.31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 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’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:31-36).
I’ve always loved the truth. Even before I knew Jesus, I had no taste for dishonesty or deception. I didn’t do fake. Either be real with me or leave me alone. And yet I recently found myself to have built my life on a foundation of sand–deceptive, sinful, slippery sand. I had been deceived and in turn had become a deceiver. I had lied to myself, telling myself my value was in the things I owned, the people I knew, or the ministry in which I served. I lied to others by “holding to the form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5). In other words, I confessed salvation, but I didn’t live it. I didn’t “work out [my] own salvation with fear and trembling” as Paul encourages us in Philippians 2:12. I, in effect, denied the very righteousness God provided for me through the cross, for even though I knew the truth, I did not align my life to it. I’d praise God for forgiveness, yet I wouldn’t forgive myself. I’d praise God for saving me from sin, yet I continued to live as if still chained to sin. I knew God had in effect made me whole, yet I still considered myself broken.
It is this very concept of knowing the truth but not living it that led Paul to pen the following: “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 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, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness…” (Romans 6:16-18).
I don’t want to be a slave of sin. I want to be a slave of righteousness. In fact, the beautiful paradox of God’s saving grace is that there is freedom in being a slave to righteousness. Eternal life–abundant life–only comes when I lay down my own, selfish life at the foot of the cross. And leave it there.
I am currently working through the Priscilla Shirer study Armor of God. It is truly an amazingly powerful study regarding the armor of God and the importance of specific, focused, prayer. During this week’s video (focusing on the breastplate of righteousness), Priscilla reminds us that we can live a righteous life because we are righteous through Jesus. Yes, my righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), but when I accepted Jesus as Savior, He removed my rags and clothed me with righteousness; He clothed me with Himself (see Galatians 3:27, Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10, and Romans 13:14). Walking out this truth–this truth of God’s righteousness, not my own–truly sets me free. For by choosing to align my life with His truth, I am allowing His righteousness to reign and to rule my life. As I choose to align my life with His truth, He leads me in paths of righteousness for His namesake (Psalm 23:3). His Light and Truth become my “treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God [and not from me]” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
This morning when I awoke, I felt the weight of sadness attempt to invade my heart. I immediately knew this wasn’t of God but rather a temptation of the enemy to thwart the progress God’s amazing grace has provided in recent months. Recognizing this, I went to my knees in prayer. And as I exposed myself to His Light and His Truth, God gave me a vision. I am not sure if you have every pretended to be caught and in jail while playing with children, but I have. Even though I could easily escape this pretend entrapment, I go along with it for the sake of play and act like I am chained and unable to escape. The kids get a kick out of mommy being in jail.
Well, in the spiritual realm, Satan keeps pretending he has me bound in my sin and shame. He keeps trying to put chains on me. But I am free. I will say it again: I am free! All I have to do is get up, shake off the chains, and align myself with God’s Truth–with His righteousness. All I need to do is tell Satan I will no longer play his game, a game my Savior has already won anyway.
Isaiah paints this picture beautifully:
put on your strength, O Zion;
put on your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city;
for there shall no more come into you
the uncircumcised and the unclean.
Shake yourself from the dust and arise;
be seated, O Jerusalem;
loose the bonds from your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion (Isaiah 52:1-2).
And this is what I must remember. I am free. I am not chained to sin. I am not a slave. I am a daughter of the King. And the daughter of the King must act like it. I know my position in Christ; now I must live it.
While teaching me exactly what He has done for me, God gave me a story, which you will find below. As you read it, I encourage you to remember that what God has done for me, He has done for you as well. He promises “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Everyone. This means you. God clothes you in righteousness in the same way He clothes me. If you are still living as if chained to your past failures, remember as you read on that in actuality all you have to do is get up, shake off the dust, and “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, … press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
As the doors opened, I prepared myself for the confrontation. I knew I’d be facing my enemy, my nemesis, my accuser. What would he bring up? The betrayal? The lies? The shame? The doubt? The mistakes? The weight of the world rested upon my shoulders, and I sagged under the load. My hands and feet were in chains, preventing me from doing my heart’s desire….to flee. Flee from this place. Flee from everyone and everything. Yet I couldn’t flee. I was bound…chained to my sins—both past and present—chained to my pain, to my shame.
I slowly shuffled into the court room, fixing my eyes to the floor. I didn’t dare look up. I knew I’d see the eyes of my accuser, glaring at me, diminishing what little of me still existed.
I cautiously sat down in my chair, hoping it wouldn’t splinter under the weight I carried inside. I could sense someone next to me, but why look? I couldn’t bear to face another accuser.
Sensing my weakness at its peak, my accuser attacked. He accused me of my sins, my doubts. He poured on the shame and the pain. All the details of my dark deeds were played out in that courtroom.
I wept. I was broken. I was ashamed.
With the knowledge he’d broken me, my accuser finished. He had made his case before the judge—the holy, perfect judge.
Silence ensued. Its very essence continued to smother me.
What could I do? What could I say? My accuser had nailed every aspect of my life. I was ashamed. I deserved death.
And then I felt it: the hand on my shoulder. The warmth of its touch conveyed strength without condemnation, compassion without judgment and sent shivers down my spine. Who could possibly want to touch my filth, my ugliness, and my shame?
I felt compelled to see the man behind this living, loving touch. I cautiously lifted my eyes up. He met my gaze. The same compassion, strength, and love that were in his touch now emanated from his eyes. He loved me. This man who had just heard the accuser—who knew all the darkness within me–loved me.
With his hand still on my shoulder, the one who knew me and loved me turned to the judge and spoke. “My Father.”
My Father?! He was the judge’s son?!
He continued, “I present to you Katie: righteous, holy, and worthy of acceptance.” His words penetrated my heart. Righteous? Holy? Worthy? But how? Didn’t he see me as I saw me?!
Apparently not. He turned back to me, his intense love piercing the darkness in my heart, and reached out his hand—his nail scarred hand—inviting me to take it, to join him in fellowship. My heart was broken again—a good broken, a necessary broken. As I reached out to take His hand, I knew I was reaching out to my Healer, the One who was going to pick up the pieces of my heart and mend them into His image.
The moment I grabbed his hand, the clank of the chains hitting the floor resonated throughout the courtroom. My chains were broken. I was free. I was clean. I was forgiven.
I heard the accuser groan.
With my hand in my Savior’s hand, I turned to face the judge with a new confidence. There was no condemnation. No fear. There was no death sentence. Just love. The judge was pleased—pleased with me.
“My precious child, before the foundation of the world, I knew you,” He declared. “I created you, Katie. I formed you with value and with a purpose. Marvelous are My works and you are one of them. You are Mine. I love you.”
Three words—I love you—again cut through the darkness. I crumpled to the floor. How could it be that the Holy One could love me?
Knowing my thoughts, He continued. “Because I love you, Katie, I sent my Son, my beloved Son, to save you. He paid the penalty for your sins. He died in your place then rose again in order to give you life—a new life. You are justified and free, Katie. You have been redeemed. You are a new creation. You are my precious child whom I adore. Come. Have fellowship with us and be free.”
I bowed before my Lord and my Savior—grateful to be alive, grateful to be free, grateful to be loved. His Son again took my hand and lifted me up from the floor. My accuser fled. I stood there in that courtroom a new person. My Savior had won. His love had filled the void and vanquished the lies. I was whole. I was free—free from condemnation, free from shame, free from pain, free from the chains. I had been set free by the son, and I was free indeed.
Be free, my friend. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). What He has done for me, He has done for you. So join me now in laying “aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2).