Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.
Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.
When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right.
While freedom is a God-given gift there remains certain choices that either help us live a life of freedom or a life of slavery. For example, if you decide to murder someone, that choice will rob you of freedom. Even if you were able to get away with the crime and not spend the rest of your life behind bares, the guilt of the deed you committed would plague you with fear and uncertainty making it difficult to enjoy your life.
Another, much more practical, example is the choice to use credit. Using a credit card to furnish a lifestyle way above your means will lead to the reality that you are enslaved to your creditors. By spending tomorrow’s morning today you limit what you can do in the future because there is already a group of people who have a legal claim to your money. On top of that the interest that you have to pay will actually make you pay more for those things than what they are worth. Your freedom is hindered by the decision that you made.
Our choices will either lead us to greater levels of freedom or they will restrict the freedom that we already enjoy. There are many choices, both large and small, that will take away our freedom. Our freedom and our choices are eternally connected. Ponder for a moment what Erwin McManus wrote:
Not all free acts lead to freedom. The choices you freely make may cost you a life of genuine freedom. This is why the Bible talks about the human experience in terms of being slaves to sin. Sin creates the illusion of freedom; it fools us into seeking freedom from God rather than finding freedom in God.
Whatever else Jesus came to do, one thing is clear—He came to set you free. God is not a warden; He is a deliverer. And so earnest is He about your freedom that He was willing to be taken captive and crucified on your behalf just so you can run free (Stand Against the Wind; p. 14).
If we are going to be free we have to make those choices that create and enhance the freedom in our lives. This requires keeping the future in mind and not just living in the moment. We have to think about the consequences of our actions and ask the question; “What is the true cost of my behavior?”
Ultimately we have to realize that a life lived apart from Christ Jesus is a life that is devoid of freedom. Only Jesus has the power to rescue us from the slavery of sin.
In Romans 6:15-20 the apostle Paul tells us that we have to make a choice. We can choose to allow sin to continue to reign in our hearts, or we can give ourselves over to righteousness. What Paul asks us to do is to establish disciplines in our lives that help us train to live lives of holiness, and in this way experience freedom.
The follower of Jesus is free because they have given themselves over to Jesus’ way of living life. That is why we devote our lives to the study of God’s Word, being part of a Christian community, taking time to celebrate Christ’s victory over sin and death, and seeking God’s guidance and blessing through prayer (Acts 2:42). There are other disciplines that I could mention, but these are the basic four that the early church used to grow in faith and freedom.
We need to be devoted to disciplines because that is the way we learn to live in freedom. A person of faith is like a jazz improviser. This musician has learned the chords and studied the music so much that she understands where the song going. The discipline of practicing the music gives her the ability to stay true to the song, even when she goes off on her own. The jazz musician has freedom to improvise because she has been disciplined in learning the music
When we devote ourselves to holiness through observing the spiritual disciplines of the Christian faith we are able to live with freedom because we know the meaning behind our lives. Understanding the purpose of our lives helps us make the right choices whenever we are faced with a decision.
True freedom is not found in doing whatever we want to do, but it is discovered in choosing to do the right thing. We discover what the right thing is when we train our lives in righteousness, which is also a choice that we must make. Jesus came and opened up the way to freedom. Now we have to decide whether or not we will follow his lead.
Questions to consider:
- How have your choices limited your freedom?
- What choices have you made that allowed you to enjoy a greater measure of freedom?
- How have you experienced the enslavement of sin?
- Have you been able to experience the freedom that comes from following Christ Jesus?