A few years ago, my daughter and I went to visit the local historical museum in Allegan, Michigan. We’d lived in the small town for several years, but had never gotten around to checking out the museum. We were in for a pleasant surprise.
There’s a dining room with elegant place settings on the table as if the family is about to sit down to dinner.
But there are many more than four bedrooms, actually. Here’s the fifth one.
For, you see, this home was the home of the local sheriff. And at the time, the laws in Michigan, and in most of the rest of the United States, required the sheriff to actually live in the jail itself so he could keep a close watch on the prisoners around the clock.
So the local folks in Allegan built a lovely home for the sheriff and his wife and children … and attached cell blocks on the back of it. From the angle in this picture you can see the cell blocks extending out the back of the home.
Well, except for one special guest at a time. For you see, there was one special “room with a bath.” …
Some ungrateful residents of that room—the solitary confinement cell—didn’t seem to appreciate its convenience …
As you can see, under the SAME roof were miserable quarters and beautiful quarters. People weren’t in the miserable section because they were captured and enslaved—like the ancient Israelites in the Bible, or ante-bellum slaves in the South in the US. They were there because of choices they made themselves. They put themselves in bondage!
My visit to that unusual setting put me in mind of a principle from the Bible.
Jesus once told some Pharisees that they were in bondage.
The Pharisees answered him, “Abraham is our Father and we have never been in bondage to any man.”
But Jesus told them they were in bondage, just not to other men. They were in bondage to their own sinful natures. And He declared that the Son could set anyone in that condition free.
Sometimes Christians who are still in bondage to some part of their nature say the same thing. They don’t think they can be in bondage because they are Christian. And actually, they aren’t in bondage … Jesus has opened the door to the cell.
But if they don’t walk out, they might just as well be in a cell with the door locked. Because they really AREN’T free to follow Jesus wherever He leads them in daily life, whether a geographical place, or a “thing to do.”
I would suggest to you that if you can’t admit you are in bondage, you’ll never get free.
If you have come under the blood of Jesus Christ—“our Passover Lamb”—you are free in Him from the guilt of your sins. But you could still be in bondage if there is anything that is hindering you from going on to your “Promised Land” and serving God with all your mind, body, and spirit. Thinking it through, I had to come to admit I wasn’t totally free in all areas of my life—because of choices I was making.
What kinds of things keep Christians in bondage?
Some people are in bondage to time by being workaholics. They are so worried about making more and more money that they shortchange many other parts of their lives, including relationships with family, and having time to do things to further the Kingdom of God.
But maybe that isn’t your problem with time ….
Some people are in bondage to wasting time, and procrastinating doing the things they know they should.
Other people are in bondage to things in their Mind: The Bible says, “Let THIS mind be in you, that was in Christ Jesus.” The way that mind is formed in you is in part by what you allow into your mind, or enthusiastically put into it.
Putting wrong stuff in will assure that what your mind produces is inferior. As the old “GIGO” computer acronym puts it—“Garbage In, Garbage Out.” Paul reminded Christians that “whatsoever things are good, pure, of good report” etc., are the things we should think about.
Other people have put themselves into bondage by making consistently poor choices throughout life about their bodies—lack of exercise, poor nutrition. Such choices can leave a person unable to fully accomplish what they know God has set for them to do. Obviously we can all have serious illnesses or injury or chronic conditions beyond our control that limit us. God will help us to accomplish many things in spite of those. BUT … what a shame if we have imposed limits on ourselves through our own choices. I know that I have personally had a struggle with this issue throughout my life, and at 65 regret that I haven’t been consistent in rejecting that particular brand of bondage.
I was for many years in bondage to that kind of issue myself. With the help of the author of that book above, and God blessing my efforts, I have found freedom in that area of my life in the past twenty years or so. I can’t stress enough what a strong hold this particular bondage has on many Christians! I wish freedom for them all.
And many of us are still in bondage to emotions that we’ve not dealt with … here’s one example :
Or maybe your emotional struggle is with anxiety.
Do you find yourself constantly worrying about things you have no power to change? Is it holding you in bondage much of the time?
Perhaps you’ve faced these problems in your life, and have just given up on them because you seem helpless to force yourself to change. Maybe you think you’re just “too old” to change. But our God is a God of New Beginnings all the time. As the old saying goes, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” You really can do as Paul said and “forget those things that are behind.” But then what?
The reality is that the most effective change and growth comes NOT from fighting that “old man” that you used to be. It comes from becoming like a little child again, REALLY “starting fresh”—and looking to Jesus as your elder brother that you admire and want to be like.
It’s not so much that you need to look at yourself and keep trying to decide what you need to “stop doing.” It’s that you need to look at Him and see what you need to START doing. You need to focus on, as the old saying goes, “What would Jesus Do?” Because that is what we want to do in every part of our lives.
You need to look at what a “Free” person does in every aspect of life. Because Jesus said pointblank that you ARE set free in Him. If you aren’t acting like it, that isn’t His fault. You have built your own jail, and put yourself in bondage in it.
We are all called to look to Jesus, not to look back at the way we did things when we were that “old man” that we were before conversion. Change and growth doesn’t come by fighting that Old Man’s habits. That leads to defeat. We are not CALLED to fight him and his habits. We are called to leave him in the dust of Egypt and move on out to the Promised Land.
Don’t fight your old eating or exercise habits. Walk away from them and move on to the freedom to imitate those who have the habits you want to have.
Or if you struggle with unhealthy emotions, don’t fight your worry and anxiety. Walk away from them and move on to the freedom of focusing on the promises of God
Don’t fight feeling grumpy at other people for doing things that inconvenience you. Walk away from that angry Old Man and focus on moving on to the freedom to look at others as Jesus does, as children of God.
Don’t fight your clutter … walk away from the Old Man who needed to hang on to things, and move on to the freedom to begin making the choices of a person who is not in bondage to possessions.
To be a free person, you must act like a free person. And you do that by looking to Jesus, who is the source of all freedom.
Through His own blood, Jesus, the Son, HAS set you free from the bondage of sin and death. You ARE free indeed. So act like it.
You can walk right out and follow Jesus on down the road.
If you are still a prisoner of a quick temper, or regular worrying over nothing, or wasting time, or not prioritizing your time for the truly important things, or thoughts that are regularly negative, or health problems that are caused by your own poor choices, you are denying the freedom we have in Christ.
If you find yourself trapped in a cell again of your own making … Who has the Key?
You have a choice. Jesus said He came to set people free. We can make choices that keep OURSELVES in bondage, unable to joyfully serve Him.
Or we can choose to live in the freedom He bought for us.
The Son has set us free. But we have to choose to live as free people in every part of our lives! The door IS open. Come on out.