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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Free To Be A Slave

A friend of mine was arrested. It was a good thing.

It was not the first time he had been arrested but when he got out of prison this time, there seemed to be a genuine change in his life. When he was baptized in the American River in his jeans and t-shirt, the look on his face was one of joy, relief, transformation. And then he began to live that way as well. He worked hard for people, using his multiple talents and sheer determination to accomplish jobs in half of the time others would take. He started going to Bible Study with the guys on Monday mornings, he met with another group of guys to talk about how he was doing and what he was doing to continue to move forward. He served others, he honestly and courageously shared with others his path to destruction and his story of redemption. He began to trust others. Others trusted him. It was a joy to observe.

But then the cracks began to show. Some missed meetings happened. The joy and happiness that had been there wasn’t as evident anymore. Some of the friends he hung out with were some of the “old friends” from an old way of life. Bitterness got a foothold with feelings of under-appreciation that festered in his soul but never made their way to his lips so he could forgive and seek forgiveness. With old friends came some old habits…

I don’t know what finally tipped the scale for my friend because he lived in the balance for a while. But one day, he packed up his tools, stole his employer’s car and continued on to victimize those who had helped him the most. Then he disappeared.
“There is therefore now 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 8:1-2
Without a doubt, I believe my friend is a saved person. I believe he has faith in Jesus Christ and that he knows what freedom in Jesus Christ is and feels like. One day, I believe I will see him in heaven.

In my Bible there is a footnote on Romans 8:1. What that means is there are some early manuscripts that have a few more words added onto that verse. What scholars surmise is these words were an editorial comment of clarification. The additional words say this “*…who walk not according to the flesh (but according to the Spirit).”

My friend is a condemned man by the State of California. He had not served all his time for his past transgressions and some of his new ones will be easily proven. He will go to prison, perhaps for a long time.

My friend’s story raises all kinds of theological questions, particularly in light of Romans 8:1-2. Is there now no condemnation for him?

Freedom is a really popular word. For most, an understanding of freedom means they can do whatever they want when they want to do it. It is a silly thought because it doesn’t take a whole lot of thought to recognize that definition of freedom isn’t true for anyone. But still, many people live by that belief.

Jesus will set a person free, it is what his grace is all about. But it isn’t a freedom to do anything, anytime, anywhere, to anybody. In the Bible Paul ridiculed the idea that we should sin a whole lot so we can get a whole lot of grace.

Jesus’ freedom sets us free to be “slaves of righteousness” (read Romans 6). We are set free so we can enter slavery. Now here’s the kicker: God cares more about my internal slavery than my external freedom. The safest place for me to be is in accountable, caring, loving slave relationships so I can remain free. Slave relationships like marriage, friendship, church membership, small group bible study, disciplined daily times alone with God praying and reading the Bible. I place myself under authority – I choose to be a slave – so I can be free. Sometimes I don’t like it because, truth be told, I want to do what I want, when I want, where I want, whenever I want. But thankfully a slave doesn’t have that option, so as long as I live the life of a slave, I remain free.

My friend’s supposed external freedom has been taken away by the State of California. My prayer is he will find his freedom again in prison. My prayer is he will once again become a slave to righteousness and no longer live as a slave to sin.

Also, I am sobered by the reminder that I daily have the freedom to choose to live a life of slavery so I can remain free. And that my friend and I are not so different from one another that God would not remove my freedom so I could find my freedom in Him.



2 comments:

Larry Rascon said...

David:

I like the New King James Version (still relevant after all these years) of Romans 8:2; For the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the Law of sin and death. It clearly (for me) states the two most powerful Spiritual Laws in the Universe. The first law being the most powerful, of course. There are several scriptural references to “in Christ Jesus” referencing a person’s “faith in His crucifixion for our sins” (e.g., Romans 6:23; For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (NKJ).

Paul thought it to be the most important concept for Christians to understand. “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" 1 Corinthians 2:2 (NKJ). And he knew a lot.

I believe Mike was not “walking/living” within the First Law. Frankly, no amount of “Slave relationships like marriage, friendship, church membership, small group bible study, disciplined daily times alone with God praying and reading the Bible” you mentioned will work, unless you are "spiritually walking or living" within the First Law.

Why? Think of it in reverse; No Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (No power over sin) = No Freedom from the Law of sin and death (Bondage). First the horse then the cart will follow.

If we will focus our thoughts, faith, and life as Paul did, “not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” I believe we (Christians) would see more victories within our lives. Roman 8:2 is the key! “Success leaves clues” (Tony Robbins).

Paul, thank you.

Larry…

Jerry said...

Outstanding David. But are we talking about a "friend" or are we talking about you? You have managed to explain a very difficult idea. So many of our "friends" need to understand that believing in Jesus is not a free pass to stolen cars, harsh words or a lost golf club in a tainted raffle. Thanks for getting back up on the blog horse. You never cease to help at a time when a friend needs encouragement.