My home state of Virginia was the location of a tragedy last week.
Two lives taken, snuffed out by a murderer who shot them in cold blood.
It turns out the killer had labeled one of his victims a racist simply because she, a reporter, had referred to reporting on location as “heading out into the field.”
Wow. The only word that comes to mind for that is delusional.
And in moments like these, it’s crystal clear to me that this world is a broken place.
It’s a devastatingly painful place, marked all over by the blackness of sin. Gouged by its sharpness.
Oh, how we need a Healer. A Redeemer.
And there is One.
This, the pow’r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath—
We stand forgiven at the cross.
Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.
This, the pow’r of the cross:
Son of God—slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.*
As I bask in the pure loveliness and lovingkindness of this One and my utter unworthiness of such love, I can’t help but wonder…
What kind of person rejects Him?
Why would anyone look at this gospel and turn away?
Why have your loved ones and mine heard this true love story and despised it, casting it away like yesterday’s garbage instead of prizing it as the one thing their hearts and souls have ever and always really needed?
This real-life tale of escaping blame and wrath and death, free instead to enjoy His love and forgiveness…
Why is this absolution abhorred by so many?
In the end, it all comes back to the beginning.
Back in a particular Garden when a particular man and a particular woman wanted their own way.
And just like them, we don’t want to submit.
We don’t want to yield to anyone’s authority except our own.
It’s why we speed on the interstate.
It’s why we fudge on our taxes.
It’s why we gossip and lie and cheat and steal and lust and kill.
It’s why we’re lazy and gluttonous and greedy and proud.
It’s why we think about our own desires before we think about the havoc wrought by their fulfillment.
It’s why we think about what we want before we think about what others need.
We want to be in charge.
Calling the shots today as though we can choose our consequences tomorrow.
And really, I suspect that’s the worst delusion of all.
Come close and listen hard, because this is critically important to your life and mine:
No matter what, you and I and everyone who lives on the face of this planet are bound to be enslaved. It is an inescapable truth, and the sooner you and I and all of us accept it, the better off we’ll be.
The choice before us isn’t whether or not we’ll have to submit.
The only choice we have is our master.
The first choice we have is to be a slave to God.
Sure, we talk about freedom in Christ. But here’s the thing about that…
it’s not the freedom many Christians presume it to be – without boundaries or restriction, limitless and autonomous.
It’s freedom from sin. Freedom from its penalty in eternity and freedom from its power right now.
It’s freedom to worship. Freedom to know Him and love Him and relate to Him.
Oh, what sweet freedom it is!
But while it is freedom, Paul and a host of other real-life examples in the Bible plus 130 uses of the word “slave” in the New Testament’s original language make it clear that the life and entire being of a Christ-follower is owned by Christ.
Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. (I Peter 2:16)
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:22)
The other choice we have is to be a slave to sin.
We can all think of at least one example of the more obvious slaves to sin – the alcoholic, the drug addict, the pimp, the prostitute, and the serial killer.
And yes, those are big and blaring and in-your-face-hard-to-deny.
But what’s almost even scarier when it comes to sin is the enslavement we don’t even detect.
The masters we don’t suspect.
Greed, lust, envy…
Anger, hatred, deceit…
We think we’re in control, living life the way we want to, doing the things we enjoy, grabbing happiness where we can while we can.
But make no mistake: we’re enslaved.
For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. (Philippians 3:18-19)
For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. (Titus 3:3)
You want to reject His Lordship?
Go right ahead. You have that choice.
But don’t be deceived into thinking you’ll be free.
Don’t think you’re choosing between having a master and not having one.
You will have a master either way.
Which one will it be?
*The Power of the Cross | Words and Music by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend | Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music