Tag Archives: freedom

Is there a third option between slavery to sin and slavery to God?

Romans 6 22

Last Wednesday I got to teach the Youth Group from Romans 6:11-23. Here were some of my reflections as I studied the passage. Suffice it to say, Romans teaches a pretty counter-cultural perspective on freedom. 

Is there a third option here?

It’s easy to like the idea of being set free from sin. Apart from Jesus our sinful desires control us and it’s a powerless feeling. In Jesus, we can be free from that slavery.

But I suspect it can be a little more difficult for us to accept that when we cease to be slaves to sin, we simultaneously become slaves to God. Paul doesn’t leave us a third option – being free from sin AND free from God. Is such a third option possible and would it be desirable?

No and no.

It’s not possible. First, to desire to be free from God was the root of Adam and Eve’s sin. They desired to be like God themselves and, in doing so, they rejected their place in his creation and, ultimately, they rejected God himself. Second, the “third option” is a trap. When we desire to be “free” from God we start down the path of sin. The sin that starts out little grows and gains more and more control. We think it’s our pet, but it becomes our slave master, and eventually leads to death.

It’s also not desirable. God created us and loves us so he knows what’s best for us. He sets up boundaries for our own good and within those boundaries he grants us incredible freedom. Like a fish is free in water, a person is free when he is in the environment for which he was created. God created us to live in love – love for God and love for one another. When we submit to him, he calls us to obey those greatest commandments. In doing so, though we are offering our whole selves in service to him, we become truly free.

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Freeeeeedom (Redemption in Hebrews 9 and 10)

“[The NT motif of redemption] is like an object that is being tossed around just beneath the surface of a turbulent sea; whenever it emerges from the waves it is seen from a slightly different angle, and therefore different parts of it are observed.” – Dictionary of the Later New Testament and its Developments

“Freeeeeeeedom” – Dave Ramsey (/ Braveheart)

Redemption is one of those churchy words we need to keep around. Its basic meaning is freedom won at a great cost. In Biblical terms this means freedom from sin (and its effects) purchased for us by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. But, as the quote above notes, there are a lot of aspects to redemption, what we are freed from, and what we are freed to.

I would like to add one element to the metaphor employed above. Let us imagine that the object just below the water is a precious jewel, a crystal perhaps, with a light shining on it. The first thing you see is  the shine of the light against the crystal but upon closer inspection you see the object in itself, its interior, its essence. The closer you look, the more beautiful it appears.

The same is true for redemption. The “shine” of redemption the way in which we first subjectively experience it, that brings about an immediate emotional response, that first taste of freedom – freedom from the fear of death, freedom from a guilty conscience, freedom from empty religion, freedom from a meaningless life. Closer to the core we see that redemption is freedom from actual guilt, from eternal judgment, and freedom from separation from God. Finally, at its very core we see the fundamental reality of the perfect once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus on the cross – that immeasurable cost paid as a ransom price for our eternal redemption.

Hebrews 9 and 10, set against the background of the Old Covenant, the law of Moses, and the Levitical sacrificial system, reveals for us a remarkably clear picture of redemption in all its glory.

This post, and two more to appear next week, form the initial structure of my sermon on 11/22 at WPBF. I restructured things since then, but here are some of the main ideas…

Part 1: The Shine

Fear of death

The theme of redemption in Hebrews begins in chapter 2. Verse 14 says that Jesus “shared in [our] humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who has power over death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” The author will explain how Jesus’ death frees us from the fear of death and how his death could ever be conceived of as a decisive victory over the devil in due time. For now, let us be the sailors in a great storm who first glimpse the beacon of the lighthouse. It’s not yet clear to us where this light comes but out of the overpowering darkness of the fear of death comes a glimmer of hope. All is not lost.

Guilty conscience

The Old Covenant, while a blueprint for the good things to come, was ultimately “weak and useless” (7:18) on its own. Instead of actually taking away sin the sacrifice of blood and goats only served as a regular reminder of sin (10:3). The author states that the earthly sanctuary was an illustration to show that the “gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper” (9:9). Instead of a weight being lifted off their shoulders, they continued to feel guilty for sin (10:2). By contrast God offers us redemption by way of Christ, who is able to “cleanse our consciences from dead works” (9:14) which allows us to “draw near to God in full assurance” (10:22). In Christ we experience freedom from the weight of guilt and from shame.

External Religion

Most of us in Christendom live and breathe the New Covenant. We cannot imagine life in the Old Covenant with its ritual sacrifices, its layers of separation, its dietary restrictions, and its hierarchical priesthood. But that is exactly the world in which Hebrews was written. To those original hearers the pastors claim that Jesus was now the High Priest, that the Old was obsolete and passing away, and that no payment for sin remained must have been both shocking and liberating. To make such a bold claim the pastor needed to argue both for the supremacy of Christ and the inferiority of the Old and, in fact, its inability to save.

After describing the sanctuary and the articles of the covenant the pastor states that this earthly sanctuary shows us that the presence of God was inaccessible to us (9:8), that the sacrifices couldn’t clean our consciences (9:9), and that they were only a matter of ceremonies and external regulations (9:10) which could only make us externally clean (9:13) and that had to be repeated year after year (9:25). Furthermore, the sacrifices could not make us inwardly clean, but only reminded us of our uncleanness (10:1-4). But all of this has come to an end, says the pastor, replaced by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus, who is able to make us clean on the inside through a single act.

This internal work of Jesus frees us from external religion, from any need to perform ritual acts in order to earn our salvation. Instead of trying to earn God’s favor we simply receive it. Instead of trying to make amends for our own sin we accept the righteousness of God.

Meaningless Life

Paul paints a bleak picture of life before Christ in Romans 6. It is not just lawlessness or rebellion, but slavery. “You used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity in ever-increasing wickedness” Paul says. “Sure, being a slave to sin meant you were free from righteousness, but what did it gain you? Didn’t those things just bring shame and lead to death?” Sin is a master, and a cruel one at that, promising what it can never fulfill and only leaving destruction in its wake. The “sin-sick” who flocked to Jesus – the tax collectors, sinners, and prostitutes – understood this better than anyone else and it was to them that Jesus’ words sounded like freedom. “When you identified yourself with Jesus you were set free from sin,” Paul declares, “and have become slaves to God.” The way of sin leads to death, but the life of holiness leads to eternal life.

Peter states it this way: “You were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers” (1 Peter 1:18). The writer of Hebrews agrees: “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (9:14).

Looking for equality, love, and freedom?

Are you looking for equality, love, and freedom?

Find it in Jesus, at the cross.

We are equal in our humanity. We have all been formed in the image of God and are all, therefore, worthy of honor, love, and respect. God knit us together, loves us, and pursues us as a Father.

We are equal in our rebellion. We have all turned away. We all fall short. We all stand convicted before a holy God. We’re all sick and in need of healing, in slavery to sin and in need of someone to free us, guilty and in need of forgiveness.

We are equal before the cross. We can all find forgiveness, healing, and freedom if we come to Jesus at the cross. Here our rebellion is paid for in full. At the cross we see love, real love, not any cheap imitation.

At the cross we see love that

…… deals directly with sin. Jesus’ love displayed on the cross does not hide our sin or pretend it does not exist. In the cross we see the horrifying reality of our rebellion and its true offensive to our Creator.

…… goes to extreme and sacrificial lengths to bring us salvation. Our rebellion is dealt with once for all through Jesus’ sacrificial death.

…… takes us as we are. No one comes to the cross as a “good” person. We all come in our rebellion as enemies of God, but we walk away his friend, reconciled to our Father.

… demands our radical life change and sacrificial obedience. We are all called to take up our own cross and live a life of love and obedience. This call is an act of love because when we lose our life (living by our own terms) we find it in abundance in God.

… brings freedom.

The cross brings freedom from the slavery of sin. When we come to faith we share in Jesus’ death. We no longer have to live at the whims of our rebellious desires. We are free to live a life of love and obedience.

The cross brings freedom from the fear of death. On the cross Jesus conquered the one who holds the power of death by taking away the sting of death, sin. For the one who comes to Jesus in faith, death is an enemy that’s been beaten and we can live in that glorious freedom.

The true nature of our equality, the true nature of love, and the true nature of freedom are revealed, and offered freely to us, in Jesus on the cross. Go to the cross.