Work. Webster defines it as activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result. So many people think work is the key to eternal life. They mentally weigh themselves on the merit scale and consistently find the balance in their favor. Their heart clings to the idea that being a “good” person is good enough.
This kind of thinking is common to every person in every place in every religion.
• Buddha once said, “Salvation… demands strenuous effort and practice. So work hard and seek your own salvation constantly.”
• The Quran reads, “To those who believe and do deeds of righteousness hath Allah promised forgiveness and a great reward.” (Surah 5:9)
• In the document produced by the Council of Trent the Roman Catholic Church declared: “If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified… by faith alone… let him be anathema.” (Canon 14).
•Hindus believe that salvation is attained through 1 of 3 ways; works, knowledge, or personal devotion to a god. They believe that life is lived through karma which is the Hindu word for “works” or “deeds.” Good karma, or works, will produce good rewards, bad works will produce bad rewards. With enough good works, you will reach a state of Nirvana.
Everyone has a plan that includes works along the path of salvation. But Jesus said, “Come unto me all you who labor (who work), and I will give you rest.”
Rest. To end work; a period of ceasing to engage in any effort or activity. Every religion in the world promises reward for effort, but Jesus promises reward for resting. Why?
Because no matter how hard, how long, or how sincere we work, it would never put us in right standing with God. Sounds hopeless, doesn’t it?
But here’s the good news. God knew that we would never, on our own strength, be able to work our way into his good favor. He would have to punish each of us for failing to measure up to his standard. Unless, there was someone who was perfect. Someone who had done all the work perfectly. Someone who worked on our behalf and earned all the favor of God for us. And that someone would not only take all the punishment that was rightfully ours, but would give to us all the credit for the work that was rightfully his. That Someone was Jesus. And he freely offers us all his work, if we would rest in him, and him alone.
Resting our hope on his effort, makes his effort our reward.
Here is the thing about slavery, as a slave, you can’t set yourself free. You can’t unlock the chains that bind you and simply walk off. You don’t have the means or the authority to do so. only someone else, someone who loves you enough to pay the price to have you released.
Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”
Our sin kept us in slavery, but Jesus laid down his life as the purchase price to set us free. Christ did not pay part of the price and now, somehow, we have to pay the rest. In the words of the old hymn, Jesus paid it all. Everything. The total cost. Absolutely purchased. We have been utterly and completely set free. Or to use Jesus’ words, we are “free indeed.”
Free to from what? Free from the power of sin. We no longer have to obey our old master. We are no longer bound to follow sin. Free to what? We are free to follow Christ. Free to worship, love, honor, obey, follow, and adore. Free to find all of our heart’s satisfaction in him and him alone. We are free to be who we have been declared to be. We are free to be righteous and holy. We are free to live in the love and approval of the Father. We are free to be who we have been declared to be in Christ.
Jesus says in John 8: “So Jesus said to [those] who had believed in him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” We looked at this part of the verse in our last post and discussed the source of freedom. Today I wanted to address the problem of freedom. Look at the response from his followers that Jesus got this saying: “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’?”
The greatest obstacle to being free is refusing to believe that you are enslaved. Jesus was all too keenly aware of the human condition and its slavery to sin. However, his own followers refused to believe that they needed to be set free. The message of the gospel is foolishness to unbelievers because they do not believe they are enslaved, let alone that they need to be redeemed. Even we, as believers, often have trouble seeing the areas of life that enslave us. We tend to look at our previous track record, church attendance, “good deeds” etc. to make us “feel better” about the sin in our life. We tend to use a mental “merit scale” to weigh ourselves and see if we can appease our convicted consciences.
While we have been delivered from the power of sin, we have not been totally delivered from the presence of sin. The sin in our lives prevent us from accurately reflecting the righteous character of God in our lives. When we refuse to acknowledge the presence of sin, we remain slaves to it. Christ didn’t just die for our sins in a past sense (the sins we committed), he died to free us from sin in a present, active, continuous and ongoing sense. The cross has set us free, does set us free, and will set us free from slavery to sin. We can be truly free by faith in Christ.
Whittaker Chambers wrote “Freedom is a need of the soul, and nothing else. It is in striving toward God that the soul strives continually after a condition of freedom. God alone is the inciter and guarantor of freedom. He is the only guarantor. External freedom is only an aspect of interior freedom. Political freedom, as the Western world has known it, is only a political reading of the Bible. Religion and freedom are indivisible. Without freedom the soul dies. Without the soul there is no justification for freedom.”
With all the debates and political races heating up, a lot of political cliches regarding are being thrown back and forth at both parties. While we do not want to unnecessarily minimize political freedom, it is important to place it in its proper perspective. If all there was to life was the struggle for political power, the right to legislate (or un-legislate) morality, than our existence and our identity would be sad, if not worthless.
Jesus addresses the need for the “freedom of the soul” as Chambers put it. Jesus says in John 8: “So Jesus said to [those] who had believed in him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ 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’?” Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”
The source of our freedom comes from abiding in Christ. As Christians, we experience ultimate freedom, TRUE freedom in Christ. How? How do we access this source of our freedom? By abiding in his word. That is to say, not by reading your Bible everyday, but by living your Bible everyday. The source of our freedom is found in the source of our identity. The source of our identity is in Christ and what he has accomplished for us and what God, through him, has declared us to be, through faith.
The source of our freedom comes from finding our identity in who Christ is, what he has done for us, and who God has declared us to be, by faith, through Christ. God has declared us to be completely justified. Completely righteous. Completely Christ-like. Only when we station our identity in this truth will we be free; truly free to live a life that reflects who we have been declared to be.