“our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” – Titus 2.13-14
We often think of sin simply as wrong things that we do. That’s partly correct, but more than simply wrongful acts, sin is a force that holds people captive as slaves. The apostle Paul says “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Rom 6:16). In that chapter he talks about sin as having dominion over people. Sin is a powerful force that enslaves and traps and ensnares people.
Sin gives us the illusion of freedom: we are free to choose right or wrong and we freely choose wrong. But while we feel that we are free, we are not. We are enslaved to sin and are unable to change and break free from its dominion.
I’m reminded of the old Bob Newhart Mad TV sketch where the client shares their problems and behaviors with the therapist who simply keeps yelling at the client to “STOP IT! Cut it out!” Simply willing ourselves to stop our sinful behavior will not work as long as we are enslaved to sin. What we need is not more willpower, but to be released from the power of sin. We need freedom.
The good news of the gospel is that on the cross Jesus purchases our freedom from the bondage of sin. He redeems enslaved sinners and sets them free. Paul says, “we know that your old self was crucified with [Christ] in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin… you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God” (Rom 6:6,22). Jesus brings freedom.
Are you stuck in a sinful or destructive behavior? Willpower won’t save you. Like spinning your tires in a mud bog, more effort won’t get you out. You need the freedom that only comes from Jesus. We want to save ourselves. We want to believe that we have things under control. We believe that we can change ourselves. Sadly, it’s not true. We try to live with ourselves as the hero who saves the day, when only Jesus can be the hero who rescues us from our sin and slavery. He gave himself to redeem us from sin and our self-destructive behavior, and to purify us, and to give us the passion and ability to do good. Let’s live in the freedom that Jesus gives.
Jesus, thank-you that you set us free from the bondage of sin. We identify with your death in our place and receive the grace of your freedom. We pray that we would know and live in the freedom of being redeemed from sin by you, our great God and Savior.
(originally written for Delve on March 9, 2011)