“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never 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 practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”” (John 8:31-38 ESV)
Slaves to Sin:
Last week, we took a look at what it means to be a true disciple of Christ. Jesus defines true or real disciples as those who live in (obey, do, keep) His Word. We looked at several supporting verses, but James sticks out… “don’t fool yourself, be doers of the word and not just hearers.” (James 1:22) This week, we expand on that thought with the rest of that sentence: “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
I suspect that most of us would respond to Jesus statement in much the same way as those who heard it, “We aren’t slaves to anyone and never have been. What are you talking about?” Jesus references slavery and we make assumptions that it doesn’t apply to us. “We aren’t slaves. We’re Americans!” Cue the red, white and blue. Background music of the national anthem. Blue Angels fly over in formation. Lots of fireworks! Fade to the famous Iwo Jima flag shot. Slow zoom in on flag. Fade out slowly…
However, Jesus was ready for their response, and ours. He clarifies by stating simply, but emphatically, that anyone who sins is a slave to sin. Ummm, let’s see. Anyone here perfect and not guilty of sin? Anyone? Anyone? So, regardless of our national or social status we are slaves without realizing it. Slaves to sin. But, what exactly does that mean and what are the implications for our lives?
When someone is enslaved, they have a master who controls their actions. In fact, the master controls their entire lives. In this instance, SIN is the master and we are the slave. Sin controls our actions, choices, daily routines and even our plans and goals. Sin becomes not only the master, but also god. It drives us, motivates us, and absolutely controls us. Therein lies the real issue. Sin becomes god in our life.
So, sin is more than just doing something you want to do that someone else thinks you shouldn’t. Sin is so much deeper than just an action that’s selfish or hurtful. Sin is a taskmaster that demands obedience and submission. That’s why Jesus refers to it as slavery. It enslaves us to its demands. We don’t sin because we just enjoy being bad or doing bad things, we sin because we’re sinners and we are enslaved to it. If we could stop being a slave on our own, we wouldn’t need anyone’s help. We certainly wouldn’t need someone to set us free. But, Jesus says anyone who sins is a slave to sin… all of us are enslaved, and He’s the ONLY one who can set us free!
I Can Handle This:
Sin enslaves us in two ways… First, it enslaves us to the controlling desires it creates within us. It DOMINATES us. We become convinced we can’t live without these things, whatever they are. We call it sensuality, but it’s just an addiction to pornography as we sneak around looking for ways to get our fix. We call it entertainment, but it’s just an addiction to gambling that turns into lies and more debt to cover it up and satisfy the ever present craving. It may be food, pills, sports, or adrenaline but it is all the same. Sin driving us to satisfy the strangle hold it has placed on our lives.
Now, some would argue that sin is simply a religious concept that makes people a slave to religion. I say, if you think you can stop doing these things then give it a try and let me know the results. Try and stop being addicted, selfish, hateful, hurtful, arrogant, domineering or angry for 60 days. Shoot, try for 6 and see how well you do. I’ll see you next week with your hat in hand and an admission of failure. We sin because we are sinners. We can’t stop on our own. Sin has wrapped its tentacles around our heart and we don’t have the desire or ability to rip it out.
Sin is a hard taskmaster and never willingly gives us our freedom. He tries to deceive us into thinking we belong here, it is normal and just our lot in life. You were born for this, get used to it. But, deep in your heart you know I’m right. The hurt you feel when you see the disappointment in their eyes, or hear in their voice.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. We can desensitize ourselves so that we become numb and stop feeling the pain, but when we do we begin to realize just how dead our heart has become. Bury the feelings long enough and you eventually kill them. Many of the religious leaders hearing Jesus’ words had done this very thing. But, a few of them still heard God’s “still, small voice” resonating deep within them.
That leads me to the second way sin enslaves us… once sin has its tentacles wrapped around our hearts, it slowly, but very certainly kills us. Just like a cancer cell, sin destroys everything good and healthy and very slowly, but surely takes life right out of us. We think sin is exhilarating, tantalizing and empowering. While we are splashing around and playing, we fail to notice that sin has quietly pulled us farther and farther into the deep water. We are now caught in the undertow and there’s no escaping our fate. We fight it, but it is pointless. We will lose this battle.
But, notice what Jesus says… he says the the slave has no power or authority in the house. He only does what he’s told and right now SIN is his master. Jesus steps in and says to sin, “Wait a minute. You’re not in charge here, I AM! The father has given me authority over this house, and I have the power and desire to give you your freedom.” Do you want to be free?
Free at Last, Free at Last, thank God Almighty, I’m Free at Last!
That leads me to the final point… we can desire freedom, and still be slaves. You can desire something and never pursue it. Obviously, desire doesn’t always lead to satisfaction or fulfillment. That’s true for freedom, as well. But, Jesus offers true freedom. He says, “if the son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” When Jesus sets us free, we are really and truly free. There is freedom of opportunity, freedom of ability, and freedom of desire. But, there’s also freedom from destruction. Let me illustrate by telling a story…
Let’s say you decide you want to parachute out of an airplane. Now, I’m not entirely sure why anyone would jump out of a perfectly good plane, but pretend with me for just a moment. You are driving to the Shawnee airport because you’ve scheduled a parachute jump for later today. But, on the way you are involved in an automobile accident. You no longer have freedom of opportunity because you cannot get to the airport so you are no longer free to jump.
Ok, so rewind… no accident, you get there safe. You get to the hangar and they ask you about the classes and your certification to jump. Oops, you forgot to attend the classes. You now have lost the freedom of ability. No classes, no jumping.
Ok, you get to the airport safe, you’ve taken your prerequisite classes, they load you into the plane and up you go. They reach the desired altitude, open the door, and suddenly you look down and lose your nerve. You’ve lost the freedom of desire. Scared out of your wits, you pull back in and take the less direct and safer route back to the airport.
But, let’s say everything goes well. You get there safe, you’ve taken the classes, the adrenaline is pumping as they open the door, you’re ready, and you jump. Exhilarating! The Air rushing past you, the ground coming up fast, you pull the rip cord and nothing happens. You have freedom of opportunity, ability, and desire. But you are in bondage to gravity and it is going to destroy you.
Jesus is the only one who can set us free from this bondage or slavery we have to death. There are two things in life that are certain, death and taxes… and Jesus said, give what is due to Caesar to Caesar and give what is due to God to God. Jesus gives us the freedom to stand in the judgment and declare, I’m here with the Son. He gave me freedom to become a child of God.
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” (John 1:12 ESV)