We have been set free

Published 10:27 pm Friday, April 20, 2018

By Thurman Hayes

In last week’s column, I wrote about a recent visit to Washington, D.C., in which our family toured some of the monuments. I mentioned that one of the monuments we visited was the Lincoln Memorial.

This week I want to expand on some thoughts that I had during the visit to that particular monument, and then make some Scriptural reflections.

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The Monument itself contains Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address on the left wall, and his Second Inaugural Address on the right, with the statue of the president in the middle, seated and looking out over the Mall and the Reflecting Pool.

But as we walked down the many steps after our visit to the Lincoln Memorial, I thought about a great event that happened on those very steps. In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had stood on those steps in front of the Lincoln Memorial and given his famous “I Have A Dream” speech.

I was struck by the thought that we had just visited the monument to the president who issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared enslaved people in the United States to be “thenceforth and forever free.”

And yet 100 years later, on Aug. 28, 1963, Dr. King stood on the very steps of that monument to make a speech in which he expressed the yearning of people to be able to say, “Free at last…free at last…thank God Almighty, I’m free at last!”

Yes, slaves had been legally freed at the end of the Civil War. But 100 years later, their descendants still lived in a country in which many states still deprived them of the right to vote, as well as many other basic human rights.

In other words, they were legally “free” but not yet able to live out the meaning of true freedom.

I think many Christians are in that situation. In Christ, we have been set free:

  • We have been freed from the penalty of sin
  • We have been freed from the power of sin
  • We will be freed one day from the presence of sin

And yet many believers struggle with the meaning of this. Let’s look at each one.

Our freedom from the penalty of sin means that we have experienced God’s forgiveness and will not have to face the penalty that our sins deserve, because Jesus took that penalty in our place. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Our freedom from the power of sin means that, as Spirit-filled believers, we are no longer enslaved to sin, and are now free to say “no” to sin and “yes” to God. Romans 6:14 says “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

Our freedom from the presence of sin will occur in heaven or when Jesus returns, whichever event comes first for us. In heaven, there will be no sin of any kind. The same is true in the new heaven and earth, which Jesus will bring about when he returns. On that day, we will get glorified, imperishable bodies that will no longer be subject to sin and death.

So Christianity — not sin — brings freedom. “For freedom Christ has set us free!”

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.