As a teenager, I looked at the Christian faith as restrictive and oppressive. It was my fear that the Christian way of living would be enslaving, binding me to a life of misery. Thus, I was biding my time until I could escape parental supervision and pursue a life of freedom at the university.
However, thanks be to God, during my senior year of high school I discovered that what I thought was freedom was in truth slavery, and what I thought would be enslaving was, in fact, true freedom, the freedom of discipleship. I came to the realization that apart from Jesus, there is no true freedom, only slavery to sin.
It is only as we submit ourselves to the lordship of Jesus and become His disciples that we experience true freedom.
Man was created by God to rule over the earth, to harness the material world for God’s glory and man’s benefit. But when man rebelled against God, he found himself under the dominion of the creation instead of exercising dominion over it. This is what we experience in the slavery of addictions. Man becomes the slave of his own lusts. He becomes a slave of sin. The natural man is in bondage to sin.
This was, of course, one of the major emphases of the Reformers as they recovered the gospel of God’s sovereign grace. Martin Luther, in his work The Bondage of the Will, makes this point with great clarity. The natural man is not free but a slave to sin. He cannot do otherwise. He must be set free from the power of sin that binds him. This is the freedom of discipleship.
Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31–32). It is only as we submit ourselves to the lordship of Jesus and become His disciples that we experience true freedom. He breaks the power of sin in our lives and grants us freedom under His benevolent rule. We become free to be what He created us to be—beings who are filled with unspeakable joy as we obey Him and fulfill the purposes for which He created us.
This is when we are most free. It is not the false freedom of anarchy but the true freedom that is experienced when we are living life to the glory of God as disciples of Jesus. This is what the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 6:20–23. When our bondage to sin and death is broken by the power of God’s grace in Jesus, we become the bondslaves (disciples) of Jesus. It is a joyous servitude indeed, for Jesus treats His disciples as sons and daughters. In fact, we enter into the joyous freedom of the sons of God.