Recently, I watched the movie Taken. For those unfamiliar with the movie, Liam Neeson stars in this suspense-filled thriller depicting the story of a father whose daughter has been taken captive to sex trafficking overseas and his quest to win her back. Around the same time I watched this movie, I was also preparing a message for our youth concerning "sin and it's wages." The text that I used and studied for this message was Romans 6:15-23 NLT. Well then, since God's grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don't you realize that you become the slaves of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves to sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led you deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves as slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
This passage makes one thing extremely clear. We have all been taken by something. But we get to choose what we will be taken by. As Paul writes, "Don't you realize that you become the slaves of whatever you choose to obey?" We will either be slaves to sin, our own human inclinations and fleshly desires, or we will be slaves to God.This passage paints a picture of what life looks like on each path. Slavery to sin leads us to bondage and death, while slavery to God leads us to freedom and life. "The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life." Wages are something we have earned or deserved, but a gift is something freely offered with no strings attached. A life of sin earns us death, but eternal life is God's gift to us when we submit ourselves to Him.
Slavery signifies exclusive ownership and submission. The thing about slavery to sin is that it masquerades as freedom, but it is not true freedom. The Message version of the Bible puts it this way, "You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so called freedom that destroy freedom." Many times our desire to be independent of "rules" or a sense of control leads us into a lifestyle of doing what we want, when we want, even if this means that we disregard the wisdom and guidance of God in the process. Have you ever had the experience of being able to identify the right thing to do, but found yourself stuck and unable to do so? Have you ever been stuck in the same pattern of self-destructive behavior for weeks, months, or years at a time, even though you were miserable, unhappy and unfulfilled? This is the kind of bondage sin creates. The Bible tells us that sin ultimately leads to death. This can sometimes be physical death but it is more often spiritual death that we experience. We become numb to the Holy Spirit. It becomes next to impossible to live morally upright or to do the right thing. Apart from an intervention of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, this is a road that leads to Hell and eternal separation from God.
Thank goodness there's an alternative. The Bible tells us that we can choose to submit ourselves to the ownership of Christ. Slavery to God means freedom from the power of sin. True freedom. With this change of ownership comes a change of heart. No more half-hearted attempts at righteous living. We are brought into obedience out of a genuine love for God and a desire to do His will. When we submit ourselves to God, the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and righteousness and enables us to live lives that are pleasing to God. We are able to live righteously as the natural overflow of a heart centered on God. Slavery to righteousness leads us to eternal life. Not only life forever in heaven, but fullness of life right here on earth. The kind of life God gives us is one of love, joy, peace, patience, kindess, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).
The movie Taken reminds me alot of the Father's love for us. The daughter in the movie wanted to do what she wanted apart from the protection of her Father. This way of thinking led her into the hands of dangerous individuals who sought to take away her freedom and her quality of life. The father's love for his daughter leads him halfway around the world to rescue her. At the expense of putting himself in harms way, he finds her. All she has to do is accept his invitation back home. We too have sought and desired to do things our own way, outside of the protection of our heavenly Father. We have fallen right into the enemies hands. Jesus, himself, came all the way from heaven to win us back, even at the expense of dying a painful death on the cross. All we have to do is accept his invitation back home to relationship with Him.