As the American Civil War drew to an end, President Abraham Lincoln penned the Emancipation Proclamation, a document which would free all slaves in the United States. In those days with no email or telephone, the Proclamation was physically taken to every individual state.
This meant that even after the slaves were freed, most still lived in slavery because they hadn’t yet received the news of their freedom. So they lived under the yoke and bondage of their masters—some even dying in slavery—even though they were legally free!
This question highlights an unfortunate trend. As numerous recent books and studies have revealed, a large number of today’s youth are becoming disenchanted with the church. As a result, they are either leaving the church altogether or exploring other avenues to satisfy their spiritual appetites. And, contrary to what some may believe, more young people leave the church during their middle and high school years than will leave during their college years. Over 60 percent of young adults who attended church in their teens will ultimately become spiritually disengaged at some point during their twenties (The Barna Group).
We tend to think of ourselves as physical beings that sometimes have spiritual experiences. But the truth is that we are really spiritual beings, and we are here having a physical experience for the span of a lifetime.
This is why material objects will never fill our needs. As spiritual beings, we have spiritual needs that no amount of money in the world can fill. If we want to feel fully satisfied in our lives, then we have to know what we need. Our deepest needs aren’t physical. We crave things like purpose, love, and a relationship with God.
Many Christians today do the very same thing. In Christ, you are legally free. You’re no longer bound by the law of sin and death. But there are some, perhaps in ignorance of their freedom, who still live in bondage.
Here is a great objective foundation for the full assurance of hope: the forgiveness of sins is grounded, finally, not in my finite worth or work, but in the infinite worth of the righteousness of God – God’s unswerving allegiance to uphold and vindicate the glory of His name.
The cross is the pinnacle of God’s love for sinners, not because it demonstrates the value of sinners, but because it vindicates the value of God for sinners to enjoy. God’s love for man does not consist in making man central, but in making Himself central for man. The cross does not direct man’s attention to his own vindicated worth, but to God’s vindicated righteousness.
I appeal to you with all my heart, take your stand on this. Base your life on this. Ground your hope in this. You will be free from the futile mindset of the world. And you will never fall. When God’s exaltation of God in Christ is your joy, it can never fail.
How many Christians do you know who exercise the joy and freedom to be a person full of life, living on tiptoe, enjoying spontaneous living—as opposed to the numberless hundreds of thousands who take their cues from the legalists and live life accordingly? Isn't it surprising to anyone who has been set free that anybody would ever want to return to bondage? Surely, that must grieve our God.
Let's get specific. The one place on earth where we would most expect to be set free is, in fact, the very place we are most likely to be placed into slavery: the church. What happened in the first century can surely happen in the twenty-first. Paul writes to the Galatians of his surprise: "You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?"
Maybe you’ve encountered Christ, but find yourself living under the yoke of slavery to sin and works-based acceptance. If so, consider today’s passage your “Emancipation Proclamation,” shake off the chains of bondage, and live in the freedom Christ purchased for you.