How To Break Free From Self-Made Slavery
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” ~Jesus
What does it really mean to be a slave? Does it mean you’re bound up in shackles? Does it mean you are being forced to work, or something else you don’t want to do, for free?…What is slavery?
Jesus defined what true slavery is: self-made slavery. He said, “You’re really only a slave if you are a slave to sin” (see John 8:34). What I didn’t understand for so long was how could sin make me a slave? After all, I’m in control of my own attitudes and actions, right? And further, the Bible says I’m dead to sin and alive in Christ (see Romans 6:11).
So if I do choose to sin, because I’m a new creation in Christ–at my spiritual core, He and I are one (see 2 Corinthians 5:17)–then it’s not really even me who sins, but instead, it is my flesh acting on that sin and bringing it to life. This is why Paul said:
“As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.” (Romans 7:17)
Yes, I know this is difficult to grasp, but this is the truth of the gospel which sets us free! We’ve had a supernatural DNA swap with Christ! Jesus has taken our sinful spirits and given us new, perfect spirits! Paul tells the Christians in Colossae what’s happened to them:
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:21,22)
This is hard teaching to understand because we’ve been taught we are dirty sinners–we’re not! We were dirty sinners, and now, by Christ’s physical body, we are holy, without blemish, and free from accusation! (See Colossians 1:22). It was Paul who began to teach this way–telling Christians who they really were inside. He calls it “the ministry of reconciliation” (see 2 Corinthians 5:18). This is coming from the self-proclaimed, best former legalist ever! (See Philippians 3:4-6). Paul said sin has no control over who we are in the spiritual realm (see Romans 8:9). How is that even possible?
Peter said, “Paul’s letters contain some things that are hard to understand,” but he goes on to call Paul “a dear brother with the wisdom that God gave him” (see 2 Peter 3:15,16). So when I, Matt McMillen, write, “You are perfect in your spirit, so live that way,” this is the same teaching that rocked the early church!
If sin in me is simply an invisible leech–part of my physical being–and I can’t get rid of my body on this side of heaven, what am I to do? Paul answers that exact question right after he calls sin a foreign object in the members of his own body:
“Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).
Jesus is who sets us free from the slavery of sin! Not us! Instead, we die in spirit, by grace through faith—once—and we become alive with Christ, actually resurrected in His Spirit, while still in these bodies (see Romans 6:3-8, Galatians 2:20, Hebrews 10:10, Colossians 3:3, 1 Corinthians 6:19). So now, as believers, we are all holy saints who “sometimes sin,” but make no mistake, sin does not define us in any way! We have to separate our who from our do, and then live up to our who–without effort (see Hebrews 4:11).
Knowing this truth about our spiritual identity is crucial because sin is still a part of our lives as human beings, as flesh. So what do we do when sin does peak out its ugly head? We recognize it, and turn from it–crazy idea, right?! This is called “repentance.” Repentance of incorrect attitudes and actions which don’t match up with the character of the Holy Spirit allows Christ to live through us–but this is not what keeps Him in us. What keeps Him in us is our one-time repentance of unbelief in His forgiveness of our sin.
You can repent of the stuff that doesn’t mesh with your perfect spirit, all day long–repent until your repenter falls off. But know that repentance of sinful choices and mindsets doesn’t save you or keep you saved. Only Jesus staying alive forever keeps you saved. The author of Hebrews explains:
“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)
So the longer we take to repent of sin–not unbelief–the longer we will be a slave to it. This does not mean you become un-saved until you turn from a particular sin. If that were the case, we’d all be in trouble because Christians sin, a lot. So the question is, “How do we break free?!”…Jesus tells us!
One of the best things about Jesus is when He tells us what’s wrong with an action or attitude, He doesn’t just leave us there. He wants to help us learn and grow into our true identity. As He gently corrects us, He always guides us in the right direction, away from sin, so that our choices and thought processes begin to line up with our spiritual perfection.
His answer to help us break free from the self-made slavery of sin is one word: grace. All of your power to overcome sin comes from His grace. As we walk by His Spirit and not by the flesh, we get our strength from His grace. He is our source. Paul told the Philippians:
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
Most of the time, when we can’t break free from a particular sin in which we struggle with severely, it’s because we are trying too hard to stop. What we must do is stop trying to stop and rest in His grace. Sure, this sounds counter-productive, but when we stop trying, and instead, we begin to rely on His strength, miracles can happen! My sobriety is proof of this! It wasn’t until I stopped trying to quit, that I actually did! I quit because I stopped focusing on quitting so much. I quit because I began focusing on beginning a new life based on showing Jesus that I actually loved Him. I quit because getting drunk all the time would never match up with my spirit. I quit because of His grace–it was sufficient (see 2 Corinthians 12:9).
His grace is what gives us the ability to break free from addictions, fear, codependency, guilt, loneliness, anguish, legalism, hate, criticism, unforgiveness, bitterness, and everything else that does not match up with Christ in you, and you, as a heaven-ready person. Grace is your lifeblood as a child of God!
So today, my friends, know this: Sin has no power over you! You are not a slave to sin! That is, if you are a Christian. If you’re not, are you ready to break free? Simply ask Jesus to free you today, and He will.
A prayer for you: Father, thank you for making me spiritually perfect just like you. Through my faith in Jesus’ sacrifice, I know this is what I am in my spiritual core—perfect. Thank you for killing off my sinful spirit with Jesus, and thank you for raising me to eternal life with Him as well. Your Word says in Romans 6, that I have been set free from sin and I have become a slave to righteousness. Thank you for this gift! I AM a slave to righteousness! Shackled forever! Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. For those who are stuck in a particular sin pattern, as a Christian, drench them with your grace and help them to understand who they are inside. It could be an addiction, dishonesty, jealousy, pride, or an incorrect attitude of being extremely judgmental—any sin struggle—help them. And let the unbeliever who is reading this begin to understand just how much power and freedom is found in Christ! Amen.
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