This morning I was reading in Romans 2 and 3, and I highlighted the following verse and simply noted “We must highlight these words in our churches!” next to it. The verse this is regarding is this one:
“What then? Are we better than they? Not at all…” (Romans 3:9)
The reason given?
“For… [all people] are all under sin….”
SLAVES OF DARKNESS
The Bible charges, and indeed life experience itself confirms, that all humans are under the authority of sin in the bodies—the flesh—we live in (Rom. 7:14). Not one human is excluded from this. Not one. This doesn’t mean simply that we all sin sometimes. This means, more accurately, that by very nature, we live as non-heirs—non-children of God—day in and day out. Our identity as God’s heirs was stripped of us, and we function as slaves to the forces of darkness who rule over this world. And unless we consciously have believed Jesus rescued us from that regime, giving us identity as the people of God (Romans 4:5, 1 Peter 2:10), and live consciously trusting Him to overcome all temptation set up against us by our foes (this is walking by faith or abiding in Christ; 2 Cor. 5:7, John 15:1-11), then we’re naturally, by default, living as slaves to darkness, servants of our foes.
Never forget that darkness masquerades as light. You may not be doing overt evil, but that’s not the only way slavery to the darkness manifests. You may be volunteering your time to serve others, you may be incredibly loving and receiving of people, you may do your best at everything you undertake, but still be experiencing stress, worry, fear, insecurity, fear of human opinion, inner lust, covetousness, jealousy, greed, arrogance, pretension, self-importance, impatience, annoyance, etc… But in true freedom, none of these exist. It’s all slavery. It’s all oppression from our very real enemy. Sin is not just merely doing something bad sometimes, its the overall lifestyle we all have living in this darkness covering earth and our inner persons.
THE COMPARISON TRAP
It’s easy to cast stones though. We look at people who live outright evil lives (for some, it might be a neighbor, a family member, the president, a rebellious child, a messed-up teacher, a gambler, a stripper, a drug addict, etc), and since we don’t make the same choices they make, we assume we’re better than them. Or at least, that they’re worse than us. Or maybe simply, that they’re people who make bad choices. We constantly compare ourselves—another thing only slaves do. And in comparison, we see ourselves as not as bad. But this is a lie of the enemy. A tactic to keep us from seeing our own state of slavery under him, in order to keep us enslaved to him.
“What then? Are we better than they? Not at all…” (Romans 3:9)
We must not forget this.
Being a slave doesn’t make someone “bad”, per se. It makes them a slave. And slaves do things their masters tell them to do. Does God tell you to worry? No. Does God tell someone to murder? No. Neither are things God guides us to do. Both, though vastly different, are evidence of slavery. Both are evidence of a regime that is against God and is against God in us. Yet somehow, it comes into our thinking that because we only worry but don’t murder, we’re better than the murderer. The thing is, what we need to be concerned about is not who’s better or worse (because this is a false concept invented by the father of lies), but who’s still enslaved to the dark regime against God and humanity. What we need to focus on is First, not living from slavery ourselves (no fear, stress, worry, insecurity, lust, jealousy, hate, unforgiveness, etc), Second, loving (from Christ’s love) every single slave walking planet earth (that is every human, none excluded), and Third, spreading the message of freedom (Gal. 5:1) to every person and persevering with them through their learning to live free. We must see the slave master behind the slavery. We must not peg the crimes with the vessel (though the crimes definitely affect the vessel), but rather with the captain of the vessel. And the reality is that at all times, our captain is either going to be sin (living as slaves to our dark enemy), or Jesus (living as freed servants/lovers of God). It really is that black and light (pun intended).
Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? (Rom. 6:16)
“What then? Are we better than they? Not at all… For… [we] are all under sin….” (Romans 3:9)
One of the most ugly things we see in our day is division. Specifically, division fueled by superiority. Everyone thinks they know and choose best. And compared to them, everyone else is bad/evil/worse. This hierarchy comes from the darkness, the slavery we’re all in.
STOP AND SEE
What if we all just stopped—slowed down long enough—to see. Just simply to look at ourselves. Look within. See our condition for what it is. See the slavery of mankind… of ourselves!! What if we all did this? I bet we’d become a people with a lot more compassion for others… ALL others! Moreover, we’d be moved to search for what really sets us free from the slavery covering this earth. We wouldn’t just look to break bad habits with human will-power. We’d look farther, deeper. We’d look at WHY we’re slaves at all… what caused and causes it… and then we’d seek to find the solution to THAT. What causes all of our slavery is something cosmic… of another real, though unseen, realm. Therefore, the only thing that will bust us out of it is of that nature too—cosmic, other-worldly… Divine. Then, on top of all of this, with the real, true answers we discover, we’ll look to live free and, in our compassion for others of the same plight, bring the message of freedom to others so they can live free too!
I mean truly, what if we all just stopped to really do this?
GETTING THE STORY RIGHT
But first, before spreading the message of freedom to others, we need to get the story right! We need to shift our thinking and discussions from behavior, behavioral hierarchy, behavior modification, being good or bad, and what we deserve (anger and punishment) based on our bad behavior (the symptom of our slavery), to thinking and discussion about the devastating human and earth condition of being subject as slaves to sin/darkness, the GOOD NEWS that something has already taken place (the cross of Christ) to free humanity from the curse and slavery and death, how much God loves us ALL, how far that love reached to set us free from the real issue (curse, slavery to our dark enemy, and death), and how to live free from the source of Christ and His work on the cross. Until we shift our thinking, our discussions, and our message to the real issues and the real meanings of the Bible (including the book of Genesis and the message of the cross)… we will go on in the hurting, devastating state we’ve always gone on in.
With the right message we must move forward. We have GOOD NEWS to give to people! But without understanding why we even need good news (because of the curse, slavery to our dark enemy, and death; and NOT because of punishment for our bad behavior), freedom will never ever be found.
It’s like this. Imagine a person has lung cancer, but thinks its pneumonia. Imagine someone comes to them and, really excitedly, exclaims to them, “I found the cure for lung cancer!” Will the person who thinks she has pneumonia be overjoyed and healed as a result of this news? No. As long as she thinks she has pneumonia, she will NEITHER personally rejoice over the news (though she might rejoice for others), nor pursue the cure for lung cancer—a disease she doesn’t think she has.
On the other hand, if this person is later diagnosed correctly and realizes she has lung cancer, she’ll remember the news previously exclaimed, rejoice in it, and then seek out the person and the cure they’ve discovered.
As long as our jargon and message (and thinking and actions) communicate the problem being about behavior that separates us from God that then results in punishment by God, and the good news being about Jesus being punished for our bad behavior… the real solution to the real problem (Jesus’ cross-death being about annulling the curse [Gen. 3:19] and releasing us from slavery/death by our enemy— what the good news is really about [Col. 1:13-14]) will not only be not understood, but it’ll fail to be received and implemented by humanity which is suffering (and will suffer) so severely without it!
Friends, “Are we better than they? Not at all…” For we are all under sin. Let’s change our thinking. Let’s humble ourselves to see we’re all under a curse and slavery in these bodies and in this world. Let’s seek the solution (Christ, and Him crucified) in our own lives, moment by moment, day after day. And let’s change our jargon and our interaction with people. Let’s tell the real message, with real love, and live in real unity, side-by-side, building each other up in our most holy faith… growing up and out of slavery and the curse with each passing day—as has ALREADY been afforded us to do! Hallelujah!
THE PURPOSE OF THIS LIFE
There is purpose in all this. And it’s not only about making life on earth better. It will exponentially increase our joy and peace on earth. We’ll live as overcomers in Christ, and not be overcome by evil, enslaved to darkness! But life on earth isn’t the end-all. In fact, life on earth as it is—cursed and enslaved—will come to an end. A day will come (we have this glorious promise) when the earth will be set free forever, the curse lifted, the present dark regime overturned, and God will come to live in visible sight among us in love forever (Rev. 21-22). But for this new Earth and Heaven to be ushered in, an overturning of powers must first take place. A Day is coming when God will overturn those who have sought our harm… I’m speaking in “cosmic” terms here. The forces of darkness are our real enemy. The Scriptures tell us this is so (Eph. 6:12). So a Day is coming when war will be waged, and they who have enslaved us and sought our annihilation will come to fight against Christ and His Church (Rev. 19:19), but will be overwhelmingly conquered instead. On that Day, we’ll either be sons/heirs of God, ready to fight in Christ against them (Rev. 19:7, Rom. 8:19-21), or we’ll be slaves of the army of darkness, set against God and His people. At all times of life on earth friends, we’re training for one army or by default, settling for being in the other. Friends, our present lives on earth matter!
The following passage is long, but please take some time to read it and meditate on it regarding all that’s been said here today.
1 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. 3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same [living as servants of Darkness], that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance [change of mind]? 5 But in accordance with your hardness and your [unrepentant] heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day [THAT Day when the darkness will be overturned] of wrath [against Darkness] and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: 7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality [it does not say ‘in doing good, change their behavior’, but says doing good is seeking for another source of Life outside of slavery]; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey [think slavery] unrighteousness–indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good [seeking glory, honor, immortality; freedom from darkness in the inward man], to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God. … Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the [righteousness] of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? 27 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh [good behavior]; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” (Romans 2:1-10, 26-29, all parenthetical comments are mine)
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
To close out this post, I simply want to encourage you to meditate on these things this week. Take time to think about these things and look for their answers. To break it down into just a few points. Ask yourselves these question:
1. How am I currently understanding and thinking about the good news of Jesus and why it’s good news?
2. How am I understanding and thinking about what went wrong in Eden, what happened to the earth and humanity, and what we need saving from? Do we need saving from the punishment of God for doing bad, or from slavery to and death by the darkness?
3. Do I see myself as an actual slave to darkness, and not simply someone who does bad things sometimes? Do I sometimes see myself as better than others (be honest)?
4. Am I seeking moment-to-moment darkness-overcoming freedom in Christ personally? If I don’t know how to live and overcome darkness through Christ, am I seeking to find out how to?
5. What is the purpose and scope of living from Christ now? Why is it important to seek His life in us and now?
All my best to you! I’m praying for us all on our quest for God and all His truth and Life!