So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:31-36)
Jesus and a group of Jewish believers had a pretty deep conversation here concerning freedom. The dialog culminated in one of the foundational verses of this ministry: “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”
But sometimes we can focus in on one aspect of the truth so keenly that other vital elements get lost. It’s good to re-center ourselves on the big picture once in a while.
Recent blog entries here have been about openness from both sides – the need to approach someone and be open, and the need to be approachable in order to facilitate openness and healing.
It’s important to remember, though, that just talking about it isn’t the entire solution. If we’re not leaning on Jesus and living obedient lives, all the talk in the world isn’t doing any good. Openness without action doesn’t free anyone – on one extreme it essentially turns us into habitually sinning conversationalists (which amounts to empty religion), on the other it promotes wallowing and self-pity (keeping us in chains).
Jesus said “whoever commits sin is a slave to sin.” So even if freedom is recognized, we can still find ourselves enslaved to sin when we don’t reside in Christ.
Compare also Galatians 5:1 (“It was for freedom that Christ set us free”) and 5:13 (“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh”).
You see, freedom is core to the gospel message, but it is not spoken of without the counter-balance of obedience.
If we’re not doing something about it, we’re not taking it seriously.
Now here I will differ from some who say that if you are still struggling and stumbling with a certain sin you haven’t truly repented of it. I think that inaccurate at best, destructive and disheartening at worst.
True, Paul did write to the Romans “our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.” (6:6-7).
But just a few paragraphs later Paul wrote “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” (7:19-20).
So, if Paul was teaching in Romans 6 that truly repentant people are completely over the sin they repented of, then he obviously wasn’t truly repentant himself based on his admissions in Romans 7.
The distinction here is not the scorecard, but where your heart-focus is. Maybe you still slip once in a while. Maybe the same old weakness creeps in and pulls you into sin that you turned away from. But it’s the overall battle that’s our true indicator.
Don’t dwell on a moment of failure, and fear that you’ve lost when you’ve had a thousand moments of victory. But also don’t dwell on a momentary confession and repentance and take pride that you’ve won when you’re not fighting the day-to-day fight.
Perspective is key – a perspective that sees things from eternity’s view. In Christ we are freed from the chains of sin and death. But in Christ, we also are motivated to live a life of obedience and victory.
That’s what eternal life is all about. And eternity starts today!