There is a familiar story where this lady who was caught in adultery was brought before Jesus. Her accusers dragged her into a room full of people who were looking to prove something while using her as a prop. Naked she stood there. Probably with her legs crossed, hugging herself to cover up as much of her shame as possible. This definitely wasn’t her finest moment and everyone was looking at her, everyone was talking about her, everyone was there because of her failures.
How about us? Some of us are caught in our sin, some of us are covering up as much as we can so that no one can see our sins, our struggles, our deepest hidden moments. We don’t want people to know the pains that keep us chained. We’ve been abused, sexually active, had abortions, used drugs, stolen… and we’ve become burdened by these sins and their effects. The burden stretches to our core because we don’t just commit these sins, we identify with them.
This burden is more than we are able to bear. This is why, at YC17, we focused on these words from the Apostle Paul, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Jesus Christ came into this world to pay for our wrongs. He became the prisoner and carried our sins to the cross. He paid for every single wrong you and I have ever or will ever commit. Our shame, guilt and false identities are defeated in Christ’s resurrection. Believing in Christ Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are released from the chains of this world and declared free people by God himself.
That is the best news ever! But now how do we go and sin no more? How do we stand firm and not go back to being a slave to sin? The verse we just read warns us against turning back to that old way of life.
When I was in elementary school, my track coach taught us that, when we are running, we should never look back to see who is behind us. Our focus must be on what is in front of us. There is a spiritual element to this. We need to run from those things that used to enslave us. There is a reason we were slaves. It’s because we loved those sins. When we turn back just to get a little glimpse, we remember how much our insides still long for those ways. When the angels of the Lord pulled Lot and his family out of Sodom he told them to run and not to look back. Lot’s wife looked back and it cost her her life. When Christ pulls us out of our sin, we should look to him and not to our old ways.
So how do we run and not look back? How do we stand firm? Well, we don’t actually run… we rest. We daily rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ. We rest in the fact that our freedom wasn’t accomplished by us. The verse above says that Christ has set us free. That’s our new identity! Our identity isn’t in our past behaviors and lack of accomplishments. We are no longer adulterers and thieves—no, our identity is in the work of Jesus Christ and the freedom that we have in him.
Need a prayer to say today? Pray this short prayer with me: Lord, turn my face toward you. Forgive me when my flesh turns back. Remind me, Lord, that you continue to bring me freedom.
Rev. Brandon Pangman is Director of YC19 and Pastor at Emmaus Road Church, Dewitt, Iowa.