The images of those liberated from concentrations camps at the end of World War II came to mind as I read Romans 6 recently.

liberated by Jesus“But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you bcame slaves of righteousness.” Romans 6:17,18 nasb

The word translated as “freed” literally means “liberated” and indicates the kind of freedom granted to those enslaved in concentration camps during WWII. Trapped and completely incapable of escape, they faced certain, inescapable torment and death. The liberating army arrived and they were set free.

Ten years before I was born, Soviet soldiers marched toward Auschwitz, a Nazi German concentration camp in which more than a million people were imprisoned. The Nazis forced most of the prisoners to march to another facility before the liberators arrived, not because they cared about the safety of their prisoners but because they wanted to continue their torment. They shot thousands of those who couldn’t keep up and left their bodies where they fell. By the time the Soviets arrived, only 7,000 of the prisoners remained in the camp, most of whom were so infirm the Soviets didn’t bother to evacuate them.

The photos taken on liberation day revealed the bodies of the dead heaped in piles and mass graves. The survivors’ bodies were starved and skeletal, their eyes haunted. Those former prisoners knew they’d been trapped in a kind of hell from which there was virtually no escape. The unexpected arrival of their liberators set them free.

After you’re liberated, you want to stay free.

Would those tormented people ever choose to return to the bondage of Auschwitz and their Nazi tormentors? Of course not.

We, too, were hopeless prisoners before Christ. Completely enslaved to sin, our future was certain eternal death and torment. Jesus, however, invaded our prison, shattered the strong bonds with which we were held, and liberated us from our cruel master. We have been set free.

Why, then, do we live as those who are still enslaved?

No Nazi prisoner willingly returned to the torment of a concentration camp. They never returned to hunger, fear, pain, forced labor, or physical and sexual abuse because they had a choice.

Why don’t we live as if we’re free?

For what reason do we continue in the sin that binds us? Why would we, who have been freed by Christ, return to the enemy’s hold on our hearts and lives? Two possibilities come to mind. Either we don’t understand our abuser or we don’t know the gracious kindness and love of our Liberator yet.

Jesus described our enemy well when He said, “The thief’s purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy…” Just as those in Nazi concentration camps learned, their enemy’s objective was to steal that which was most valuable, both in terms of possessions and human dignity, kill their sense of self and identity, and destroy their lives and body.

The enemy of our soul works with the same intensity and purpose. His desire is to steal our freedom and enslave us to the things of this world, keep us from Jesus, kill our witness and destroy our relationships. Temptation comes wrapped in an attractive package and promises everything from pleasure, temporary escape and pain relief to freedom, prestige, power, and love.

It’s all a lie. Drugs and alcohol may give temporary relief but they compound life’s problems in too many ways to list and can never give lasting peace. Materialism and entitlement may give us a beautiful house but they don’t turn a mansion into a home and fill it with love.

Jesus’ stated purpose was to give us an abundant life.

Jesus’ stated purpose says, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” The NLT translates the abundant life as “a rich and satisfying life.” John 10:10 nlt

Ponder this truth for a moment:

Jesus didn’t come to enslave us. He came to set us free from sin so we could live a rich and satisfying, abundant, joy-and-peace-filled life. 

Do we live abundantly?

When we come to Christ, we must turn from our former lives and leave that which enslaved us behind, not continue to dabble in it. Following Jesus is not a 180-degree turn-and-stop journey, but a lifetime of discipleship. We follow Him by studying His Word and obeying His directions. We cannot experience the abundant life if we merely turn and stop.

The Christian life is a keep-moving, ever-growing, constantly-advancing adventure. “Stagnant” and “enslaved to sin” are not parts of the process. 

Which do we want? Freedom or bondage. Our abundance of peace, joy, love, and the other fruit of the spirit reveal the choice we’ve made. Body of Christ, what do our lives reveal to the world? Can they see the freedom of Christ in us or do we still reveal the sin that so easily entangles us?

Freedom is ours because of Jesus. We can live free, and we should.

If we’ve made the 180-degree turn from sin to the life Christ offers, there should be no reunions with our old sinful life. We must continue the path of discipleship (Bible study, obedience, faith) so we can experience abundant life. A perishing world looks to us to show the way.

Study the Bible and do what it says. It’s that simple. When we do, we’ll find the life Jesus intended and show the world the freedom He died to give.

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What I’m reading this weekend:

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I’m re-reading The Autobiography of George Muller. It’s one of the most life-changing books I’ve ever read. Other than the Bible, this book was the most instrumental in developing my prayer life. In the 1800’s Muller fed and housed more than 10,000 orphans. How? He sacrificed, prayed and believed. In response, God provided in one miraculous way after another. The faith of this one man changed a nation (or a large part of it).  The stories of God’s providence alone are worth the read. (I’m reading in paperback but it’s available in other formats.)