|One of my relatives
was researching her genealogy. She was horrified to discover a document
that recorded the sale of a young boy to one of her ancestors. As she continued
her research, she discovered that the boy's grandmother had purchased him
to release him from being a bondservant. This action is what the Bible
calls redemption. The grandmother had redeemed her grandson.
Did you know that you and I are bondservants? Slaves? The Apostle Paul said, “Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey - whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16)
Paul was teaching the same thing Jesus taught. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34)
But Jesus also gave the way to freedom. He said, "…the truth will set you free" (John 8:32) and "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:36)
Jesus is the one who bought humanity back from the harsh taskmaster we chose to obey instead of God. Sin will work us to death unless we accept the redemption offered to us. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ….” (I Peter 1:18-19)
During the days of the Underground Railroad, bounty hunters went looking for escaped slaves to recapture and return to their former owners. They didn't always respect a free person's legal status. Free men and women were often captured and sold as slaves.
In the same way, the devil looks to recapture those Christ has freed. (I Peter 5:8) Too often, we “wander from the truth” and find ourselves captured by sin even though we have freedom in Christ. (James 5:19,20: James 1:13-15) Have you found yourself once again “foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures?” Do you find yourself once again “in malice and envy, being hated and hating?” (Titus 3:3)
Discouragement can hold us captive if we think God has given up on us because we returned to sinning. But God does not give up on us. Have you sinned again? Then confess it. Stop doing it--or in religious language, repent. (I John 1:9) He will restore your freedom by forgiving you and making it possible for you to resist the temptation to sin. Then abide in Christ. (John 15)
Another religious phrase - abide in Christ. What does this mean? How is it possible to abide in or remain in Christ? Is it automatic, like breathing?
No. In my experience, abiding in Christ is not automatic nor is it effortless. I accepted Jesus as my Savior and was baptized over forty years ago. God gave me his Spirit (John 14:16-17, 25) but learning to listen and obey the Counselor from God doesn't happen overnight.
During that time, I did “foolish and disobedient” things. I sinned, confessed, and repented; I got lost and found; but through it all, God's love became ever more clear to me. His way of life became ever more desirable. I experienced the “kindness and love of God our Savior.” (Titus 3:4) I grew to know life apart from God is empty. I grew in my desire to live “in unity” with God through Christ because God is the source of wholeness, of freedom, of everlasting love and life.
God taught me, as he does all of his children, that the way to abide in Christ is the way of love. We all know that abiding friendship is not effortless. Making and maintaining friendships requires effort. This love, this friendship with God and others, isn't just a warm feeling toward people you like. This love has a price tag - commitment and dedication. It costs you your life, your time, and your resources. This love keeps us “in Christ” who set us free and who keeps us free.
Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain [or abide] in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:9-13)
Jesus bought us out
of slavery and gave us his friendship. (John 15:14-15) If we don't want
to be recaptured and enslaved again, we must obey his command: “Love each
other as I have loved you.”