The following was written by John Reader, and is used by permission.
“I’d like you to imagine with me a man in prison. This guy was just an ordinary guy, not bad, but not really good either. Kind of like… most of us. Married. Two kids. Regular job. Mortgage. But he fell in with the wrong crowd and started doing some stuff he never in his wildest dreams thought he’d ever do. It started simple enough. Partying on the weekend with friends. Pretty soon a couple beers just didn’t do it anymore. Soon it was drugs, women, worse. Soon he was doing petty larceny to fund his habits. Then one night, a simple home burglary turned into a home invasion robbery. Then murder. Police. Arrest. Trial. Prison. Death row. Everything he’s ever held dear is gone. Wife. Kids. Friends. Reputation. Now all that’s left is loneliness. Separation. Pain. Grief. Fear. And soon… death.
“The bible says we’re all like that man, condemned to die for what we’ve done. Listen to the Apostle Paul in the book of Romans 3:23, ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ And in 6:23 he says, ‘For the wages of sin is death’. This means that no matter how good we think we are, somewhere, sometime we messed up. Have you ever done something you knew to be wrong? Of course, we all have. We can’t even live up to our own standards, let alone God’s.
“Listen to Paul again in Romans 7:21 through 8:4, ‘So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.’
“Christ, with His sacrifice on the cross, has done (at least) two things: Paid for our sin and reconciled us to God. Paul again in Romans 5:8-9, ‘But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.’ And in 5:10-11, ‘For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.’
“Listen to those words: No condemnation. Set free. Reconciled.
“Let’s go back to 8:1-2, ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.’
“But what does it mean to be ‘in Christ’? While the Bible has many pictures of what that means, let me present you with three.
“First, we are in Christ Jesus through belief (or faith). Romans 10:9-10 says ‘Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.’
“Second is our position in Christ Jesus. Here are three images of our position in Christ Jesus:
“One, we are a branch connected to the vine. That is, we draw our life from Him. Jesus said in John 15:4-5 ‘Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.’
“Two, we are His sheep in His sheepfold. That is, he cares for us and protects us. Jesus again in John 10:14-15 says, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
“And three, we are a traveler on His way and must enter by the only true Gate. Jesus again, this time in Matthew 7:13-14 ‘Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.’
“The third picture of life in Christ Jesus is obedience. Throughout the gospels Jesus is calling people to obedience such as in John 14:23, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
“Believe in Him. Abide in Him. Obey Him. Simple enough, yet the hardest thing you’ll ever do.
“Let’s look at Romans 8:2 again. ‘For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.’ What does Christ set us
free from? Hurts: Those things others have done to hurt us. In our freedom we can now choose to forgive wrongs done to us as we have been forgiven. Habits: Those patterns of behavior that are harming us. In our freedom we can now choose righteous living and not follow old patterns. And hang-ups: Those things we can’t let go. Stinking Thinking. In our freedom we can now choose to let God transform our mind and heart.
“Back to the man on death row. If I were him, and I found out that the judge has personally looked over my case and decided my sentence has been not just commuted but overturned and I’m being set free and given back my life, how would I respond? I think I would tell everybody about the One who set me free. I think I would live with gratitude to the One who set me free. And I think I would endeavor to follow the One who set me free. How about you?
“Jesus is the One who sets us free, so let’s shout it from the rooftops, and express our gratitude to Him daily, and live our life In His Steps.”