Freedom is often held up as one of the highest human ideals. Freedom from oppression or enslavement, freedom of choice, freedom of expression — those things are so important that people have fought and even died for them throughout history.
When Jesus came to this world as God made flesh, He was born as a Jewish man in a world ruled by Rome. He preached a message of freedom, but not necessarily the type of freedom the people around Him wanted. Many thought they needed a Messiah to kick-out the Romans. Instead, they got a Messiah interested in freeing them from a different kind of bondage.
Jesus therefore said to those Jews who had believed him, “If you remain in my word, then you are truly my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” … “Most certainly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is the bondservant of sin. A bondservant doesn’t live in the house forever. A son remains forever. If therefore the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:31-23, 34-36, WEB)
By the end of the conversation that these words are part of, the Jews had accused Jesus of having a demon and picked up stones to throw at him (John 8:31-59). They refused to accept that they were in bondage to sin or that their Israelite lineage couldn’t save them. They dishonored Jesus by rejecting Him and the truth He brought of their need for salvation. And if we’re not careful, we can make a similar mistake today.
God + “Something”
I’m reading a book called Rethinking Sexuality: God’s Design and Why It Matters by Dr. Juli Slattery. I think it’ll be one of the best Christian non-fiction books I’ve ever read, and I bring it up in this post to share a point she makes about our attitudes in approaching God. She talks about examples in Judges and Romans of people who “had a form of worship and spirituality that might have even included God. Yet their worship of God was ‘God plus something.'”
“This is what is happening in Modern Christianity. While we may worship God, we worship something else right along with God. … We elevate our own reasoning and experience as equal to or greater than God’s wisdom. We look inward for truth instead of looking upward. While we sing of God’s power and majesty in church, we suspend His rule over how we approach sexuality” (p. 37).
The problem of a “God plus something” attitude has profound implications in all areas of our lives, not just sexuality. We should not dare put our own ideas or desires higher than God’s word, and yet we keep making excuses or trying to rationalize our way out of submission and obedience. When we hold any part of ourselves back from fully submitting to God’s authority as Creator and Lord, we end up enslaved by the things we’ve added to or substituted for true worship.
Always Servants To Someone
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other; or he will be devoted to one and despise the other” (Matt. 6:24, WEB). If we’re trying to serve “God plus something” then we’re not really serving God. He doesn’t accept divided loyalty and we can’t pick-and-choose what parts of Him we want. Either you recognize Jesus as Lord in your life and act accordingly, or you don’t.
In addition, just saying “Lord, Lord” isn’t enough. We have to actually do the things He says (Luke 6:46). While we will make mistakes and God understands that, He wants us to consistently try to follow Him. If we don’t seek God with all we are and do our best to love Him with all our heart, mind, and soul then we don’t really understand what it means to be a Christian.
Don’t you know that when you present yourselves as servants and obey someone, you are the servants of whomever you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness? (Rom. 6:16, WEB)
In many ways, what we typically think of as “freedom” is an illusion. Even if we’re free to do whatever we want and follow our own impulses, we’re under the control of our own human nature and vulnerable to Satan’s influence. That’s slavery to sin. The world will tell you that obedience to Christ means giving up freedom, but in reality the only true freedom is found in Him. We can only be free when Christ removes the shackles of sin, making it possible for us to deeply connect with and serve the God who created us to be in relationship with Him.
Service We can Love
But thanks be to God, that, whereas you were bondservants of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were delivered. Being made free from sin, you became bondservants of righteousness. … But now, being made free from sin, and having become servants of God, you have your fruit of sanctification, and the result of eternal life. (Rom. 6:17-18, 22, WEB)
We might at first find this idea offensive or even frightening. Where’s the freedom Jesus talked about in being a bondservant of God? The two types of service we get to pick from are very different, though. Serving sin leads to misery and death. Servants of God and His righteousness gain sanctification and eternal life.
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and may have it abundantly” (John 10:10, WEB). The word “abundantly” means over and above, more than necessary, extraordinary, and superior. Life with God is far more wonderful and exciting than any life without Him could be. To quote Dr. Slattery again, “God is not a distant God. His love for you is not simply a sterile call to obedience. He invites us to enter a passionate celebration of covenant love with Him” (p. 60).
Being a bondservant of God is about enjoying true freedom within a secure, reliable, incredibly loving relationship with our Creator and Lord. It’s only when we’re all-in to serving God that we can truly be free.
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