SLAVERY IS NORMAL

In this country where freedom is cherished and exalted, it should bother us that so many of our people are still enslaved.
Slavery for us has become so common that we barely realize its devastating effects.
We must recognize the cause of slavery before we are ever able to end this horrendous practice.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Gal 5:1

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When we come to Christ, we are set free.

Instead of telling us what we are free from, Paul tells us what we are free for.

We have been freed so that we can experience what freedom is all about.

Many people are like the pharisees in their thinking about freedom.

They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jn 8:33

This was their response when Jesus said you can know the truth and truth will set you free.

At the very moment they said that, they revealed their obstinancy, for they were under Roman rule, not Jewish. They were slaves to Rome.

In our country, where freedom is cherished, exalted and honored, there are still multitudes who are enslaved.

At one level, we can think of those who are enslaved by their addictions. That is a slavery from which it is difficult to extricate one’s self.

There are other forms of slavery though.

Do you remember Dolly Parton’s song “9 to 5”? There is a slavery often—but not always—enforced by our need to make a living.

Many feel enslaved by their job, because they are not doing what they love.

They are just doing.

However, none of this is what Paul was talking about.

He was talking about religious slavery.

And in our country of the land of the free, this type of slavery is all too common.

In fact, many see it as the normal way for Christians to live.

What is religious slavery? And what does the freedom to be free look like?

The churches of Galatia to whom Paul wrote were not made up of Jewish people like many of the other churches.

These people essentially had no religion other than the possibility of the pagan idolatry so often encountered in the Roman provinces.

As these folks responded to the gospel message and churches were established, things began to change.

Jews who had converted to Christianity had a hard time letting go of the way they had been trained to please God.

Rules and Regulations were all they knew about how to live a religious life.

Many of these Jewish converts apparently would go around to other churches and try to introduce their legalistic form of Christianity to any who would listen.

Paul, however, was vehemently opposed to any form of law-keeping for the Christian believer.

His rationale was that you were either justified by faith or you were justified by the law.

He went to great lengths in his letters to the Romans and the Galatians that the law could not bring us to justification before God.

Only faith could do that.

The fact of the matter is that the law produces sin. It is what drives us to sin.

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Rom 3:20

But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.
Rom 7:8

Sin produces its own kind of slavery.

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
Rom 6:20

Since the law reveals and causes us to sin, we should be aware that any form of legalism is dangerous to the life of faith.

Legalism is the idea that we need to obey certain things in order to be pleasing to God.

We should be doing this and not doing that, and God will be pleased with us.

This is where it gets really sticky and tricky for the believer.

Doesn’t the Bible say that we should not lie, but speak the truth at all times?

Yes. Of course, it does.

Doesn’t the Bible say that we should not get drunk, but be sober-minded?

Yes. Of course, it does.

Well, aren’t these types of things rules and regulations that we should obey?

No, they are not.

I’m going to take a side road here for a moment, or as some of you say, a rabbit trail.

But, trust me, I will come back to this.

The Baptists have a doctrine that many have labeled “once saved, always saved.”

The teaching is called the eternal security of the believer.

Many people object to this teaching not so much from a biblical basis, but from a seemingly logical one.

License to Sin?

They say that this doctrine just gives people a license to sin.

Now, I have only been walking with the Lord for a few short years, but in those 50+ years I have yet to meet anyone—sinner or saint—who needed a so-called license to sin.

The thinking in that objection is that the law will keep people on the straight and narrow.

Really?

When was the last time you heard of someone saying, “I was about to steal that car, but then I remembered that the commandments say to not steal.”?

The law—any law—is only obeyed by law-abiding citizens, not criminals—or in our religious sense, sinners.

There is no law that will keep a sinner from sinning or a criminal from crime.

It is a mistake, then, to think that we need laws, rules and regulations to make sure that a Christian remains a Christian.

Laws, rules and regulations are necessary for a civilized society, or to run a group smoothly, but they are of no value to one’s eternal well-being.

You did not become a Christian by trying to obey God’s rules and regulations.

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?
Gal 3:2

You became a Christian when the Lord opened your heart and mind to receive and believe the gospel.

That’s it. That’s all.

And Paul says that the way you began is the way you continue—by faith.

Anything else will set you up for trouble.

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written,
“Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things
written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
Gal 3:10

If you think that we need to rely on the law to keep ourselves or our loved ones saved, you will find yourself in all kinds of confusion and turmoil.

It is simply not possible to obey the law for righteousness.

We did not follow the law in order to be saved, to become a Christian; and we cannot follow the law in order to stay saved or to please God.

In fact, it is only faith that pleases God.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, …
Heb 11:6a

QUESTION—If all this is true, then why do we have all the things in the NT telling us what we should do and be?

Good question.

Allow me to use a weak analogy from the sports world.

Running a mile in less than 4 minutes was a goal many runners had.

It seemed to be an impossible goal.

But, Roger Bannister broke that barrier on May 6, 1954 with a time of 3:59.4.

His record lasted only 46 days as other runners were able to remove the mental barrier against a human running that fast.

In order to achieve this goal, there were benchmarks along the way.

How fast would the runner have to be at the quarter-mile mark?

No more than one minute.

How fast at the half-mile mark?

No more than two minutes.

Those were benchmarks by which they were able to measure how they were doing in pursuit of their goal.

All the things we are told in the NT about how to live, how to think, how to be, are just that.

They are benchmarks by which we can measure our progress towards becoming like Jesus.

Jesus is our standard.
He is our goal.

until we all attain to the unity of the faith
and of the knowledge of the Son of God,
to mature manhood,
to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
Eph 4:13

It is only in Jesus that we find our true freedom.

It is only in Jesus that we are able to live for God.

It is only in Jesus that we are freed from any guilt for our sins.

and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.
Act 13:39

The law cannot bring freedom. It can only bring us into the bondage of slavery.

Many Christians still think that we are required to obey the law in some form.

There are those who believe we need to pay attention to Moses.

There are those who believe we should pay attention to all the things mentioned in the NT as standards for the Christian life.

They judge others by these standards, and if they see someone not obeying one of them, they question whether they are truly born again.

We are to be those who do not insist on any type of behavior as being necessary for the Christian life, because no specific behavior will either get you in or keep you out.

yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
Gal 2:16

So, when you stand before God and He asks you, “Why should I let you into my heaven?”, your only response should be—JESUS.

For there is salvation in no one else,
for there is no other name under heaven given among men
by which we must be saved.”
Act 4:12

TRUE CONFESSION

The admitting of things not so pleasant is how we usually associate the word “confession” or confess.
However, that is not the only meaning of confess.

True Confession was the title of a popular magazine targeting young women.

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True Confession was the title of a popular magazine targeting young women. It began to fall away in popularity in the mid-‘90s with the introduction of the internet.

Behind the title was the idea of confessing something that should have been kept secret. For instance, one of the titles in the ‘50s was “I Was a Second-hand Wife.” Catchy title. Makes you want to know what is meant by ‘second-hand.’

The admitting of things not so pleasant is how we usually associate the word “confession” or confess. As Catholics, we had what was known as the sacrament of confession where we went and told our secret sins to the priest.

We are told to ‘fess up—that is admit that you’ve done something wrong.

However, that is not the only meaning of confess. In fact, the word comes from the Latin word for acknowledge.

That’s all. Simply acknowledge.

It is only through the emphasis which the Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformers where we get the idea of it being associated with acknowledging our wrong-doing.

Essentially the word means to declare, to state something as true.

This is a standard passage used for trying to get people saved—“…because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (Rom 10:9-10)

These two verses have long been used as a part of what is known as the Roman Road to Salvation, which is an outline of how to get someone saved or born again using eight simple steps of logic.

It basically goes like this—

Roman Road to Salvation

step 1 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Rom 3:23)

step 2 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 6:23)

step 3 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)

step 4 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Rom 10:9)

step 5 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Rom 10:13)

At this point, the witness is supposed to ask the one being witnessed to if they are ready to make a decision for Christ. If so, then they are led in saying a little prayer.

Then it is time to convince them that they have done something important.

step 6 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 5:1)

step 7 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom 8:1)

step 8 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38-39)

This program has been used by those who teach how-to-witness seminars. I learned it while a member of the Baptist Student Union in college.

We would then go out into the streets and try to talk to people and engage them in such a way as to bring out this little map. Hopefully, we could lead them along, getting them to say yes to each step, and at the end we would have them say a little prayer and then declare to them that they were saved.

Sadly, this method works for only a few of the many who agreed to the process.

Why? Why do so many who follow this path show no fruit of salvation?

Let’s quickly notice a few things about this so-called road to salvation.

First, it is a collection of cherry-picked verses trying to establish a logical progression that will make sense to the pre-believer.

We are told in another place, though, that this is an exercise in futility.

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. (1Co 1:20-21)

He is saying that logic and the use of reason is something that many exalt, but it is not how God makes Himself known.

Secondly, you can see from the road-map that it skips back and forth in Paul’s letter. That would indicate at the very least that it does not follow Paul’s reasoning.

Romans is a very detailed discussion about God’s plan from the very beginning, and Paul follows a consistent line of thought from beginning to end.

Thirdly, it is man’s attempt to make something that has many facets into a single concept. God’s wisdom is much broader and deeper than anything we can ever attain.

Paul mentions this in his letter to the church at Ephesus—

so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Eph 3:10)

That word ‘manifold’ from the Greek means “marked with a great variety of colors”—like Joseph’s coat of many colors.

The wisdom of God is marked by a great variety of colors. It is likened to the facets on a cut diamond—no one single facet shows off the beauty and integrity of the diamond.

That is what the Roman Road to Salvation was trying to do. It was an attempt to reduce the plan of salvation to only a single facet.

So, what IS God’s plan of salvation for humanity?

Paul lays it out plainly for us in his letter to the Corinthians.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1Co 15:3-4)

It is the presentation of the gospel that brings salvation as we see early on in Paul’s letter to the Romans.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Rom 1:16)

There is no place in the Bible where we are given step-by-step instructions on how to lead someone to the Lord—how to proclaim the gospel.

We have many examples of people being brought to salvation, and almost everyone of them shows a different manner, a different story, a different experience.

Peter’s first sermon on Pentecost Sunday, his sermon at the home of Cornelius, Philip’s sharing with the Ethiopian, Paul’s preaching on Mars Hill—each of these presents a different story in all its aspects.

As I read these stories, there is one point, however, that stands out very plainly.

Only in Peter’s first sermon is there any mention of repentance. After that it never shows up again in any presentation or explanation of the gospel.

This brings us back to our original discussion of confession.

We have been told that we are to confess our sins, be sorry for them and repent for having offended a holy God.

That is the fourth thing about the Romans Road Map. Not a single verse that is used brings out the idea of the necessity of repentance. Yet the idea is included in the presentation as a part of “all have sinned.”

Here is an interesting side note about Paul’s letter to the Romans, which is a complete presentation of God’s plan for salvation.

He never uses the word repent. Not once does he say that we must repent.

The closest he comes is when he uses the word ‘repentance’ which only occurs one time in his entire letter.

… God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance (Rom 2:4)

The word repent translates the Greek word which means “change your mind.” It has no indication of sorrow of any kind, even though that may be a side effect for some when they realize the love of God.

Paul then goes through the rest of his letter presenting different aspects of how man has responded to God and how the Lord continues to bring mankind to experience His love.

He concludes with the concept we are talking about today—confession.

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Rom 10:9)

The word translated “confess” is a compound word in the Greek and begins with the word ‘homo,’ which we know means the same—homosexual, homogenized, homo sapiens, homophobia and others.

The idea in the Greek language is to “say the same thing.” That is the meaning of “confess”—to say the same thing.

Say the same thing as what? The same thing that Paul wrote in his letter—

JESUS IS LORD.

That is the clearest indicator of whether someone knows the Lord, saved, born again, regenerated or however you want to name it.

Do they confess that Jesus is Lord?

Therefore I want you to understand that … no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. (1Co 12:3)

So, if you are ever confronted with a “Roman Road” person trying to witness to you, they will eventually ask you, “How do you know you’re saved?”

Your response should be, “Because I know that Jesus is Lord.”

That is the true confession. Jesus is Lord.