All of us were stunned last week by the story of captivity and enslavement in Cleveland. We were shocked that three young women could be kidnapped and held against their will by a single evil man for over a decade. Our hearts go out to these women and we rejoice along with their families and friends at their release.
Enslavement is foreign to our thinking, yet it still occurs around the world today. How shocking it would be if we were told that we were enslaved as well. Jesus Christ made that statement to a crowd of people gathered in the Jerusalem temple two millennia ago. We find out who the God of the Bible is from His word. Jesus told the crowd, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
The onlookers were shocked at this statement, as we would be. They retorted, “ ... we’ve never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free?’”
Then Jesus dropped the bombshell: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”
Have you ever done something you knew was wrong, yet did it anyway? Perhaps you even gained a secret delight in doing so? I know I sure have! It’s easy to start such behavior, but what about stopping it? Jesus’ words still ring true: we are brought under the control of the attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions we practice that we know are wrong. That’s how each of us have been held captive.
In Jesus’ day, half the Roman Empire were slaves: owned as property, with no rights at all. Emancipation rarely occurred, and then only through the head of the household or his heir. Jesus offered these words of hope, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed,” (John 8:31-34, 36).
Jesus paid the price to set us free from sin’s enslavement when He voluntarily died in our place as the perfect substitute. When we trust in Him as our Lord and Savior, He breaks the bonds of those behaviors, words, and thoughts that have held us captive. Best of all, He broke the power of death, giving us a new life now and eternal life.
Jesus sets us free not when we join a church or perform some religious ritual, but when we believe in Him as the only way to be right with God. Of course, followers of Jesus still do things that are wrong, but we choose to do so. Why would we ever make such a choice, now that we’ve been set free?
If you know enslavement to sin is an issue for you, may today be the day that you look to Jesus: you will be free indeed!
Don Baumann is outreach pastor of Hilltop Community Church in Carson City and is a member of the Carson City Christian Ministerial Fellowship.