Subscribe by Email

Friday, July 6, 2018

Celebrating Our Freedom

On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress stating that the thirteen British colonies in North America declared themselves to be independent of British rule. For the next seven years, these colonies joined together to collectively fight against the British who sought to maintain their control over what became known as the United States of America. Through the valiant efforts of thousands of people, some of whom died in the process, the thirteen colonies won their freedom from British rule.

As great as the freedom is that we have in this country, we can experience an even greater freedom in Jesus. Freedom from what? As Americans, we’re not slaves to anyone, right? According to the Bible, we are all born into slavery.[1] It’s not the type of slavery we typically imagine because it’s not a type of slavery which is visible to the eye. It’s become so familiar to us that we don’t even recognize its existence. This slavery has taken our hearts and minds hostage. We are born as slaves to sin. And there’s nothing we can do to set ourselves free. We need a hero to come set us free.

How Did We Get Here?

According to the Bible, many years ago, God brought the earth and everything in it into existence. He created the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, the water, the plants, and the animals. To top it all off he created humans, the only part of creation which is recorded to have been created in his image.[2]

God took the man, Adam, and the woman, Eve, whom he had created and placed them in a luscious garden called Eden. In this garden, they experienced complete freedom in him. They were slaves to no one except him.[3]

But then something happened which changed not only the freedom they experienced, but the freedom which was passed down to all of humanity. Adam and Eve sinned against God. This was a huge deal. Their one act of sin caused them to lose the freedom they found in God and become slaves of sin. As slaves of sin, they became obedient to sin and all its shortcomings, including the addition of a whole new set of fears they’d never experienced before such as shame and death. When they later had children, those children were also born into slavery. And since all of humanity is descended from these two humans, every single person on the earth is born a slave to sin.

How Can We Be Set Free?

If the story ended here, it’d be sort of a doom and gloom story. Not exactly something worth celebrating. But thankfully, the story doesn’t end here. Before Adam and Eve ever sinned, before they were created, and before the entire universe was created, God had already developed a plan to deal with this problem.

Sin isn’t something which God can magically overlook. He is completely holy. People who aren’t completely holy (sinful) can’t bear to be in his presence because they are unworthy and they fully recognize it. As an example, when one of the prophets of the Old Testament found himself in the presence of God in a vision, his first response was, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips…”[4] Immediately following this realization, he was cleansed from his sin, making it bearable for him to be in God’s presence. In the same way, in order for us to be in God’s presence, we have to be made holy which means we have to be set free from our slavery to sin. How does God make us holy?

Have you ever experienced financial debt? If you went to college, then you probably had student loans or if you own a house, then you probably have a mortgage. For the purposes of this example, imagine you’re in lots of debt. Imagine you have racked up a debt of $6,000,000,000 (6 billion dollars). Will you ever be able to pay off this debt? Probably not. If you think there’s the potential you could pay off this debt, then imagine you have a debt of $6,000,000,000,000 (6 trillion dollars). For the purposes of this illustration, you need to imagine you have a debt you can’t pay off. If your imaginary self feels hopelessly a slave to your creditor, then you’ve got the point.

Will your $6,000,000,000 debt merely disappear? No, it won’t. Someone has to pay for it. Maybe Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos would come along and pay off your debt. Wouldn’t that be nice! Then again, maybe your creditor will decide to forgive the debt. Regardless of who’s paying for it, someone has to pay for it. The debt doesn’t just magically disappear.

In the same way, sin doesn’t just magically disappear. It’s something we can’t repay and something which God doesn’t just wave his hand over and say “hocus pocus” to make it go away. Someone has to pay for it. How is this debt paid? Death.[5] All people die; that is a fact. Even though we have been trying to defeat death for many years, we’ve yet to conquer it because sin is still present. If sin were to vanish, then death would vanish as well.

This death is not only a death in this life, but an eternal death apart from God.[6] The problem we face is that every single human who has ever lived (except Jesus) is sinful, meaning that we’re all in the same boat. We’re not even able to pay off our own debt, let alone pay for the debt of another person. It’d be like every person on the planet owing a debt of 6 trillion dollars. Not even Jeff Bezos, currently the wealthiest man in the world, could pay off his own 6 trillion dollar debt, let alone pay the 6 trillion dollar debt of every single other person in the world.

But God, out of his love for both himself and humanity, developed a plan to pay for the debt owed by all his people. He chose to personally come to earth as a human being (Jesus), live a sinless life, and die in place of his people. Think of it like him making a trade; he traded his holy life to his people for their unholy lives and as a result, endured the punishment they deserved. It was through this act that he set his people free from their slavery to sin.

Looking Ahead

This may be the first time you’ve heard this story or it may be the thousandth time you’ve heard it. But what I find over and over again is that although many church-going people know this story like the back of our hands, they struggle to see how this story changes our lives. It’s one thing to say we’re free, but it’s another to know how our lives are transformed as a result of this freedom. What does it look like to wake up every morning having been set free from slavery to sin? I’ll be addressing this topic in my next article. Stay tuned…

[1] See John 8:33-47.
[2] See Genesis 1:26-27.
[3] Slavery to God is different than slavery to anyone or anything else. Slavery to God is freeing whereas slavery to anyone or anything else is like the slavery we usually picture.
[4] Isaiah 6:5.
[5] See Genesis 2:17 and Romans 6:23.
[6] I’m not claiming that peoples’ souls will cease to exist after they die on earth. The Bible speaks over and over again of eternal punishment and torment for those who die apart from God.

No comments:

Post a Comment