LIVING IN DENIAL
"They answered Him, 'We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?'
"Jesus replied, 'Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father's presence and you are doing what you have heard from your father.'" John 8:33-38 (NIV).
These were new believers! John has just informed us that many of the Jews believed in Him, the very same ones who were now protesting against His Word.
These people either had short memories or selective memories! Didn't they celebrate the Passover every year, a festival to commemorate their deliverance from slavery in Egypt? And what about Purim, another annual feast to remember their deliverance from extermination at the hands of Haman when they were captives in Babylon? And what about the Romans? Weren't they under Roman occupation at that very moment?
But Jesus was referring to slavery far more sinister and far-reaching than enslavement to another nation. His so-called disciples were oblivious to or in denial of their slavery to a ruthless master -- sin. Because of their meticulous observance of rules and ritual, they thought they were okay.
Their protest was hollow even though they prided themselves on being descendants of Abraham. They claimed natural birth as the reason for their confidence that they were acceptable to God. They were Jews by birth and Jews by tradition -- after all, weren't they God's covenant people? Didn't they have the mark of the covenant in their bodies?
Many of the people in the church today, who claim to be the children of God, are relying on the same false hopes as these Jews did. They claim natural birth as their reason for being in the family of God.
"My father was a minister; a missionary; a Baptist; an Anglican; a Presbyterian or whatever." Some claim performance as their reason for being a "Christian." I go to church; I read my Bible; I pray; I pay my tithe; or whatever I rely on to make myself acceptable to God. Some even try to put God under obligation to them. "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" Matthew 7:22, 23 (NIV).
But Jesus was not fooled. On another occasion He had taught the Twelve, "You will know them by their fruit." He was aware that these men who claimed to be His disciples were planning to kill Him because He was too nice, too wise and too straight with them for their comfort. Their claim to being His disciples did not penetrate to the nerve centre of their beings -- the driving force of their lives; self.
It was there that they needed deliverance from slavery -- from the sin nature that motivated every thought and action. No self-help could free them from the nature they were born with, the drive to be their own boss and to be number one in their lives. Jesus knew that He alone could break that bondage and set them free to become lovers of God and lovers of their neighbour.
What would it take to subdue the old human nature and replace it with a nature "renewed in the image of its Creator"? It would take their choice to destroy the only person who ever lived a perfect human life and then took the rap for every person who did not. It would take the death of one who took the worst that human beings could throw at Him without flinching, protesting or retaliating. Once that debt was paid, every slave to sin could be set free.
No one can ever know the freedom that Jesus offers until they stop living in denial, acknowledge that they are slaves and accept the gift of forgiveness and become reconciled to the Father.
Only Jesus can set you free!
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