In John 8, Jesus was talking to some of the Jews who had believed on Him. He said, "If you abide in My word [hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them], you are truly My disciples. And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free."
Jesus’ words sounded strange to them, so they reminded Him who they were. They said, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been in bondage to anybody. What are You talking about when You say, you will be set free?” Free from what???
Jesus said, “I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, Whoever commits and practices sin is the slave of sin.” These men were thinking about the physical. Jesus was talking about the spiritual.
No one can truthfully say, “I have never sinned”, because we are all born with a sin nature that makes us capable of committing every type of sin. To make the problem more complex, we can’t save ourselves from this sin nature. We need a Savior and there is only one - Jesus Christ. We can be reborn in the image of Jesus and be free from the taskmaster of sin. That is good news!
When I was eleven years old, I walked down an aisle at youth camp, knelt at an altar and surrendered my life to Jesus. Nobody had to tell me something major had taken place in my life. I felt like a weight had been lifted off me. What kind of weight could an eleven year old girl be carrying, you might ask. It was the weight of a sin nature that we are all carry. But now I felt brand new. I was brand new. I had experienced 1 Corinthians 5:17. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." The old sin nature had passed away and the Spirit of God had made me a new creature. I had been born into the Kingdom of God.
Not everyone will be saved through the same circumstances that I was. But there is one thing that will be the same no matter who you are. We will all experience the same change. If there has not been a radical change, there has been no salvation. There is no way the Spirit of the Living God can enter into a life and that person be unchanged. There may be an emotional experience with God, but that is not salvation. We are not saved because we were raised in a Christian home and taught Christian morals. Or because we have always gone to church and are active members. Salvation is much more than an emotional experience or the way we were brought up. It is being changed from the inside out through Jesus Christ.
The change that occurs is immediate, just like a baby being born into this world. It’s ‘world’ is instantly changed. But growing and adjusting to our new life is a process. We can’t do it on our own. We can only do it by having our conduct controlled by the Spirit of God instead of the godless human nature we were born with. We have to learn to live in the freedom Jesus has given us.
When a prisoner is set free, he doesn't keep reporting back to the officers at the prison, saying, “okay, just tell me what to do and I’ll do it. What time do I go to bed? What time to I get up?” He is no longer under the authority of the prison. If he meets one of the officers on the street and that officer orders him to return to the prison, he can rightfully say, “I am no longer under your rule. I have been set free.”
He no longer has to eat their food, follow their commands or be confined to one place. Why? Because he’s free. However, if he wants to stay free, he can’t go back to the actions that put him in prison in the first place. He has to change his prison mindset, and adjust to the life of a responsible, free man.
If we want to live as free people, we have to let God change who we are. Stop obeying the old nature. Stop eating its food…watching and listening to things that put the shackles of sin back on. Stop going to the same places and doing the same things and hanging around with the same people that you know will bring you down instead of lift you up.
Start eating the Word of God, following the leadership of the Holy Spirit and fellowshipping with God’s people. When the old thoughts, actions or reactions come up, say, “I don’t have to go there. I am free from that!”
When the old taskmaster of sin tries to rise up, remember he is dead through the power of Jesus Christ. That’s what Jesus accomplished for us when He died on the cross and rose from the dead. He conquered those enemies – the former tyrant masters of sin, death and hell. His victory over them is effective now, in this life, not just when we get to heaven. Sin can no longer rule over us unless we give it permission. We can live in freedom from sin if that’s what we choose.
In Romans 6:11-13 and 16, we see how to implement his principle by putting off the old and putting on the new.
“Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (We can’t be dead to sin if we are not alive to God!) “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body,” (that tells us it’s up to us) “that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” (lust is a longing for what is forbidden, and the old nature pulls us toward those things.) “Neither yield ye your members” (body) “as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.”
It follows the law of displacement. Two things cannot occupy the same space at the same time. One has to go to make room for the other. We displace sin by allowing God to rule in us. This law applied spiritually is “putting off” and “putting on”. Instead of yielding to the impulses of the old man, yield to the impulses of the Holy Spirit.
“Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” We learn to do that step by step…submitting to the nature of God within us. When we put off the old, we are to “be renewed in the spirit of your mind.”
We renew our minds by reading the Word [it is the truth that sets us free] and ask God to enlighten your mind to understand what it means to you. He will renew our minds to know His Truth so we can learn to adjust to living according to our new nature. Ephesians 4:25-29 gives us specific examples of putting off and putting on.
Verse 25 says, “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.” We are to stop lying and or having anything to do with what is false or deceptive and replace it with the truth. Some people phrase their words to say the truth but with an emphasis to make it sound like something else. They do that to get around telling the truth, and they think that isn’t lying. For example, if I told you my husband has been in prison for three years, that would make you think he had committed a crime and was a prisoner. But the truth is he works there. Instead of trying to find clever ways to tell a lie, we need to replace it with the truth, even if the truth is hard to own. I’ve heard if you catch yourself saying something that is false, stop right then and there and correct it. As children of God, we are to love truth.
Verse 26 – “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.” If something or someone makes you angry, you might be used to acting and speaking out of that anger. Now learn to stop yourself and say, “I don’t have to go there; I’m free from that nature!” You no longer have to be ruled by anger! The “put on” in this instance is to go before God and deal with your anger before the day is done. Don't let it stay inside of you and build up. That will give the devil a foothold into your spirit and allow the old nature to rule there.
Verse 28 – “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” This new man doesn't steal, because he is motivated by the Spirit of God. Those who steal want something for themselves. Taking something that doesn’t belong to us is a selfish, thoughtless act. But this new man works, not just to supply his needs, but so he can give to others in need. He puts off taking and puts on giving!
Verse 29 – “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Corrupt communication is anything that is foul language or evil speaking. It is speech that will bring death instead of life. Ephesians 5:4 breaks it down a little more. "Let there be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse [obscene or vulgar] joking, because such things are not appropriate [for believers]; but instead speak of your thankfulness [to God]." [Amplified Bible]
Corrupt communication also includes worthless words. "But I tell you, on the day of judgment people will have to give an accounting of every careless or useless word they speak." Matthew 12:36 (Amplified Bible) We are to speak words to build up one another, words that will bring God glory! Sometimes speaking the truth is difficult, but if we speak the truth with love and grace, those words will strengthen the believers.
This “put off, put on” through the Spirit of God in us works in every area of our lives.
Are we free from sin? Or are we still wearing its chains in our everyday lifestyle? The question is, do we really want to be free from sin? We live far beneath our privileges in Christ. It’s time to rise up and stop letting the old nature rule over us.
By God’s Spirit, we have the power to put off the old and put on the new.
We have the power to be free indeed!