Following is the first of weekly devotionals that will be posted throughout the Lenten season. May these reflections encourage and help you as you repent, reflect, and prepare to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Thank you to Stephen Waldron for today’s post.
Read: Romans 8:12-17
Most of the Bible tells the story of a people who were slaves until God freed them. In fact, one of the key names for the God of Israel was “Yahweh your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” Israel’s liberation gave them the freedom to leave the forced labor they had suffered under Egypt’s Pharaoh. But their salvation didn’t end there. Their God led them through deserts and guided them until they reached their destination in Canaan.
In the 1500s, a man named Martin Luther talked about two ways in which Jesus makes us righteous (or just) before God. Because of the righteousness of Jesus, we are declared justified before God. United to Jesus in faith, we receive his righteousness as if it is our own and have peace with God (Romans 5:1-11). As a result of the death and resurrection of Jesus, God declares that we are free from the slavery of sin, death, and religious laws. Like Moses, Jesus lived to free people from oppression. In this case, though, we weren’t innocent victims, but we had enslaved ourselves. Jesus loved us and freed us when we were guilty.
There is still more to the righteousness of God revealed in Jesus, however. During the Passover celebration, Jewish people sing a song called “Dayenu,” meaning “It would have been enough.” The song says that it would have been enough if God had brought us out of Egypt, if God had drowned the oppressors, if God had created the Sabbath, and so on through several stanzas. Similarly, if Jesus had given us freedom from sin, that would have been enough. But the riches of God in Christ are more than we could have imagined. We are not merely free to leave Egypt.
Paul tells us that the Spirit of God dwells in us and we are adopted as children of God. Just as the children of Israel were led through the desert, we are led by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14). As our hearts change in response to God’s adoption of us as children, we can begin to imitate the righteousness of Jesus and be conformed to his likeness. The righteousness of God in Jesus brings us both a declaration of freedom from sin’s guilt and a promise of life for a people who can live as if they are free.
How is the Spirit of God leading you to live as if you are free from slavery to sin?