_ There are many people who would describe Christianity as a restriction on life and on a certain level they have a point. The Bible does lay out a standard of living that is partly a list of don’ts: don’t get drunk, don’t worship other gods, don’t respond to violence with violence, don’t have sex before marriage, don’t gossip, don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t be lazy, don’t give way to sin, etc. And if there wasn’t enough the Bible also lays out a list of does: be obedient to Christ, be pure, be holy, love God, love others, do good deeds, give cheerfully, go to church, be encouraging, rebuke error, rejoice in God, pray, read the Bible, take communion, etc.
In a certain way it is of no surprise that people view Christianity often as a prison, a religion that limits choice, stops people having ‘fun’, narrows the options down and chains people to an outdated morality. But, and this is a big but, the reality is completely different. Christianity doesn’t enslave it frees, obedience to Christ is not a restriction it is life in all its fullness, denying ourselves to follow Christ is not a chain but a hammer that breaks chains in two.
“Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”
John 8 v 34
_ To sin, that is to be disobedient to Christ, is to offer yourself as a slave to sin. It is a miserable slavery for sin only ever lies and steals, it promises so much, delivers nothing and in the end will lead only to death. The Bible also speaks of this slavery to sin as death:
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.”
Ephesians 2 v 1 – 3
Far from offering a man freedom like it promises, sin instead offers nothing but death. It can never satisfy; it will never bring real happiness and will only ever lead to suffering. Worse, to sin is give yourself up to it and so one sin leads to another which leads to another which leads to worse ones still. This slippery slope can be seen time and time again in any person’s life. The Bible describes this all another way and says that we are the children of the devil, sinners by nature and choice and such is the power of this slavery that we cannot break free. No man has ever unchained himself from sin on his own doing, he cannot, for he is a slave and doesn’t own the key to his chains.
It is then with good reason that Jesus says:
“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free... So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
John 8 v 31 – 32, 36
Jesus Christ offers freedom from sin, a freedom found in coming to him in repentance and faith and a freedom continued by obeying Christ. What is this freedom he offers? It is the best freedom of them all. It is the freedom of a clear conscience, the freedom of being assured of being right with God, the freedom to have victory against sin, the freedom to be pure, holy, and righteous. Paul puts so wonderfully in Romans 6;
“But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
"I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life inChrist Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 6 v 17 – 23
Sin is of no benefit to anyone, no man has ever become happy through sinning, but many have found that true happiness comes from holiness. To obey Christ, to follow him and live a holy life, now that is freedom and joy. I see this in my own life: when I come to Christ asking forgiveness for my many sins and find there a freedom more precious than anything this earth has to offer. I know as well the sense of freedom that comes from resisting temptation, from putting sin to death and obeying Christ. As Paul writes: “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. (Galatians 5v13)” It is our duty to work out in our lives what we are in Christ: free from sin and death.
Christianity is not a restriction it is true freedom for through Christ and his death and resurrection he gained victory over sin and he grants that victory over to us as by degrees he transforms us to be more like him. And so through Christ a Christian is by degrees freed from selfishness, impurity, lusts, greed, idolatry, hypocrisy and all other sins. This freedom of holiness is a deep joy, restful, beautiful and if it is like this in a Christian’s imperfect state think of the infinite degree of freedom to be found in heaven when our souls are perfected.
In the words of the classic hymn:
“Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth and followed Thee.
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.”