Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 8:34 (Holman) Jesus responded, AI assure you: Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.@
Skeptics rant and rave about freedom, claiming they have broken their religious chains, but they cheat only themselves. Sin cannot be put aside at will. A cruel taskmaster, it enchains us.
It is far more common for a person never to have done a particular evil than to have done it only once. When sin gains a beach-head, it throws all its energy into assaulting the opening. Once a sin is tasted by us, the Devil has an extra device with which to tempt us B the memory of a temporary pleasure.
People living in sin do not do what they like, but what sin likes. Sinners are often in the grips of a habit they cannot break. Many hate and love their sins at the same time, creating agitated turmoil within, a constant upheaval. Is this freedom?
True freedom has to include freedom from our own lusts. Socrates asked, AHow can you call a man free when his pleasures rule over him?@
Slavery to sin is worse than slavery to a human owner. A physical slave, if overly oppressed, at least has a chance to flee, but where can a slave of sin flee? He carries his slave-driver with him wherever he goes. This is a lesson too many of us have learned too well, the hard way.
Sin is an alien power that has captured us. Even the best among us are beset by sin. AThere is no one righteous, not even one@ (Romans 3:10). Sin never ceases to antagonize us. AWhen I want to do good, evil is with me@ (Romans 7:21).
Something is always present in us to thwart aspiration toward good, and to incline us to evil. This inner weakness not only prevents us from rising as high as we want to, but also drags us down to doing deeds and thinking thoughts we hate and know are evil.
The intruder within us is sin. It thrives on our corrupt natures. This may sound pessimistic at first, but herein we find the truth our hope springs from.
Our sin is not hopelessly attached to us. As a foreign foe, an alien, it can be expelled. Our corrupt nature is admittedly fertile territory for sin, but sin itself is not us. It can be removed.
We were made for God and good, not Satan and evil. Sin has no right to control us. It is a mutation, a cancer, a deformity, a fungus. It is unnatural, abnormal, and capable of being terminated, but can become so entwined with our nature that we cannot separate the two in our minds. The demoniac did not know the difference between himself and his parasites. He said, AMy name is Legion, for we are many@ (Mark 5:9).
There is a difference between us and sin. It can be dragged from our heart. It may rend, tear, wound, and nearly kill, but can be removed.
Sin=s bonds may be snapped at any moment. All we need is Someone stronger than the sin-clasp. This Someone is Jesus.
Sin is strong, but Christ is stronger, and can destroy its strength. Never let a particular slavery to sin make us think we have no hope of ever gaining freedom. Our bondage is the very reason Jesus died. He came to free us from sin.
John 8:35 AA slave does not remain in the household for ever, but a son does remain forever.@
A behavioral slave (v. 34) is in as sad a state spiritually as a human slave is physically. In the Roman world, slaves were completely at the mercy or whim of their master. Having no security or assurance, slaves could be ejected or killed at any moment. Their life was haphazard at best.
Jesus, though, holds for Himself, and offers to us, a permanent position in God=s family. Christ can never be removed from His Father, and offers this security to all who accept Him. True freedom includes not only freedom from sin, but also freedom to be a full-fledged citizen in the Kingdom of God. Jesus confers on freed slaves all the rights and honors of a son. Freedom in Christ means a change in our standing, a life of insecurity discarded for a life of security.
John 8:36 ATherefore if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.@
The implication is, anything other than Jesus will not make us truly free. People have unsuccessfully tried many alternatives. Political forces cannot free us. Winning a war has never brought people inner freedom.
Had Jesus wanted to, He could have led Israel to rebel against Rome. Had He done this, only one nation would have been free, and even then only from foreign oppression. The people would have still suffered from spiritual tyranny.
Force is not the means to true freedom. Since World War II, the USA has tried to do right in foreign policy and help governments abroad. We have often found ourselves in the Ano win@ situation of supporting one totalitarian regime against another. We do the best we can, but have learned force cannot bring true freedom to people.
Civilization can not free us. To advance freedom we have tried laws, education, advancement of culture. Every triumph of civilization is a victory over some lower bondage, but also contains elements of fresh servitude. We conquer powers in nature, but become enslaved to the systems we create.
The factory worker becomes owned by long work-hours and dependence on a company for wages. The office worker is enslaved to stress and tension.
We acquire more luxuries, and then cannot live without them. Members of a highly civilized community tend to become slaves to dress, schedules, etiquette, conformity.
People are the world=s strangest mystery. We stand in awe before wealth and technology, but when we look at the ones who achieved these successes, we often see immoral lives and an inability to cope with living.
Lawlessness cannot free us. People try to find freedom in casting off restraint, but instead find a quagmire of filth and rottenness.
The best liberty is one that finds its satisfaction within the limits of a law that is loved. Freedom is when a person can say AI delight to do Your will, my God@ (Psalm 40:8).
Life without law is a body without a skeleton. The law sends us to Christ for salvation; Christ sends us back to the law to find the best way to live life.
Force, civilization, and lawlessness are attempts to find freedom through external means, but freedom is an inner spiritual condition. It does not depend on circumstances or position. Joseph was as free in prison as he was on the throne. John the Baptist was free in prison; Herod was in bondage on the throne. Christ in bonds was free; Pilate in royalty was bound by the crowd.
Samson, enslaved by his passions, was not able to find inner freedom until he was blinded, jailed, and treated as an animal. In physical bondage he found inner liberty and was free to accomplish his mightiest deed.
Liberty is an inward concern. Where a watch is placed, if wound, it is free and will function normally. But if you tinker with its insides, it will not work wherever you put it.
People need to know the true meaning of freedom. It is finding a place of good, right, and safety that is found only in Jesus.
On a ship, a bird once escaped from its cage, and took off flying, enjoying its supposed freedom. The bird soon disappeared, but later re-appeared, struggling to make the ship. It landed on the deck, panting and breathless.
Somewhere in its flight, the bird had a change of heart, and no longer saw the ship as a prison, but as a dear home. This illustrates what happens when a restless human heart breaks away from the restraints of Christianity. It flies from God as if He and the church were a prison. After roaming over meaningless paths, many eagerly come back to God the harbor and church the home.
Jesus achieved the real purpose of mankind. He alone was absolutely free. He is willing to share with others what He has always had, real freedom.