I have been giving some thought to the significance of this day. In the United States, 4 July is the day we commemorate independence from the tyranny of the crown. One of the major themes of the day is freedom! It is in that light, we ought to point this day to Jesus.
Acts 17:22–31 (MEV): Then Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus, and said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious. For as I passed by and looked up at your objects of worship, I found an altar with this inscription:
TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.
Whom you therefore unknowingly worship, Him I proclaim to you.
“God who made the world and all things in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by hands. Nor is He served by men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives all men life and breath and all things. He has made from one blood every nation of men to live on the entire face of the earth, having appointed fixed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek the Lord so perhaps they might reach for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.’
“Therefore since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to suppose that the Deity is like gold or silver or stone or an engraved work of art or an image of the reflection of man. God overlooked the times of ignorance, but now He commands all men everywhere to repent. For He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed, having given assurance of this to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
You may wonder why I am citing this portion of Scripture. Perhaps it is because of the similarities of the celebrations of this day with that of honoring an unknown god (a whole other post.). While Paul pointed to these men of Athens and noting their religious sincerity. Today’s celebration for many is an homage to an unknown god. I want to proclaim this God to you; He Who has provided to you your freedom. This God doesn’t live in man-made temples, nor does He need anything that we can provide.
The Yoke of Bondage
Paul understood clearly the mission of Jesus Christ. He has come to set us free from the bondage. But what does that mean, to be in bondage?
Romans 6:15–23 (MEV): What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? God forbid! Do you not know that to whom you yield yourselves as slaves to obey, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But thanks be to God, for you were slaves of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart that form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and having been freed from sin, you became the slaves of righteousness.
I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh, for just as you have yielded your members as slaves to impurity and iniquity leading to more iniquity, even so now yield your members as slaves to righteousness unto holiness. For when you were the slaves of sin, you were free from righteousness. What fruit did you have then from the things of which you are now ashamed? The result of those things is death. But now, having been freed from sin and having become slaves of God, you have fruit unto holiness, and the end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Paul is stating that if we yield our bodies toward sin, that is some moral decadence, we become enslaved to that. For some of us who struggle with addiction, we can understand. I wish not to make light of addiction but will offer an easily understandable example.
Remember back to the first time you tried your favorite dessert. It could be a chocolate cake, or crème brulee… Even something more exotic. Remember the sensations of the first taste, and how you just wanted to experience that forever. I am willing to say, that while you may enjoy these favorite treats, it is almost impossible to recreate that first experience. Sometimes, our physical bodies send us sensations of intense cravings for these things. The cravings we experience couldn’t exist without our first indulgence. With desserts, we can often partake but overdoing creates problems. The issue is, we clearly understand how to alleviate the real pangs that come with our own desires. That is part of the bondage to which this is speaking.
I know my example used something as innocuous as dessert, but some do have real struggles with that. Your body just wants a little more. It is the same thing with bigger issues. You can ask a millionaire, “How much money is enough?” The answer will be a little more. It goes with most anything… We want newer and better clothes, a better car, a bigger house. The addict just wants to keep the high going. But at what cost? That is the weakness of the flesh… It always wants just a little more.
Some of these things are inherently bad for us and may be detrimental (to us or even others.) Sin comes with this same bondage. In our own selves, we just want a little more. We think nobody will know. With those secret things, nobody else gets hurt. It is still bondage. Paul goes on to say what the result of all those things… Death. What advantage do we have from these things?
If you do too much drugs that is overdose, you will die. The same holds true for too much booze, too many cigarettes, even too much chocolate cake.
Presenting ourselves to these desires leads to enslavement. It is a circular cycle of repetition. Presenting ourselves to sin, leads to a suppression of the knowledge of God.
Romans 1:18 (MEV): The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth through unrighteousness.
We could think that the suppression of the knowledge of God may be for us only. More likely, it will also spread to others. Sin affects ourselves and will inevitably affect those around us. We don’t only present ourselves to bondage and suppression.
Romans 1:21 (MEV): Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him or give thanks to Him as God, but became futile in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Sin brings death. It works collectively. It leads to futility. Of course, the world understands this futility by another name, entropy.
There is freedom. The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ!
It is only in Jesus where we can be free from this yoke of bondage to sin and death. In His early ministry, there was a conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus, a teacher in Israel. Most of us Christians know of the conversation, and some who are not Christian may know. That is where John 3:16 comes; For God so loved the world that He gave His only unique Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. The continuing conversation goes like this:
John 3:17–21 (MEV): For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned. But he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the verdict, that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that it may be revealed that his deeds have been done in God.”
There’s that circular cycle of bondage again. There is also that dire verdict of condemnation that abides on all outside of Jesus Christ. The good news is that we’ve all really been set free.
Galatians 5:1 (MEV): For freedom Christ freed us. Stand fast therefore and do not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
What do I mean by “we’ve all been set free?”
Jesus death on the cross was the payment that sin demanded.
John 2:1 (MEV): He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
You’re reading this for a reason. If you aren’t a Christian and want freedom from the bondage, it’s an easy thing.
Romans 10:8–13 (MEV): But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.” This is the word of faith that we preach: that if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved, for with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be ashamed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is generous toward all who call upon Him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
One must first Acknowledge that Jesus is Who He claimed to be, and that He died and rose again. That He is the very same Lord you are calling upon. The next step is to Believe it all to be true. When you acknowledge Him for Who He is, and Believe He is Who He is, then Confess it with your mouth. The promise is there, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” If you are calling on Jesus Christ, the God-man, you will be saved and set free.
What of the Christian who is stuck in a seeming circular cycle of bondage?
It’s the same way for you. Jesus has already given you victory over sin. If you want it, believe it. Confess your sin to Him. Of course, you’re going to have to not present your members to that enslavement. Yes, it may be difficult, but you already have victory. Trust Jesus for that and deny your body what it thinks it wants. The first baby steps will be very hard. It’s just like exercising your muscles. You might have to say no a hundred or more times but keep exercising the ‘no’ muscle.
Always know that Jesus came to set the captives of sin free…
Luke 4:18–19 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”
In Jesus there is true independence from bondage.
Even the very freedom that God gives is an innate acknowledgement that everything we have is dependent upon Him.
Acts 17:24–28 (MEV): “God who made the world and all things in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by hands. Nor is He served by men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives all men life and breath and all things. He has made from one blood every nation of men to live on the entire face of the earth, having appointed fixed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek the Lord so perhaps they might reach for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.’
He made it all. Everything we have comes from His hand.
Colossians 1:15–20 (MEV): He is the image of the invisible God and the firstborn of every creature. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they are thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers. All things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all fullness should dwell, and to reconcile all things to Himself by Him, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him, I say—whether they are things in earth, or things in heaven.
Paul is telling us that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. He is also the firstborn of every creature. Importantly, we see the words that all things were created by Him and for Him. This precludes this First Born from being a simple man, or even a created thing. It demands that He is God, and He is. It’s a simple thing, we are made by Him for Him. And only in Him… This Jesus… do all things hold together.
We are clearly dependent upon Him, even for our freedom.
Acts 17:29–31 (MEV): “Therefore since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to suppose that the Deity is like gold or silver or stone or an engraved work of art or an image of the reflection of man. God overlooked the times of ignorance, but now He commands all men everywhere to repent. For He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed, having given assurance of this to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
Back to Paul and his speech at the areopogus. We are the offspring of God, created by Him and for Him. He is not some “bearded white guy in the clouds,” He isn’t the dead man portrayed on the cross on the end of a rosary. He isn’t limited by the vain imaginings of any man.
He commands all to repent! That is, to change their mind, and the way they are going. To those who don’t know Jesus, such are condemned already. They can change that.
If you are a Christian, and aren’t; walking in the Light, change that. That is what is being said. Stop the way you’re going and turn around.
There is an appointed day of judgment for the world. It is a Man, the God-Man Jesus Christ. He will judge the world. The promise is that God raised Him from the dead. Just like cited above “This is the word of faith that we preach: that if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved, for with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:8b–10.)
Celebrate your in-dependence.