We’re barely a week into the New Year and I imagine that many of us have already given up on our resolutions for 2019. Those broken resolutions are a reminder of how hard it can be to change. And as we grapple with our failures regarding diets, exercise, and attitudes, we begin to wonder if we can indeed really be any different than we’ve always been. Our failures just seem to reinforce to us that nothing will ever be any different.
As I read the book of Ezra this morning, I was struck by a verse in chapter nine. It says:
For we are slaves, Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love… (Ezra 9:9, ESV).
This context of the verse is the return from exile. The people of Israel had been in exile for decades and now many of them have returned to Jerusalem and were rebuilding the temple. And, as they did, they acknowledged that God had been with them, even in the midst of their captivity.
This verse reminds me of two other portions of Scripture. The first is the book of Exodus. There, centuries before their exile to Babylon, the children of Israel were slaves in Egypt. And, they cried out to God and He delivered them from their slavery under the leadership of Moses. (Exodus 3:7-8). The second is in the book of Romans. In it, the apostle Paul also uses the language of slavery and dominion, but he’s not speaking of captivity by any human masters. Rather, he tells us that we are captive in our sin until Jesus sets us free. And, since Jesus has set us free, sin no longer has dominion over us (Romans 6:14).
Now, let me tie all of this together. In our bondage and captivity…in our inability to change from the inside out and really begin to live differently, God extends to us His steadfast love. He has not forsaken us in our slavery to sin. Instead, through Jesus, He has set us free. We are no longer held hostage by who we were before Jesus. In Him, we are free. Free to be the person God created and redeemed us to be. We can be different. Our anxieties and fears no longer have to control us. Our selfishness no longer drives our efforts. Our rebellious passions no longer control our behavior. Our sin no longer has dominion over us. We are free. God’s steadfast love has pulled us out of our bandage and enabled us to walk joyfully with Him. So, let Jesus fuel your efforts. Be different in His power and for His glory. Remember who you are in Him and what He’s done for you. Read Romans 6 and rejoice that God has set the captive free.