We consider ourselves a free people. But, what is freedom? Freedom really has no meaning except in contrast to its opposite. In a political context it means not being subjected to tyranny or oppression. In a social context it means not being bound by convention or peer pressure. When we speak of religious freedom we mean the ability to practice our faith and worship according to our own understanding and conscience without interference or threat.
Now, it is perfectly possible to be free in one area but not free in another. We may be free politically; we may enjoy religious freedom, yet every single one of us who is old enough to really understand the difference between good and evil has experienced the slavery of sin. We were controlled by it. We found it impossible to always do the good we knew we ought to do.
How can the power of sin be broken? There are a lot of philosophies and people out there who claim to have the answer. One means by which people try to obtain freedom from sin is through asceticism. It goes something like this: “Since the material is opposed to the spiritual, if we can only control the demands of our evil, material bodies our souls will be liberated.” The Apostle Paul’s evaluation of this system is in Colossians 2:21-23, ““Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” (NIV)
Another of the world’s answers to obtaining freedom from sin is to deny that there is such a thing as sin. If sin does not exist, then we cannot be in bondage to it. The Apostle Peter writes this about the false teachers of his day: “...they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity – for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” (2 Peter 2:18-19 NIV)
As Peter points out, it should be obvious that anyone who hasn’t figured out how to free himself from depravity, can’t free us. And that, by the way, is a very good test for all the people out there who claim that they have the solution to our problems. We only have to ask ourselves what effect their philosophy or advice has had in their own lives.
Well, if asceticism isn’t the answer, and if denying the existence of sin isn’t the answer, then how can we obtain freedom? Paul writes, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:3-7 NIV)
The answer to sin is Jesus Christ. But freedom never comes without cost. Jesus had to die in order to release us from bondage. As Peter writes, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 NIV)
It is that sacrifice, the price of our freedom that we remember each Lord’s Day when we partake of Communion. The bread reminds us of Christ’s body. The juice reminds us of His blood.
But though Christ paid the price for our deliverance we also have to pay a price. Did you notice what Peter said? Christ bore our sins “so that we might die to sins”. How do we do that? Paul writes, “...don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” (Romans 6:3-8 NIV)
Today as we eat the bread and drink the juice, let’s remember the price that Jesus paid for our freedom. Let’s also ask ourselves the question whether we have died to sin. Life and freedom from sin are ours only if we have first died.