2021 Independence Day
On July 4th America celebrates its 245th birthday. July 4th celebrates our independence from England, a freedom we cherish and will defend. Christians have an Independence Day also, it’s called Easter. It is our Independence Day because the purpose of that day, as promised in the Old Testament, was to set people free from the penalty, power, and ultimate presence of sin.
Read Isaiah 61:1. Approximately 700 years later Jesus had begun His ministry. Early on in that ministry, Jesus entered a synagogue in Nazareth and read from the scrolls. Read Luke 4:18-20 to see what He read. Then read in verse 22 what Jesus said next. Jesus declared not only that He was the Promised One sent to fulfill that prophecy, but He also declared that at the heart of His mission was setting captives free.
The Jews worshipping in the synagogue who heard Jesus make that declaration thought only of freedom from Roman rule and Roman taxes. That belief or hope continued throughout His ministry and was seen most vividly on Palm Sunday. But Jesus did not come to set us free from an earthly government, but to free us from slavery to sin. Read John 8:32.
Read in John 8:34-36. Jesus’ response to a challenge by the Pharisees. Read also Romans 8:1-3.
There are a variety of things worthy of study in John 8:31-36. First, we have the objection the Pharisees raised as recorded in verse 33. For any Jew to declare he had never been a slave seems ludicrous, Certainly they understood that as a people they had been nothing but slaves for most of their existence. In the beginning they were slaves for 400 years in Egypt. As a nation leading up to the time of Jesus their slavery began when they had been carried away in slavery by the Babylonians. After their return one nation after another controlled them. They had been slaves to the Syrians, the Egyptians, the Greeks and at that time they were slaves to Rome.
What we need to understand is the context in which they spoke. The Jews believed, according to various passages in the Torah, especially in Deuteronomy, that regardless of who they might be a slave to in this life, they were, in the final analysis, servants of God. While the rest of humanity might be judged for their sins, the fact that they were descendants of Abraham meant that they were exempt from that judgment. In the end they viewed themselves as slaves to no one but instead as servants of God.
Their attitude can be reflected in people who think that because they have their names on a church roll, and perhaps their lineage includes a long line of Christians, somehow, they are saved from the judgment on sin.
Perhaps deeper than believing that one’s heritage exempts one from judgement is the broader belief today that one is not a slave to sin unless perhaps one is addicted to some substance that he cannot break free from. Even then we hear over and over “I can quit anytime I want” which literally means they are not really in bondage to it. Attitudes such as “I can do whatever I want since it is my body and my life” deny the fact that in some way sin controls an individual. Further, if there is no God to judge sin there is no one to legitimately tell me I am a slave to it, so I am free.
The Bible, however, has a different message. The Bible teaches that sin is real, and sin has consequences that we cannot escape. Therefore, we are bound to those consequences even as a slave is bound to a slave master.
The Bible tells us that we are slaves to the judgment on sin which is death. We cannot simply walk away from it. The wage of sin is death and since we cannot pay that price, we are slaves to it.
The message of John 8, and in fact the whole New Testament, is that Jesus and Jesus alone can set us free from the bondage to sin. In the discussion Jesus had with the Pharisees, Jesus began by stating that “the truth will set you free.”
While Jesus did not spell it out initially, He was referring to Himself. It is not until verse 36 where we read that Jesus said “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” that we know for sure Jesus is clarifying what He had earlier declared when He said He had come to set prisoners free.
Jesus declared that when He sets us free from the slavery to sin, we are really free. The freedom Jesus provided gives us freedom first, from the penalty of sin, second, from the power of sin and finally from the very presence of sin. It is complete and glorious freedom, far more valuable than even our American freedom that can be either lost or abused.
The death of Jesus allows us to be set free from the penalty of sin. The penalty of our sin is death but when Jesus paid our death penalty, He set us free from that. The loss of fellowship with God because of sin was restored as was the penalty of an everlasting separation from Him. When the payment of our sins is accepted, we are given everlasting life.
If freedom from the death caused by sin were all that was provided for us on the Cross, we would have incredible reason to rejoice and give thanks. It is, however, only one part of the freedom available because of the death of Jesus for us. His death provided us with the potential of freedom from the power of sin. We are given the power to be set free from the slavey to sins. Read Galatians 2:20 and I Corinthians 10:13.
What we need to do is determine where we need to change and then realize that the power to make that change is available to us. We don’t have to be slaves to sin. We can have freedom from its power if we allow God to work in and through us. Too many Christians are slaves to a habit or character trait that has been a part of them too long. They would like to see it gone but have decided it is simply something they and their family must accept and live with. We forget that there is freedom available in the power of Him who was raised from the dead.
Even as we celebrate that freedom let’s not fail to celebrate and live in the freedom all who have accepted the finished work of Jesus on the Cross have. In Jesus we have freedom from the penalty of sin that allows us to have true fellowship with God and guarantees new glorified bodies and an eternity with God. We have a freedom from the power of sin that enables us to overcome temptations and live as He would have us live. Ultimately we will be in heaven with our Lord and there we will be free from even the presence of sin. That is freedom to be enjoyed each and every day and therefore should be celebrated daily and shared with all around us.