Does Freedom Exist; Are We Really Free?

Text: Romans 6:19-23

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

It is been said before that we humans are like horses with saddles on our backs. And with these saddles, each of us has someone or something riding on our backs.  So, depending on who is in the saddle, the direction, course, and outcome of our lives may be drastically different.

Now, this example of us being like a horse with someone riding on us is extremely offensive to our modern sensibilities.  The reason being, we are taught to believe that we are autonomous-independent-people. That is to say; each of us are taught that we have this absolute right to do whatever we want, think whatever we want, and be whatever we want without anyone telling us otherwise. We like to imagine that we are a wild stallion without a saddle. We like to imagine that we are galloping free in the rugged frontier of life – going where we want, when we want, and blazing our own trails.

But what if I told you that the belief that you and I are free-independent-wild-stallions (with no saddles) is really a myth. In fact, what if I told you that it is completely possible to think you are wild and free, when in reality you are not.  That is, it is completely possible to think you are wild stallions but in reality you have a madman saddled on your back steering you in so-called freedom to gallop off a cliff of death. 

Dear friends, in our epistle reading from Romans, the Apostle Paul states that we are indeed not free, even if we think we are. Otherwise stated, there is no such thing as complete freedom, for we either have sin on our saddle or the Lord on our saddle.  Paul is saying that every single human being is a slave to either sin or Christ.  It is one or the other.  You and I either have a rider named ‘sin’ or a rider named ‘Christ.’ 

But you and I may object and say,

“We are free! We do what we want, when we want, and nobody tells us otherwise!  There is no saddle, for I have no master except for myself!”

Yes, we may think this is true, but how do we know that this is not the voice of the one already sitting on our saddles?  What if we are so used to the one sitting on our backs that we do not recognize that we are under their spell and we fail to recognize that we are merely repeating what is whispered into our ears? 

Dear friends, the idea that we are autonomous, free, independent beings is exactly the voice and message of sin! 

Permit me to explain.

Sin, my friends, is really nothing more than lawless anarchy.  Sin is all about you and I doing what we want whenever we want and not showing any concern for our neighbor and God Almighty. Sin, which rides on our backs, is all about you and I doing whatever makes us happy. Sin looks to our desires, our appetites, our wants, and gets offended when anybody else stands in our way.  Sin is all about deceiving us to think that we are free-wild-stallions able to pursue whatever will bring us life, but in realty we are pursuing death.  This is what it truly looks like to be enslaved – thinking we are freely pursuing life but in reality being bound to death.  This is what it looks like to be a slave to sin.       

Consider the Old Testament reading from today as well. In Genesis chapter 2, the Lord God created Adam and Eve and gave them all good things. Adam and Eve were placed in a beautiful garden to work and keep it. In the garden, Adam and Eve were in harmony with God, harmony with each other, and harmony with the land.  Everything was perfect.

The Lord God, though, gave them a command to eat of every tree in the garden, except one – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

And as the story goes, Adam and Eve disregarded God’s Word and looked to the appetite of their eyes, resulting in eating the forbidden fruit.  In other words, instead of trusting God’s Word, Adam and Eve took the fruit because it was delightful to their eyes. And ever since then, sin – like a virus – has infected all of humanity, resulting in mankind pursuing whatever he or she thinks will bring the ultimate delight. 

And so, when we humans disregard God’s Word and think we are freely pursuing whatever is delightful to our eyes, we are in reality not an independent wild stallion, but a burdened horse with sin on our saddles leading us to destruction. 

And sin, well… when sin has us pursuing the appetites of our gut and the aspirations of our feelings, we are not free but slaves.  When our minds are set on vacuous things and when we glory in shame, sin neither has to pull on the reigns or kick us with spurs, but merely give us the impression that we are fine and dandy – free!

But wait a minute.  Let us not get too far ahead of ourselves!  

This is who you once were. Indeed, the Apostle Paul says that you were once presented as members and slaves to sin. In other words, being a slave to sin is a past tense reality, not the present reality.  It may have been true in the past but not now for you!

You see, you and I were made slaves of righteousness when we were baptized into Christ.  In your baptisms, sin was kicked off of the saddle and Christ took sin’s spot. 

Sure, it may not feel like this is the case, since sin still lives in your mortal bodies: however, the present reality is that Christ is on your saddle. Jesus is your master, not sin. You are a slave not to sin, anarchy, and lawlessness but Christ and His holiness.

Frankly stated, the sinful nature that you have will always desire autonomy, independence, and freedom (which will ultimately destroy you), but that is not who you belong to. Baptized Saints, Christ rides you, not sin!

Dear friends, there may be a temptation at times to want so-called freedom from Christ, for we do not typically enjoy being a slave to someone else. But never forget that there are only two options: either you are a slave to sin or a slave to Jesus.  Furthermore, do not be deceived when sin entices you with so-called freedom of not having to bother with right-thinking or right living for this does not lead to an inheritance of life but a pension of death.

And so, you belong to Jesus, dear Baptized Saints. He sits on your saddle.  He is your master and you are His slave.

As a slave to Christ, He leads you in holiness. That is to say; Christ is the one who sits upon your saddle not to give you so-called freedom unto your destruction but rather, freedom from destruction. 

Furthermore, since you belong to Christ, you also are given Christ’s holiness.  This holiness is not conditional, as if you have to be holy to get Christ to be your master. But it is a result of having Christ as your master. Indeed, if Christ is on the saddle, He will lead you unto Spirit-inspired good works, as he takes you from your baptism, to the grave, and to the resurrection.  Christ – as your master - begins a good work in you and will bring it to completion. 

Even though many people consider freedom to be the ultimate human right, it frankly does not exist, except as an evil goal of sin and a characteristic the kingdom of darkness.

But you, dear Baptized Saints, this is who you were.  You were slaves to sin and death, but not anymore.  You are now of Christ.  Christ is on your saddle. You are slaves to God. And since you belong to the Lord, you have ultimate freedom not apart from Christ but freedom in Christ to be the people He created you to be.  Freedom in Christ that does not lead to death but leads you to life everlasting. 

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

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