"'Pay attention, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel.
I, the Lord, made you,
and I will not forget you.
I have swept away your sins like a cloud.
I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist.
Oh return to me,
for I have paid the price to set you free.'" - Isaiah 44:21-22 NLT
"Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, 'You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'
'But we are descendants of Abraham,' they said. 'We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, "You will be set free?"'
Jesus replied, 'I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is a part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.'" - John 8:31-36 NLT
"Because God's children are human beings - made of flesh and blood - the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could He die, and only by dying could He break the power of death. Only in this way could He set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying."
- Hebrews 2:14-15 NLT
"So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don't get tied up again in slavery to the law." - Galatians 5:1 NLT
As this hymn pronounces, Jesus was born for the purpose of setting people free. All people who turn away from the enslavement of the world and choose this freedom in Christ. As these verses exhibit, we can be enslaved by sin and we can be enslaved by the law that Jesus came to set us free from. It's our choice.
I often think about how much Jesus knew of God's plan at different points of His life on earth. As a small child was He really burdened with the knowledge that He would have to take on the punishment for the world's sin and be separated from the Father? We know that at the age of twelve, Jesus longed to be in His Father's house, gaining wisdom and understanding. (Luke 2:42-52) Throughout His three years of ministry, we know Jesus was already in the business of setting people free. Providing freedom from disease, deformities, demons, and even proclaiming that people had been forgiven of their sins. (Matthew 9:1-8)
We still allow ourselves to be enslaved by the things of this world. If you doubt this statement, pay closer attention to your thoughts throughout the day. Our thoughts consume us and dictate where our attention and our allegiance lies. Many of us are caught in worry and stress every day because we don't truly believe Jesus's words, and the affirmations of the New Testament letters when they say we ARE free.
It's easier to fall back into enslavement, not trying to master our own minds. Why? Without going too deep into the way our minds work, I will say that we actually become addicted to the drama and the stress of our lives and our thoughts. God has always KNOWN how our minds work, because He created our minds, and these are not just pretty words, but truth that we're just starting to believe about breaking free of patterns of thought we've built our minds on:
"Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God - truly righteous and holy." - Ephesians 4:21-24 NLT
"Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." - Romans 12:2 NLT
We have been set free. That is a fact. We don't have to remain in the same old patterns of thought and sin. With the help of God's Spirit, we CAN be free. We can believe Jesus when He says He has set us free. Jesus' life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection were not for nothing. Not even just for the forgiveness of our sins (though that is astounding enough). Jesus' innumerable sacrifices were also paid for our freedom now, in this life.
If you're anything like me, sin, stress, and negativity aren't the only things enslaving you. As Paul states in Galatians 5, Jesus' work also freed us from the law, from the need to prove ourselves worthy. This one is harder in some ways, but if we truly believe in it, how freeing!! How often do we feel the need to perform, to prove ourselves worthy, to convince ourselves that we might actually be cherished by God, despite our laziness and selfishness.
God's grace is so hard for us to grasp. We don't have to DO anything or EARN anything. We have God's unending love and grace, and it is freely given. Let that sink into your repetitive thought patterns. This is the Good News: we can do nothing to earn a right relationship with God, and also nothing can separate us from the deep love of God!
So we can live free and holy lives - which simply, yet profoundly, means our lives are set apart for God's love and God's purposes.
Pay attention to your thoughts for a whole day. What thoughts, people, habits, or ideologies are keeping you from the complete freedom Jesus offers?
What is God asking you to let go of? Expectations of yourself, of Him?