“Set Free As a Slave to Righteousness”

You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. – Romans 6:18

Much debate and research has been had regarding why we act and are the way we are. Is there a ‘genetic’ link to addiction? Murder? Sexual identity? Is it nature (as in I was born this way) or nurture (what is encouraged or discouraged by our culture, upbringing, internal dialogue, religious belief system) that makes us do the wrong things we do. And while the debate will probably not quickly be resolved, the reality is that Scripture speaks to both reasons for our sinning. We are sinners by nature. We are sinners by nurture. Ours is a complete corruption. The Savior is sufficient though. The work of redemption will one day completely eradicate sin from us. But for now, we live as those who are set free from sin, are slaves to righteousness but still struggle with sin. Sin for us is a choice even if at times, it is a battle to the bitter end, in Jesus we have a path to victory. (See Romans 7:21-25)

Establishing all that, I wanted to take a moment to speak to what I think our culture views as a special category of sin or sinful behavior, sin that belongs to ‘who we are’.  What of the person born with a bent toward a particular sin- and here you can take your pick: addiction, sexual immorality, gluttony, et al. How does the truth of ‘set free from sin’ apply here? In a sense, it is the same as any sin. But, that is an oversimplification in many people’s minds today. Here is the rational- if God made me this way (an addict, a gluttony, a homosexual, et al), then how can it be His plan for me to not have (food, sexual fulfillment, controlled substances, et al). The answer to this seeming contradiction is in how we view ourselves.

If we are in Christ, then this becomes the defining reality of our universe. As such, everything else about who we are (identity) and what we (behavior) ought to line up with this reality. For the believer in Jesus, He becomes our center of gravity. Everything else must come under His Lordship. He defines you more than who you are outside of Him or what you’ve done/are doing. The implications of what I am saying are HUGE! This means that I am in Christ and my identity is in Him. Therefore if my sin issue is nature or nurture related, the Gospel has the same solution for me- in this behavior or identity issue- take up your cross (die to sin), deny yourself (crucify the flesh) and follow Jesus (walk in the power of the Holy Spirit). The freedom offered to us in the Gospel is profound. It is complete. It is truly transformative. Are we perfect in realizing this freedom from sin? No. Is our choice of master without wavering? No. But, the choice is held out to us in the Gospel of Jesus nonetheless. Will we choose sin or righteousness as our master?

Finally, I want to say on a personal/pastoral note, that identity related sin issues seem to be the hardest kind to defeat and deny. This is made far more difficult by our culture that feeds us this idea that “God would never want us to lose out on something good/pleasurable/He created.” This is a non-starter from a Biblical perspective. Jesus is the quickest and most powerful counterpoint. He denied Himself many of the ‘good/pleasurable’ things in life (marriage, family, sex to name a few) because of the mission God had Him on. Yet, He experienced the best life ever because He walked in full obedience to His Father. This is what He wants for us and what He died to make possible: A life of obedience to God. A slavery to righteousness.

Remember, you can choose your master but after that, you don’t get any more choices.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20