T H E F R E E D O M O F
BONDAGE
Experiencing True Freedom as a Servant of Christ
F. Wayne Mac Leod
Light To My Path Book Distribution
Copyright © 2017 F. Wayne Mac Leod
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written
permission of the author.
“Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®),
copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission.
All rights reserved.”
Special thanks to proof reader:
Diane Mac Leod
CONTENTS
Title Page
Copyright
Preface
1- The Great Lie
2 -The Bondage of Unrestrained Freedom
3 - Created for God
4 - Created for Communion with God
5 - Chosen to Belong to God
6 - Freed from Sin, Self and the World
7 - Life Through Sacrifice
8 - The Greatness of Service
9 - The Freedom of Surrender
About The Author
A
PREFACE
s modern people, we value freedom. Often the freedom we claim,
however, holds us in bondage. Our freedom of speech has
released a tidal wave of slander. Our freedom of religion has
abolished prayers and Bible reading from schools. lest it be offensive to
those of other religions. Our freedom of expression has produced a plague
of immorality and confusion. By championing our rights and freedoms we
have restricted ourselves.
What is true freedom? Can true freedom ever be experienced outside of
submission to God and His purpose? Does freedom imply a release from all
authority and the right to do as we please?
Scripture has some important things to say about true freedom. It shows us
that the freedom God intended for us is found only in submission to Him
and the purpose He has for our lives. The apostles boasted of being servants
of Jesus because in this role of servanthood they found great delight and
true freedom.
What we often consider to be freedom is actually a slavery to sin and the
passions of the flesh. Christ offers us another way. The goal of this study is
to expose what we call freedom for what it really is and to reveal the
teachings of Scripture about true freedom in Christ. I trust it will be a
blessing to you.
F. Wayne Mac Leod
S
1- THE GREAT LIE
ome time ago I noticed a license plate on the front of a car that said:
"He who dies with the most toys wins." In a nutshell, this statement
captures the general philosophy of a materialistic society. Take
everything you can get. Fill your life with pleasure and possessions because
when you die, you won’t be able to take them with you. In the end, the
measure of success is based on how many toys you accumulate and how
much fun you had playing with them.
In recent years, billions of dollars have been spent on finding ways to make
our lives easier and more convenient. What North Americans spend on
entertainment alone is staggering. While there is nothing wrong with
modern conveniences, the fact remains that the god of materialism would
have us believe that we are in this world to serve ourselves. Nothing should
stand in our way. If we don't have the money, we can pay later. The moral
principles our parents lived by are considered outdated. In our “enlightened
and liberated” society, we believe we have been set free from these
restraints. Immoral lifestyle and pre-marital sex are not only considered
natural but, in some cases, are being promoted in our schools as legitimate
alternatives to the traditional and Biblical values practiced by previous
generations. We are led to believe that we can do as we please as long as we
don't hurt anyone in the process. Relativism prevails. "If it's good for you,
then go for it," is the motto of our contemporary society.
Back in the Garden of Eden, Satan tempted Eve with the same philosophy
(Genesis 3) As she stood before the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and
Evil, Satan led her to believe that she deserved more than she had and that
there were things in life she had never experience and she was the poorer
for it. Very subtly he told her that, if she was going to experience life to the
full, she needed to cast off restraint and treat herself to the best that life had
to offer. He led her to believe that living under the restrictions God had
placed on her meant unnecessary bondage. To experience a better life, she
needed to be freed from God’s rules and regulations. True freedom,
according to Satan, can only be experienced when we have liberty to do as
we please, unrestrained by rules and regulations imposed upon us.
Very subtly this philosophy has been penetrating our ranks. Many people in
our day see the Word of God and its principles as being outdated and
irrelevant. As he did in the Garden of Eden, Satan has once again succeeded
in causing many, even among God’s people, to believe that the rules and
restrictions of the Word of God bind and restrict us.
Satan has succeeded in causing many to believe the lie that he told Eve in
the Garden. He would have us cast off restraint and live for ourselves. The
result is devastating. Dishonesty, immorality, broken homes and
hopelessness have been the result. Our pursuit of freedom has left us in
bondage. It is not from restrictions we need to be set free; it is from
ourselves.
For Consideration:
How has your society changed over the years? How has it wandered from
the principles of God’s Word?
Is the Word of God intended to restrict us? What is the purpose of the Word
of God?
Can a society be truly free if it is not guided by the principles of God’s
Word? Explain.
What lie did Satan tell Eve in the Garden of Eden? Do you know people
today who believe this lie?
What is the impact of materialism on a society? Will the accumulation of
worldly goods and pleasures solve the problems of our society?
For Prayer:
Take a moment to ask the Lord to help you to see the lie of the enemy about
the accumulation of pleasures and possessions.
Ask God to give you contentment in what He has provided. If you have
need, ask Him to provide what you need.
Thank the Lord that He has given His Word as a guide in how we are to
live.
Ask God to help you to trust His Word and His purpose for your life.
N
2 -THE BONDAGE OF
UNRESTRAINED FREEDOM
orth Americans pride themselves in being free people. However,
the very rights and freedoms that have been fought for have
created a whole new set of problems. Our search for freedom has
led us to greater bondage. Let me illustrate what I mean.
I remember the story of a teacher who threatened to discipline an unruly
child if he did not behave. The child calmly reminded the teacher that she
had no right to touch him. It used to be, when a child was disciplined in
school for being bad, when he returned home, he would be disciplined
again by his parents. Today, however, parents are more likely to call a
lawyer. In recent years, what teacher has not hesitated to exercise discipline
in the classroom for fear of legal action being taken against them? While
these rules have been made to protect our children from abuses, it is
becoming increasingly more difficult to maintain discipline in the modern
classroom? Not only is this true in the classroom but also in the home.
Legal cases are springing up across our nations related to the question of
parental disciple of children. Parents themselves are hesitating to discipline
their children for fear of being reported and brought to court.
The western world has always championed religious freedom. We pride
ourselves in our tolerance of people of differing beliefs. Consider, however,
where this freedom of religion has left us. In recent years, we have seen
prayers abolished in schools for fear of being an offense to those of another
faith. It is becoming increasingly difficult to bring our faith into the
classrooms of our day. Christian organizations working with youth find
themselves treading on thin ice when working with students in modern
schools. The more neutral Santa Claus is replacing manger scenes at
Christmas. Some municipalities have made Christmas manger scenes in a
public place illegal. Often the only legitimate use of the name of the Lord in
the workplace today is as a swear word.
Our free enterprise system has produced for us a "dog eat dog" society
where the strong control the market at the expense of the weak. In recent
years, banks have been encouraging the concept of financial freedom.
Credit cards, loans and "buy now pay later" plans have thrown millions of
people into debt. We are being encouraged to cast aside restraint and free
ourselves from financial bondage. The result is that many people will go to
the grave over their heads in debts they have no way of paying.
Our freedom of speech has unleashed a tidal wave of slander. Recent news
stories have revealed the horrors of privacy invasion for a good story. In the
name of freedom of expression, pornography has flooded the market place
enslaving countless individuals and creating a whole new set of addictions.
Our newfound sexual freedom, unhindered by Biblical principles, has
produced for us a wave of sexually transmitted diseases and broken
families. Sexual practices, once frowned upon, now are broadcast on prime-
time television for our children to see. We are now wrestling with the right
of the woman to end the life of the child in her own womb.
With all our emphasis on rights and freedoms, are we really free? Never
before have we seen a society so confused and disoriented. Where is all this
freedom leading us? Is this what freedom is about?
There are two types of bondage in the world today. The first type of
bondage happens when we are stripped of our basic freedoms and rights as
human beings. We have seen the horrors of this type of bondage throughout
history in times of war or under cruel dictatorships. Even our own North
American history relates a time when slavery was the norm. In this form of
bondage, the individual is dehumanized and treated like an object whose
only purpose is to make life easier for someone else.
The second form of bondage is just as bad as the first. It comes about when
we set no boundaries on freedom. This is the bondage that takes place when
we give each person the right to do what seems right in his or her own eyes.
We are experiencing in our modern society the bondage of unrestrained
freedom. Satan tells us that we need to cast off restraint and be freed from
the bondage of law. We have seen that this only leads to another even worse
form of bondage. Freedom without restraint leads to chaos, anarchy and
bondage.
I remember hearing the story of a school that took down the fence
surrounding their schoolyard. Children who had felt free to run and play
freely within a fenced in yard, no longer felt safe. The busy street beside the
school became a threat. Is this not what has happened in our day? By
removing regulations and safeguards we become vulnerable and more prone
to attack. Without the fences that protect us and keep us safe we feel
threatened. Without the guidelines and boundaries, we no longer know
where to turn. Our points of reference, now stripped from us, leave us in
chaos and confusion.
True freedom comes when each person knows his or her limit and functions
within those parameters. The Bible provides us the guidelines we need to
understand how we should live. It gives us direction and purpose in life and
reveals the purpose of our Creator for us. Only by submitting to that
purpose can we experience the fullness and freedom for which we were
created.
For Consideration:
What happens to a society when everyone is free to do as he or she pleases?
Why do we need guidelines in life? How do laws and regulations help us to
function as a society?
Is total freedom to do as we please ever a good thing? Explain.
How can too much freedom hinder us and our society?
Why do we need the Word of God? How does the Word of God give us
greater peace and freedom in society?
For Prayer:
Ask the Lord to help you to see your need for the principles of His Word in
your life.
Thank the Lord that He has given His Word to guide us in what it best for
us and our society.
Ask God to help you to be more willing to sacrifice your rights for your
brother or sister in Christ.
Take a moment to consider the Lord Jesus who so willingly gave up His life
for us. Ask God to enable you to follow His example.
H
3 - CREATED FOR GOD
ave you ever found yourself lying on your back on a warm
summer evening looking up at the stars in the sky and wondering
why you were on this earth? What is the ultimate meaning and
destiny of this world? Theologians and philosophers alike have debated
these questions from the beginning of time. There has been, over the
centuries, a wide range of answers to these all-important questions. These
answers fall anywhere between nihilism, on the one hand, that says that life
is meaningless, to the playboy mentality which says “we’re here for a good
time.”
What is the meaning of life and why are we here on this earth? The Bible
has some very definite answers to these questions. Consider, for example,
the teaching of Paul in the book of Colossians:
16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth,
visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or
authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
(Colossians 1)
Notice what Paul is saying here. He is telling us that God created us for
Himself. We have some friends who designed their own home. As they
consulted with the carpenters and architects they created for themselves a
home that they would be comfortable living in. They had the choice of the
size of rooms, how many rooms, the layout of these rooms, the type of
fixtures and windows, where these windows and doors were going to be
located and so on. They designed this home for themselves. Now they
expect to be able to sit back and enjoy it. It was built with the express
purpose of providing pleasure for its owners. Paul is telling us that this is
the reason you and I were created. We were created for God and His
pleasure.
The apostle goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 8:
5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—
as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us
there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for
whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all
things and through whom we exist. (1 Corinthians 8)
Notice what the apostle is telling us here. He reminds us that it is only
because of God that we exist. The writer to the Hebrews tells us the same
thing when he writes:
10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist,
in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their
salvation perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2)
The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that we not only exist because of God
but also for God “for whom and by whom all things exist…” God created
us for Himself. As the Creator, He, has the right to do this.
If you want to understand the meaning of life you need to look to God. He
created us for Himself. Since we are created for God we will only find our
greatest joy and satisfaction in Him. The great church father Augustine
taught that since God created us for Himself our hearts will always be
restless until they rest in Him.
Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise; your
power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning. And so, we
men, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you we
also carry our mortality about with us, carry the evidence of our sin
and with it the proof that you thwart the proud. You arouse us so
that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and
drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you. -
(From the Confessions of St. Augustine (Book I, Chapter 1)
http://www.piercedhearts.org/theology_heart/teaching_saints/hearts
_restless_st_augustine.htm
The enemy would have us believe that we are here for ourselves. He
challenges to drink our fill of life’s cup, and spend our resources on
ourselves. If there is anything left over at the end of a busy day and we feel
like it, we may have time for God. Our hearts can have their fill of earthly
possessions and freedoms and still be as barren as the desert. On the other
hand, those whose hearts are full of God, though they nothing in this world,
they have all they desire.
We were created for God. True freedom to be everything I was created to be
comes only when I understand that I was created not only by God but also
for God.
For Consideration:
What does it mean to be created for God?
Is it wrong for God to create us for Himself?
Will there be any true satisfaction or freedom in life outside of the purpose
for which God has created us?
How does surrender to God and His purpose give us freedom?
For Prayer:
Thank the Lord that He created you for Himself? Take a moment to praise
Him for the fact that He desires to have fellowship with us.
Ask the Lord to forgive you for questioning His purposes for your life.
Thank Him that He knows what is best for us.
Thank the Lord that there is security and true freedom to become
everything He intended us to be in surrender to Him and His purpose.
H
4 - CREATED FOR
COMMUNION WITH GOD
uman beings are the only part of creation said to be created in the
image of God. There has been much debate over what this
means. It seems, however, that one of the conditions of being
created in the image of God is that we are given a soul that has an ability to
communicate with our Creator and have a relationship with Him. We have
both a physical and spiritual nature. This is what separates humans from
animals.
By its very nature, the image of God requires that we live on a higher level
of existence than the animals. Animals do not have the capacity to
communicate or enter a relationship with their Creator. They live to satisfy
their needs and instincts. Human beings, on the other hand, will never be
truly satisfied or free living on this level of existence. Because we are also
spiritual beings, there will always be a need for spiritual reality in our lives.
Very often, however, human beings live only at the level of the physical
realm. Unconcerned about their Creator, they live like the animals around
them, following their most basic needs and instincts. This lifestyle does not
bring ultimate happiness and freedom. Life can be filled to overflowing
with all this world offers, but never seem to bring satisfaction. Instead,
many are left feeling only emptiness. Like a mouse on a wheel, there is a
constant forging ahead but never seeming to arrive at the destination. As we
spin our wheel day after day, there is a voice deep down that keeps asking
whether there might be something more to life than this small cage and
wheel.
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, found himself on this treadmill.
Listen to how he describes his experience.
3 I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my
heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly,
till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under
heaven during the few days of their life. 4 I made great works. I
built houses and planted vineyards for myself. 5 I made myself
gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. 6 I
made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. 7
I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in
my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more
than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. 8 I also gathered
for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I
got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight
of the sons of man. 9 So I became great and surpassed all who were
before me in Jerusalem. Also, my wisdom remained with me. 10 And
whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart
from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this
was my reward for all my toil. 11 Then I considered all that my
hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold,
all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be
gained under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2)
Can you sense Solomon’s frustration here? Here was a man who had
everything his heart could ever want, but he felt barren and empty in the
end. Countless men and women after him have testified to the same
experience.
What was Solomon’s answer to the meaning of life? In the final chapter of
the book of Ecclesiastes he challenges us to remember our Creator and fear
Him. This, he says, is the conclusion of the whole matter.
13The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his
commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14For God will
bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether
good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12)
After searching high and low and trying everything this world had to offer,
Solomon concludes that true freedom and purpose in life is found in
reverent obedience to the commands and purpose of God. Only in this
context can we find true freedom. Solomon realized that true freedom was
only found in an understanding that he was created in the image of God as a
spiritual being with a unique capacity to know and commune with His
Creator. This world with all its lusts and desires enslaves us like the mouse
on the wheel. The treadmill of life can sap us of all our energy and strength,
wasting hours and days, leaving us with nothing to show for it in the end.
We need to be set free from this treadmill to live on a higher plain.
As one who has been created in the image of God, I have been called to
enter the joy and freedom of communion with my Creator. True freedom
comes only when I understand that I was created with the capacity both to
enjoy and commune with God. This world may temporarily satisfy my
animal instincts, but it will never satisfy my spiritual hunger. Only a
personal relationship with God can fill that void. If I am to experience true
freedom it will only be by understanding that I was created in the image of
God for communion with Him.
For Consideration:
How are human beings different from animals? What is it that distinguishes
us?
Can human beings be truly content living at the same level as the animal
seeking only to please their physical nature and appetites?
What lessons did Solomon learn when he sought to please his flesh,
ignoring his soul?
How does keeping the commandments of God and entering a relationship
with Him give us freedom and purpose in life?
For Prayer:
Ask the Lord to forgive you for times when you lived only to please your
flesh.
Thank the Lord that He created you with a capacity to find true joy and
freedom in a relationship with Him.
Ask the Lord to give you a hunger for a deeper relationship with Him and
the freedom that comes from walking in communion with Him.
I
5 - CHOSEN TO BELONG TO
GOD
f we are to understand the nature of true freedom, we must do so in the
context of why we were created. Maybe you have had the experience
of trying to pound a nail with the sole of your shoe. A shoe was never
intended to be used as a hammer. Imagine a carpenter trying to build a
house using his shoe as a hammer. While he may have a certain measure of
success, he will not experience true freedom as a carpenter until he
discovers the hammer. What I am trying to say is this: If you want to
understand true freedom to be everything you were intended to be, you
must closely examine the reason you were created and live accordingly.
The apostle Paul makes a very important statement in Ephesians 1:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has
blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly
places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the
world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. (Ephesians
1)
Notice what Paul is saying here. He tells us that we were chosen before the
creation of the world for a purpose. Even before the world existed, God had
us in His mind. Before we were conceived in our mother's womb, God had
chosen us to be holy and blameless in His sight. What does it mean to be
holy? A person who is holy is one who is set apart for God. What Paul is
telling us is that we were set apart for God from the beginning of time. It
was the intention of God, from before the creation of the world, to create
for Himself a people who would belong to Him. We were created to be set
apart for God.
Paul goes on to say in the next verse:
4… In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons
through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the
praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the
Beloved. (Ephesians 1)
The word "predestined" simply means "to determine beforehand" or to
"ordain in advance." What this is saying very simply is that from the very
beginning of time God determined that He would adopt us at the cost of his
Son. This decision was made before we even knew Him. It was part of His
great overall plan set up before the creation of the world.
There is another verse I want to look at in Ephesians 1. Verse 11 tells us:
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined
according to the purpose of him who works all things according to
the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in
Christ might be to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1)
Paul again tells us that we were "predestined" or "chosen in advance" by a
sovereign God who works out all things according to his own purposes. The
God who works out all things for his purposes has a plan for us. That plan,
says Paul, was that we might be for "the praise of His glory." In other
words, that we might bring praise and honour to His holy name. This was
why we were created.
In Romans 8:29 we read:
29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be
conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the
firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8)
Once again, we see that God had a purpose in mind for us. Paul tells us that
we were predestined to be conformed to the likeness of Christ. In other
words, God's intention for us was that we be like His Son Jesus Christ.
What I am trying to say here is that you and I were created with a very
particular purpose in mind. We were created to be set apart for God. This
was the intention of God from the beginning of time. When He created us,
and brought us into this world, He did so, so that you and I could bring
glory to His name. He knew exactly what He was doing. He created us with
all that was necessary to accomplish His purposes in us. One thing is sure.
If you are not actively pursuing the glory of God, you are living your life in
a way it was never intended to be lived.
Satan will do his best to distract us from this purpose. He would delight to
have us build our houses with shoes as hammers. It is quite understandable
that there are so many people frustrated in their lives? You can't hammer
too many nails with your shoes before beginning to wonder if there is not a
better way. You are free to build your house with your shoe, but you will
never experience true freedom in doing so. True freedom only comes when
we accept the purpose for which we were created and submit fully to that
purpose. I will be free only when I accept that I was created to belong to
God and submit to seeking His glory in my life.
For Consideration:
Is it possible to live our lives in a way that they were never intended to be
lived? Explain.
Why were we created? What was the purpose of God for us from before
creation?
Can we find true freedom outside of the purpose for which we were
created?
Why do you suppose so many people try to live outside the purpose of
God? How are they being deceived into thinking that they are free?
For Prayer:
Ask the Lord to show you if you are living as He intended. Ask Him to
reveal His purpose for your life.
Ask God to show you the joy and freedom of walking in obedience to Him
and His purpose.
Do you know someone who has been resisting God and His purpose? Take
a moment to ask the Lord to open their eyes to the freedom of confessing
their sin and walking in obedience.
I
6 - FREED FROM SIN, SELF
AND THE WORLD
t is no secret that Satan would have us drink our fill from the well of
sin, self and the world. You do not have to look far to see that he has
had a great measure of success in convincing many that their freedom
lies in drinking deeply from this well. This was the essence of his
temptation of Eve in the Garden of Eden. We know where that has led us.
Sin, self and the world have been the source of all our problems. Jesus, on
the other hand, teaches that true freedom can only be found when we are set
free from this evil trio to become everything we were created to be.
By His death on the cross, the Lord Jesus set us free from the grip of sin. As
slaves to sin we were destined to an eternity of hell, separated from God.
This evil master of sin still enslaves countless individuals today. Paul tells
us in Romans 6: 6, 7:
6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the
body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer
be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from
sin. (Romans 6)
Those who have accepted Christ’s sacrifice on their behalf can be freed
from sin and its dreaded consequences. They have been freed to live as
servants of Christ:
17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have
become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which
you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have
become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6)
Notice what the apostle tells us here. We are freed from sin and its eternal
consequences but made slaves to righteousness. We are freed from one
master and bound to another. The difference, however, between sin and
righteousness is the freedom to become everything we were created to be.
As slaves to righteousness we enter a relationship with our Creator and tap
into the power and purpose He has for us. In that purpose alone can we
experience true freedom.
Another member of this deadly trio that has enslaved us is "self". One of the
greatest enemies that you and I must deal with daily is the temptation to
pride and self-seeking. How many disagreements and arguments have been
the results of this selfishness and self-seeking attitude? How many crimes
have been motivated by a love for self or a gratification of the desires of the
"self"? What would this world be like if we were free from self and self-
seeking? Has "self" not been a real enemy to our marriages, friendships, and
society? Speaking of the death of Jesus, Paul writes:
15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for
themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2
Corinthians 5)
The reason Christ came to this earth was to set us free from "self" and the
results of living for self in our society. He offers us a means of dying to self
and all its evil desires. He invites us, by His death, to be renewed in our
inner being. He promises to make us new people, who are no longer
controlled by pride and selfish ambition but by His Spirit.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old
has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5)
Imagine an army going to battle with each person only concerned for
themselves and unwilling to sacrifice for anyone else. Imagine a sports
team filled with individuals who were not concerned for the team as much
as they were for their own glory. Society cannot survive with this kind of
attitude. Entire societies have been destroyed by selfish ambition and pride.
Countries have been devastated by this cruel slave master. We were not
created to live for ourselves and our own desires alone. Self is a powerful
taskmaster. It traps men and women in its deadly web, and once they are
entrapped, it destroys them and their society. Jesus came to offer us freedom
from self. He came to be our Master. He came to teach us the freedom of
living for Him and His purpose instead of for ourselves. Only by being set
free from self can we know the fullness of the life God intended for us.
The third member of this deadly trio is the world. Paul tells us in Galatians
1:4 that Jesus:
4 … gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age,
according to the will of our God and Father, (Galatians 1)
According to 2 Corinthians 4:4 the god of this age (Satan) has blinded the
eyes of the unbeliever so that he or she cannot see the truth. We do not need
to look very far to see how true this is. So many live their lives with no
thought of God. Their only concern is for the things of this world. Their
world is too small. For them, this world and what it offers is all there is.
They live for the moment. They have no concept of eternity. All of us, at
one point, were slaves to this thinking. We lived for this world and its
possessions. Nothing else mattered. Jesus came to give us a higher
objective. He came to set us free from the puny mindset of this age. He
came to open our eyes to the reality of eternity and the power of His Spirit
in and through us. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 16:26:
26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and
forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
(Matthew 16)
The pursuit of this world and its possessions is a futile effort. The day will
come when each of us will stare death and eternity in the face and realise
that nothing of this world lasts past the grave. The enemy has deceived
many. There is much more to life than what we see here below. Jesus came
to free us from the futility of living only for this world. He came to take us
off the treadmill and set our feet on solid ground. He came to heal the
blindness imposed upon us by the god of this age. True freedom comes
only when we are set free from sin, self and the world. Jesus came to offer
this freedom.
For Consideration:
How has sin entrapped many people? What have been the results?
What has a focus on self done to our society? What happens when we are
freed from selfishness and pride?
Have you met individuals whose life consists of living for this world alone?
How does an understanding of the reality of eternity free us from this puny
mindset?
How does becoming a slave of righteousness give us greater freedom than
being a slave of sin, self and the world?
What temptation is there for the Christian to live in the old way of this
world? Have you been freed from this?
For Prayer:
Take a moment to thank the Lord that He has set you free from sin, self and
this world to live in the freedom of forgiveness, service and eternity.
Take a moment to pray for those around you who have never been freed
from sin, self and the world. Ask God to open their eyes to the freedom He
offers when we become His children.
Ask the Lord to help you to live in the freedom He has given you. Ask Him
to help you to walk more and more in that freedom.
T
7 - LIFE THROUGH
SACRIFICE
he Christian life is a life of paradoxes. One of these contrasts is
that if we want to live we must die to ourselves and our personal
ambitions. True freedom comes by means of sacrifice and
abandonment. Jesus put it this way:
38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy
of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his
life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10)
Who among us does not know that the things of greatest value often come
through sacrifice and hardship?
If I want to experience life to the full, I must be willing to sacrifice what I
consider to be mine. To find life I must first lose life. I must be willing to
take up my cross daily and follow (as a servant) the Lord Jesus. When I get
up in the morning I must be willing to pray as Jesus did:
42 “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.
Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22).
Could you pray that prayer each morning? Is it your intense desire to live
your life for the Lord Jesus and for Him alone? Are you willing to put aside
your interests and desires to follow His agenda? Jesus tells us that true life
and freedom can only spring from the soil of willing sacrifice and death to
self, ambitions and desires.
Listen to what the Lord Jesus told His disciples in John 12:24:
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the
earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
(John 12)
Life is produced through death. The seed planted in the ground must die if it
is to produce life and yield fruit. Paul describes this experience in 2
Corinthians 4 when he said:
11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’
sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal
flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you. (2 Corinthians 4)
The sacrifices of the apostles produced life in the believers to whom they
ministered. The secret to abundant life, according to Paul is to die to self so
that Jesus might live through us. This process of dying to self is not just a
one-time thing. We must pick up our cross daily. Each day and each
moment we live we must be willing to abandon our own ideas and desires
to submit to the will of God. As we surrender to Him, He fills us with His
life and purpose. Paul understood this concept when he wrote to the
Galatians:
20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but
Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by
faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
(Galatians 2)
Paul experienced the life and empowerment of Christ as he surrendered to
Him. Jesus tells us that He came to offer us life:
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that
they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10)
The Greek word used for “abundantly” can be translated by the phrase
"beyond measure." The idea here is that Jesus came to offer us a life that is
over and above the normal life, a life that is superior or surpassing all other
lives. If I want to know this life, however, I must be willing to surrender to
His Lordship. Why is it that many Christians do not experience the
abundant life? Could it be that it is because they have not understood the
fact that it can only be experienced in total surrender to Christ? All too
many believers still have one foot in the world. They have never learned to
die to self. They want Christ and the abundant life, but they do not want to
give up the life they presently know. Jesus tells us that until the grain of
wheat dies, it will not bear any fruit. Only when we die to sin, self, and the
world can we experience what Christ meant by the abundant life. We are
invited to enter the freedom and joy of abundant life in dying to ourselves.
True freedom is experienced only in surrender to the Lord Jesus.
For Consideration:
What is the difference between the secular world view and the teaching of
Christ about living life to the full?
How did the sacrifice of Christ produce life in us? How is this an example
for us? How can we impart life and hope to others?
What does it mean to be crucified with Christ?
How does the sacrifice of ourselves and our ideas produce life and true
freedom?
For Prayer:
Ask the Lord to free you from the secular mindset about life and freedom.
Ask Him to show you His purpose instead.
Take a moment to consider how the sacrifice of Christ produced life and
freedom in you. Ask Christ to enable you to live your life in such a way that
your sacrifice gives hope and life to others through Him.
Thank the Lord for the purpose and blessing He has given you as you have
surrendered to Him.
H
8 - THE GREATNESS OF
SERVICE
ow do you measure greatness? Greatness in the world's eyes is
often measured in terms of money, power and fame. Those who
have an abundance are said to be great people. The more people
they have serving them, the greater they feel.
Greatness in the eyes of Jesus, however, is very different. Jesus was asked
on one occasion who He considered to be the greatest in the kingdom of
heaven. I am not sure what the disciples thought His response would be, but
I am quite convinced that the answer shocked them:
4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the
kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18)
11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts
himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be
exalted. (Matthew 23)
Being a child-like servant is not our idea of greatness. We often see the role
of servant in a negative light. In the world's eyes, true greatness can only
come with worldly power, prestige and possessions. Jesus teaches us,
however, that greatness has nothing to do with these things.
Judas, the disciple of Jesus, had a love for money. According to John 12:4-
6, he oversaw the moneybox. When Mary anointed Jesus feet, Judas was
upset at the expense of the perfume she so liberally poured out. John 12:6
tells us that Judas was a thief and saw in this perfume a means of enriching
his own pocket. The day came when Judas had to make a choice. Would he
serve Jesus or his love of money? For thirty pieces of silver, Judas broke
free from his bondage to Christ. Would his newfound situation give him the
freedom and purpose he longed for? Soon after this event, Judas discovered
that life was not what he thought it would be. Overcome with grief, Judas
took his own life.
Jesus told the story is told of a son who did not want to be bound to his
father any longer. He longed for the freedom of living his own life. Armed
with his rich inheritance, he set out for a foreign country. He gained a
reputation with his great treasure. He met many new friends and enjoyed a
life of pleasure and extravagance. Where did all this leave him in the end?
He was barren and dry. He humbled himself and returned to his father
begging him to accept him as a servant. He now knew that being a servant
to his father was far better than all the wealth and greatness this world had
to offer (Luke 15).
The Psalmist put it this way:
10 For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness. (Psalm 84)
The Psalmist came to the same conclusion as Judas and the prodigal son.
Serving at the door of the house of God as a lowly servant, was better than
living in the rich courts of this world. Being a servant to the father was
better than anything money and worldly pleasure could offer.
The apostles understood this when they boasted about being "bondservants"
to Jesus Christ (see Rom.1:1; Phil.1:1; Titus 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Pet. 1:1; Jude
1). They were proud to be called "servants of Jesus." They wore this title as
a badge of honour. In service of Jesus they had been set free from the
bondage and barrenness of this world. To die for Him was better than to live
for the world.
The experience of many individuals, who have come to faith in Jesus
Christ, proves that only as servants to the will and purpose of God can we
understand true freedom and greatness. Greatness is not found in the
accumulation of riches and possessions but in service to the King of kings.
Those who live to accumulate the things of this world will only find
themselves enslaved to those things. They will take nothing with them
when they die, for death will strip them of everything they have worked to
achieve. They will stand before God naked and ashamed. Jesus, on the other
hand, calls us to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven:
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth
and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up
for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust
destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6)
All that this world offers is temporary. It is not to anyone’s advantage to
invest in something that will rust, be stolen or destroyed. Shall we look with
envy on those whose banks are filled with money they cannot take with
them to the grave? Shall we long to be like those who fill themselves with
all this world has to offer at the cost of their soul (Mark 8:36)? True
greatness and freedom is not to be found in those who accumulate wealth
and possessions to satisfy the lusts of the flesh, but in those who willingly
surrender all to be true servants of the King of kings. In this alone is true
greatness and freedom.
For Consideration:
How is true greatness measured in the world? How is it measured in the
Kingdom of God?
Why is the accumulation of worldly goods a poor measure of true
greatness?
Can a servant be truly great? Consider how the apostles boasted in being
servants of Jesus Christ?
True greatness is measured more by our willingness to be a servant of
Christ than in what we can accumulate on this earth? Do you agree or
disagree? Explain.
For Prayer:
Ask the Lord to enable you to be a better servant?
Ask the Lord to help you to see that while He has given you the things of
this world for your enjoyment these things in themselves will never satisfy
your soul.
Take a moment to surrender what you have to the Lord. Ask Him to help
you to fix your eyes on Him and His purpose for your life. Ask Him to
show you how to use what He has given for His glory.
Ask the Lord to set you free from the worldly concept of greatness. Ask
Him to teach you what He meant when he said that the greatest among us
would be a servant.
W
9 - THE FREEDOM OF
SURRENDER
hile there may be many words that could summarise the
Christian life, I would like to suggest that the word
“surrender” very nicely summarises what it is all about. True
freedom to become everything I am intended to be can only be realised
through absolute surrender and abandonment to God.
We all like to hold on to our rights as human beings. I would like to suggest,
however, that until we are willing to surrender our rights to the Lord Jesus,
we will never know true freedom. Victory in the Christian life is only
possible by means of surrender. We will never get very far in our own
strength and will. Jesus used the illustration of the vine and the branches in
John 15. He compared Himself to the vine and His people to the branches.
The production of fruit is only possible when the branch is receiving its life
from the vine. Imagine the branch saying: “I want my freedom; I think I
will separate from the vine and do my own thing.” Separated from the vine,
that branch will wither up and die. Only in staying connected on the vine
and surrendering to the life of the vine is life and fruit possible. True
freedom is not found in separation from the vine but in service to the vine.
The sooner we learn to surrender to the Lord and abide in Him, the sooner
we will know the joy and freedom Christ has to offer.
Paul reminded the believers in Corinth that they did not have a right to our
own body. Listen to what he told them in 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20:
19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit
within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for
you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1
Corinthians 6)
When the Lord Jesus died for us on the cross, He rescued us from the
tyranny of Satan and this world. He bought us for Himself at the cost of His
life. This means that we no longer belong to ourselves. We belong to God—
He has every right to our lives.
All too often however, we rebel against His lordship in our life. This only
leads to anguish and grief. An infant is free when he is under the loving
care of his or her parents. In his fathers arms the child is free from hunger,
danger, or anything that would harm him. Away from his parents that child
is in danger. This is also true in our spiritual lives. In Christ, there is
freedom from sin. In Christ, we are protected and kept. Apart from Him we
are open targets. The cost of this freedom, however, is a complete and total
surrender to Him.
The Bible tells us that when we come to Christ, we are to surrender our
right to sin. There are those who claim the right to not forgive an enemy.
Others claim the right to be bitter and envious. Still others want the right to
lust or gossip. Probably the most imprisoned people I know are those who
claim the right to hate their enemy. Paul tells us that, as servants of the Lord
Jesus, we are to surrender these rights to Him.
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak
the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another. 26
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer
steal, but rather let him labour, doing honest work with his own
hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as
is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace
to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by
whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all
bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put
away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another,
tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4)
Until we are willing to surrender our right to sin, we will never know true
freedom. Our sinful attitudes and actions will only hold us captive.
Tradition, impure attitudes, immorality, pride, greed and any number of
other cruel taskmasters have bound many men and women today and kept
them from the experience of true freedom. Jesus demands a complete and
total surrender of our rights to Him. In return He grants us freedom and
release from the bondage our cruel taskmasters have caused.
In light of these facts, let me close with Paul’s plea to the believers of
Rome:
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to
present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to
God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this
world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by
testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and
acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12)
The challenge of the apostle Paul is clear. As believers, we are to present
our bodies to the Lord as living sacrifices. This means that we die to
ourselves and submit to God in all things. He is our Lord—we surrender to
Him as His servants. We reject the ideals of this world and commit
ourselves instead to God’s ways. In this alone is true freedom.
In John 8, the Lord Jesus makes this important statement:
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who
practices sin is a slave to sin. (John 8)
Jesus would also say:
24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one
and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the
other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6)
What do these two statements of Jesus tell us?
First, they tell us that to do as we please and ignore the purpose of God is to
place ourselves under the control of sin— “everyone who practices sin is a
slave to sin.” The concept of the freedom to do as I please is an illusion. In
reality, I am submitting to the sinful desires of the flesh and allowing those
desires to be lord and master of what I do. I am being controlled by sin.
Second, Jesus reminds us that we cannot serve two masters. If money,
possessions, fleshly desires or anything else is controlling me, I cannot say
that I have surrendered to Christ as my Lord. I have a decision to make.
Either I will allow sin and fleshly desires to be lord or I will submit to
Christ and His purpose for my life.
There are two masters in this life. We can choose to submit to sin and the
flesh, or we can choose to submit to the Lord Jesus and His purpose for our
lives. The reality of the matter is that we are not our own masters—we are
servants. There are those who think that they are their own master, but they
are merely servants to the sinful desires of their own flesh.
As servants, we have a decision to make. To whom will we submit. To
submit to sin may satisfy the temporary desires of the flesh, but true
freedom is not found in being a servant to these desires. True freedom can
only be found in submitting ourselves unreservedly to our Creator and
Saviour. In Him alone can we understand the reason for which we were
created. In His purpose alone is freedom from sin and freedom to become
all that we were intended to be. True freedom is not found in the absence of
a master but in knowing the true Master.
For Consideration:
How can the Christian life be summarised by the word “surrender”? Has
this been your experience?
Consider the illustration Jesus used about the vine and the branches. Can
the branch ever be free apart from the vine? How is this like the Christian
life?
Can we ever say that we are our own masters?
How is sin a master? What does it mean to be a slave to sin?
In this life, there are two masters –sin and Jesus Christ. Whose servant are
you? What is the difference between being a servant of sin and being a
servant of Christ?
Can a servant, who has surrendered his or her rights, know true freedom?
For Prayer:
Thank the Lord that He is a loving and compassionate master.
Do you know someone who is still under the control of sin? Take a moment
to pray that the Lord would set them free.
Ask the Lord to give you grace to surrender more to Him. Thank Him that
in surrender to Him we experience greater freedom.
Thank the Lord that He came to set us free from the power of Satan, sin and
the world.