Do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. – Romans 6:12
Freedom is often thrown around in this country as an essential human right. But what is freedom?
My four year old daughter seems to think that it means you can do whatever you want. When she is asked to do something she doesn’t want to do, she comments: “I wish I was a grownup!” The implication there is that grown-ups can do whatever they want. (Boy is she mistaken!)
But the truth is that nobody can really just do whatever they want. And besides that, most people don’t even know what they really want. They’ll want one thing, then another, and then another.
The definition of freedom is not the ability to do whatever you want. Freedom, actually, doesn’t make a lot of sense by itself. It needs to be attached to bondage of some kind. When you’re free, you are free from something. If I were to walk up to someone on the street and say, “You are free! Isn’t that great!,” I would probably get a blank stare. Most people in this country have never been in bondage of slavery. On the other hand, if I were to walk in to a prison cell (assuming I had the authority to do so) and say that same thing, it would be greeted in a much different way. Freedom makes sense in the context of bondage.
Jesus ran in to a situation very similar to this in John 8:
Jesus said to the Jews who believed in Him, “If you aide in my Word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will be made free’?”
This talk of freedom by Jesus didn’t make sense to these Jews, because they didn’t know what they were bound by. The same is true in this generation. We talk excessively of freedom, but many people don’t understand freedom in its proper context. Some people come to the conclusion that it is the tyranny of rules that they need to be freed from, or from sexual boundaries, or from those old tyrants they have to live with, called parents; or the police. Or God even. They want to be ‘free’ from all of that so they can do what they want.
This is not true freedom.
It’s actually the opposite of freedom.
Again, freedom is understood best in regards to slavery. Slavery was very common in the days of Jesus, and it wasn’t altogether uncommon for a slave to become free for one reason or another. Some bought their freedom, some earned their freedom, and some were just set free by their masters. This is what freedom means. It means being released from slavery.
Slave holders are called ‘masters.’ They control their slaves. They force them to do their will. In our title passage, Paul tells us not to let sin reign in our bodies, that we should obey it’s lusts. He doesn’t just declare sin as a simple matter of choice, but more as an entity that takes up residence inside of us, ordering us around – a master. Those who sin, Jesus said, are slaves to sin (John 8:34).
Sin is not freedom. Doing ‘whatever you want’ is not freedom. When someone speaks of ‘doing whatever they want,’ what it really means is that sin reigns over them, and that they are obedient slaves of the flesh. For, ‘he who sins is a slave of sin.’ Sin holds people in bondage and doesn’t let go. Some think that they sin because they choose it; what they don’t realize is that sin chose them.
Remember what Paul said?
If I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that is is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. – Romans 7:16-17
What Paul is saying is that he (in his previous carnal state) desired to do the good that God required of him, however, the sin that was in him overcame him. That master called ‘sin’ demanded his obedience, and secured it. It wasn’t until Jesus set him free from sin that he was able to overcome.
Remember Cain? God said that sin was crouching at the door, waiting for him, looking for an opportune moment to seize him. God told him that he must master it; but we see that it mastered him.
Don’t ever look at sin as personal choice. It is your flesh (in which nothing good dwells) that seeks to lord it over you. The sin within seeks to enslave you. That sin will grow, and will ultimately destroy you (James 1:15).
But Some people enjoy their slavery.
They might say, “This is what I want.”
That may be what they think they want. But it’s because they are blinded. They don’t yet realize that they have checked in to the Hotel California. Everything looks so pretty and wonderful at first, but soon enough things aren’t as bright as they seemed. They soon realize that checking in is easy and fun, but leaving is a whole different story.
And it’s not just what sin does to you, but, even worse, what your sin brings upon others. Sin at it’s core is death and destruction – that’s why it’s sin. Sin always brings death, because this is the very definition of sin. Your sin will most definitely wreak havoc on those around you. You will leave a path of death in destruction in your wake that will have a ripple effect for years and years. Some around you may die, suffer depression, abuse drugs, and go to hell because of your actions. This is especially true concerning those who are closest to you and those of whom you have the most influence.
You have no right to destroy yourself. God made you. Your body is on loan from Him. If you destroy His temple, He will destroy you. And you certainly have no right to destroy those around you. It’d be better for you to have a millstone hung around your neck and be tossed into the sea than to cause those around you to stumble.
How can we be free?
Jesus said this:
If you abide in my word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. – John 8:31-32
God’s word is much more than good information: it’s alive and powerful (Heb 4:12). When God’s word is in you, it will transform you.
And notice that it’s not truth alone that sets free, but the knowledge of that truth. And notice that knowledge comes from abiding: “if you abide in My Word…” It’s only when you have truth deep in you, with a clear understanding of that truth, that it makes you free.
This doesn’t take forever. In one afternoon, in one setting, you can set yourself to understand the Word – and it can make you free. Or you may get the Word from a preacher, understand it, and be made free. But be aware, that the Word must stay in you (abide in you) or you will soon slip back into bondage. The truth will make you free and keep you free.
It gives God no greater joy than to see His children walking in truth. Why? Because these children are truly free.
Recognize the bondage of sin, turn away from it, forsake it, dump it. Turn to the truth; abide in it, understand it, live it, and you will surely know what true freedom really is.