Unshackled–Now What?

This morning I read through the Book of Romans and began to meditate on chapter 6, especially verses 12 to 14. This brought to remembrance a message I had heard by Tony Evans years ago. Tony compared the situation of American slaves to our own former bondage to sin.

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A vast number of Civil-War-era slaves, though declared free, continued to live on, bound to the only life they knew. Many stayed on the plantations and worked for their masters. To them, slavery was all they knew and understood; freedom was a stranger, a foreign concept. But some brave souls decided to leave, and a few embraced their new-found freedom. Talk about a scary and risky undertaking, leaving behind the life you’ve always known. And the environment of those times did not easily accept the freed slave.

In Romans 6:12-14 (and really the whole chapter), Paul tells a similar story about us as believers. Only, we haven’t just been declared free, we’ve been transformed into a new creature with freedom to live for God. The Holy Spirit slips into the believer’s life to instigate and manage these changes. It may not seem evident at first because we appear to remain shackled to our old habits, our old manner of life. According to Romans 6, the shackles have been loosed. We can begin living as free men. I don’t take Paul’s language and reasoning as symbolic. Do you? This isn’t a paradigm shift or some positive thinking mantra. What do you think? It’s not just a theological or legal transaction–correct?

Buy why do I still sin? I hope I’m not the only believer asking that question. The question’s a good one, because it truly indicates something has happened within our soul and spirit. However, this also shows that things take time to change–it’s a process.

But how much time? Why is it that some believers receive almost instant release from a habit or addiction and some seem to struggle for longer periods? Can our transition to holy living be sped up? If so, how do we affect our rate of growth? I know we can’t boast about our efforts, but what part do we play to become more like Christ?

I would really love to hear your ideas and answers to the questions above. Please share your insights about spiritual growth and what God has shown you.

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4 Responses to Unshackled–Now What?

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is a question that most people will not have an answer for. We can’t start to be like Christ until we become one of His believers. It’s like age, we age slowly and we become more like Him as we know more about Him. There is so much to say about this subject, it would take writing a book to tell all the ways we try to become like Christ. We will never be like Christ until we live with
    Him in Glory. Until then, I will keep trying.

    • Thanks for this comment and all are valid points. Spiritual growth is analogous to physical growth. And, yes, it all starts from becoming a believer. But what I want to know, is why some believers seem to excel faster in their spiritual growth than others. Do they have more faith? Are they more obedient? Are they just more open to God? Maybe we will never quite put our finger on what furthers our growth along, but I thought it was an interesting question to ask. Maybe we all don’t need to grow quickly or even at the same rate, but it’s good to know how we influence that growth. Thanks again, so much, for your feedback.

  2. Chris Peek says:

    Scott, you’ve asked some really deep questions here, ones I’m not sure I have complete answers for. As far as your question about the speed of being released from a habit, part of it has to do with a person’s background and life story. For example, if an individual is deeply involved in drugs, he/she probably has deep rooted issues – maybe childhood abandonment, abuse, neglect, etc. Even when the person receives Christ, he/she will likely have to work their way through these issues little by little.
    For others, God has miraculous power that is beyond my comprehension. I’ve heard of people who quit smoking on the spot or who have been healed of an addiction.

    • Thanks, Chris! Those are great answers and I agree, it does vary with the individual and their situation. Many have some engrained habits that need to be overcome with time, counseling, and the Holy Spirit’s power. Things like drugs really take control of the body and mind.

      One of the reasons I bring the question up is because I think some believers (including myself at times) are waiting on God to do a miracle. That’s valid to a point, but what I think I hear Paul saying is that a good portion of the miracle has already been done. It’s as if we are spiritually “procrastinating.” We receive Christ and His Spirit, and therefore the resources for change are there; they are at our disposal. The challenge is—will we be intentional and take responsibility by embracing those resources God so graciously gives us. Instead of asking, “When will God take this habit away?” perhaps we can say “When will I starting living up to who I am in Christ?”

      But you are right. Even by discerning our responsibility, it doesn’t make change any easier. Each individual will have to embrace this change at different growth rates and with different sets of challenges.

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