Dear radio friends,
Are you free? No, I am not asking of your political standing. I am not asking if you are a member of a free nation with the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Nor am I asking if you are incarcerated in some prison for crimes against the state. I ask, Are you free?
You say, “Of course, I’m free. I’m my own man.” But I am not asking you that, either. I am not asking for your opinion of yourself or of your own will or character. Are you free?
Are you free from the dominion of sin, so that sin does not rule over you? Are you free?
Jesus Christ said in John 8: He that committeth sin is the servant of sin. He went on in that chapter to say that He alone was able to make men free. “If the Son shall make you free,” He declared, “Ye shall be free indeed.” Are you free in Jesus Christ from the dominion and power of sin? Not that you do not sin, but that you know your sin, you confess it in tears of sorrow before the living God. It grieves you.
And are you free in this sense—that you fight your sin. You fight against that sin all the time. You do not want to yield to it. And are you free in this sense—that you would live a new and obedient life. That, rather than yielding all of your life, your thoughts, your abilities to sin and to yourself, you would rather, by the grace of God, yield all in the service of Jesus Christ. Are you truly free? Free, then, from the damnation and condemnation that you deserve, which is hell. Free from an awful, ruinous life of pride and sin. Free to serve God in Christ Jesus.
We read in the Word of God concerning freedom. We read this in Romans 8:2: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Paul there declares that, by grace, the child of God is made free, that he has true freedom.
In Romans 8:1 we have a very precious statement of what is called justification. Let me read the verse. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” There the apostle declares that when, by grace, we have been united to Jesus Christ by God’s powerful work, then Christ is our righteousness; then Christ has performed the work for us upon the cross; and then, as God sees us in Christ, we are declared “not guilty.” The guilt, the penalty, the condemnation of our sin has been removed. That is what it means to be justified—to be declared by God innocent and righteous and forgiven of all our sins so that we shall not endure eternal condemnation. That is Romans 8:1.
But then, in verse 2, the apostle proceeds immediately to another biblical doctrine, namely, sanctification, or transformation. He says, “For by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus [I have been] made free from the law of sin and death.” In other words, he says that wherever God has declared a justification, a pardon and forgiveness of sin, He goes on to work a sanctification. The Spirit of Christ is placed within those who are forgiven by mere grace. And that Spirit of Christ works within them and empowers them to a new life in Jesus Christ, a life that is one of repentance, a life that desires to serve Christ. We have been set free, free from sin, from the dominion of sin, by the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Let us ask a few questions about that today.
First of all, we are set free from what? And the answer: the Spirit has set us free from the law of sin and death.
What is the law of sin and death? The word law here in the Bible is used to refer to a principle or a power. The verse is saying that there is a certain principle or power of sin within us that holds us, that subdues us. The word law in Romans 8:2 does not refer to a code of do’s and don’ts. It is not a reference to the Ten Commandments, but it is a reference to a principle or a power that works within. The law here is not like going in the summer to a park or to a campground and on the board are posted the rules: #1, no fires; #2, no alcohol; no pets; no firearms. Not law in that sense. But the word law here has the same idea as when we use that word in science, as for example the law of motion, the law of thermodynamics, or the law of gravity. We refer to certain principles at work, certain powers at work in the creation.
Now Paul says there is also a law, there is a principle, that is operative in sin. Then he says, “Praise God, there is another law—the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.”
The law of sin and death, then, is the principle or the power of sin. Paul says in Romans 7:22, 23, “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law [there it is again] in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law [there it is again] of sin which is in my members.” Paul says, “There is a principle, there is a law, of sin in my members. And it is constantly bringing me into subjection unto sin.”
Well, what are the axioms, or the corollaries, or the postulates of this law of sin and death? There are especially three.
The law of sin and death is, first of all, this: that sin in me (or my human nature as fallen into sin) reacts always in hatred and resentment to God and to what God requires of me. Paul will say in Romans 8:7, that “the carnal mind…is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” The carnal mind is enmity against God. The first postulate of this law is that there is within me irritation with, and the desire to break, the commands of God.
It comes out in a little child. You say, “No, don’t touch that candy dish.” The child looks at you and reaches out to touch it. It seems that the good law of God, the commandments of God, provoke and stir up sin within us.
Paul says in Romans 7:5, “For when we were in the flesh, the motions [or the desires] of sis, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.” It is as if the law is the stick that pokes the dog.
I remember as a boy in the second or third grade, it was a cold winter—sub-zero temperatures. And at that time many houses would have outside an oil barrel for heating, for oil heat. And I remember my friend’s father saying to us as we were outside playing that cold day, “Don’t put your tongue on that barrel in this cold weather. It will freeze immediately.” Well, we had never thought of doing such a thing. It had not occurred to our mind. But when the prohibition was given to us, it was irresistible. The commandment came, and the desires of rebellion arose.
And so it is within. There is this law within our natures that when the good law of God comes to us and says, “No, don’t do that,” there stirs immediately within our hearts by nature, “Who is God to tell me?” And we defy that law, so that the skin of our life is torn off and we are brought into pain and misery.
That is the first postulate of sin and death—the urge of the sinful nature to violate God’s good law simply because God has told me not to.
The second postulate of this law is that sin breeds sin. Sin gives birth to sin. You cannot contain a spill (an oil spill). You cannot get it to stop. It keeps coming and keeps polluting. We think we can put it out. But we cannot.
What King David (in the Bible) thought was just a fling of one night with Bathsheba brought murder and lifelong, horrible, devastating consequences into his life. He thought it would be just one little sin.
You tell a lie in time of trouble and that lie, to cover it up, requires five more. Parents come home and say, “Were you on the computer while I was gone?” Or, perhaps, as a little boy, there was the quarter on the counter that Mom left there and you took it. And then that quarter became a dollar and the dollar became….
We read in the Bible, in Genesis 4, of Cain, who was jealous of Abel. Before Cain killed his brother, God came and spoke to him and said, “Cain, sin lies at the door, and unto thee shall be its desire, and it will rule over you.” God thus warned Cain of this law. He said, in effect, to Cain: “You’re jealous of your brother. And you pet that jealousy and you think that that jealousy is just like a little pussy cat. You can comfort yourself by being jealous. But, I tell you, Cain, it is no little kitten. It is a lion. That jealousy is just like a lion, and it’s crouching right now. It’s outside your door. It’s crouching to devour you.”
And so you say to a sin, “It’s just a little one, it’s just once. It doesn’t matter. Don’t bother your head about it.” So, what once would cause deepest hurt and pain and remorse, now you do not even blush. In fact, you do not even know that you are doing it anymore. That is the law of sin and death. It breeds sin.
The final postulate of the law of sin and death is that sin does not let go. Sin embeds itself. This is true of specific sin, of lust, greed, bitterness, anger, addictions. There is the law of sin and death. Addictions are the fangs of the pit bull of sin. They do not let go. So, eventually, the job and family and children and everything that you worked for are gone.
We read in Proverbs 23:29 -35 of what is called the addiction, chemical addiction, unto wine—drunkenness, says the Bible. There the Bible speaks of the person who has redness of eyes. Who is this that has redness of eyes? And wounds without cause—all kinds of hurt and broken relationships and contentions. He has eyes for strange women. The one who has this is the one who has been drinking. And then read those most distressing words (v. 35): “I will seek it yet again.” Sin does not let go. I will seek it yet again.
There is a law within our members as sinners, fallen in Adam. It is in us right now. This law is operative in our minds and our tongues, and in all the organs of our bodies. It is real. It is as real as the law of gravity that holds us to the ground. And it is irrevocable of ourselves. It is the law of sin and death. It leaves us broken and miserable and ruined.
But we have been set free, declares the apostle. This is the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. This is its wonder: Freedom, true freedom! Not man-made freedom. This is true freedom—to be freed from the powers of sin. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Let that Word of God come to you. Let it roll over your mind and soul with all its glory and power and relief and comfort. It is really the same words that I quoted of Jesus: “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” Jesus Christ is the great emancipator. His cross not only erased the guilt of our sin and its punishment, but His Spirit, the Spirit of the crucified Jesus, frees me from sin’s dominion.
There is another principle. There is not only the law of sin and death, but there is a greater principle. It is called the law of the Spirit of Christ Jesus. The Spirit of Christ frees the child of God from the power of sin and death. Paul is referring to the authority and the power of the Spirit of life in Christ to bring us unto life. God, by grace, implants within us this other principle. It may now be only a beginningprinciple. But it is the life in Christ Jesus. It is the life that is directed toward God. It is a life that is from Christ Jesus unto God. It is in Christ Jesus. That is, it is for those for whom Christ has died.
Not only is there, as I said, no condemnation, but there is also for them freedom—freedom from the law of sin and death. The child of God does not simply say, “I am forgiven and now I am content to live in sin.” That is impossible. But along with the forgiveness comes the work of the Holy Spirit of repentance and sanctification.
But still we say, Free? What do you mean by free? You yourself said that the law of sin is in our members and remains there. What do you mean, Free?
Well, free, not in the sense that sin is gone. A Christian does not say, “Well, I lived once a life in which I swore and drank and lusted and all the rest. But now I couldn’t swear if I tried. And I don’t have any lust in me anymore.” That is simply not true. The person who says that is blind, blind to his own self. The Holy Spirit always works within us ( John 16) a conviction of our own sinful nature. The apostle means free in the sense that this principle of sin is now checked. It means that the dominion of that principle is broken. It means that I can contradict the law of sin and death. It means that the power that I now desire to follow is the law of life in Christ Jesus. It makes us free in two ways.
The Spirit of Christ makes us free, first, in a painful way. He gives us to know our sin. The conviction of sin. He slays us. The Spirit of Christ introduces me to my sin. I mean, truly introduces me to my sin and to my problem. Do you know your problem? You say, “Well, of course I know my problem. She is sitting across the table from me.” Or, you say, “Well, it’s my mother. It’s my parents. They’re so unreasonable.” Or, “It’s him. If you had to live with him, you’d know what my problem is.”
When you speak that way, you speak out of the law of sin in your members. What you are saying is that your sin, at least in comparison to other people’s, is not so bad, and that what you do and say in your marriage is explainable because of the other person. As long as you think that way, you are in the bondage of your own sin. The work of the Spirit of Christ is first to show you yourself, that the tyrant and the evil sinner is yourself. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. That was the testimony of the apostle Paul.
So the first work is a painful one—the conviction of sin. But then the second work of freedom of the Spirit is repentance. And repentance is freedom. It is to say, “I’m sorry, truly sorry. I have sinned against heaven and I have sinned against you.” The devil says, “Don’t say that. Don’t humble yourself. Be proud.” Freedom is repentance. It is the faith of Christ within our hearts delivering us from the hardness, the darkness, the selfishness, the defiance.
Do you repent? Is your heart soft before God? Do you know what it is to be broken, in tears, over your own sin? This is a miracle. This is the principle of the life of Christ within you. In Christ we receive this power to repent, to sorrow over our sin, and to desire to walk in a new and holy life. United to Christ, we receive not only pardon, but also the work of the Spirit bringing us sorrow and repentance and the desire to walk in obedience to Jesus Christ. That is what it means to be free. We are free in Christ Jesus.
Out of the blood of Christ, which has justified me and forgiven me of my sins, I am given the power also to fight lust, greed, anger, pride, and selfishness. Freedom.
Out of the love of Christ, and out of the blood of Jesus Christ, I am given not only to know my sin but also to hate my sin and to fight my sin and to desire to serve God. This is freedom.
Out of the love and blood of Jesus Christ, I am not only forgiven my sin, but I see that indeed my problem is my sin, and I want to take hold of myself and walk in obedience to Christ.
How do you approach the battle against sin in your life? Do you approach as a victim? Do you say, “I can’t help it. Everyone does it. It’s to be expected. You’d do it too if you were in my circumstances. And it doesn’t really matter. Aw, come on, it’s not as bad as So-and-So.” We learn where the bar is set. And if we can come under that bar, then we think we are OK. If that is the way we think, then we do not know the cross of Jesus Christ.
Do you battle your sin this way, as one who in Christ has been made free as a conqueror, and more than conqueror, in Christ Jesus? Do you know that you have been forgiven, and not only forgiven but made free, that the Spirit of Christ now rules in you, so that you want to resist that sin, hate that sin, fight that sin, and you want to live now in a way that will thank Him and praise Him? We fight our sin, not to earn salvation, but because God has forgiven us. Then all the glory is God’s. Absolutely all the glory is of God.
Understand, and live in freedom, forgiven in the blood of Christ, so that you might repent now, humble yourself, and feel, by the Spirit of Christ, a new impulse to submit all things in loving obedience to Jesus Christ. This is freedom. And all of this to God’s glory.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for the Word, and we pray for its blessing upon our hearts in this day, that we may stand in the freedom, in the liberty, of Jesus Christ. In His name do we pray, Amen.