Eating lunch at a small café, Mark Reed of Camarillo, California saw a sparrow hop through the open door and peck at the crumbs near his table. When the crumbs were gone, the sparrow hopped to the window ledge, spread its wings and took flight. Brief flight. It smashed against the windowpane and fell to the floor. The bird quickly recovered and tried again. Crash! And again. Crash! Mark got up and attempted to shoo the sparrow out the door, but the closer he got, the harder it threw itself against the pane. He nudged it with his hand. That sent the sparrow fluttering along the ledge, hammering its beak at the glass.
Finally, Mark reached out and gently caught the bird, folding his fingers around its wings and body. It weighed almost nothing. He thought of how powerless and vulnerable the sparrow must have felt. At the door, he released it, and the sparrow sailed away.
As Mark did with the sparrow, God sets us free, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” [Gal 5:1 ESV].
Freedom implies we were not free. In fact, God informs us that apart from Christ we are in bondage, in slavery, held captive. There is a lack of freedom in living a life of sin, which is surprising to many. Those living lives of sin believe they are in full control while those living according to God’s law may appear to be the ones forced against their will. But there lies the surprise of the spiritual reality. Paul illustrates this challenge in Romans 7:13-25 where his temptation to sin is greater than his desire to serve God (specifically 7:18, 22-23). Notice what I just said: The temptation to sin is greater than the desire to serve God. If it is true with the Apostle Paul, it will be true for you too. Temptation will be stronger than your desire to serve God. That is why you need God to serve God.
Chapters 5-8 of Romans show us that God 1) freed us from sin, 2) freed us from law, 3) freed us from death, 4) freed us from the flesh. These four things held us captive. Sin: our failure to meet God’s standard. Law: God’s judgment that we failed his standard. Death: the punishment for our failure, a separation from God and his life. Flesh: our humanity that struggles with temptations. With all these keeping us down and bound, God is out of our grasp. We could not overcome these on our own. That is the significance of Christ’s sacrifice.
The worst part of our captivity is that it is pleasing and delusional–people don’t think it is a prison if they have chosen it for themselves. Listen to this quote, “Sometimes the devil allows people to live a life free of trouble because he doesn’t want them turning to God. Their sin is like a jail cell, except it is all nice and comfy and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to leave. The door’s wide open. Till one day, time runs out, and the cell door slams shut, and suddenly it’s too late.”
A comfy jail cell with a door wide open is a great analogy for sin. You could leave but you don’t want to. There lies Satan’s cleverness. Sinners feel free but Christians are truly free. I suppose part of the freedom Christ brings is freedom from delusion, the opening of our eyes. Praise God for that freedom too.