There once was a young slave named Samuel, who was owned from birth by a wicked, evil, abusive master. This master owned Samuel’s siblings, parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents, and made it his point to abuse them, misuse them, and work them literally to death. Every slave owned by this master died in bondage.
Half the property was covered with nameless gravesites. It seemed like there was absolutely no way of escape. No one ever had escaped on their own. Sure, some had tried. But no one ever succeeded.
Death was the end of every story.
But one day, a different master, who knew about how these slaves were oppressed in bondage and grueling slavery, decided to do what no one else had ever done before: enter the property of this evil slave-owner and set the slaves free.
When he arrived in the middle of the night, many of the slaves were scared and couldn’t believe there was another master who wanted them to be free from bondage; they thought he would just kidnap them and put them under even worse oppression. Even though this new master pleaded and pleaded with all the slaves to follow him into a new life of freedom, only a few believed he was different. These few saw something different in his eyes they had never seen before. They heard something different in his voice that they had never heard before. And so these few, including Samuel, began to quietly follow this new master away from the slave house and out across the bloodstained fields.
Samuel’s mind spun with all sorts of worry and fear and doubt. Was he making the right choice? Was all that this new master said really going to be true? Was life going to be different, free, and filled with peace? His heart raced with dozens upon dozens of questions.
Then suddenly he heard the all-too-familiar, ear-bleeding thunderclap of a gunshot. The evil slave master flashed through the darkness and sneered into the face of this new master, “Where do you think you’re going?! These people are mine and no one can take them from my grip. Not even you!”
But the voice of the new master was steady and calm, “No, I will remove them from the clutches of your bondage and evil. No more will they be bound for death by your stain of wickedness.”
“Is that so?” said the old master, “You know the punishment for being my slave, don’t you… It’s always death. Everyone dies here. I love death, in fact, it is sort of my idea,” cackled the old master.
“Then I will die,” said the new master, “I will die in their place and they will go free.” The old master laughed with glee, “Really!!? This is better than I ever could have imagined! The master die for the slave?! Ha, I’ve won!”
And with that the old master stuck the end of his rifle into the new master’s chest and pulled the trigger.
With his last breath, this new Master, whose eyes pierced the darkness and whose voice could calm the seas, turned to those who had followed Him into that bloodstained field and said so softly, “It is finished. Now go…. You’re free.”
And this is Christ’s love for you and me. Now the death that Christ died was actually more shocking, for it was at the hands of you and me. According to the Father’s plan, Christ the Son died in our place so that out from the bondage of sin we could be free.
Yet death was not the end of His story. Sin-driven Satan thought he had won. He thought he would coerce billions of slaves into greater bondage and evil and death. But God had another plan.
With a great shout of victory in the heavens, Christ took the keys of sin and death, and rose from the dead by the power of the Spirit. And the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in all who believe in the Christ, who alone sets us free. Satan has been defeated. Love has won. Death is conquered. This is Christ’s love for you and me.
Have you followed Him out of the bloodstained fields of sin and trusted in His perfect and complete work of grace on the Cross? If not, God’s shocking invitation is open to you today. You can be free. You can receive the rescue by simply turning from your sin and trusting in Christ alone for the redemption and forgiveness that only He can give.
Jesus offers hope for every slave. I invite you to simply take the step of faith in Him for the new and eternal life that He offers to everyone who believes.
Now turn with me to the land of freedom in God’s grace: If you have been rescued and redeemed, your salvation in Jesus Christ was not cheap, trite, or trivial. It cost God everything. Salvation cost the very life and blood of God the Son, Jesus Christ. So, if you and I have been buried with Jesus Christ in His death and raised to new life through His resurrection, then we are to live out our new nature through joy-filled obedience in love.
How could we, who were enslaved to sin, and in the bondage of Satan’s deceptions and seduction, continue living as if we are still enslaved to the old master? The thought is unthinkable, for it was Christ Himself who set us free. So do not go on living like you are dead, but alive and free!
Now please don’t misunderstand me here: you and I are not on a rat’s race to repay God for His gift of grace. A gift is a gift, clear and simple. I am not so woodenly saying, “The Christ figure died to set me free, so now I leave the plantation of sin and… obey Him.” In a very real sense, Jesus paid it all and we do not owe Him anything (I am not proposing that we rip that wonderful song out of our hymnals, but we must understand it in the correct context). Christ did not rescue us from the domain of darkness in sin and then enlist us with a “duty-ethic” burden by which we toil away in order to plunk tokens into His hands for the gift of redemption. No! Nothing could be further from the Gospel truth. Our attempts at repaying Him only prove we don’t understand the depth and riches of His gift. Christ’s nail-scarred hands wish for no token repayments; they simply want to hold us in love through our faith in His amazing work of grace.
Our rescue and freedom in Jesus Christ brings us into a love-relationship, not into a duty-oriented obedience. And yet, our Rescuer does call us to display our love and affection for Him through following His will in the obedience of faith. We come to Christ – daily – with nothing in our hands to bring, simply clinging with tears of joy to the One who paid our debt with His blood. From this posture of faith in Christ, He moves within us by the work of the Spirit to act on the obedience of faith.
So let’s honestly ask ourselves, does our obedience – our actions, words, and lifestyle – show that we love Christ more than anything or anyone else on this earth? Who or what do we obey and trust? Do we follow the obedience of sin unto death or obedience unto righteousness?
God’s grace in Jesus Christ, through our new identity with Him in His death, burial and resurrection, changes what we value, what we love, and what we desire. This is what the apostle Paul was talking about in Romans chapter 6.
Paul wrote to the believers in Rome:
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life….
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:1-4, 8-14)
Paul’s implication of God’s amazing work of saving those who believe in Christ is clear: You have a new life! You have been radically changed! You have been raised to walk in new life! You have a new Master! So, it is ridiculous to think (mei genoito – “may it never be”) that we should go on living like we are still in the bondage of sin – we have a new mission and a new purpose.
So when we are struggling with living like one still in sin-slavery, and instead of appearing as one “alive in Jesus Christ” we look more like the walking dead, let’s consider these three responses to the Gospel rescue: (1) Recognize your sin as sin (what is contrary to God’s will, design, and character) (Romans 6:15-19), (2) Look to Christ’s work of love for you on the Cross (Romans 6:1-11), and (3) Turn from your sin toward the love of God in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:20-23).
Embrace the Good News in Jesus by loving Him through joy-filled obedience. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead and brought panic to Satan will give you the strength to obey God’s will and way in freedom, life, hope, and peace. Because He is the God who came to set us free. May you and I walk in the freedom that only Christ affords to the praise of His glorious grace!
Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished
I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
From “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” by Stuart Townend
In Christ Alone,
**P.S. For the theology buffs out there, I’ve heard numerous analogies and stories about humankind’s position in sin and Christ’s freeing sacrifice that seem to portray the erroneous “Ransom-to-Satan” theory of the atonement. While I’m sure that many teachers, skit-makers, and video-clip makers are not intentionally trying to teach this theory, I did my best to position the “old, wicked master” as sin itself, not Satan. Christ did not pay out a ransom cost to Satan for our sins or souls. He instead took the penalty of mankind’s sin upon Himself through the Cross in order to satisfy God’s just judgment against sin – that which opposes His intrinsic design, character, and will. Thus, Christ’s sacrificial death was the means of a penal, substitutionary atonement.**
Listen to the full AUDIO message entitled “Obedience in Grace: VITALS Series” by simply clicking on the play button below or by subscribing to our iTunes podcast. This message was originally delivered at Youth Unleashed (the Jr. and Sr. High ministry of Evangel Baptist Church in Taylor, MI) on Wednesday, February 13, 2013.