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“Then he [Jesus] said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:23-25)
This image is about absolutely surrendering our lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. (See “Message“.) When we do so, we will experience deliverance from death, misery and addictions, among other things.
Though it is a common human mentality, we cannot fight our way to victory over addictions and bondage. I personally fought with bondages and addictions for many years, and one thing I have learned is that victory over these things is not a matter of conquering them but of surrendering to God and trusting him to set you free and manifest his victory over sin within you.
“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’
They answered him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?’
Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’” (John 8:31-36)
The more we try to fight against sin, bondages and addictions in our own strength, the more we will find ourselves overpowered, defeated and worn out in the process because it is impossible for us to overcome these things apart from God doing it in us by his Holy Spirit. (Even if we seemingly “overcome” the addiction, it simply manifests itself in another form in our life (such as an alcoholic turning into a compulsive shopper or an anorexic into a compulsive cleaner). We still remain slaves to bondage in some form unless Jesus comes and sets us free from sin.)
God desires us to give up fighting in our own strength and to surrender and trust him to set us free, for he says, “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6).
Jesus has already conquered sin and its binding power through the cross and has achieved the victory for us. The Bible says that when we surrender our lives to him to do his will, is victorious life is made manifest in us. Our battle with these things is done and Christ’s victory becomes our own. Absolute surrender of ourselves to God is the key.
The man in this drawing has his arms upraised in absolute surrender to God. He is at the point of deliverance. His body position also suggests one of crucifixion (death to self), while the background behind him abstractly suggests a cross.
(A great book for those who are exhausted in their (unsuccessful) fight to overcome sin, bondages and addictions is “The Normal Christian Life” by Watchman Nee. His teaching on Romans 1-8 in this book was one of the greatest helps to me to overcome bondages and addictions I had for many years, for he expounded the Biblical truth that set me free.)
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin–because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey–whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever increasing wickedness, so now offer them to slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal ife in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6)