HOW CAN WE EXPERIENCE TRUE FREEDOM IN CHRIST?

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Everyone seeks freedom. Especially in the West, freedom is the highest virtue, and it is sought after by all who are, or consider themselves to be, oppressed. But freedom in Christ is not the same as political or economic freedom. In fact, some of the most harshly oppressed people in history have had complete freedom in Christ. The Bible tells us that, spiritually speaking, no one is free. In Romans 6, Paul explains that we are all slaves. We are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness. Those who are slaves to sin cannot free themselves from it, but once we are freed from the penalty and power of sin through the cross, we become a different kind of slave, and in that slavery we find complete peace and true freedom.

Although it seems like a contradiction, the only true freedom in Christ comes to those who are His slaves. Slavery has come to mean degradation, hardship, and inequality. But the biblical paradigm is the true freedom of the slave of Christ who experiences joy and peace, the products of the only true freedom we will ever know in this life. There are 124 occurrences in the New Testament of the word doulos, which means “someone who belongs to another” or “bondslave with no ownership rights of his own.” Unfortunately, most modern Bible versions, as well as the King James Version, most often translate doulos as “servant” or “bond-servant.” But a servant is one who works for wages, and who, by virtue of his work, is owed something from his master. The Christian, on the other hand, has nothing to offer the Lord in payment for his forgiveness, and he is totally owned by the Master who bought him with His shed blood on the cross. Christians are purchased by that blood and are the possession of their Lord and Savior. We are not hired by Him; we belong to Him (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 7:4). So “slave” is really the only proper translation of the word doulos.

Far from being oppressed, the slave of Christ is truly free. We have been set free from sin by the Son of God who said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Now the Christian can truly say, along with Paul, “Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). We now know the truth and that truth has set us free (John 8:32). Paradoxically, through our bondage to Christ, we have also become sons and heirs of the Most High God (Galatians 4:1–7). As heirs, we are partakers of that inheritance—eternal life—which God confers on all His children. This is a privilege beyond any earthly treasure we could ever inherit, while those in bondage to sin inherit only spiritual death and an eternity in hell.

Why, then, do so many Christians live as though they are still in bondage? For one thing, we often rebel against our Master, refusing to obey Him and clinging to our old lives. We hold on to the sins that once bound us to Satan as our master. Because our new nature still lives in the old fleshly nature, we are still drawn to sin. Paul tells the Ephesians to “put off” the old self with its deceit and corruption and “put on” the new self with its righteousness. Put off lying, and put on truthfulness. Put off stealing, and put on usefulness and work. Put off bitterness, rage, and anger, and put on kindness, compassion, and forgiveness (Ephesians 4:22–32). We have been set free from the bondage of sin, but we often put the chains back on because part of us loves the old life.

Furthermore, often we don’t realize that we have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20) and that we have been reborn as completely new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Christian life is one of death to self and rising to “walk in the newness of life” (Romans 6:4), and that new life is characterized by thoughts about Him who saved us, not thoughts about the dead flesh that has been crucified with Christ. When we are continually thinking about ourselves and indulging the flesh in sins we have been freed from, we are essentially carrying around a corpse, full of rottenness and death. The only way to bury it fully is by the power of the Spirit who is the only source of strength. We strengthen the new nature by continually feeding on the Word of God, and through prayer we obtain the power we need to escape the desire to return to the old life of sin. Then we will realize that our new status as slaves to Christ is the only true freedom, and we will call upon His power to “not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires” (Romans 6:12).

Prophet Nathan Emol

HOW CAN I ACHIEVE VICTORY IN JESUS?

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As followers of Jesus Christ, we all want to live a triumphant Christian life. The Bible assures us that God and His Son Jesus are Victors and that believers can share in their victories: “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). In a practical sense, how can we experience the victorious life that has been made possible in Christ? How can we achieve victory in Jesus?

Victory ultimately belongs to the Lord our God (1 Samuel 17:47). Since the days of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt, whenever God’s people depended on Him alone, He gave them victory over their enemies (Exodus 15). Old Testament prophets consistently pointed to a future Savior who would bring the fullest expression of God’s triumph: “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9; see also Psalm 110:1). We know these prophecies refer to Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, who has overcome the world (John 16:33).

Jesus won the supreme victory at the cross. Sin was atoned for, and the power of sin and death was broken (see John 12:31 and 1 Peter 2:24). After Christ’s crucifixion and burial, He rose from the dead three days later, and now we share that victory. Satan thought he had won the ultimate contest with the death of Christ. Instead, that death released our chains, set us free from the prison of sin, and disarmed the supernatural powers of evil: “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:13–15).

The key to achieve victory in Jesus is faith in Christ: “For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:4–5; see also Romans 8:37). The first step to victory in Jesus is accepting Christ as Savior. We receive the Lord by grace through faith, and we live in His victory by grace through faith as well. Our salvation is a gift of God’s grace, and our victory in Jesus is a gift of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:4–8; Galatians 3:3).

What is the extent of Jesus Christ’s victory that He imparts to us? The victory that Jesus shares with us includes victory over the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). Our Lord’s triumph over temptation and sin (Hebrews 4:15; see also Matthew 4:1–11) has become our victory as well: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24; see also Romans 5:20–21). The apostle John elaborates: “But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:5–8).

Jesus has overcome Satan and the powers of evil (John 14:30; 16:11; Mark 1:23–27; Luke 4:33–36), and He shares that victory with us. Jesus says, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you” (Luke 10:18–19; see also Ephesians 1:21–22). The writer of Hebrews explains that Jesus took on flesh and blood and shared in our humanity “so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14–15). We need not fear death or the devil because we share in Jesus Christ’s victory over them (Acts 2:24; Romans 6:9; 8:38–39; 2 Timothy 1:10; Revelation 1:18).

As long as we remain in this fallen world, we’ll still have struggles to overcome and battles to fight. At times we will fall and fail. But we continue to get back up, asking God to equip us with His grace and power to overcome (2 Corinthians 12:9). As believers, we fight our battles in the spiritual realm, on our knees: “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3–4). God has given us spiritual armor to protect us from the powers of darkness that wage war against us (Ephesians 6:10–20).

Victory in Jesus is real and attainable now because our Lord Jesus has defeated Satan and every evil power of the world. We achieve victory in Jesus by resting in Christ (Matthew 11:28) and trusting Him to triumph for us (Romans 5:17). While we remain on earth, the Lord reigns victorious through those who have been delivered from the kingdom of darkness and translated into His glorious kingdom of light (1 Peter 2:9). However, a day will come when the victories of Jesus will be fully realized and celebrated in the new heavens and earth: “He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 25:8).

Prophet Nathan Emol

WILL MORE PEOPLE GO TO HEAVEN OR TO HELL?

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 The question of whether there are more people in heaven or hell is answered by Jesus Himself in one succinct passage: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13–14).

This passage tells us that only those who receive Jesus Christ and who believe in Him are given the right to become children of God (John 1:12). As such, the gift of eternal life comes only through Jesus Christ to all those who believe. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). It’s not through Mohammed, Buddha, or other false gods of man’s making. It’s not for those wanting a cheap and easy way to heaven while continuing to live their own selfish and worldly lives on earth. Jesus only saves those who fully trust in Him as Savior (Acts 4:12).

So, what are these two gates in Matthew 7:13–14? They are the entrance to two different “ways.” The wide gate leads to the broad way, or road. The small, narrow gate leads to the way that is narrow. The narrow way is the way of the godly, and the broad way is the way of the ungodly. The broad way is the easy way. It is attractive and self-indulgent. It is permissive. It’s the inclusive way of the world, with few rules, few restrictions, and fewer requirements. Tolerance of sin is the norm where God’s Word is not studied and His standards not followed. This way requires no spiritual maturity, no moral character, no commitment, and no sacrifice. It is the easy way of salvation, following “the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). It is that broad way that “seems right to a man, but end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12).

Those who preach a gospel of inclusiveness where “all ways lead to heaven” preach an utterly different gospel than the one Jesus preached. The gate of self-centeredness, self-absorption, and a proud, holier-than-thou mindset is the wide gate of the world that leads to hell, not the narrow gate that leads to eternal life. As a result, most people spend their lives following the masses who are on the broad road, doing what everyone else does and believing what everyone else believes.

The narrow way is the hard way, the demanding way. It is the way of recognizing that you cannot save yourself and must depend on Jesus Christ alone to save you. It’s the way of self-denial and the cross. The fact that few find God’s way implies that it is to be sought diligently. “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). The point is this that no one will stumble into the kingdom or wander through the narrow gate by accident. Someone asked Jesus, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” He replied, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:23–24).

Many will seek to enter that narrow door, the door of salvation, but “will not be able.” They are unwilling to trust/rely on Jesus alone. They are unwilling to pay the price. It costs too much for them to give up the world. God’s gate is a gate through which one cannot carry the baggage of sin and self-will, nor can one carry the accoutrements of materialism. The way of Christ is the way of the cross, and the way of the cross is the way of self-denial. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23–24).

Jesus knows that many will choose the wide gate and the broad way that leads to destruction and hell. Correspondingly, He said that only a few will choose the narrow gate. According to Matthew 7:13–14, there is no doubt that more will go to hell than to heaven. The question for you is, then, on which road are you?

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHAT IS FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD?

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The Greek word translated “fellowship” in the New Testament is koinonia, meaning “partnership, sharing in common, or communion,” and the essence of partnership is agreement or unity of purpose. Fellowship with God is, at its most basic, agreement with Him in all things. The New Testament assures believers of this partnership. Not only do we have fellowship with God the Father, but we also have fellowship with His Son and the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 1:92 Corinthians 13:141 John 1:3).

To have fellowship with others, there must be a oneness of the heart, something that links two people together: “Can two walk together unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3). At the very heart of fellowship, there must be like-mindedness. Two in fellowship must have like wishes and like desires, which is why Paul exhorts believers to not be “unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). Believers have true fellowship with one another because of the Holy Spirit who indwells all believers (John 14:17). Through the Spirit we have true fellowship, unlike any relationship we can have with those who do not know Christ.

Fellowship with God is only possible through the blood of Christ. Before we are saved, we are at enmity with God (Colossians 1:21). But Jesus reconciled us to God through His death on the cross (Romans 5:10). When we repent of our sin and trust in Christ, the result is that “now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life” (1 John 5:20).

It is important to know that fellowship with God comes exclusively through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only way to the Father (John 14:6), yet throughout the ages man has attempted to devise other paths to God through false religions or to live in such a way as to merit His approval. We cannot have fellowship with God if we reject His Son (1 John 5:10–11), dispute His foreordained plan of salvation, or attempt to find another path to His presence.

Scripture identifies some things that are at odds with true fellowship with God: the “mind governed by the flesh” that does “not submit to God’s law” (Romans 8:7) and “friendship with the world” (James 4:4). God is light, and light cannot have fellowship with darkness: “If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:6–7).

Those in fellowship with God are trusting in Christ. Their sins are forgiven. They are filled with the Spirit. They believe that in all things God deserves to be glorified. They spend time in Bible reading and prayer in a pursuit of “spiritual wisdom and insight so that [they] might grow in [their] knowledge of God” (Ephesians 1:17, NLT).

God’s Word, the Bible, is all that we need for fellowship with Him. We glorify Him by submitting to His will and obeying the commands contained in His Word. “But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him” (Psalm 103:17). May we enjoy the harmony, contentment, and joy of the fellowship God has provided us with. May we follow the example of Enoch, a man who, throughout his long life, was known for “walking in close fellowship with God” (Genesis 5:24, NLT).

Prophet Nathan Emol