I am going to be honest. There are some subjects that are terribly hard to discuss.
The fact that human beings can become slaves to sin is one of them.
Most of us don’t want to even consider we are slaves to anything. We prefer to think we have some control over life. However, if we are slaves, we have little control. If we are slaves, we are the legal property of another and we have to obey their commands.
In the previous post I wrote that alienation from God is one consequence of sinning; now we learn that enslavement can be another.
It says in God’s word that one of the most egregious things about being a human is that we are in a constant battle against the power of sin. To be a human being is to be in a “natural state” of sin.
John Stott* refers to this problem as “bondage to self.”
He thinks of this consequence as an“inwardness.” “It is more than an unfortunate outward act or habit; it is a deep-seated inward corruption. In fact, the sins we commit are merely outward and visible manifestations of this inward and invisible malady, the symptoms of a moral disease” .
This is harsh language for us to consider, especially for human beings who don’t want to own up to the fact that they sin at all.
Also some are confused by the Apostle Paul who opens Romans by saying that he is a “slave of Jesus Christ” [Romans 1: 1]. Paul begins the Book of Titus declaring himself a “slave of God” [Titus 1: 1]. James opens his book the same way, declaring that he is “a slave of God and the Lord Jesus Christ” [James 1: 1].
Many hate the idea of being a slave to sin, but also does that mean we have to be a slave to Jesus? I can imagine that many say “I don’t want to be a slave to anyone or anything”.
Jesus tells the self-righteous of His day [the Pharisees] in John 8: 34 “Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” In Mark 7, 21-23, Jesus speaks to ordinary man’s nature by saying “For from within, out of the heart of man, come wicked thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.” Stott cites the Apostle Paul who has a similar list in Galatians 5: 19-21; Paul refers to deep-rooted sin as “the flesh.” “Because sin is an inward corruption of human nature, we are in bondage. It is not so much certain acts or habits which enslave us, but rather the evil infection from which these spring. So many times in the New Testament we are described as ‘slaves.’ We resent it but it is true” [Stott, 76].
I have a very good friend who went through a serious time in her life as she struggled with sin. She was doing things that she said were “out of character.” It was a long process but eventually she found her way to Jesus where she came to Christ in repentance, she received forgiveness for her sin and experienced the power of the Holy Spirit which came to live within her. One day she reflected back on this period of “out of character” sinning. She told me that she felt that she was a good person when sin reared its ugly head. Goodness was going to be strong enough to ward off sin. It wasn’t. She needed more. She needed Jesus.
It is by the power of Jesus that we throw off the shackles of sinning and take on the title “slaves of righteousness.” We no longer belong to ourselves or as I quoted Stott, we no longer are in “bondage to self,” we belong to Jesus and our main desire in life is to do things to please Him. We have a desire to obey Him and as we do that, we experienced some freedom from habitual sin. in John 8: 36 it says “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
We live in an age of “self-help.” Many think that we can will ourselves to do anything. The problem is that we have “high ideals but weak wills. We want to live a good life, but we are chained in the prison of self-centeredness. However much we may boast of being free, we are in reality but slaves….It is no use giving us rules of conduct; we cannot keep them. Let God go on saying ‘Thou shalt not’, yet we shall to the end of time” [Stott, 77; italics mine].
We just can’t do better with sin all by ourselves. We need a Savior to help us. Even with that Savior, we can only “do better”, because we never will live a sinless life. The Apostle Paul writes of this extensively in Romans. His words ring so true when he wonders why he can’t do what he wants to do; he does what he does not want to do instead. Even though we are set free from sin, we still live in a world where sin is ever-present. From time to time, we will fail. If we are truly believers, our resolve to sin no more will grow as we live our lives. We are the adopted children of God and He will save us from the pull of sin. This seals us in Christ as a pledge of our inheritance as God’s children. As Christians we are supposed to grow in faith and come to live with God more and more each day. As a muscle develops as it is worked out, our faith will become stronger as we use it and we will be able to resist sin, not give into temptation and live more and more by the word of God. Our habitual sins become more obvious to us and we realize that they alienate us from a relationship with God. We begin to love God so much that we don’t want to hinder our communication with Him. Sin can certainly get in the way of communicating with God.
The Apostle Paul admits the struggle with sin but turns the struggle over to Jesus in these words: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” [Romans, 7: 24-25-8: 2].
Paul can’t do it on his own. We can’t throw off the shackles of sin on our own. We need a Savior. We can read books until we go blind. We can listen to lectures until we have maximum knowledge. Relying on mind power or “goodness” power pales in comparison to the power of sin. We need Spirit power. Only Spirit power can help us gain freedom from sin.
Yes, Christians say they are “slaves of righteousness,” and that word slave seems pejorative, but if this kind of slavery leads to freedom from sin and a stronger relationship with all-powerful God, I choose to be a slave to righteousness.
Let my life be an effort to please God because in that effort I will gain strength over sin and demonstrate that I no longer have sin as my master.
I have my loving God as my master.
That’s what I truly want…