KEY THOT: Jesus says that if you know the truth, "the truth will set you free" (v.32). And then he goes on to say that "everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin" (v.34). In other words, when we sin habitually it shows that we are under bondage to sin as its slaves. Sin is our master and we have no choice but obey its desires and lusts. However, when we know the truth from the gospel--that Christ has broken the power of sin and Satan and even the sinful flesh--we are truly free. Free to choose. But what are we set free to choose? The truth will set us free to choose between sin and righteousness.
What is the difference between the bondage of slaves and the freedom of sons? Namely that the slaves have no freedom to choose. In other words a slave of sin can have only one choice--sin, because sin is his master. But as sons, we are now free to choose between sin or righteousness. We now are truly free to choose. Just as in Eden, Adam and Eve were truly free because they could choose between the Tree of Life or the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That is the essence of true freedom--freedom to choose not to sin, not necessarily the freedom from sin. As long as we are in the flesh and in this world, we will always have to exercise this freedom to choose good over evil.
Before we were saved, we have only one choice--sin, even though we are unaware of it. Satan has deceived us to think we are free, but we are actually "free" only to sin. In fact, we are slaves of sin. Only Christ can open our eyes to see that the reality that we are slaves of sin and could do only whatever sin dictates: "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me" (Romans 7:18-20).
In Romans 8:1, Paul goes on to assert that that those who are in Christ are truly free to obey the law through the Holy Spirit: "For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:2-4). In other words, we now have a real choice: to walk by the Spirit or to walk according to the sinful flesh. Our will is no longer under bondage to sin but has been set free to choose life (Spirit) or death (flesh). Therefore, we have a responsibility to choose life--to obey the desires of the Spirit over the lusts of the flesh: "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).
To put it another way, before we knew Christ, we sin because have to (we are slaves of sin). But now that we are in Christ, when we still sin it is no longer because we have to but we want to. In other words, we now have no excuse for sinning because we have freedom to choose not to sin by virtue of the power of the Spirit indwelling us. So, daily we must now decide to use our freedom to choose righteousness over sin: "For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another" (Galatians 5:13). Before we knew Christ, we were victims of sin. But in Christ we have become victors--"more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Rom. 8:37).
So, we are no longer slaves to sin but the truth has set us free to become slaves of righteousness. We can only become slaves of righteousness by daily choosing obedience to the Spirit over the lusts of the flesh: "Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness" (Romans 6:16-18).
So, let's stop making excuses for ourselves when we sin. Let's not say any more that we are "just sinners" and will continue to sin. Rather, let's affirm our freedom as "justified sons" who can and will choose righteousness. Formerly, as slaves of sin, we sin because we can't help it. Now as sons of righteousness, we can no longer say we can't help it when we sin. We can only say we sin because we won't help it--despite all the spiritual resources and power available to us to use our freedom to choose righteousness over sin.
Father, help us no longer live like we are still slaves to sin but to live as sons of righteousness, free to choose righteousness over sin. Forgive us for making excuses for sin when the power of the Spirit has been given to us to live like sons, not slaves. Amen.