I’ve been studying the Old Testament for over six months now and something occurred to me the other day. A lot of the Old Testament is about slavery and the deliverance of slaves by the Lord. Joseph is sold into slavery in Genesis, the people of Israel are lead out of slavery by God through Moses in Exodus, slavery is a major theme and a powerful one. But, in modern American life it’s a little hard to connect to the idea of slavery on a literal level. As much as we’re taught about the awfulness of slavery that took place in our own country and still takes place in parts of the world, it’s not something many of us have actual experience with. So much of the Bible feels so practical, the themes resonate across the ages. And the deliverance of people out of slavery is a huge theme in the Old Testament. That got me thinking about slavery as it pertains to a person like me.
As you move into the New Testament of the Bible, you start to get look at how the theme of slavery applies to modern believers who may not have any experience with slavery. This comes directly from Jesus as He answered some people who questioned what it meant to be set free.
John 8:31-36 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Sin is our connection to slavery. Especially habitual sin. You can go to church every Wednesday and Sunday yet still walk right out and fall back into slavery to a habitual sin you can’t seem to break away from. Gossiping, exaggerating (which is just a nice word for lying), sexual sin, lust, the list of habitual sins that enslave modern man would take up blog post after blog post if I touched upon them all. And I’m not passing judgment here, I’m admitting in front of everyone that I too have my struggles with habitual sins, things that I can fall back into if I’m not carefully guarding my steps each day. These sins can be a cruel master and can hold a huge amount of power over us.
Beyond obvious things like some that I’ve already listed, I also want to mention some less obvious behaviors that may be undiagnosed habitual sins. Television is one for me. I love watching TV, and at times in the not too distant past I was spending many hours in front of the TV every day while spending zero hours each day praying and reading my Bible. It may not have been an obvious habitual sin, but I was a slave to my TV watching. It was something I elevated in my life, the thing I sacrificed almost all of my free time to each day while giving no time to God and His ways. The internet is another less obvious habitual sin, depending on how much focus and time you spend online and the things you do/look at while you’re on there. Smartphones are a modern day form of slavery. Ever been around someone who can’t tear themselves away from their phone? Or maybe you are that kind of person, as so many people are. I’ve been around people who can’t string together two sentences and don’t hear a word anyone says because they’re so tethered to their phone. It’s miserable to be around people like this. Heck, people die daily because they’re paying attention to their phones while driving vehicles.
Slavery may not touch my life in the way it touched the lives of people in the Old Testament, but that doesn’t make the Bible’s teachings about slavery useless. We are still an enslaved people, just like so many people in the Old Testament were.
But here’s the good news. The Bible has some great examples of how God handles His people being in slavery. Check out some of the stories and tell me, how often did He leave His people as captives? Wherever there is a believer enslaved that is crying out to God for freedom there is almost always God taking action to set them free. And the best part of that is, God’s still in the business of delivering people from slavery. You saw it just a few paragraphs ago in John chapter 8. Here it is again in Romans chapter 8.
Romans 8:1-2 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
I want to ask you to do something here today. Examine your life and ask yourself a very serious question. What am I enslaved to? What sin do I end up repenting of often? What behavior do I seem to be doing regularly even though I know I shouldn’t? Maybe it’s something obvious, but maybe it isn’t. Really dig deep. Do you find yourself exaggerating a lot? That’s one I’ve struggled with. Maybe your paycheck amount goes up a by a little when you tell friends how much you make, maybe your report to the boss about the amount of work you did is a little inflated, maybe your story about the time you scored the winning touchdown keeps getting grander and grander every time you tell it. Perhaps it’s a habitual sin of wasted time, another one I’ve been guilty of. Maybe you’re spending hours in front of the TV or the phone or the computer or the videogame and putting off time with God. I’m not here to judge, and neither is God. God’s here to set you free. Just as He did for the slaves in the Old Testament, He’s still doing today. My God is not a condemner, He’s an uplifter. He’s a rescuer.
So what are you enslaved to? Bring it before our beloved Jesus. Pour your heart out to Him. He’s a chain breaker, a slave freer, a captive saver, a lover of people, and He’s at work to this day setting the captives free.
John 8:36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
PRAYER AND CLOSING
Father God, today I come before you with one word on my heart; freedom. First I just want to thank you for the freedom you provide, the freedom that comes from relying on you and living in your ways. You’ve set me free of so much, and today I ask that you do the same in the lives of anyone who’s reading this that might be enslaved. If their heart is crying out for freedom, if they’re straining against the chains of whatever sin has a hold on their life, I ask that you hear that cry, that you honor their straining, and that you set them free today. You are the chain breaker, the mightiest force to ever exist, and man, do you ever love your people. I praise you this very moment because I know that you are delivering people from habitual sins as we speak, you are opening eyes to the hidden habitual sins that they didn’t even realize had taken hold in their lives. You don’t bring us out of slavery with condemnation and guilt, you do it with love and guidance. I thank you for your love, for your gentle ways, for the fact that in you is true freedom. You are my freedom, God, in you I am completely set free. No thing, no behavior, no habit, and certainly no person, can hold power in my life that rivals your power, Father. When any force that would seek to enslave me comes near let them see mighty King Jesus sitting tall on the throne of my life, and let whatever force that was run away for it knows nothing contends with the power of my Lord. I love you, God, you are my joy. I don’t know how it’s possible to be filled with as much joy as I have right now, it’s only because of you, God. Let me be a source of joy to others, let me glorify your name by sharing joy with everyone I meet. Let them be drawn closer to you, and give me the boldness to speak and the words to say as I tell them why I’ve got all this joy. It’s all because of you, Jesus, all because of you, and I am forever thankful. In the precious name of Jesus I pray, amen.
I love you all. I’m having such a blessed and joyful week and I so hope you are as well. If you’re not, if you’re struggling a bit this week, just remember your King. It’s hard to be held down by the troubles of the world when our eyes are focused on the King of heaven. His peace be with you today, and if there’s anything you ever need prayer for or want to talk about please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Have a safe and relaxing weekend!