I spent some time yesterday reflecting on slavery. Not the sort that comes with literal chains and menial service to one’s owner or master. I was thinking about spiritual slavery. The Scriptures are clear that apart from faith in Christ, we are all in a state of slavery. Jesus says, “Everyone who practices sin is a slave of sin,” (John 8:34). But in Christ we have been set free from bondage and have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13). I know that is true. I know that I have been set free from sin and from the punishment that I deserve.
Still, though, there are days when, even though I know that I’m free from sin, I feel like a slave to sin. Once temptation has moved to transgression, I feel as though I have been drawn back to the same flame, like a mindless, helpless moth. So, what gives? Am I a slave or am I free?
The answer is found in the interplay between the promises of God and the commands of God. In Romans 6:14 we find the a magnificent promise: “Sin will have no dominion over you.” That’s because, we learn in verse 6, “our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” Faith in Christ unites us to his wrath-bearing, sin-atoning work on the cross. Sin is defeated and we are set free! As followers of Christ, we can now rightfully claim freedom from sin.
But, just as surely as God promises us freedom, he also calls us to arms against sin in our lives. Romans 6:12 commands us, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.” Sin has been dethroned, but it still wants to reign in you. It seeks to submit you to its desires. So Paul tells us in the next verse, “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” Can you see the connection between the promise of freedom rooted in the cross and the call to fight? We are commanded not to present our members (eyes, ears, mouth, hands, etc.) to sin but instead to God. We have a choice! No matter how strong the temptation, no matter how many times we have given in in the past, as believers we can refuse sin’s advances.
That’s good news, but it’s also a sobering reminder. Like the soldier in the midst of battle who receives word that the enemies’ walls have been breached and its leader captured, we must continue to fight until the fighting is over. Assured victory in the future does not lead to complacency or ease in the present; rather, it gives us the motivation and the strength that we need to face every doomed-to-failure attack of the enemy. God has won the victory, but we must fight the fight. God has defeated sin, but we must not give in to its temporary advances. If you are in Christ, then you are not a slave; so don’t live like you have shackles around your ankles.