 16:7 says that God looks at the heart, and Jesus said in Matthew 5:28 that if a man looks with lust at another woman he has committed adultery in his heart. So Jesus "upped the ante" and made it clear that spiritual adultery was just as sinful as physical adultery in God's eyes.

You see, it's all about what's going on in your heart. Some of us have broken it more and some of us have broken it less, but we probably have all broken the seventh commandment. I know I have, which is why I wrote the song "Freedom in Christ". Sexual lust was a besetting sin for me. And so I was a slave to it because I couldn't stop.

And it doesn't have to be sexual. You can lust for money, for power, for influence or status. Then there's gluttony, gossip, drugs, alcohol, etc. The list of lusts is endless. 1 John 2:16 calls it the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life.

The problem is, you don't just wake up one day and say to yourself, "Okay, I'm not going to lust anymore". Because you know you can't stop. You know there will be a "next time". That's when you realize you really are a slave to sin. I'm sure you've heard the joke about the smoker who said, "I can quit whenever I want… I've done it a hundred times!"

The bottom line is this: apart from Christ there is NO freedom from sin, other than the freedom to pick which sin you want to commit. You cannot stop sinning on your own. That's why Jesus said in John 8:34 that anyone who sins is a slave to sin.

But Jesus also said in John 8:36 that if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. And in Luke 4:18 He said He came to liberate the captives. That is, captives to sin. Acts 13:39 says that through Him (that is, through Christ) everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.

When we trust Jesus as our Savior, we are free from both the the penalty of sin and the power of sin. The penalty of sin is death and damnation. Believers are free of that because they are fully forgiven and possess eternal life. But believers are also free from the the power of sin, which means we now have, through His Spirit, the ability to say "no" to ungodly lusts.

Jesus, God's only Son, not only paid for my sins by dying on the cross and taking the punishment that I deserved, He also gives the power to be obedient when I appropriate that power. That power is called grace. That power is through His Spirit, which the Bible says lives within every believer. So now, through Christ, I have the power to be freed from sinful lusts.

The question then becomes, will I appropriate that power? Do I really WANT to be free?

That's the reason I chose the photo above. Did you notice that the man could easily slip his arm out of the shackle if he chose to?

In John 5, there is a story about a man who had an infirmity for 38 years, and Jesus asked him, "Do you want to be made well?" It's a fair question.

Sometimes it seems easier to be a slave. It provides a convenient excuse. "Well, I can't be free of this because.... "(you fill in the blank). To someone who has been accustomed to slavery their entire life, freedom can be so unfamiliar as to be uncomfortable or even downright scary. Or perhaps, like the Hebrews wandering through the desert, they loved slavery more than freedom. They loved the lie instead of the truth. "Take us back to Egypt where at least we had leeks and onions instead of this manna!" they cried to Moses. How quickly they had forgotten the tyranny, the bondage, the abuse, and the hopelessness of slavery!

So it seems to have been with the man Jesus healed from infirmity, because after being healed, it says in John 5:14-15 that Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, "See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you." The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. In other words, that man went right back to the slavery that Acts 13:39 talks about. The man trusted the Pharisees and betrayed Jesus by snitching on Him!

Scripture does not record what happened to that man, but I'm sure that betraying Jesus can't end well for anyone.

How much loyalty do we have for Jesus? Once you know that He has freed you from the power of sin, it takes away the excuse for failure. Because now when you sin, it's not because you can't help it. You CAN help it! Philippians 4:13 says, "I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength".

And that's Freedom in Christ. What will you do with your freedom?

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